The author on a boat drinking Surge, a discontinued soda that now sells for $46 online.
Waking up from the night of destruction that made me decide to get sober, I was surprised I was alive. After I got over my hangover, I was excited about sobriety. So was my partner, so were my friends. We imagined a world where everything stayed the same, except there was no more wasted or hungover Sophie. But we were ignorant about what my recovery meant.
Currently my live-in partner and many of our friends are on their way to a destination wedding that includes days of exploration and adventure in foreign places. I can’t financially afford the trip or take the time off work anyway, but I was a brand new sober baby when they booked plane tickets—I understood I would relapse if I went on the trip, blissfully surrounded by cocktails and without cell phone service. Not attending a wedding is what alcoholics often call “a luxury problem.” I’m a relatively healthy 25-year-old with a steady income in my dream field; I know I am blessed. Humans see race, gender, and income brackets, but addiction and depression do not discriminate.
If you're ever lucky enough to be boating through the Caribbean—and you're not an alcoholic—stop by the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands and order their signature drink, the Original Painkiller. Do not order this drink anywhere else. Before I got sober I tried it in a New York City tiki bar, and it was like seeing a white girl wearing a Native American headdress rolling at a music festival—trashy and offensive. (I admit I have worn a Native American headdress at a music festival while high out of my mind. Sobriety brings self-awareness.)
It has been years since I have been to the Soggy Dollar Bar, but sadly I am told it has lost some of its charm thanks to its popularity. Once upon a time, there was no dock and you had to swim to get there with cash in hand. (Hence the bar’s namesake.) The island I lived on until I moved to the mainland for high school was a US territory, but the islands were territories of various countries—if you rented a boat you could get several different stamps on your passport in one day. To the locals, this was something only tourists would do, and there was no way we would waste precious time dealing with customs agents on the water, so technically we would enter countries illegally. Most of the time we would get away with it, but sometimes customs agents would creep by in their official boats, searching for the drunken scoundrels who ignored the rules. When I was about 11, I remember being on a boat with girlfriends while our parents were drinking onshore at the Soggy Dollar Bar. Customs agents came by that day, and as instructed should this situation occur, we hid on the boat and stayed super quiet so the vessel would appear empty and the agents would go away. I remember feeling like a badass, but also being kind of annoyed that my parents were on the beach having fun while I was stuck hiding underneath a towel for an hour so they wouldn’t get in trouble.
One of the islands.
With more days under my belt, I feel stronger in alcohol-oriented settings. I can go to bars to see friends without any problems—I just don’t enjoy them like I used to. A rat scurrying in a corner of a crowded Tompkins Square dive bar doesn’t hold the same romanticism without five whiskey shots in your belly, and without a bottle of champagne swirling through my mind, I realize the cocktail waitress in the little black dress does not want to make out with you. Instead I find myself spending days hanging out in tattoo shops or playing the didgeridoo in a park. (Freedom from hangovers really clears up your schedule!) However, as I ride the subway while my partner and friends are off to party in the Pacific, I feel like that little girl stuck hiding under a towel while everyone else is on the beach having fun.
I say this not to defer you if you are considering recovery, but to give it to you straight: Sobriety will change your social life drastically, and your relationships will never be the same. True colors are revealed; some people fade away. However, others have entered my life as precious gifts from the universe. One day at the tattoo shop, I spent hours swirling around in a chair enjoying conversations about numerology and admitting that latex gloves kind of turned me on (I blame the Enema of the State album cover), while my Scorpio twin X got “This Must be the Place” tattooed across his ribs by the talented JK5.
Image via JK5's Instagram.
It has improved with age and sobriety, but I’ve always had an anxious streak. As a little girl after a day of boating, I would often awake and think, Am I really in my bed, and did we escape the customs officers? Phew. When I got older and drunker, I would also often awake with an anxious thought—albeit one more along the lines of Am I really in that guy’s bed, and did we really escape the cops? Fuck.
I’ve learned that experiences are not black and white or even grey, but rather a confusing Technicolor kaleidoscope of sparkling unicorn shit. Recovery and being the sober one stuck hiding under a towel really sucks sometimes, but I’m alive, my body is cleansing of toxins, my social life is cleansing of toxic people, and now I’ve got plenty of time.
If someone asks, I’ll be sailing along in my sober kaleidoscope boat of sparkling unicorn shit.
Previously - Taco Bell and Broken Hymens