sober lifestyle


“This is too much rain, even for me,” I thought this morning as I peered out the door of my basement gym at the scene depicted above. The bottom portion of our deck was getting pelted, and I understood that I would have to program myself some kind of indoor workout, rather than taking my usual Saturday nature walk.

But, at least my hubby would be happy!

A soaking wet deck meant we couldn’t carry out my harebrained Memorial Day weekend scheme: setting up our tent right here at the townhouse and doing a quarantine campout.

I conjured up that ill-fated idea earlier this week, while walking through Tyler State Park at lunchtime of a much nicer day. Looking up at the leafy canopy above me, with sunlight streaming through onto my face, I was instantly catapulted to our campsite at Lake In Wood, Lancaster County, where we used to kick off the summer every year by kicking back in zero-gravity chairs and drinking beer (after beer after beer) under towering elm trees, next to a fire pit we worked hard to keep active all day long.

Old traditions die hard, but at 321 days, I’m starting to feel strong enough in sobriety to dive into some of my old favorite activities without one of my two long-time best friends.

I’m a camping girl from a camping family — both sides — raised on annual excursions “into the wild” at Governor Dodge, Kettle Moraine, Door County…in short, Wisconsin was my childhood wonderland. One summer when I was 8, we changed it up and headed east in our station wagon, bound for Boston, and instead of stopping at a hotel, we set up our tent in the park at Valley Forge, PA, to rest up for the home stretch.

Yeah, we’re tent people, too. My grandparents did have a sweet conversion van when I was growing up, which I thought was the coolest thing on Earth (it had a STOVE!), but my parents were all about that no-frills life of nylon walls, zippered doors and the occasional stick or stone embedded in your back, and I did not mind. They passed their roughing-it love on to me.

It was only right that I would marry a camping guy. He owned his own two-person tent when I met him, and we stuffed ourselves into it before we were even officially dating 🤭, when he took me on a group camping trip near Hershey to meet his friends for the first time.

It’s not artistic license to say I was won over from the start. Nothing more romantic to a girl like me than a crackling fire, cold beverages, stars, s’mores — and someone who got up in the middle of the night and held my hand to stabilize me while I popped an awkward squat in the dark.

Ladies, get you a man who never lets you spray your feet. 🤣

Throughout our life together, Memorial Day weekend traditionally meant packing up the Dodge Dakota, then the Journey, with tent poles, sleeping bags, blankets, pots, pans, and a gigantic light-blue wheelie cooler filled to the brim with Coors Light, Lions Head, Landshark, Blue Moon, Angry Orchard, Strongbow (our drinking tastes evolved), and a separate, much smaller cooler filled with food. Priorities!

We camped every year with my hubby’s sister and her then-husband, and eventually their two sons, in various spots throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. We hiked, biked, threw our arms out hurling softballs and footballs across wide-open fields, sat for hours staring up at the trees, and drank, non-stop, for three glorious days. There were also regular trips to Shady Maple Farm Market mixed in, and subsequent binges on Swedish Fish in bulk…maybe also half the bag of marshmallows that were meant to be saved for dessert…

The memories all get kind of foggy at some point.

I do remember one year out at this place near Shippensburg, where we drained every last drop of our beer on Saturday night and had to venture over to a segment of the campground known as “Redneck Riviera” and buy an unopened 30-pack off some dude in an RV to get us through our last day/night.

I keep saying “we,” but I honestly have very little idea what everyone else was doing. Holiday weekend camping trips were a welcome opportunity for everyone to leave the pressures of life behind and relax, but for me, “relaxing” meant saying “F*ck it all!” and completely abandoning self-restraint/control, knowing there would be a price to pay but not giving a shit because I was so desperate to feel free. Throughout my life, when I wasn’t running scared from something, I was gleefully jumping off the deep end. All or nothing, and all that…

You’ve heard this stuff from me before. 😴

Don’t get me wrong: We made some great memories on those Memorial Day camping trips, my hubby and me. But booze was always there, an invisible wall between us, a third wheel cutting in on our connection and steering me off in my own direction — usually, straight to the food, then to the sleeping bag, where I passed out. See you tomorrow, when we’ll do this all over again!

My husband is the best friend I’ve ever had in the entire world, and I made him play second fiddle to the bottle for far too long. I can’t imagine how he felt, embarking on vacations, getting ready for picnics and parties, or shit, just heading into a regular weekend, knowing in his heart that history was about to repeat itself yet again. I didn’t always have meltdowns or make scenes, but once I got going, I was never really there. Not for him. Not for anyone. That was the whole point of my drinking: Get me the hell outta here!

Our life for the past 10+ months has been very vanilla, but for us, I feel like “boring” stability is a significant victory. We never lost the basic foundation of what made us such a perfect fit for each other: our Earthiness, athleticism and that low-key, doesn’t-take-much-to-make-me-happy quality we both share. Now, it’s a matter of rediscovering the things we always loved to do together — travel, hike, camp, play catch, laugh — with no self-imposed encumbrances. We have a blank slate on which to create new traditions and forge a deeper connection. It’s a gift, and one we decidedly would not have received outside of recovery.

Unfortunately, the new tradition of cramming ourselves into a tent on our back deck must be reserved for another weekend. We’ll probably just spark up a Yankee candle and continue binge-watching classic old black-and-white shows on Peacock, and maybe when Hubby goes to pick up our usual take-out order from Mount Fuji, I can convince him that s’mores supplies and Swedish Fish are essential holiday staples that we need not — nay, must not, do without.

Get you a man who’s willing to abide your sudden addictions to all things chewy and sweet, and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” 🤣🤣


1 thought on “Tradition”

  1. Thanks Jen! Enjoy your holiday weekend together. Every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet, now!


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