Mexico 2004

That Time I Went to Mexico and Didn’t Drink

I’ve been to Mexico four times in my life. The first three times, I spent a lot of my time there drinking my face off. Now, let’s be clear here: I was never that girl, doing unsafe, stupid, drunken American things in Mexico. Even under the influence, I was still a rule-follower through and through. But, most of the time I spent in Mexico was spent drinking lots of beer, tequila and even wine. Here are some photos that I dug up to show you:

This first trip was to Cancun in 1999-ish. I’d never been outside of the US and had never seen beaches or ocean water that looked like anything other than poor (Bless its heart) Texas’, muddy, dirty beach and Gulf of Mexico situation. I was totally enamored by the crystal clear, blue water and the white sandy beaches. I drank lots of beer on that trip and just to give you a sign of the times, you only needed a birth certificate to get into Mexico at that time. I took my cute little honorary birth certificate with my infant foot prints stamped on it with me and was told that it wasn’t an “official birth certificate” and, therefore, I wasn’t allowed to travel to Mexico. Well, this WAS 1999, so I asked nicely, “Oh, please?” and some nice person at the airlines said, “Oh, okay, sweet heart. But when you get home, get an official copy of your birth certificate for the next time you want to travel to Mexico, mkay?” And away we went to Mexico. My, how times have changed.

My second trip was in 2003. We flew to Cancun but stayed at Isla Mujeres, which is a lovely, quiet island. We headed directly to the Sol Beer distribution center on our golf cart and got I-don’t-know-how-many cases of Sol to enjoy while we were there. On this trip, I got the honest-to-God “Montezuma’s Revenge,” made exponentially worse by a hangover. It wasn’t pretty, but luckily only lasted a few hours.

This was a trip to Playa del Carmen in 2007 for my best friend’s wedding. There was a lot going on during this trip. For starters, we’d just had a baby, so I was in a bathing suit a mere 5 months after giving birth. I was incredibly self-conscious about that and not feeling my best by any stretch of the imagination. Also, I was dealing perhaps a bit poorly with new motherhood and already drinking more than usual on any given day at home. This wedding was lots of fun, but I went “balls-to-the-wall” (if you will) and drank a lot. We’re talking tequila shots and all, which wasn’t my normal drinking pace. I fell down at one point at the reception and had a black. blue and green bruise on my hip the the next day.

 

And here I am just a few weeks ago, back in Playa del Carmen. This was my first trip back as a teetotaler. and I noticed a few things:

  1. There’s not much to do at an all-inclusive resort except to eat and drink. We were offered champagne upon checking into the hotel and the drinks didn’t stop flowing from there. I watched people walking in the pool with their drink in hand, then walking over to the swim-up bar for one or two more; lather, rinse, repeat. Might I also point out that precious few of these people ever got out to use the bathroom? Ew.
  2. I was looked at strangely by most of the staff when I repeatedly ordered water or sparkling water. Finally, it just got easier to order a soda or a virgin drink at times. That seemed to appease the staff a bit more. Who was this “wheta” (white girl) and why wasn’t she drinking?
  3. Drunk people can be pretty gross. One afternoon, we left our kids in the game room and went over to the adults-only section of the resort. There was a hell of a party going on in the adult pool and it was pretty gross. Women hanging all over men, drunk ladies dry-humping the poolside DJ, hootin’ and hollerin’ like you wouldn’t believe. It made me yearn for the family pool with only grumpy toddlers refusing to wear floaties.

So, I did it. I went to Mexico and I didn’t drink. That’s something that I never thought possible. I read a lot. I thought a lot and I daydreamed a lot. I thanked my lucky stars to be in the place where I am today over and over. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Mexico 2004

3 things I’m doing differently as a mother

Below is a picture of the moment that I became a mother.

This photo was taken about 12 hours after Anna was born…about 12 hours after I technically and biologically became a mother.  However, the first 12 hours of Anna’s life remain a blur to me. Her delivery was tough and I lost a lot of blood. So, instead of spending the first few hours of her life bonding with her, I was in and out of consciousness while she was cared for in the hospital nursery.

This photo was snapped by Kevin the following morning, once I was out of recovery and Anna was brought to me for the first time. I remember being shocked at how beautiful she was. When I saw her the first time, immediately after being born, she was a typical newborn–purple, coated in schmutz and, adding insult to injury was her conehead and wonky eyes–a direct result of the beating she took during delivery (let us not even speak of the beating I took during delivery).

In the moment that you’re seeing above, overcome with the fact that I’d made this perfect, whole and beautiful creature so full of potential, I made a vow to Anna to be the best mother I knew how to be. I knew that there were injustices from my childhood that I wanted to correct and, in that very moment, I knew that I had the opportunity to break a cycle.

