by Melissa M.

I get to have a relationship with reality

I’ve lived a life of “geographics”—moving from one place to another has become such an integral part of who I am that I have made a career of it. I move from one city to another; from one country to another and I love it. Or at least I used to.

I made a career of moving

Now I know what I thought of as “trying something new” was really good old-fashioned “running away.” It’s easy to convince yourself you’re OK if you don’t have to stick around in one place long enough to see the carnage you create and the people you leave behind. I got sober in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, after 32 years of Olympian drinking and travelling. While I told myself I was moving there for the tax-free employment and the chance to let my daughter frolic in sand dunes, I knew, on the inside, I was really hoping a conservative Muslim country could do for me what I could not do for myself: regulate my, by-then, virtually uncontrollable daily drinking.

In early recovery, I shared this realization at a meeting and confessed to the group I thought I would drink less (or drink with more constraint, or drink better, or drink differently, or … you get the idea) by moving to the Middle East. I was taken aback when the room erupted in laughter. I wasn’t alone, I learned, in thinking that. Virtually every alcoholic expat in Dubai had moved there hoping a country with strict alcohol rules could cure them of their alcoholism. I also learned that it worked approximately 0% of the time. In fact, instead of learning how to put down a drink I was actually provided with a perfect storm of drinking conditions: Money to spend, brutal summer temperatures that keep people indoors, swank hotels catering exclusively to expat hyper-consumption and a handful of industrious black market vendors who, for a very steep delivery fee, come to your front door with a trolley of thick black garbage bags filled with booze. There was no room for moderation even if I had known how to moderate.

Like a lot of people, when I first started going to A.A. meetings all I really wanted was to quit drinking. I needed to stop but didn’t know how. Having received that gift, I remain grateful every day of sobriety. I was also given the powerful gift of clarity: Being able to see life as it really is and being able to start a relationship with reality. I don’t drink on my problems anymore, or drink to celebrate, to protest, to check out, to check in, to chill out or to warm up. I have to meet life head-on with my eyes and spirit open to the fact that, actually, I’m not really in control at all.

This kind of radical acceptance takes place on the inside and can’t be found in any passport, airport or Lonely Planet guide (it’s an inside job, as they say). For the first time in maybe forever, I’m actually OK with that.

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