Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Buzz Buzz Buzz

The label read:

Organic Raw


Living Food for the Living Body

reawaken rethink rekindle redefine relive


rebirth repurpose reinvent reclaim restart


Was “kombucha” a brand name or some plant of some sort? The fact that the food was living didn’t impress me, nor did all the “re” words. But “gingerade” caught my interest and held it. I love ginger, ginger candy, crystalized ginger, ginger ice cream, ginger ale, ginger beer…

After I put the groceries away, bottle of gingerade in one hand, a bag of pretzels in the other, I went into the dining room.

I loved the taste. The taste of ginger was prominent, but there was also something else about the flavor that appealed to me. It reminded me of a good hard cider—one of the few things that I miss about staying away from alcohol is hard cider.

Wait. Hard cider? Could there be alcohol in this drink? I scoffed. Of course not. It was in the organic juice aisle. And it tasted really good.

I settled back onto the chair with a handful of pretzels and a book and sipped away at the gingerade. A few sips later, my head started feeling weird. Thinking I was merely imagining it, I took another sip, and another. Then I put the bottle down; something was definitely wrong. My brain felt heavy, swollen—there was a lot of pressure. My ears felt as if I was deep under water.

I picked up the bottle to read the list of ingredients. Nothing looked problematic until I reached the bottom of the list. There it was, in tiny letters, “This product contains a trace amount of alcohol.”

I’d found the culprit.

Brain injury survivors are extremely sensitive to alcohol. Drinking can aggravate cognitive deficits and amplify injury related depression. In addition, drinking can delay or even diminish brain injury recovery, which is an ongoing process. It can also impair judgment and increase the chances of suffering another brain injury.

In my case, it also makes me feel awful, even when I only take the tiniest of sips, just to taste.

I had an even worse reaction to marijuana.

I was walking along Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado, with my friends Cindy and Katrina. We stopped by a shop named “Buddha’s & Goudha’s.” We couldn’t resist. What could they possibly be selling in a shop with that name? Buddhist made cheese? Cheese incense? Cheese sculptures of Buddha?

There was no cheese to be seen anywhere, only beautifully hand blown glass pipes, bongs, and hookas. Still mystified by the name I ventured deeper into the shop. Seemingly out of nowhere, a dark haired woman appeared, a smoking joint in her hand. The smell was unmistakable—high quality marijuana. Though a few yards separated us, within seconds, my brain felt as if it didn’t fit inside my skull, as if it had swollen several sizes. My head felt heavy, the pressure almost unbearable. I felt confused and disoriented. My vertigo and balance started acting up.
I described the sensation to Joyce when I got back to Pittsburgh. “And I didn’t even get a buzz.”
Joyce shook her head. “I suspect your days of getting a buzz are over.”