At first, ankle deep, then wading deeper and deeper, a surge of waves crashed into my thighs as I braced against the tidal tug. My friends were on the beach, unfurling towels and applying sunscreen. I had no time for those chores. I wanted the ocean.
I had never been on a tropical island, let alone to the Caribbean. It was also my first sober vacation with my four best friends from college, a friendship tallying 20 years. I had quit drinking seven months earlier, when the days were short and dark. The season had felt like an appropriate match to confront a reckoning with alcohol that was decades in the making.
Now it was spring and I was thousands of miles from home, where snow still lingered in the high country. Although we were well past infamous antics from our college days, this joint 40th birthday celebration presented the potential for nostalgia-inspired fun and that usually included alcohol.
I was nervous before my trip and had confided in my husband. What was the worst that could happen, I mused, if I had a glass of wine at dinner? Would I feel out of place with my friends who had known me as the wild child – would they still like me? Would just one piña colada hurt?
Very few topics of conversation are off-limits among my friends and alcohol was no exception. It was a part of the pre-trip planning conversation, mixed into group text messages about coordinating flights and booking the hotel. My friends knew that I was no longer drinking, and Claire called me from the Dominican Republic, where she was now living with her family, to gauge my comfort level with staying at an all-inclusive resort and the readily available supply of alcohol.
Sobriety was enhancing my connection to my friends. There was no shortage of laughter or fun
If this call had taken place earlier in my recovery, I would have felt much more uncomfortable. Instead, I was grateful. Thanks to months of addiction-focused group therapy and a concerted effort to unravel the hold alcohol use disorder had on my life, I now felt less vulnerable discussing any potential triggers that would lead me to drinking. With my children squawking in the background, I told Claire that I appreciated her thoughtfulness. Claire ended the call with, “I’m so proud of you, Maggot.”
I snorted but it was a feigned annoyance. Claire’s invocation of my endearing yet antagonistic nickname from college made me feel so very normal. An affirmation-laced jest from someone who knew me for so long and so well.
For the most part, I could float on top of the waves of temptation during our island stay. Each morning I woke up early and walked on the beach, relishing the solitude and my beachcombing finds. If a few in our group opted to go to a bar for …….