Rabbi Moss interviews a former alcoholic. And discusses whether or not alcohol should be banned in Shule. And how does one really know if he/she is a alcoholic?
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Rabbi Moss: 0:05
hi and welcome to Hey, Rabbi, where we discuss real life issues with the Jewish twist. I'm Rabbi Moss and today's topic Jews and booze. Is alcohol a Jewish problem? We're gonna hear from a real life Jewish alcoholic little later on. But first, let's look at what indeed is the Jewish position on alcohol, because at first glance it seems to be quite contradictory. It certainly is clear that we drink alcohol, and it's a part of Jewish practice. Every Friday night, we may kid ish over a cup of wine when she finishes on Saturday night, we ended with half dolla a service over wine. Again every festival, we drink wine at a Bruce at a wedding. The wine is a part of the ceremony, and certain festivals such as Purim and Simplest Era. We even drink a little bit more than usual to the point of inebriation. And so it seems that we embrace, encourage and sometimes even seem to be obligated to drink alcohol. Now you could do these things with grape juice, but the common practices to do it with wine. So Judaism seems to be pretty comfortable with alcohol. And yet, if we look at the first appearance of alcohol in the Torah. It is negative, extremely negative. There's one opinion in the Talmud that the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the forbidden fruit that was eaten by Adam and Eve that brought death and destruction to the world was actually a great fine that they squeezed into wine and drank from and to the original sin that brought hum pain and negativity into the world. Waas Drinking wine This is reflected 10 generations later by Noah after surviving the flood, the first thing he does after the destruction off the entire world, except for him and his family. He plants a vineyard and makes wine drinks and gets drunk. The Book of Genesis tells us that he was lying naked and drunk in his tent, and you don't want to know what happened next. So we see the first explicit mention there of wine. Alcohol is completely negative and totally tragic, so the picture seems to be quite negative about wine. In fact, there's a midrash tradition that says that when Noah planted that vineyard, Satan approached him and said, Can I partner with you planting this vineyard? And no, I said sure to Satan. Ah, yeah. And so Satan brought a sheep, slaughter the sheep and pulled the blood over the soil where the vine was growing. He then brought a lion, slaughtered the lion and pour the blood over the vet. The vineyard. Then he brought a monkey, did the same again, slaughtered and pour the blood, and finally a pig and pulled the pig's blood on the vine. And the mid rush tells us so. That is why when you take a drink of wine, the first drink makes you placid and quiet like a sheep. The second drink, you get all bold, arrogant and overconfident like a lion. By the time you drink the third drink, you're jumping up and down, dancing and making a fool of yourself like a monkey. And the fourth drink, you left wallowing like a pig. These old leaves us feeling that alcohol is quite a negative thing from the tower perspective, and yet we drink it. We make a dish on Friday night with it, we make it into something sacred and holy at certain times. How could that be? So, in exploring the mystical angle on this, there's a fascinating explanation by the couple lists as to why. No, I got drunk after the flood. No understood that he was correcting a mistake from the past. Adam and Eve were the first people in the world, and they had sinned by eating from the fruit the forbidden fruit, which was wine. No, I understood that he is now rebuilding the world, and his job is to try and correct the mistake that they had made. They had drunk wine with negative effects. He thought he was going to fix that by drinking wine with a positive effect. The deeper meaning off the tree of knowledge of good and evil is that when Adam and Eve were created there, created without an ego without a sense of self, completely transparent in their in their ego listening CE and Eve convinced Adam that we need to have a sense of self in order to fulfill our mission. It's right for us to try and do something to gain an identity. And so she saw that want the wine. The grape looked attractive. If we drink it, we're doing something that pleasure. By taking in pleasure, we become a self. We become a little bit of an ego. And so they drank from the fruit, the forbidden fruit. And they got egos that became Eagle Ego Full not Eagle looks anymore. No. Understood this. And he thought I need to correct this. I need to correct this ego that has been brought into human kind by Adam and Eve. I'm starting a new world, so I'm gonna use the very fruit that they used the wine, but I'm going to be Eagle us with it. I'm gonna drink to the point of drunkenness. I'm not just gonna enjoy the wine like they did. I'm goingto overindulge in it to