I wish that one of the promises that I’d made to her that day was to stop drinking, but that wasn’t one of them–at least not yet.  At that time in my life, I knew that I’d need to stop drinking at some point in the future, but I also knew that motherhood would be hard and that I’d need to rely on “mommy’s little helper” a little too. Thankfully, I did quit drinking in the coming years but here is a list of the other cycles that I vowed to break on that day:

  1. Marry money, honey” : Beginning as a very small child, I can remember first commenting to my mother about a nice house or a nice car…or even a nice purse, my mother’s standard response was always a dismissive, “Well, marry money, honey.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I really stopped to consider what that meant. What my mother was effectively saying to me–even if it was just in jest, was this, “you’ll only be able to have nice things if you find a man to take care of you.” Funny thing is, that I didn’t marry a man with money. Instead, I married a man with big dreams and tons of confidence who taught me how to set goals and encouraged me to go after what I wanted in life. And that’s the message that we’re giving our kids too. When Anna remarks on a nice item, my standard response is, “Work hard. Do the right thing. Study. Make good choices and earn it yourself.” I can’t even conceive of ever making Anna feel like she wasn’t capable of earning something on her own the, hard way.
  2. Talking about other people (gossip): When I was a young girl, I knew all of the community gossip. I know now that probably my mother just lacked friends to talk to, but often times, I was the one that she gossiped to. I was included in adult conversations that I had no business being a part of. Even at an early age, I knew who in our community was in an unhappy marriage, who was still pining for their high school sweetheart, whose children might not be biologically related to the man who raised them…basically, I knew way more than any child should know (or any other person NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE RELATIONSHIP should know.). I remember learning early on, that rush of knowing something about someone and how that garnered me the attention of others when I spilled the beans.  I cringe when I think of the things that I knew at such a young age and it shaped who I am and how I’ve handled the responsibility of harboring gossip as an adult. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve made a conscious plan not to ever talk about anyone in front of my kids–that includes my kids peers as well as the adults in our life. Now, all bets are off about what’s said among me and my mom friends at the bus stop before the kids get home, but when my kids are around, I don’t talk about people unless it’s kind words or giving the benefit of the doubt. Little pitchers have big ears…
  3. Talking badly about myself: I grew up with a mother who hated her body. I have vivid memories of her calling herself a “fat pig” and other horrible things. Perhaps she was fishing for compliments, but as a child, all I knew was that my mother said terrible things about herself all the time. So, I grew up silently critiquing my own body. I didn’t want this for my children, so I’ve made a pointed effort never to say anything but empowering things about my body when I do talk about my body (which is seldom) in front of my kids. Our society talks about our bodies too much as it is. I don’t want my kids even thinking about their bodies as anything other than running, jumping, ball-throwing, jump-roping, dancing-machines.

As an adult, I am (mostly) forgiving and (reasonably) accepting of my body. When it comes up in conversation with my kids, I commend my body on its feats of strength and endurance and I very much just portray my body as a vehicle for my soul to travel around in. I try to preach kindness to all–ourselves included–to my kids and we talk about respect and acceptance more than is probably necessary, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

When I made these promises to baby Anna, 10 years ago, honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I knew that I desperately wanted to break the cycle that I grew up with, but I also wasn’t sure if it was possible.

As the years have gone on, not only do I feel like I’ve broken the cycle, but the dialog that I was raised with is a whole way of thinking that I can’t even wrap my brain around anymore. I’m a happier, healthier person than I ever thought possible–and I’m not a half-bad parent either. Granted, my kids will likely have a whole new set of cycles that they will vow to break with her own children, and honestly, I think that’s rad. I think that we should get better with each generation. It’s evolution at its finest.

 

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Mexico 2004

Being married to a drinker (when you’ve stopped drinking)

(Perhaps you’ve heard this story…) I woke up one day in 2010 and decided that I wasn’t going to drink alcohol anymore.

When I told this to my husband I conveyed it with the same sense of urgency that I did the time that I declared that I wasn’t going to eat meat anymore.

Or when I told him that I wasn’t going to eat dairy anymore.

Or when I told him that I was going to take up running and train for a race.

He was moderately supportive but continued to do his thing.

The thing is though, when I dismissively announced to him that I wasn’t going to drink anymore that day in 2010, I desperately wanted him to stop drinking too. Not because he necessarily needed to–just because I needed his support and I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about giving up alcohol while living with a partner who still drank.

Did I tell him this? Hell no. I didn’t even convey the seriousness in my decision. If I remember correctly, I think I probably said it like this: “Hey. Just so you’ll know, I’m not going to drink for awhile and see how I feel.” Just the same way that I announced it when I was becoming vegetarian–which lasted several years–then I was back to meat-eating.

