Last week was a pretty monumental week for me, my first real, sober, non-pregnant vacation. We did go skiing in January but that didn't seem quite as tied with drinking as a beach vacation does. I guess, arguably, drinking and skiing isn't a great idea anyway. But beach vacations ... totally different story. Cocktails on the beach, glasses of wine watching the sunset, a cold beer contrasting with the hot sand, these were what my vacations were largely made up of for the last twenty years. Vacation and booze were so wrapped up together for me that when I quit drinking in October and as I transitioned from "omg, 8 eff'ing days," to "this is ok," to "possibly forever," to "probably forever," my June anniversary trip just hung out there, months away but seeming like an inevitable roadblock. Plenty of "normies," what some of us call you normal drinkers, seem to have the same association. I was asked several times before leaving on vacation whether it would be hard for me. Here's the honest truth - yes, it's hard. No, it's not worse. In some ways, it's better but it's largely the same.
Here's what's hard. The first evening when we arrived was hard. It lasted maybe 90 minutes after we arrived at our beach house after a long day of traveling. That time was always cocktail time - time to unwind after the stresses of traveling with three little ones. That association was strong and I honestly didn't know what to do when we first got here. But not knowing what to do is ok. It's uncomfortable but I've learned that it's ok and I learn how to deal if I can't escape. I wish I could tell you what I did but I honestly don't remember, which says a lot. :) In any event, it didn't ruin my entire evening because, of course, it passed.
The first ten minutes of dinner out alone with my husband was also hard. We went to a beautiful Italian restaurant where I would have ordered a Manhattan served up before dinner and a big, beautiful glass of Cab once we sat down. I was anxious walking into the beautiful restaurant, sitting down, imagining how seamlessly I could order a drink with the waiter having no idea what a huge deal that would be for me. Instead, I willed myself to give this a try. I ordered a virgin mojito and by the time our mussels appetizer course had arrived, the discomfort had passed.
I said above that it's not worse. Admittedly, those 2ish hours discussed above were worse than they would have been had I had access to my quick fix. But, beyond that short amount of time, I can see now that alcohol didn't really enhance my past vacations as much as I thought it did. If I had had those drinks, how much would my evening really have changed for the better? We still had great conversations, enjoyed amazing food, and Grant and I had a really fun experience later that evening on a dark beach that I don't remember ever being willing to do drunk ;)
This brings me to how it was better (yay!), sandy sex aside. The main thing I discovered was that without cocktails on the beach being an option, I just DID more. I was much more willing to play with the kids and my husband and I weren't just constantly "taking turns." No, I wasn't super mom and there were still many times that I just wanted to chill out in my chair rather than flying a kite, covering myself or the kids in sand, or throwing them in the waves. But these things were truly much more enjoyable than they ever were in the past. I used to think I just wasn't playful. Turns out I am when booze isn't an option.
I was also much more willing to try new things. I went shelling, kayaking, took a one hour boat tour, and banana boating with my kids - all things I probably would have passed up in the past. It wasn't that I didn't want to do these things but I would always reason that I didn't need to. I could stay back and babysit while the others went or sit on the beach with my bestie, Chardonnay. I reasoned that I was taking one for the team by staying back and babysitting or that I was being frugal - Chardonnay only costs about $12 a bottle versus the hundreds that we spent on water activities. You know what though? Chardonnay isnt real fun. She fuels your mind into thinking she is for a couple hours but in reality she's just pacifying you from all you're actually missing out on. Then she gives you an extra kick in the ass on her way out and zaps your energy for the rest of the day and often the morning after. She's cheap but in reality she costs a fortune :(
All in all, it was one of the best vacations that I've ever been on. Unlike trips I've taken in the past, I feel like this one actually provided what vacations are meant to - unfettered time with those we love, a chance to catch of on sleep and relaxation, great food, and an opportunity to try new things. I woke each morning feeling sleepy, relaxed, and headache-free, grateful for this rare week where we didn't have anything to rush off to but low-tides for shelling or the last kayaks available at Tween Waters. Most importantly, I woke up each morning without shame, knowing that I'm offering "me" to my kids, for better or worse. If I don't want to play with them, so be it and let me assure you that that is often, often the case. I'm still an adult that likes reading my book in peace and having dinners at places whose best offering is something other than chicken fingers and fries. But there's something incredibly freeing about knowing that I'm making that choice with a clear head, rather than choosing to alter my mood with a substance that takes me away from them.