become drunk. And then I'll be unconscious. I'll be Eagle this because I will be completely unaware. No self consciousness. They were originally naked, Adam and Eve. Only when they drank from the wine they had a sense of self consciousness and they were embarrassed of their nakedness. They got dressed. Noah drank to the point of no self consciousness where he could wallow around naked and not be embarrassed. He thought this was the correction of Adam and Eve. But he was wrong because ego is not there to be obliterated. How self consciousness is not there to be, to be completely erased to the point way. We have no consciousness whatsoever, how he goes there to be elevated, to be sublimated, to be transformed into a power for good. I have an ego. I have a sense of self, but that self has a purpose that's higher than me. And I utilize my ego and my confidence, my sense of self, to do good, to influence others positively. That's what the Eagles therefore and no, I missed the point by getting drunk and obliterating ego. And so we have to correct that by drinking on Friday night in a sacred way, making kid ish sanctifying the holy day of Chablis, enjoying the wine but doing it in a way that is elevated. My ego is there, but my ego has a higher purpose. I don't over drink to the point where it obliterates me and makes me not know what's going on. The exception to this is poor him on pouring me goto an even higher state of consciousness where we put our intellect aside completely, and we drink to the point where we're no longer intellectualizing about life. We no longer philosophizing with our brain, but we're going to a higher place where our soul knows the truth without any conscious mind. Now, does that mean that everybody has to drink alcohol? Must you drink alcohol Friday night? Must you drink to the point of drunkenness on poor him? Absolutely not. There are many authorities within Jewish law who make it very clear that grape juice is totally fine for kill ish and even on poor him, there is no absolute obligation to get drunk. If any negativity will come out of the drinking, then you're better off not doing it. If you have a concern that you're drinking will cause you to behave immorally inappropriately. Then you shouldn't drink it all. And there's no Mr To if you have some predisposition where the alcohol could cause medical health issues for you, then you have no obligation to drink. In fact, you have a knob ligation not to. And so there is no need to feel if somebody does not want to drink that they cannot observe Judah's incorrectly. You absolutely can. And sometimes the message off the drinking is more important than the drinking itself. It's not about whether you drank wine or grape juice where you got drunk on formal, you didn't. It's about whether you can have a Friday night where you enjoy the sanctity, the holiness of being alive, of having an ego that is serving high purpose and pour him. It's whether you can appreciate that there are some things that are beyond intellect beyond rational. You don't necessarily need the physical drink to get you there. And so perhaps we could say that for those for whom help drinking is healthy and helpful, and only positive will come out of it by drinking in the Holy Environment a Shabbos table pouring party where words of terror and meaning of being shared. So if you can drink, then drinking is good for you. And for those who cannot drink, it may mean that your soul is able to reach those levels without the alcohol without the external help. And ultimately all of us will correct the mistake of Adam and Eve. That ego is not what it's about, but also the mistake of Noah that obliterating ego is not what it's about. Our mission is to have an ego that serves a higher purpose to be confident and clear and know who we are know that exactly. The person I am is the person I'm supposed to be to serve. Ah, higher purpose. Yes. Today to talk on the topic of alcoholism and Judaism is a Jewish man. Remember, Lance, Welcome Lance and Lance has some personal experience with alcohol addiction and recovery, and he's very graciously agreed to come and tell us about it. So my first question is to Lance. I've heard people say Jews are alcoholics. What do you say to
that? Well, I'd say that I'm a Jew and I'm an alcoholic, and I'm not the only one. And so that statement sounds like misplaced community pride. And it would help May and others if we told the truth to ourselves. And I think no one is immune from alcoholism and anyone who drinks too much, whether they're met male, female, young olds or different races different creates different colors can be have problems with.
Rabbi Moss: 11:07
But you're saying that there is there just as many Jews as non Jews, statistically like but capital would, I
don't know. The statistics on her is a full blown alcoholic and who isn't? But there are politics Anonymous meetings in Crown Heights with lots of young, knicker wearing and chaser wearing attendees. So that might be an indication to say that it can happen to anyone.
