sober lifestyle


Casting my shadow on the south ridge of Cadillac Mountain, after scaling the highest point in Acadia National Park.

“Do you think I’m boring?” I asked my husband as we sat on a park bench, staring at the ocean, on the final evening of our 15th anniversary trip to Maine.

Foolish question! I mean, the man had been right there with me every second of the previous five days, hoofing it around hiking trails and carriage roads at Acadia National Park, then trekking up and down Portland’s downtown walkways for hours on end, until we both collapsed into our hotel or AirBNB bed — after a tick inspection, of course. He never complained!

Hell, he’s known me for 20 years, and I’ve always been a no-frills nature girl with simple tastes (if also some moderation issues 😬). The frills are even fewer since I quit drinking, and yet, at three years sober, the two of us feel closer and more in sync than ever.

Whether or not a walking tour of Maine was the “romantic getaway” of Hubby’s dreams, he certainly didn’t rain on my parade. And with flawless weather, the freshest of air, plenty of room to move, awe-inspiring scenery and my best guy by my side (maybe a few steps behind? 🤣), I was in paradise!

Hubby was our hiking navigator at Acadia, and on Saturday morning, he located an interior trail off the beaten path that led up to “Conners Nubble,” high above Eagle Lake. 😍

So I guess my question sprung from a sense of wonder; deep down, I’m still kind of surprised that anyone in the world would share my love for this kind of low-maintenance lifestyle, where you don’t do your hair or put on makeup or a bra or even change out of your clothes, if they’re not too sweaty and gross, and where peeing in an outhouse in the woods is actually a luxury because you typically just squat awkwardly behind trees or big rocks.

It’s a little amazing to me that another person would feel as in their element as I do, simply walking around outdoors, and wouldn’t mind if we did pretty much nothing else during a whole week off from work.

Except, of course, eat. 😉

A few scenes from our Acadia hiking adventures. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions — or a more perfect T-shirt to take home as a souvenir.

It’s funny now, remembering how I used to brag about being a “cheap date,” all those years I was going around running up bar tabs with double Patron shots. Flash forward to last week, and we went out for dinner one time in Portland, canceling reservations at a seafood place with a “smart casual” dress code to hit up a pizza joint/craft brewery where we could fit in wearing workout gear and dusty sneakers. “Splurging” equated to a $3-per-pie surcharge for gluten-free crust (totally worth it!), and we drank regular water, since they were out of Diet Coke. 😳

Not to say we traveled totally on the cheap. We drove more than 1,000 miles round trip, and we didn’t camp; though the converted garage where we stayed in Bass Harbor was only slightly bigger than our tent. Our accommodations were “fancy” enough to offer plumbing, a fridge and Netflix access, which was nice, even if the Wi-Fi signal was weak and internet service occasionally just dropped in the middle of “Better Call Saul.”

Like some of our past camp-outs, the backyard of the place was a mosquito breeding ground, which meant spending $12 for a bottle of bug spray with DEET at the “outpost” that was the sole option for “groceries” in our immediate area. And despite bringing as much food from home as we could fit in our cooler, we had to spring for at least one takeout meal each day.

I’m not a lobster person, by the way. I learned that on this trip, because, you know, “when in Maine”… I mean, I’m actually obsessed with seafood and eat it in some form pretty much every day. But give me a nice, big, flaky piece of salmon that mixes easily with my salad greens or convenient slices of sashimi I can pop in my mouth; I do not want a project, an unwieldy, inflexible dead creature whose eyes I have to look into while straining to break apart its shell, splashing juices everywhere as I hunt for tiny bits of meat that aren’t covered in green slime.

If you saw the mess I made with that shellfish, or heard me grumbling and groaning over the most expensive meal of the trip, you’d agree I’m better off sitting on a floor with a takeout box than trying to play “civilized human” in a respectable eating establishment.

All joking aside, I wouldn’t change a thing about our anniversary celebration — except maybe its too-brief duration. This trip offered the perfect combination of simple pleasures and creature comforts, of physical challenges and mental tranquility, of escape from routine and connection to the universe, my partner, my own spirit.

The worst part of vacationing in Maine was having to leave after five days.

Sitting on that park bench in Portland, I asked my hubby where he’d want our vacation home to be, if we had the funds to buy one. See, we used to spend all our anniversaries at the Jersey shore, talking about having our own place on the ocean in Avalon or LBI, but now, it seems that dream has evolved. We’d both prefer a woodsy cabin in a place like Maine — bigger than a one-car garage, with a bug zapper in the backyard — where we could explore both land and sea through all four seasons, and, as long as our legs work, never run out of fun things to do.

Of course, we don’t need to purchase more property, acquire more stuff, or take off on elaborate vacations to enhance our existence. Our little, simple life feels anything but “boring” — at least not to me! — and I’m truly, continually amazed how the absence of intoxicating substances has opened up, rather than closed off, my sense of wonder and possibility. Sobriety has expanded my appreciation for all the little beautiful things around me, from the blue of the sky to the green of the leaves to the brown of my beloved husband’s eyes, all of which bring me the comfort I used to look for at the bottom of a shot glass. Giving up the one thing I thought I needed to have a good time actually makes the good times even better, if that makes any sense.

Throughout our trip, I used Instagram (and the hashtag #JenandJPsMaineEvent…what can I say? I work in social media marketing 🤷🏼‍♀️) to both preserve memories for myself and share experiences with family. After viewing my virtual travelogue, my sister in Illinois texted me the following passage, which I read on the ride back to PA, my eyes filling with tears.

An ode to simplicity is an anthem for the life I’ve chosen to — and am grateful to — live. It’s also the perfect ending for this blog:

1 thought on “Simplicity”

  1. “Giving up the one thing I thought I needed………”

    Yes, it makes perfect sense to me, Jen! That one thing I thought I needed was actually depriving me of the simple “joie de vivre” that others seemed to be enjoying.

    Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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