I think he probably felt like I was doing it to maybe lose some weight. Or that I’d read an article in Woman’s Day about how alcohol messes with your sleep cycles or something. I don’t think that he 1. knew the seriousness that I felt, 2. thought that I’d make it a permanent life change or 3. knew how much I wanted him to take me seriously and support me.

Did this piss me off? Yeah, it did. Was it really even his fault? Nope.

I should’ve told him these things. I should’ve let him see the vulnerable side of me–the side that really struggled in social situations without alcohol. The side that struggled trying to figure out who I was anymore. But, I kept it all under wraps and waved it all off dismissively.

Who knows. Maybe I also didn’t want him to know the seriousness so that when I failed at sobriety, he wouldn’t see me as a washout.

So, I stopped drinking but he did not.

He continued to drink at home after work and on weekends. He continued to order a glass of nice red wine with his steak over dinner at a restaurant. He continued to meet up with friends for happy hour after work, coming home smelling of bourbon and cigar smoke.

Did it hurt? Big time. Did I tell him this? No.

Instead, I quietly seethed when he’d crack open a beer at home, in what felt like a taunt to my sobriety. I’d feel like crying when he carefully perused the wine list over dinner, trying to choose just the perfect crisp white to compliment his meal. I raged when he added beer to my Costco list and left me to heave a giant 24-bottle box of Shiner into our already overflowing cart while I fought to ply my (then) toddlers with more fruit snacks in order to make it through the checkout tantrum-free.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that if I’d simply told him how difficult it was for me that he continued to drink when I had quit, he would’ve stopped for me. He might not have stopped entirely, but he might have tried to survey the scene through my eyes and refrained from drinking in my presence.  As a result, I seethed in silence for a few years early in my sobriety. It wasn’t fair to me, and it really wasn’t fair to my husband.

All that it would’ve taken was 4 simple words from me:

I need your help.

Vulnerability though, man. That’s probably why I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to appear as vulnerable as I felt. Also, the seriousness of the situation scared the living shit out of me. I didn’t want him to suddenly see his wife–the mother of his two children–as an addict. I didn’t want him to think, “Holy hell. I’ve been leaving my children in the care of an alcoholic all of this time?”

Almost 7 years have passed since I quit drinking. I’ve survived all major social occasions, vacations, weddings and funerals without alcohol now. My husband doesn’t drink  nearly as much as he did when I was a drinker, but he does have a fridge in the garage that’s typically full of beer and a liquor cabinet in the kitchen that’s full of all of the “important” ingredients for just about any cocktail you might require.

To be honest: yes, I do sometimes still slam the liquor cabinet shut a little harder than I should when I’m in there, trying to find a place for the salad spinner and there are too many bottles of liquor in the way. I also have been known to shove the beer aside with more force than necessary (oops, sorry about that foam, bro) when making space for our salad greens and leftover casserole in the garage fridge.

All of this to say that, if you need your spouse to quit drinking in order to feel supported in your sobriety, please DON’T BE LIKE ME! Ask for help. Tell him or her. Demand it of them. And, if they can’t fathom giving up something like that for you, then rethink that relationship or suggest that they reassess their own relationship with alcohol.

Don’t be scared to be vulnerable in front of your partner. I can’t turn back time and go back and do it all differently–I wish that I could. I know that the way that I handled the situation was really dangerous–my constant anger could have really done permanent damage to our marriage. How it didn’t, I’m not sure. And all it would’ve taken is for me to say, “I need your help.”

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Mexico 2004

8 date night ideas that don’t revolve around alcohol

Before I quit drinking alcohol, back in 2010, a typical date night for my husband and I meant dinner (plus drinks) and drinks. Oh, and then drinks after dinner. Then, if we still had anything left in us after the date, more drinks at home after the kids were in bed.

Especially after we had our first baby, when we got a rare date night, we didn’t want to waste our time doing anything but drinking our new-parent frustrations away and trying to find the “old” us that was hidden under layer upon layer of sleep deprivation and Elmo-induced brain atrophy. In fact, back in those days, a date night activity that didn’t involve alcohol felt like punishment. Why even bother?

A rare date night out, sans babies, circa 2009. Lots of drinking going on here.

 

Then, I quit drinking, and I remember feeling very lost when we got our first, long-overdue date night. What the hell were we supposed to do on a date night now if I couldn’t drink? I’d be lying if I said that I remember what we did on those first few sober date nights, but now that I’ve been doing sober date nights for awhile, I feel like I have a better-stocked arsenal of date night ideas that don’t involve drinking.

So, here are 8 date night ideas that don’t completely revolve around alcohol, in case you’re a teetotaler (like me), maybe you’re pregnant and miss being able to drink on date night or maybe you’re just looking for ways to have fun without the hooch every now and then.