Rabbi Moss: 11:34
Okay, so your personal experience, if you could if you could just share it, how you introduced the alcohol and once they do that actually become a problem for you. Sure. So
of course, when I was younger that we had fun and I kid ish and and I was given a little sip of wine at dinner and really didn't make much of it, it wasn't a big deal, But when I was 13 pain, there was, um, a friend that I was hanging out with from school and, you know, possibly his influence of my combined way, got some bees and went down the road and got drunk. And that was the first time. And and it seemed a lot of fun, even though there was vomiting and passing out, and we were ready to do it again next week. But as it progressed over the years, it definitely was a problem. That was still what a vomiting. Each time there was still one of now Messi behavior and general dysfunction that came with the regular alcohol abuse. And it really wasn't so much an obvious thing to other people. Like I wasn't It wasn't like I was running around in the straits of my pants down or getting arrested, although I did have to drink driving charges. Um, it could have been a lot with potentially. I come from a good family, went to a good school, grew up in a good area, had loving people around me. I wasn't like, kicked out trying to fend for myself. But, you know, as as I got older and wanted it to stop, I realized that it couldn't. I couldn't do about myself, and that's when it became a problem. Like as I got older and I wanted to try and take better care of myself, and I realized that I was quite set in my ways and things became. It kind of took over, and that's when it really was highlighted, that it was a problem.
Rabbi Moss: 13:28
So what stage do you become? An alcoholic? I mean, there are people who drink regularly. Some people seem together to hold their drink simple drink on a daily basis without getting drunk. Uh, so what defines them as alcoholic or not? When is it a problem?
Said it's a good question. So I think the, uh, the rial tipping point is when you lose the power of choice with, uh, you're going to say yes to a drink will say no to a drink. Um, and what can happen is that well, you see, it's very handy to help it. Thio see alcoholic drinking or alcoholism as a disease that someone is in the grips off that is beyond their conscious
Rabbi Moss: 14:18
control, but that But that means they probably don't know that, like, like like if if you you always think you're choosing things
correct. I was the last to find out I thought I could drink. I didn't realize I had to drink.
Rabbi Moss: 14:33
And what we went to the penny drop.
Once I heard the message that the paper was drinking them, that that was happening to make that I was drinking beyond conscious control. And I was like, Wow, actually, And then I did keep drinking. Yeah, this he's actually beyond my control, and that's what that was the scary pile. When I realized that I didn't have control
Rabbi Moss: 14:54
that you couldn't say no. That's right. So So when you view
it is a disease. And then any human being can become a polic if they drink enough over a sustained period of time. So, yes, some people can hold their drink better than others. I have. In my case, I was a compulsive drinker and once I started, I found it hard to stop. I was also obsessed by alcohol. Was looking for opportunities to have drink good times. Bad times Didn't really matter. Yeah, and there are some people who have been drinking for decades before becomes a problem and only some people who from the very first, few times it becomes a problem. So ah, you know, the decline is very fast compared to previous generations. And on Republicans who goto work, they might drink 10 meetings a day. Now, of course, of their diet that work. And they'll go home at 6 p.m. To their wives and their families. I wonder if they drive or not, but But they will turn up. They will sharpen a CZ dad and husband and their personalities don't change.
Rabbi Moss: 16:09
So that then, is that okay? If if does it. Not matter then how much drink if Aiken, if I can function normally, is it them? Okay,
well, this is different between heavy drinking and alcoholism and four blond alcoholism Is you already set in motion of compulsive drinking, of losing power of choice. The personal could go and have 10 minutes and then just decide to stop and then go home to his family and just be normal. That's that's That's just heavy drinking. He's liver might not appreciate it over decades, but there is There is a stop because he can stop at will and alcoholic. Once they start, they lose the power of choice to stop once it's in them. There's a physical compulsion that breaks outs,
Rabbi Moss: 16:56
but I'm sure I'm sure if you ask on unaware Alcoholic, can you stop this? Of course, I could stop any time. What's what's the proof that they cannot account?
Well, well, you know, that's that's the unfortunate case with the Apple, is, um is that there's a huge amount of denial and no one wants to have that label cooling himself alcoholic because it's got a stigma attached to it. So
Rabbi Moss: 17:25
what is it like? If if they can not drink for a week. Is that, like, does that? Does that prove something?
Well, it might prove something to them. But in actual fact, um, if they're like, this is a famous saying, like, once you take Yeah, gee, Qambar and you pick a let it becomes a pickle. It could never go back to being a cucumber again. So if someone is alcoholic and they pick up one day and it's, you know, alcoholic drinking. And they stopped for one week, one month, a year, 10 years, then pick up again, they'll pick up exactly where that left up from. Is there an alcoholic? Not if they be different, if they're not so so they might prove something to themselves. But the long term goal for someone who's alcoholic would be a permanent abstinence and sobriety for their own sake and for others in their lives.
