vacation

THE MOST BORING PERSON IN THE HUDSON VALLEY

Let me get this straight. You want me to wake up at 5AM without a hangover, pack up a rental car with suitcases responsibly packed a day or more in advance, then drive 3 hours through the beautiful terrain of the Hudson Valley until I reach a cozy bed and breakfast in a house built in the 1870’s? Fine. I can do all that.

I suppose you also want me to stroll lightheartedly through the quaint vacation town, browsing antiques and old bookstores for hours on end, and I also suppose you’d like me to do all of that without spending a moment plotting, scheming, or obsessing over how I can convince the boyfriend that 10AM isn’t at all too early for a celebratory glass of something.

You’d like me to luxuriate luxuriously on cafe terraces while sipping espresso and eating a delicious, flaky pastry filled with tangy, tart lemon curd, chewing slowly, not wanting the mouth orgasm to end, watching the peaceful wanderers wander by in pursuit of the same contented Sunday afternoon.

And finally, you’d like me to end the day with a delectable meal at a lovely restaurant, all without having chugged a tallboy before leaving the house. You’d like me to decline the wine list, only order stupid food, and leave completely satisfied with what was one of the best meals I’ve ever had? Then you’d like me to cuddle up with the boys, watch movies, and drift off to sleep by 10PM, waking up by 6AM the next morning fully rested and hangover free, ready to start another day of peace and tranquility without the constant chaotic chase of that next sip, that next dip into a dive for a whisky/beer combo to propel me forward miserably.

You want me to have a sober vacation, but more importantly, you want me to LIKE IT?

That’s exactly what I did over Memorial Day Weekend.

It was marvelous. 

I took this very same trip in the fall of 2013. It was a disgusting mess. I packed the very morning we left because I was too drunk the night before to get anything productive done. I drove with a pounding headache, not feeling normal until we made it to our destination and were able to grab lunch (a beer with a side of sandwich). I stumbled through the day, counting down the hours until dinner would arrive and heavier drinking could begin. Fuck antiques. Fuck strolling. Fuck serenity. Me want vodka. ME WANT DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.

In 2013, we made stops at liquor stores all weekend long, him sitting in the car while I ran in to buy large bottles of things for us both to drink, as well as mini-bottles he didn’t know about that were just for me. The minis would be stashed in my suitcase so I could stealthily sneak away, downing a few here and there, hoping to keep the levels in the “public” alcohol bottles located in the kitchen from dropping down too quickly, thus concealing the true quantities I was actually consuming. Side note: These empty minis would be found one year later in the same suitcase as I packed for another trip. I would sneak them out of the house to the trash, the shame flooding back as fresh as ever. 

That trip in 2013 was total misery. I was in a constant state of sloppy, painful drunkenness peppered with extended periods of sloppy, painful hangover. The drunks and the hangovers blended seamlessly with one another until I was never able to tell if I was okay or not okay. Nothing was enjoyable.

When we returned home that year I felt as if I had been through hell. I needed another vacation to recover. And drink more.

I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.

I can live. I can stare at the sky and smile. I can savor time, tastes, smells. I can become consciously aware of sun on my face, of the antiquity and inevitable history built into old objects that I hold in my hand. I can feel the goosebumps running down my spine as my boyfriend grabs my fingers and squeezes while we wander down cobblestone streets, stopping for extended moments to admire the architecture and manicured gardens.

Before I got sober, and even for some time after I put down the drink, this all seemed impossible. During early sobriety I could hardly comprehend watching a movie on Friday night without a cocktail. I’m supposed to SIT? Stare? Watch? That’s IT? You must be out of your goddamned mind.

But I made myself sit there and watch the movie. It sucked. It still sucked the next time I did it, too, but less so. The only way anything started to make sense again was by LIVING. Experiencing. Trying. Being uncomfortable without grabbing for my medicine. When they tell you not to give up before the miracle happens, that actually MEANS something. Actively choosing to endure the discomfort when every cell in your body is screaming for a drink? That makes you stronger. That is lifting weights with your sobriety muscles. It hurts. You’ll be sore the next day. But you’ll never get stronger without it.

If you’re struggling, just know that with some time and effort, you too can be the most boring person in the Hudson Valley. You’ll love it.

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WE CAN SOBER VACATION

I’m back from Cape Cod. I am EXHAUSTED. So I’m going to post but I refuse to take responsibility for typos and grammar shit so if misuse of commas makes you crazy, it’s probably best of you close your browser now and call Michelle, your therapist. Tell her I say HEY.

I think back to all of the various trips I’ve taken in the past and I can’t come up with one memory of me returning home feeling rested and renewed. There is so much stress that comes along with traveling and I have a really hard time letting go of it. Stupid stuff like WHAT IF THE CAR RENTAL PLACE DOESN’T LET ME HAVE A CAR AND TELLS ME TO GO FUCK MYSELF?! or WHAT IF THE TSA FINDS TONS OF GUNS AND HEROIN IN MY CARRY ON BAG WHEN I GO THROUGH SECURITY!?!?!

