I've come to believe that all opportunities, bad and good, have meaning. Bad things aren't intrinsically “bad” and they don’t happen to “good” or “bad” people. They just happen to teach us important lessons about ourselves and our ultimate purpose in life. The quote I have come to rely on many times throughout my recovery journey so far is one I discovered in an Al-Anon Reading by Louisa May Alcott: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” If all things in life were smooth sailing, how would we ever learn how to survive during the ebb and flow of the open waters?
Through my journey, I was led in a direction where I was able to open my eyes and take advantage of an amazing trip this summer. Recovery 100% allowed for this. Our old “vacations” really consisted of spending time getting drunk, eating, and probably gambling since Las Vegas was always a top destination. But we had planned (before Jeff went to rehab) a trip with a friend and my nephew to go to LA to see a concert and then drive to Vegas for vacation. After rehab, the suicide attempt...I found myself in a familiar place of realization. That trip, no matter how bad I wanted things to be the way they once were, would need to be modified. The initial decision is yet another example of a selfish, naive, stupid decision in thinking we could, or should, go to Vegas at that point in Jeff's sobriety, but thankfully the universe moved us in a smarter direction. It opened my eyes to other choices and it set the wheels in motion for one of the more significant events in my life.
I was scared to even talk about still going on the trip, or any trip for that matter, but especially one we had planned in late March, before things got cloudy again. I was scared about the money we didn't have, I was scared about planning for something that might have to be cancelled due to Jeff’s ever teetering sobriety and disease, and I was scared that we would get across the country and Jeff would have another breakdown.
But, this was my first real exercise in letting go. I was sick of worrying about the what-if’s and shoulds. We couldn’t hide from life forever, and we deserved a vacation after the year we had. I didn't care if it drained what little money we had left. We had the means to do it, and at this point, what was the harm? Could it get worse? Sure, but I didn't want to live a life of fear anymore. I was sick of being afraid. When I adopted a positive attitude about it, we were given open-ended possibilities of what else we might do in world we had never known before, sober.
A trip started to come together, miraculously, a month before we had to finalize our plans. We had never thought about driving up the California Coast, which seemed to be a much less fast-paced trip than what we had been used to, but ultimately, was just what we needed. I exhausted Google, researching places to stay and things to do and see. I was discouraged at first, as I found that most inns up the coast booked far in advance and were exorbitantly priced. It was also hard searching for reasonably priced rooms for 4 people in San Francisco, which was our final destination. But it all just happened, and I credit that to my higher power, the universe. I called a lodge in Big Sur, and they had a cheap cancellation for a cottage with two rooms. I called a motor inn in SF and they also had a room open up in our price range at the last moment. I booked our flights with points.
We went to Santa Monica. We went to Disneyland through my work for free. We went to the concert at the Rose Bowl. We went to an Angels Game. But then, the most important part of our trip began – our drive up the coast. I had never heard much about the drive being from the Midwest, and I’m almost glad I didn’t have a lot of background, because every sight we saw as we moved from LA to SF made me giddy like a school child. We passed Morro Bay, with it's giant rock and seals! We stopped at Elephant Seal Beach and saw the mammoth creatures, beaching and interacting. But nothing prepared me for the fact that the most unbelievable sights were yet to come as we made the ascent to Big Sur.
It was overwhelming to see the magnitude of the cliffs against the ocean. It was humbling to think of myself, a small speck among the vastness of the ocean, crashing against the shore. It was awe-inspiring to know that there are parts of this land that, still, perhaps no one has touched. It was beautiful to experience it with other people for the first time, to know that I will forever share that connection with them, regardless of where our lives lead us. It reminded me that once I opened my eyes to the possibility, the universe was putting me in the places I needed to be, yet again, both bad and good, at the exact time I needed them and when I was ready to be there.
We hiked and we enjoyed nature in a land unsullied by internet connections, Facebook notifications, and emails, and we went to bed in a room that didn’t have a TV, content and exhausted. But the most moving piece of the trip was yet another opportunity that fell into place at Esalen, a retreat property with hot springs on a giant cliff overlooking an ocean. Through internet searches, I learned that Esalen allows 20 visitors onto their property each Friday and Saturday during the mild season, and only from 1am-3am. Visitors are welcome to enjoy their natural spas, and somehow we managed to snag 4 of the coveted spots on the Friday night of a full moon in August during our visit.
It was the closest I have ever come to a spiritual awakening. I wasn't silent, or nude (like some people), or meditating. I was having normal conversations and quiet laughs with my husband, nephew, and friend in a giant hot spring tub, on the side of a cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, under a full moon. But there was power in that moment. It was then that the truth finally hit me – this journey, this life…it is not senseless. There is purpose and there is meaning, and the more I open my eyes and my heart to it, the more beauty will unfold and present itself. I just have to let it.