Rabbi Moss: 18:23
Okay, So how will happen? How did you get there? How did you get to the point where you're not drinking?
Oh, that. That was a tough process. Pay that. That came through despair. Now to really realize what was going on and what actually happened was that I was living in Los Angeles and I went on a Internet dating website. Cool J date Jew stating Now, service is back on the head dial up into the air now, 15 16 years ago, and I met someone on there, and she was the only person that were that I chatted to on these service that I wasn't really getting into it. So I can't service. And I said, He's my number. I'm getting off this This, uh so it's and she called. We had a chat. We a great teammate up. And, uh, I said all this a bar just around the corner from hell It's made up, but that on she said, Oh, I'm not actually drinking at the moment. So maybe we could meet somewhere else. I said, like, Yeah, me, too. I'm really trying not to shoot. She tell you're so well, Yeah, it wasn't the time. And so turns out she was in a and then I thought it was a blind date. She was like, I'll take you to making some time So I said, Yeah, sure, that sounds great. And so my first meeting of a was was what I considered a blind day eyes out Anonymous. Yeah, eyes, Alcoholics Anonymous. And there are literally thousands of meetings in the greater L. A basin and meanings in it in most civilized countries around the world and most major capital cities morning, noon and and evening and different times and slightly different topics. And my 1st 1st meeting was with someone I met from the Internet. Thio is it invited me along.
Rabbi Moss: 20:35
So you shopped on a meeting now calls anonymous meeting. But you weren't going. They're to be helped to use of accompanying somebody to it. So what happened?
Correct. I thought I was just being social on a day and I was going to support her. And I was in a room of 250 now the alcoholics in West Hollywood it was. It was a lot of tattoos and chains and was pretty intense vibe. And at the end, of course, I didn't think that I had a problem with that stage. And that's where you know, I was just going along on at the end. They yeah, said a prayer. And also well, it's like this God here and and at the time I didn't have God in my life. So was, uh was somewhat internally concerned by that, but, uh,
Rabbi Moss: 21:29
but what does that mean? What do they do? What they did. They say What happens?
So every meeting is different, and every week every meeting is different. Also, if it's the same meeting because they're different people there and different topics at times, some meetings have the same topics. Week in, week out. Well, they're different formats of the room depends on the room and how many people were in it. Sometimes a circle. Sometimes everyone's facing the front and the secretary, who is just a personal ones, really in charge, which is the crazy thing about a and always amazing to me that how it works. It's basically inanity damn society, and people take service positions to open the doors and self the rooms, which they rotate. So everyone air worse because everyone takes their turn in showing up to help the new guy, which in turn helps them as well. And so you show up to a room and every room's different could be in a little community hole in the bottom of a car park, and there are some captures their some chairs there and And so someone will start the meeting at the designated time, and it might be a little reading from a book or a topic chosen. The public could be the high power, which is what is commonly referred to as God, which is a very God Century program. And then does everyone have to say something? No, I know it's not compulsory that what the term for speaking at a meeting is called sharing. Some people will share their experience, strength and hope, and some people will listen. And some people will be asked to share some people put their hand up to share depends on the style of the meeting. Some meetings. So what? Actually speak out. What's the hell? What? It's the identification and hearing another person until their story and you relate to it. Then sometimes you get things off your chest. Something's you. Sometimes you learn things about yourself that you didn't even know where we're running into yourself. So you never know what you're gonna, uh, learn or P Koppel feel. But you do. It's a bit of a washing machine for emotions to you go in there any process, feelings and thoughts, and you hear things and you hear people dropping into their emotions and it's it's quite a powerful expiry. So
Rabbi Moss: 23:56
that first meeting were you in for men? Oh, no.
