Sitting on a beach in Hawaii, soda water and lime by my side, I was entranced by the lulling of the ocean waves, the rustling of the palm trees overhead, the soft murmuring of people around me. I hadn’t noticed the ocean breeze until there was a pause, and the noise level seemed to drop 20 decibels. Usually, the ocean breeze is a respite from the mugginess and it’s something to be grateful for while near a tropical ocean. However, the weather was so perfect this day, high 70s, blue skies, low humidity, that the wind made it almost nippy. During the pause of the constant breeze, a subtle warmth uncoiled in my belly and spread through my body. It was a similar sensation I would get while drinking whiskey. It was a feeling I craved and I chased it with every consecutive drink. I had never experienced it outside of drinking though. For a split second, I thought maybe my soda water and lime actually had vodka in it. It didn’t. But when you’re newly sober, sometimes you have weird flashbacks and dreams that make you think you’re back to drinking. Anyway, I imagined this uncoiling warmth as my true self stretching out and taking up the space she was meant to occupy. After being shoved into a tiny box and locked away for years, she finally had room and permission to fully own this earth body. To warm all the parts that had been left out in the cold because there wasn’t enough room for all of me. And to graciously welcome all those parts with loving tenderness, to remind them they belong here exactly as they are, exactly as I am.
I cried on the beach that day. We were leaving the next day and I wasn’t ready. I felt like I had just started this process of getting to know myself. It was the first time since I was 13 that I had been to a beach and hadn’t drank. I was only just starting to learn about this new version of myself, someone who could actually enjoy and embody herself without turning to alcohol for help. While I had no idea what the next steps were to continue welcoming and accepting myself, I listened to Glennon Doyle’s advice “Do the next right thing.” The ocean is always where I’ve felt most at home. So, I went for a swim.