On January 28th, 2016 I woke up and knew I had had enough. I couldn’t continue the cycle of drinking and not drinking and thinking about drinking and drinking too much and being hungover, anymore. I was in Hawaii on a last minute vacation, by myself.
The details of the events that brought me to the moment where I woke up in Hawaii, ready to quit drinking, are a bit tedious and hard to follow so, I’ll try to keep it as simple and clear as possible. You see, I had booked this last minute Hawaiian getaway just 5 days ahead of time. It was a weak attempt at my own version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (you know, the movie where Jason Segal goes to Hawaii to get over Kristen Bell!?), though I definitely wasn’t expecting to meet Mila Kunis on this long weekend. A friend and I had become intensely close over the prior few months. There was texting and talking and laughter and support and, eventually, a drunken hook up. Did I mention she was married? To a man? Yeah. When her husband found out, our friendship exploded. What followed was a messy few months.
But, I’m getting off track here — her husband found out, things blew up and, I decided to go to Hawaii. This was in January of 2016. In 2015 my life had been pretty all over the place, I spent the first few months obsessing over my drinking and trying to moderate. That spring, I tried quitting drinking for the first time (this first stint lasted a few months but, ultimately, I drank again because all I did was remove alcohol from my life. I never changed anything about how I was living.) I was also frustrated with my job, struggled with anxiety and depression, got a new position at my company, my relationship of almost 5 years ended, my grandfather’s health with declining and, everything just felt like it was spiraling out of control. I was determined to have a good time in Hawaii and forget about all of the problems I had waiting for me back on the mainland.
In my never ending quest to moderate my drinking, I told myself that I wouldn’t drink on this vacation (or maybe just on my travel day?) I don’t quite remember the deal I made with myself, I just knew that I wasn’t “supposed” to be drinking on the day I arrived in Hawaii — for whatever reason.
Things started out well: I made it from PDX to Honolulu, found a shuttle to my hotel, checked in, went to my room, freshened up and headed out, all without drinking. I took a walk along the beach and headed toward Waikiki. I was starving. I found a little bar that had some non-meat centric food (aka: french fries) and headed in. As I sat down I saw that they had Sam Adams on draught. That was something I had missed since moving from New Hampshire to Oregon so, without really thinking about it, I ordered one. That one turned into two or three, enough to give me a buzz since I don’t really eat when I fly. I left the bar and slowly made my way back to my hotel, stopping at the ABC store across the way to pick up another beer. I don’t even remember what kind of beer it was, something local maybe? I drank about half of it and decided it was gross so I went to bed early, feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to just make it through that one day without drinking. Again.
The next morning, I woke up and it was still dark. I figured I wasn’t going to be there long enough to acclimate to the time zone so I didn’t bother going back to sleep. I made some coffee and logged on to my work email to see if there was anything I needed to do. I eventually made my way outside to my balcony to watch the light begin to take over the sky. Despite the fact that I hadn’t really had much to drink the previous night, I felt like shit. That’s when I decided I had had enough. I was done. Drinking was no longer an option for me. I almost immediately texted two of my closest humans to tell them I was done drinking. I needed to tell these two right away, not only for support but, I also knew that if it was just something I decided in my head it would be too easy for me to go back on it.
On the first day of my new life, I walked.
I walked the 3.6 miles from Hilton Hawaiian Village to Diamond Head National Monument. I walked up Diamond Head. I walked back down Diamond Head and then I walked the 3.6 miles back. I walked in the sun and humidity. I walked through the un-familiar surroundings. I walked in Chuck Taylor high-tops. I was sweaty. My feet hurt. My legs hurt. My lungs felt like they were going to explode because of the humidity. I was on edge because of the crowds of tourists. I wanted to simultaneously be seen and blend into the background. I was on the verge of tears.
BUT, I didn’t drink.
The remainder of my trip is a blur and runs together without me knowing what day anything happened on: I remember going to bed early and waking up early. I remember drinking mineral water and iced tea and cold brew coffee. I remember wandering aimlessly and eating at IHOP. I remember being amazed that the Pacific Ocean could be warm. I cried a lot. I read a lot. I thought my anxiety was going to crush me from the inside. I laid on the beach. I weaved in and out of the crowds of tourists at Waikiki beach.
I didn’t drink.
All I knew on January 28th, 2016 was that I was done drinking. Every single step I’ve taken along my recovery journey since that day has been built upon the fact that I was so sure this was the thing I needed to do. Even though I had no clue how to do it. Or what to do next. Or what kind of impact it would have on the rest of my life.
It was more than three months later, on the first day of Hip Sobriety School, that I read the words “I trust the evolution of my life” for the first time. Those seven words have had a hold on me ever since. I repeated them to myself so often in my first year of sobriety, that I got them tattooed on my chest to celebrate the one year anniversary of me waking up in Hawaii and making a decision that would change my entire life.
Every single day I am thankful that I don’t drink anymore. And, every single day, I am reminded that listening to that little voice inside of me — the one that tells me to do the thing I don’t know how to do — is why I am becoming the most authentic, loving, kind and, human version of myself that I can that I can possibly be.