I was just happy to leave at the end and then personally told me, she said. So next week we'll go to another meeting and I was like, Okay, like, why not? And says much cooler mating and, you know, around the corner and another night you go because you liketo Initially there were a lot of pretty girls there as well. It does help, And, uh, I went because it was really interesting and there was a part of me date down that did connect to something in there, and I heard a message as well. And when you walk into a room full of recovered alcoholics, when you've got a problem, even though they don't admit it, there's something there's a power in there. People have that their eyes like, switched on, and there's this this they have stillness and they know that they have conquered their demons and you know that they have conquered their demons and I wanted what they had, even though I didn't realize it yet
Rabbi Moss: 25:07
Okay, So how long was that till you were one of them?
So I went to another meeting, and then I thought, you know, I could do this. And I went about awake without drinking, and then I went out with some friends and the whole lotta I was telling you about dinner. No, I'm not drinking about drinking. And then we went back to my place after May and three other friends, except I still had some line fridge from my drinking days, and I pulled out the line for them, and I found out that I had to catch up. Soon as I opened that that bottle, I started drinking and that went on until about five in the morning. And, you know, I really was trying hard to not drink, and we're not. When I wake up the next day, I realized I was however, again, I was totally suicidal, like I've never experienced in my wife before. And it scared the pants off me. And at that moment I cried out to to God that I did not understand did not connect to you. But I connected to it at that moment and just begged for mercy for myself to make it stop. And and then the next day, I went back to in Miami and because I knew that there was a solution for me. They're for that specific problem, and I founds sponsor who is someone to could take May. They're basically you're a go to person and they sponsored takes you through the 12 steps, which is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Um, hands that helps you to get So go. And then the way you stay, so is you. Pass it on to other guys and tape them through the steps and whether or not they get so bar is a relevant even though course you want them to, the process helps you stay. So And how long's that mean, Since your server now think about 16 years? Yeah. And that that that means not touching of Not tuck. Not not city. No. Alcohol has come into my lips willingly. I did once accidentally pick up a drink at a wedding that that someone had put some alcohol in. But I spat it back out in the glass when I realized just because I'm sensitive to alcohol and I don't want to spark a physical crazy, but
Rabbi Moss: 27:42
you could be around it
a bit earlier. I've been in the bombing at my synagogue's some custora parties year after year and being happy to do that. It's just it's not in meaning more than I want to need. Thio take a drink. Well, that that
Rabbi Moss: 28:00
leads Thio another part of this and that is being around a Jewish practice. There is quite a lot of alcohol Kiddush Friday night and ensure safe behind him. Uh, how does that feel for you are recovering alcoholic. Do you feel welcome? Comfortable in sure. And, uh and a well, when not
well, I feel comfortable. I'm strong enough in my own recovery, if you will, to say no and to know that I don't care what other people think. It's got nothing to do with them. And if they have a negative reaction to may say no, that's their stuff. But I drink grape juice. I'm perfectly okay with that. I am for May. They say, for an alcoholic to drink, it's to die. So I don't go to synagogue. Thio get drunk and to die Go there too, you know, reconnect and have a positive experience. So there are at times at some Shoels, you know, kid ish club and ankle is somewhat encouraged, but I don't. But I feel like that should be a part of the shul experience to someone who isn't a strong in there recovery or their personal journey day. They might sitcom, too, you know. P pressure are, and they might. They might not even go to shore because there's a kid's club because I can't say no to the boys today. So I'm just gonna stay home so
Rabbi Moss: 29:39
we could be turning. He could be
telling people away from sure by having Kids Club Social is that cum bay and harmless is a convey for some. For others, it could could have a negative effect. So
Rabbi Moss: 29:52
you're not saying that we need to ban alcohol from sure. But like the drinking culture in ashore, you have to be aware, could actually be turning people off their connection Judaism and certainly pressuring people to drink.
And I think if you go the officer and banned alcohol from a sure, then people are going to drink outside of shore, do it and you know, in the closet, in the toilet and turn up drunk and then they're gonna have other problems. At least they open about it, but and limited and B, you know, responsible with it. And, you know, she should be reminded to people if you know if you know one has to drink and there's no pressure.
