Midway through the flight I realized it was going to be a long week. I should have listened to my gut – this trip was a bad idea. Go figure – attending a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort with a group of party people might not be the best place for a person in recovery. Of course I knew that, I just didn’t want to say no to this trip.
The flight attendants were pouring free drinks for the passengers on both sides of me and the aroma wafted by.
Feeeeck. Five more hours on the plane, seven days at the resort, and another flight home. What have I locked into? My brain was already clicking like an abacus counting the drinks of all 42 people in our group.
I had told myself, “How bad can it be? It’s a holiday! I can handle this.” One hour into the flight and I was bristling already.
I was reminded of having our first son in 1991. I had looked forward to labor and said bravely, “How bad can it be? It’s just a day of discomfort and then we’ll be parents. I can handle it.” When the day came, I was well prepared but things went badly. I was scared and overwhelmed and I wanted a quick fix but there was no way out, only through. And we did make it through; figuratively for me and literally for my son. Eventually, all 9 lb. 8 oz of him was dislodged (he has been a delight ever since).
I have never forgotten that feeling of wanting out of an experience that couldn’t be stopped. I had a similar realization when alcohol started gaining momentum in my life – trying to moderate was like pulling a handbrake on a runaway train. I couldn’t gain control as long as I was drinking. I held on for a long time trying to change the course of the path but ultimately saw that “change” and “drinking” are mutually exclusive terms once addiction has set up camp.
Suffice to say I have had enough life experience to know better. Booze at the airport, booze on the plane, booze on the bus to the resort, and oh joy, more booze passed around the lobby of the resort. I could feel the anxiety rising as my drink counter click click clicked.
“I have to stop this,” I realized. “I can’t spend this whole week counting every one’s drinks and feeling like each one is a blow to my joy. The world doesn’t owe me compensation for every drink swallowed in my presence.”
Aha! That was it! Little by little I was keeping track of their drinks and adding them up as little bricks in a wall of resentment. We hadn’t even checked into our rooms and I was feeling deprived by my holiday. I knew I had to change my thinking or the situation could switch from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.
So here’s what I decided. First, I had to stop thinking of drinks as little bonuses that I was missing out on. I don’t want 5 virgin pina coladas under any circumstances, let alone as a means to keep pace with others. If I caught myself keeping score and feeling resentful, I would realize something else “good” that the day had offered me and give thanks for it instead.
So…my group had had beer at the airport, wine on the plane, beer on the bus, and rum in the lobby. I thought of the nice moments I’d experienced during that same time frame: …watching a towheaded toddler pull his tiny suitcase through the airport…sharing a laugh with the female security guard who had to pat down my “sparkly bits” (I was wearing a sequined shirt)…seeing the excitement of the bride and groom, who we’ve known since they were just kids…the palm trees swaying above – always a delight for a Canadian, especially in November….my dry rough hands were already feeling softer….gratitude, gratitude.
It helped. Over the course of the week, I did a lot of self-talk and quiet reflection (in addition to the survival strategies from my last post). I stayed the course and made the best of the bad situation in which I’d put myself. I’ll know better for next time and I will listen to my instincts.
Speaking of next time, I have decided to give myself a “do-over” of this vacation. Yesterday, I signed up for a springtime yoga retreat in Mexico specifically organized for women in recovery (www.sherecovers.co).
After all, it is just as important to say yes to the good opportunities as it is to resist the bad ones.