Wake up in the morning feelin’ like P- Diddy. Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m gonna hit the city. Before I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack. ‘Cause when I leave for the night I ain’t comin backTik Tok – Kesha
Living full time in a resort town is like living in Neverland – a permanent vacation. Relaxing, spa-like days on the beach mixed with the dazzling allure of the boardwalk rides, beach bars, and music-filled nightlife. The dress code: bare sandy feet, bathing suits, and saltwater treated hair. It’s paradise. There is, however, a shadow side to all things. Once you get behind the scenes, even the most dreamlike places can lead to trouble. The top professions? Full-time bartender, server, musician, real estate agent, lifeguard on the beach patrol, or retiree. All respectable careers, but when combined with the fact that alcohol is available nearly 24/7, things can become hazy. Drinking is deeply ingrained in the resort community culture. So much so that it took me too long to realize the ridiculous habits I indulged in along with most of the people around me, not just those with a problem.
- Day drinking is a regular thing. Starting well before noon is not unusual. A mimosa (or 4) with breakfast, why not?
- In the restaurant industry and music scene – drinking is part of the job and going to work with a hangover is implied and often joked about.
- Speaking of hangovers! Being hungover is a normal state of being. The severity of the hangover indicated the level of “fun” from the night before. The worse the hangover, the better the night.
- Regular binge drinking and blacking out is also not usual.
- Everyday activities like going to the movies, playing mini-golf, and going to the beach may likely involve drinking. It adds to the fun! Duh!
- Vendor promotion parties!!! Premium alcohol is offered as an all you can drink open bar. We have to go and we have to drink all of the alcohol because it’s free, damn it!
- There is no such phrase as only having a “couple of drinks” – unless a couple of drinks means at least five.
- Drinking and driving, unfortunately, is just called driving.
I never thought there was anything wrong with this mindset when I was drinking, and it took me a long time to get out of the cycle. It was until I started my doctorate at a school outside of my hometown that I realized all of these drinking habits were abnormal.
I am out to dinner with nine of my classmates. Realization #1: Only three of us order an alcoholic drink. How is that possible? What is wrong with the other seven that they are not drinking? Realization #2: My two classmates only have one drink each throughout the entire dinner, and one girl doesn’t even finish the whole thing. Preposterous! Realization #3: I have downed my fifth drink. Now, I have to drive 45 minutes back to where I am staying. I am slightly drunk, and I am alone in this behavior. Realization #4: I don’t think it is me who is the weird one in this situation.
Dinner provides me with a small glimpse into life on the other side, a life without alcohol. When I decided to get sober, I knew it would be difficult. How could I possibly navigate sobriety in a place where drinking alcohol is comparable to breathing air?
The 24/7 drinking culture and the behavior that comes along with it is normalized in this area and for me, is a helpful reminder of precisely what I am not missing. While I feel that I don’t have to move away, ditch my friends who drink, or isolate myself, I must be true to myself, and live my life in the most authentic way possible. I have to continue cultivating self-worth, self-esteem, and self-awareness every day. I meditate, listen to sober podcasts, read sobriety memoirs and blogs, and write about my own story. I can never forget why I chose to be sober and I have to be sober for myself, not for anyone else. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be and a huge part of that is living a life without alcohol. I dedicate myself to a serious lifestyle change. I ditched the illusion that alcohol had to be a part of every activity in everyday life.
Is it difficult to live in a town where this is normal behavior? Yes. Is it difficult to live where alcohol is accessible practically 24/7? Yes. Is it difficult to be in a relationship with someone who drinks, even just socially? Yes. But alcohol doesn’t have to be the center of the universe, even in a resort town. I take the time and put in the effort every day to find ways to nourish my body, mind, and spirit and to partake in activities I genuinely enjoy instead of wasting my time in a bar drinking. I intentionally look at each day as one filled with new adventures and new possibilities. The comment I get the most since getting sober is, “you look so happy.” When they ask what I’m doing differently, my response is that I’ve quit drinking. When I stopped drinking, I started living. People say to me all the time, “I wish I could do what you’re doing.” The beautiful thing is that anyone can if they want to. It’s hard to imagine a life without alcohol, but it’s a world that is open to anyone who wants it. Living sober is living free, and it is 100% worth it.