Recently, my family and I returned from a trip to Sao Miguel, in the Azores. It was our fourth time visiting and we always joke that we have now seen the entire island and next year we need to expand our horizons and try somewhere new. We are drawn to the island for it’s exquisite beauty, but also maybe for its familiarity. My husband is not a lounge on the beach kind of guy, so he makes the most of being on vacation by being in constant motion. I love a good adventure myself, but then I want a little relaxation before heading off to the next one.
My husband is excellent at finding new and exciting places to explore each time we visit the island. Our trips are full of hiking to majestic lookouts, swimming at hidden black beaches or in thermal waters. We have probably hiked most of the island, but we discover something new every time. My son, who is fifteen, is less inclined toward long hikes. Thankfully, there is always the reward of a jaw dropping view, a tunnel, a swimming hole or a waterfall to tempt. In one such case, which was by far my son’s favorite, there were cats and baby chicks on the path. My son was successful at luring away the momma with potato chips and gleefully scooping up a baby chicks into his lap. I am of course aware that it is cringe worthy, that we fed the chicken chips so we could hold the babies, but who could resist.
We rented a house with a beautiful backyard that ran parallel to a botanical garden. Every morning I would wake have my coffee, write in my journal and do a little yoga in the yard. Waking up well rested and without guilt, is a feeling I will never tire of.
I remember being particularly excited/nervous about traveling to the Azores last year because it would be my first time traveling sober and I prepared by packing lots of teas. We were welcomed to our rented house with a bottle of wine, fruit and bread. I immediately put the wine away somewhere out of site. This year, when the same thing happened, I just put the wine on a shelf and forgot about it.
It does get easier with time. Drinking alcohol becomes a habit that is so deeply embedded in our brains. It took time to change the way I viewed alcohol. I had to come to terms with the fact that it offered no benefit.
The year before, at one particular restaurant I got a terrible pang of longing when we walked by the restaurant bar. I had drank there the year before with my husband and it was a pleasant memory. I struggled, but got through it and ordered tea. This year we visited the same restaurant and I felt very different. I watched the people around me drinking cocktails and wine and I felt no longing. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I could not drink, I felt relief.
I have travelled several times sober now and it is by far better in every way. I feel physically better, mentally more at peace. I am more present in my life. It might be the greatest gift I have ever given myself. Getting rid of alcohol has freed up an enormous amount of space in my life, space to let good things in.