Rabbi Moss: 30:36
Well, on that you mentioned earlier that you you had killers Friday night when you were little kids, you would have a little sip of wine. I did that with my kids. I do allow them to. And I've checked, by the way, the law on that. It's legal for a minor to drink under parental supervision. But am I possibly asking for problems that am I starting a tendency or a taste for alcohol in my kids? That could lead to problems later? Well, you say
to handle your liquor quite well. And, uh, I personally wouldn't give wine to my Children because I have a disposition thio towards alcoholism. And if it's a genetic, if it's passed on and they have the, you know, the genetic makeup, that could be troublesome for them. But ah, so have a small sip of off kitty schwein. I don't think it's a big problem if it's in a in the right environment. James. I wouldn't I wouldn't
Rabbi Moss: 31:44
like, um, I'm teaching my kids on opposite that. Like, alcohol is something that we have that it is appropriate. Certain time is, it is. It may be better for them to be exposed to it as it has a child in a healthy way, rather than like making it really forbidden and something exciting that will end up sneaking around to try and get well,
that's the thing. And it depends on the child. I think that if, uh, well, I could say, If you if you know a wise things in a healthy way, then there's an argument for that I personally think that, you know, um, what I said, Martin intent he wasn't I don't intend to serve alcohol to my Children. I believe ready medical research supports my decision, while people do is, you know, in their minds it's up to them.
Rabbi Moss: 32:34
Okay, My last question is, if somebody is hearing this discussion and they identify with it, maybe somebody might realize I think I might be drinking too much, or I might have a drinking problem or so much say, somebody I know I love like here for I think they have a drinking problem. What steps can you recommend for those people to get help? Both the person themselves whose hearing this or somebody who knows somebody, What can they do to help them? Well,
I found that I couldn't do it by myself. I needed help from other sources of the people who would like May who understood May and God. And I found that my Jewish faith supported May. Once I had established a foundation off recovery. And if someone is suffering that, you know, perhaps there are helplines to call if you're suffering the hell plans to call, Um A is a terrific resource. Al Anon is a terrific resource that set up private primarily for families and friends and relatives of alcoholics.
Rabbi Moss: 33:50
Alan on an Alcoholics Anonymous. Correct, Halted on. This is for the drinker. The Al Anon is for the people around.
That's right out. Alan on was set up by the wife off one of the founders of I because she said, You're having all the all these meetings and, uh, getting well. And what about 1,000,000 all the other wise and
Rabbi Moss: 34:16
That's a terrible thing. Yeah, and none of that contradicted anything in injuries, Not no involvement with that was Christian. Or was it other spirituality, ese?
So excellent question. When I was set up in the 19 thirties, the early members were deliberately They very deliberately made sure that it would be a safe place for you. Any belief system and the terminal is terminology that they repeatedly use. He's the god of your own understanding. So you could come in there a Christian or Catholic or Jew or Hindu or or any religion or or atheist as well. I've heard some people say that when they found a guard, it was the water or, you know, the rain so
Rabbi Moss: 35:15
it can fit into any belief system. Absolutely.
Yeah and a literature. Peas in over 70 languages and meetings were held in over 180 countries. So it is an option for Jews. And one of the, uh, steps does talk about getting a high power and developing a conscience contact through prayer and meditation. And in fact, it says if we belong in the Big Book, which is the a main source of literature, it does say if we belong to a religious denomination, which requires a definite morning devotion, we attend to that. Also,
Rabbi Moss: 35:58
do you think
that that is not an excuse for why I don't come to shore in the mornings lately? But now it does say that we sometimes elects to memorize a few set prayers which emphasized principles there have been discussed. Then there are many helpful books also, in addition to this and us actually going to say that suggestions about these books and topics could be obtained from one's priest, minister or rabbi, and that you should be quick to see where religious people are right and make use of what they are far
Rabbi Moss: 36:38
cool and all but the men only and women only groups.
There are some men's groups and that there are some women's groups and there are most groups would be co it unless stated otherwise. But there are There is a ah website you can go to. I'm sure you know, being podcast, this is could go around the globe. So if you just Googled a meetings you would find in your local area quality to all the details of where to go to. Okay, so I
Rabbi Moss: 37:14
guess in summary, what you're saying is there are more people out there that have this problem. Then we would probably recognize their belief and Jewish non Jewish effects. Everybody equally. And so therefore, somebody who does recognize this. You need outside help. You can't do it on your own. Just like leaving, leaving Egypt view. They called out to God to help them, and God answered the prayers. And then I'll let out as it is a group with support. So that's how you gotta come out of this issue if you if you're facing it. So I don't really big. Thanks, Lance. I think your words will be a great help to many people.
Fantastic. Thanks for having me.