1: Go to the movies: There’s a new wave of movie theater “experiences” that incorporate drinking into enjoying a movie. We have Alamo Drafthouse where we live and fancier-versions in the larger cities nearby, but I enjoy a good movie on a date night. I think it’s a real treat to go and watch a movie that I choose, that doesn’t involve a Pixar character, nor an animated version of Justin Timberlake singing top-40 hits. Plus, I’m all about getting candy or another sweet treat that I don’t have to share.

2: Play mini-golf: Going to play mini-golf WITHOUT your kids might seem cruel, but nobody said that you have to tell your kids where you went on date night, right? I think that mini-golf is all kinds of fun. You want to know what makes it even more fun? When you can get fiercely competitive with your partner and play your heart out without having to give up a shot for your kid or wait, as your 1st grader takes 52 shots on a par 4.

3: Costco run: Lame, right? But, imagine this: Costco After Dark. Way less crowded than your usual Saturday, at 11am Costco run. Plus, you and your partner can carefully critique the differences between the latest and greatest televisions that Costco has to offer. You can wander around, gathering samples without having to bite your Kirkland-brand peanut butter cup into 4 equal portions so that your toddler and 4 year old don’t lose their minds in the middle of the store. Better yet? Pick up the toilet paper and kitty litter that you’ve been putting off purchasing and have your spouse load it in the back of your minivan for you. Now, that’s what I call foreplay! Meeeeow!

4: Go to the museum: Many museums offer an after-hours happy hour every month or so. Yes, booze is the primary focus of these events (because, of course it is) but you can take the opportunity to see the museum without the large crowds who are usually there during normal business hours. Typically a museum membership is required to attend these events, but museum memberships are awesome for families to take advantage of anyway. They always pay for themselves in just a couple of visits and they afford you the luxury of going to the museum on a rainy day to see the one thing that you kid cares about seeing and then leaving directly after. No need to try and get your money’s worth out of a single day ticket.

5: Linger at a coffee shop: Since I quit drinking, coffee shops have become a favorite place of mine. I never cared to have coffee after the hours of about 10am before, but now, an after dinner coffee is a pretty great special treat. Coffee shops are also good places to go and have a nice, uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. I love to people watch there also. All good things…

6: Take in some community theater: Most communities–no matter how small or large–have community theater. Some of the productions are really, really good and some of them….well, aren’t. But, on date night, it doesn’t matter. You’re out of the house, sans kids. There’s often beer and wine available in the lobby of these productions, but it’s not pushed on you like it is in, say, comedy clubs. Go check out a local production and remark at how talented (or not!) your neighbors are.

7: Church activities: I know, I know. Now that we’ve found a church that we like, we’re becoming “those people.” But, most churches have opportunities to be social with other couples every now and then (if not more often). I’ve heard great things about “small groups,” that give you the opportunity to meet other people from the church outside of services. Our church has classes and seminars as well that would be good to do on a date night.

8: Shopping: There’s something rather appealing about going shopping with your spouse without the kids in tow. To leisurely browse on your own time and look at what YOU want to look at, without having to divide your time watching the kids play in the indoor mall playscape while the other runs quickly into Sears to grab a refrigerator filter and a new shirt. Use date night shopping as an opportunity to pick out new dress clothes or new granny panties–whatever makes you feel good. Or, shop at a furniture store for your (perhaps fictitious) dream house. No purchase necessary.

I used to see date night as more of a “treat yo self” night. A night that I could escape my day job and drink to alleviate the stress of parenthood. Every time though, I’d end up feeling like a worse parent–especially when I was hungover the next morning and unable to properly perform even the simplest of parenting duties for my kids. Now that I’m sober, date night is truly a recharge night for me. I get to enjoy my husband’s company and then wake up refreshed the next morning, ready to do this crazy job called “parenting” to the best of my abilities.

What about you? Any sober date night ideas to share?

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Mexico 2004

On marriage

Over the weekend, a prominent figure in the tiny community that I grew up in died. While I was sad to hear of Mr. N’s passing, truth be told, I hadn’t given him or his family a thought for the better part of a decade. I don’t live in that area anymore and I never have a reason to go back, so a lot of the people who were on the periphery of my adolescence have just disappeared from my memory–Mr. N. and his family included.

It’s been interesting seeing the tributes pour in all over Facebook, honoring this man. I’m seeing posts by people whom I haven’t thought about in years. People have been sharing their stories of how Mr. N.  touched their lives and shaped who they are as an adult. It’s beautiful.

So, once this news broke, I texted one of the only friends from high school that I’m still in touch with to see if Mr. N. had been ill or if it was a sudden death. In the course of us discussing Mr. N. and his family, she reminded me of a few of the gossip-y “scandals” that had plagued his family when we were in high school. It was interesting to rehash those decades-old stories and commiserate over our shared versions of the gossip from back in the day.

Continue reading “On marriage”

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