It probably doesn’t help that I tend to not be able to sleep the night before leaving for a trip so I start off exhausted and then that exhaustion breeds more exhaustion and each day gets progressively more and more exhausting until I’m delusional and listening to Garth Brooks on the way to Provincetown, waxing poetically about the glory days of 90’s country music. That happened. And I loved it.

So. We woke up Saturday morning EXHAUSTED from packing shit into a suitcase the night before. Then we paid a car service to come and pick us up to drive us to the place where we would pay for another car to drive from New York City to Cape Cod. Once behind the wheel of a vehicle after taking public transportation for so long, you really begin to wish you had your own car again. For those that don’t live in a large metropolitan area where owning a car makes absolutely no sense, you basically end up existing in a bubble and take trains and busses only to places that are within close proximity to your house. It’s a blissful dream for an alcoholic because you don’t have to worry about DUI’s or getting behind the wheel of a car. You can get anywhere and everywhere with a Metrocard. Suddenly having the freedom to fly down the road and stop where you want is absolutely INCREDIBLE. You suddenly want to go EVERYWHERE. You see a TJ Maxx off the highway and say something stupid like OMG TJ MAXX! I NEED UNDERWEAR AND SLIGHTLY IMPERFECT PANTYHOSE and then veer off at the next exit grinning from ear to ear.

Traffic was horrible. It took us 8 hours when it should have only taken 4. My little puppy dog got car sick and started yakking all over the place but then calmed down about halfway there. We got to the house earlier than our friends and waited for them to arrive. Once they did, we spent some time visiting and unpacking and settling in before leaving for dinner.

On the way to the restaurant, boyfriend told me that while I was in the bedroom getting situated, one of the friends had asked him about drinking again and wanted to make sure that I was comfortable if they were to have a glass of wine at dinner, etc. The drinking thing was already addressed weeks before the trip happened so I was a bit surprised that it was brought up again. Always having my back, the boyfriend assured me that he wasn’t trying to cause drama but thought it was important that I know that there was apparently still some apprehension on their part about what I was and wasn’t comfortable with. So as soon as we sat down at the table, I immediately brought it up with the intent of getting it out of the way as soon as possible so it didn’t become a thing. I told them that they are free to do as they please and that I’m totally fine. Dinner proceeded as planned and nothing was awkward about it. Nobody drank but I didn’t really expect them to since they had their two young children with them and were driving. I figured they would kick back with a cocktail later that night once we all got back to the rental house.

We went miniature golfing after dinner. The six year old girl was a major cheater! I tease. But seriously. She was such a cheater. After golfing, it was off to eat hot fudge sundaes. Then back to the house for the night. I braced myself and was prepared to have my seltzer water while they got buzzed at home. I was confident that I’d be able to hold my own and enjoy my friends regardless of what they were doing in terms of beverages. I was totally ready. And then something funny happened: No one drank.

In fact, no one drank the entire time we were there. The rest of the trip marched on by. We took the dog to the beach. We went to Provincetown and did some shopping. We ate out several times. And we hung out at the house together. But somehow, no one swung by the liquor store. No one cracked open a beer. No one had ANYTHING. And it sort of pissed me off. I’m not going to lie. It made me self-conscious. It made me feel like there was some sort of spotlight on me and my sobriety. And it made me feel guilty and worried that I was causing other people to hold back and not enjoy their time the way they wanted to.

I don’t know if any of that is true. It probably isn’t. The other couple was staying on for five more days once we left so maybe they figured there was plenty of time for drinks. When I look at the schedules we kept, drinking didn’t really seem to fit in anyway. We were out and about a lot with the children and the dog. We got home late and everyone seemed ready for bed at fairly early hours. It would be very easy for me to just chalk it all up to the fact that they are just normies. They don’t need it or think about it or obsess over it. But I couldn’t help but think to myself that if it were me on vacation and I wasn’t an alcoholic, I would be drinking CONSTANTLY. But that’s the problem. And it’s not one that they seem to have.

I think for my own edification and to help me understand this a little better, I’d love to be able to ask them at some point down the road exactly what they were thinking, if anything, while we were there. I have no idea how my openness about my recovery impacts other people. I suppose time will tell and we shall see if similar invites come up.

They were absolutely wonderful, though. They didn’t seem the least bit put off or annoyed. And I’d really like to think that it just was a complete non-issue. But there is a small part of me that worries that I was being patronized at the expense of their own enjoyment and that there were stifled feelings of resentment that maybe I couldn’t sense. Then again, isn’t that just being thoughtful and considerate of your friends and their needs? Maybe that’s what they were doing?

I think the best thing to do at this point is to just accept the trip for what it was: A good time with good friends that left me exhausted. There is no need for me to strain myself trying to get inside the heads of others because even if I could, I have no control or power over their feelings or thoughts.

The trip also made me realize how important structure and schedule and routine are to me at this point in my recovery. My head does weird things when there is that much free time. I absolutely have no regrets but it was much more emotionally and mentally draining than I thought it was going to be and I think I’ll wait a while longer before I take another.

Lastly, I want to mention this restaurant I went to called Not Your Average Joes. They had a ZERO PROOF drink menu that was a collection of specialty, fancy non-alcoholic mocktails. It was so fucking awesome to have options other than Diet Coke, iced tea, and water. Look!

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