Staying sober in the bahamas

It was the Thanksgiving holiday and my husband and I, being the avid sailors we are, were excited to have two of my friends join us for our holiday getaway. It was a trip we’d all been looking forward to for quite some time. One of my friends, Tina, was once a professional acquaintance that had grown into a friendship. We’d known each other for a little over a year and she was an upbeat and fun woman to be around. A couple times she’d get a little loud if she’d had one too many drinks. But it was never anything that seemed abnormal and her husband always had a way of simmering her down. My other friend, James and I had been friends for well over eight years. We met in the rooms of recovery so our relationship has always been one of depth and transparency. 

Now, if you’ve ever gone sailing, you understand just how little control you have of a lot of things. The weather, the waves, the temperature, the winds, and how your body will even respond to these things. It can all really be a toss up. As we set out for our 5 day trip of coastal sailing, all the elements seemed to be at odds with us. We’d hoped for beautiful Caribbean-like weather. But instead, we had high winds, the boat was rocking and rolling, and I was seasick for the first two days. It was a rough start. But let’s be honest, we were on a boat in the Bahamas, how bad could it really be? 

We did find ourselves making the decision to stay at the dock a few more days than anticipated. But to be fair, there are many perks that come along with being at the dock. First, the marina is typically situated to have three sides of land protecting you from the open sea. This makes for a more stable and comfortable experience while being on your boat. Secondly, marinas have all the amenities one could possibly need. Restaurants, little souvenir shops, and various water activities are readily available for you to enjoy. The third, which is my favorite, is shore power. You may laugh, and most likely take it for granted, like I once did, but air conditioning in any confined space makes everyone much more comfortable.

During the early mornings my friend, James would wake up early, walk the docks, and then spend time on the topside of the boat journaling. I admired his discipline. Before getting married and getting busy with life, I too had a very strong spiritual program. I would meditate in the mornings and say my prayers at night. Life was good so everything must be okay…right? Even though I never took a drink, I did experience a lot of discontentment during that time.

One morning I went up and asked James if he’d be interested in finding an online meeting. Since the Wifi is always strongest at the marina, we should be able to join one, even if it were only audio. He perked right up and said, “Sure thing!” Boom! Within 10 minutes we connected to a group in Dallas and joined the meeting. It felt so good to be there with my friend again next to me at a meeting. The love of the people in the group was like a warm washover of calming waters. I’d forgotten how it felt to feel connected. I had also forgotten that no matter where I go in the world, there will always be a place where I am welcomed and loved. I absorbed the experience fully into my heart as the meeting went on.

On the flipside, my girlfriend didn’t take our bonding moment as warm-hearted as I did. In fact, I think it stirred jealousy and emotional isolation within her instead. She went back down to her cabin and closed the door behind her. She spent a great deal of time down there as the rest of us went about our morning, making breakfast and tinkering around. When she finally resurfaced she was very quiet. I could see she was upset so I tried to initiate a conversation. But nothing. Every question I’d asked was quickly responded with a short one or two word answer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in recovery is, I can’t change anybody. I can’t make her talk to me. I can’t make her try to understand what I’m explaining. I can’t stop her from feeling her feelings. Nor can I stop her from choosing how to deal with those feelings. About an hour later we saw her walking down the dock towards the bar. We all knew exactly how she was going to cope with what she was feeling. And we all knew, it was going to be a long night.

It’s amazing the phenomena of insightfulness and the ability to see yourself in other’s. Is it a virtue one is born with or is it a characteristic that you’re taught? For me, I see it as a little of both. When I first got sober, I was told to focus on the similarities in people’s shares and not the differences. Once I started doing this, I began to hear my own experiences in their stories. So perhaps I was taught to have the ability to see myself in others. I also believe that with age comes wisdom. After experimenting and learning one is able to see the bigger picture, which then brings a sense of wisdom.

The day continued on into the evening and then into the night, just as you’d imagine. That presence of discontentment, resentment, and pain remained thick like smoke well into the next afternoon. It was bittersweet to see them leave. I hated to see my friend in such despair and I just wanted to take the pain away. But on the other side of that same coin, I was also delighted for the relief of the tension of the previous day. 

That experience reminded me of who I’ve been, how I’ve felt, and the tools I used to use for coping. It opened my heart and reminded me that we are all the same, in more ways than I probably can even fathom. We may have different stories but we all have the same feelings of the heart. And with those, I can relate. 

Since that morning I’ve continued to practice my spiritual connection. I’m blessed to have a very patient and loving husband who greets me every morning with a cup of hot coffee. He closes the door behind him as he knows the next hour is for me. After a few sips of coffee, I take out my journal and begin to write about anything that lingered from the day before. I also make a gratitude list of five things I’m grateful for. A few simple things and I feel connected again. I feel a part of. And I’m reminded, I never have to live that life again.