The Truth About The Moment I Went Vegan

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I’ve been staring at this blank page now for about 12 minutes thinking about how I want to shape this article.

“Should I make it look like going vegan was easy so I can convince more people to try it out?  Or, should I actually tell you the reality of my kinda slimy mentality I don’t really want to admit that I had when I first considered veganism?”  These are honest thoughts going through my head right now anddd I feel like I’ve already said too much.

Shit…screw it.  I’m not going to paint you a pretty picture to make myself look like some martyr and that going vegan is this wholesome wonderful thing I found to make myself feel like a good person.

This is the truth series and you need to hear the facts about the exact moment I said I was going vegan, ‘cause fabricating the fluff is not going to do any good even if it does save my ego.

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The truth is…I did not want to go vegan.

To paint you a picture, my sister, grandmother and I had just gone on a family trip to Croatia.  The three of us were driving from Šibenik to Split so that Shannon, my sister, and Oma, what we call my grandmother, could fly back to Germany en route back to the States and so that I could head to Greece for a few days on my own before heading back to my life in New Zealand.

It was a one-hour drive to Split and it may have been one of the most monumental car rides of my entire life.

Oma, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for outing you, but the truth is I need to be deadly honest here or we’ll both hide behind our façades forever.  I love you with all my heart and I want you to know that the foundation of my veganism is dedicated to you.

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During our trip to Croatia, Shannon and I discovered that Oma was drinking quite a bit of alcohol on a regular basis.  We had suspected it for a while, but after spending a few weeks together in close quarters we discovered it was worse than we thought.  It had started to affect her and our family in a lot of ways.  Shannon and I tiptoed around the issue for weeks so we didn’t make the trip awkward, but eventually, that one-hour drive to Split was when we couldn’t hold it in anymore.

We’re not qualified interventionists, we’re not even sure if what we did was okay, but our motivations to confront her came from a place of absolute love and genuine compassion.  Our grandma is one of the most kind-souled people on the planet and we could see she was a prisoner of her own addiction.

We told her that we wanted her to stop, that we needed her to stop.  We begged her, we cried, we got angry, we were harsh, we pleaded, we asked tough questions…it was emotional to say the least.

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Finally, I said, “How about we give up meat if you give up alcohol?”  That changed the conversation’s tone instantly.  I thought I’d try bargaining as a last resort.  My sister quickly agreed, “Yeah, we’ll try to not eat meat if you can try not to drink.  How does that sound?”

I instantly thought, “Oh fuck, is this really about to happen?”  I had been throwing the idea around, but never really had a plan to commit to it.  “I’ll just do it for like a week until I get back to New Zealand and then at least I can say I’ve tried it.”  I told myself.

The truth is, I 100% had the intentions of not fulfilling my promise.  But, at that point, I tried to say anything to get my grandma to recognize the gravity of our need for her to get sober.

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I absolutely did not believe I was really about to give up meat.  I didn’t want to, I knew I didn’t have to, but shit, if we’re asking this woman to give up one of her favorite pastimes, then my sister and I needed to walk the walk ourselves and meat is an addiction just as much as alcohol, if you really think about it.

We’re all attached to the idea of a meal being incomplete without some sort of meat, poultry, eggs, or fish.

Breakfast – bacon.  Lunch – tuna.  Dinner – chicken.

If anything, I had more of an addiction than she did eating meat with just about every single dish.  I didn’t actually realize it myself in that moment, but I did in the first few days when I had no idea what to even eat or how to navigate simple decisions that used to come so easy.

You might argue that eating meat at every meal isn’t as detrimental as drinking to get drunk every day, and that’s something I believed too…until I really decided to walk the walk and learn what it all meant.

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But, back to the conversation in the car…Oma agreed to give it a try while Shannon and I said the same for eating meat.  “We will not eat meat from this moment forward” were our words exactly.  We then said our teary, sort-of-awkward goodbyes and went in our own directions of “what the fuck just happened?”

Comically enough, I had about 30 minutes to kill before my ferry was leaving and I was starving.  I needed to get food, “but what the hell do I even eat now?” I thought.  I can’t just turn around and get a beef gyro and get on the ferry even though every taste bud in my mouth reaaaally wanted me to.  I ordered a veggie gyro thinking yet again, “I’ll just do this for a little bit, then I can get back to normal life.”

Guilt started to wear on me when I was in Greece even as I continued to be meat-free knowing I’d break soon.  I decided after a long day at the beach that I’d go back to my villa and watch a documentary to learn just a little bit about what the whole “not eating animals” thing was all about.  I’d only watch one and only just learn a little bit.  Just to see.

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I Googled “vegan documentaries” and turned on Before the Flood with Leonardo DiCaprio and the content had seemingly very little to do with eating or not eating animals.  However, the information was blow-your-mind jarring.

Our planet is being completely destroyed by us.  Each one of us.  It’s something I always knew, but didn’t really grasp how or by how much.  I always thought it was the amount of cars & trucks we’re driving, energy plants that blow lots of smoke into the air, and garbage that’s being burnt in third world countries.  I honestly had no idea. None.

Of all the reasons for tropical deforestation, the foremost is beef. Beef is one of the most inefficient use of resources on the planet. In the U.S., 47 percent of land is used for food production and, of that, the lion’s share is just to grow feed for cattle.

The things that we actually eat—fruit, vegetables, nuts—it’s a percent. Most importantly, cows produce methane. And methane is a powerful greenhouse gas … About 10-12 percent of total U.S. emissions is due to beef. It’s staggering … Maybe not everyone is ready to eat tofu 24/7. I get that. But even if you just have to have some flesh between your teeth, if you switch to chicken, you will have eliminated 80 percent of what you emit, depending on where you are coming from.
— Leonardo DiCaprio

Slap me sideways.  “Okay, that’s me not eating beef anymore,” I decided.  Then why do people believe so firmly in not eating chicken if Leo’s people say eating chicken isn’t so bad for the planet?

And down the rabbit hole I went...

An Inconvenient Truth, Cowspiracy, What the Health, YouTube video after YouTube video, article after article…I couldn’t learn enough.

Cue existential crisis.  “Holy shit, I’ve been lied to my entire life.  I’m part of the problem and I didn’t even know it!  A big problem!”

That time I spent in Greece solidified it for me.  For good.

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What a momentary promise built on dishonesty to my grandmother was supposed to be ended up changing my entire life, and now that I know what I know, I can never go back.  I somehow tricked myself into going vegan and it was the best prank I have ever played on anyone.

I was scared.  I was in denial.  I thought it was impossible.

The moment I recognized the truth, I pressed the restart button on my life and I’ve never once wanted to look back.

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Since that day, Oma has had periods of sobriety, but she tries every single day to fight her addiction.  I send her all the love in my heart and dedicate my veganism to her.  This decision wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t what I wanted, but now it’s everything to me.  It’s woken me up to a more conscious way of living and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

As for my sister, she is still vegan, too.  It’s been just over a year since that tough conversation and we haven’t eaten meat after that day.

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I really have to tip my hat to anyone out there who has stood up to an addiction of any kind.  The truth can be a sucker punch to your gut, but the moment you decide to stop letting it control you is the moment you can start finding peace.

This may all be really cheesy (no pun intended), but it’s my truth and my story.  If you got anything from it, please comment below and let me know your reaction.

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Kelsey PowellComment