*Gasp* You did what??
Six months ago, there wasn’t a cell in my body that would have thought that quitting drinking while living on a tropical island was a good idea. The culture here IS drinking – it’s all about umbrella drinks under a shady coconut tree. It’s Bahama Mamas, Rum Dums, Goombay Smashes, and Yellow Birds. It’s catching up with your friends at the local beach bar, sipping on a cold beer on the boat, and having a few glasses of wine spritzers with your lady friends at brunch (ahem – bottomless mimosas, anyone?).
So what on earth do you do on a tropical island if you don’t drink, for God’s sake?
You certainly don’t come here for the hiking, considering we don’t have any mountains or waterfalls, but most importantly, because it’s entirely too hot. Just ten minutes in the blazing sunshine has your mouth watering for an ice cold Kalik. You generally don’t come here to visit a yoga retreat center or to go zip-lining, peruse museums, enjoy plays, and the like – there’s far more of that available elsewhere; it’s not really our specialty here. These tropical islands are known for finding a stretch of white sand, melting into turquoise water, and slowly wasting away into an extra-stiff sugary frozen concoction to help you forget about the stresses back home. Every. Single. Thing on a tropical island tends to revolve around drinking.
Even still… I went and did it. I quit drinking.
When I made the decision to do so, I honestly thought my island world would implode like Nassau’s Crystal Palace just did, not so long ago. But shockingly, it hasn’t. I thought I would be seen as an outcast, even untrustworthy, as I’ve heard some friends describe people who don’t drink. “I don’t trust people who don’t drink,” I’ve literally heard several people say over the years. Heck, I’ve probably said it myself. And why should you either? There must be a reason they stopped drinking. Maybe they got into trouble. Maybe they were out of control. Maybe they flashed people. Maybe they tried to hit on anything that moved. Maybe they HAD to stop because they were a detriment to themselves, their family, and everyone within their social radius.
I didn’t see myself like that. I was a fairly happy drunk. That is, unless I got too drunk. Then, I might have started crying – both the I love you, man and the what were we arguing about? variety. I drank socially, but “socially” equated to another round, or another bottle, because we were just having TOO much fun, and eventually the memories of the evening’s events faded away with the sinking sun. Why I stopped drinking is its own separate matter, but it came down to healing a lot of pain that I was holding on to. When I healed, I realized that I didn’t need to drink to fill those emotional voids. But that’s another story you can read in another blog post, if you’re interested.
So what happened to my island life after I made the decision to stop drinking?
Other than the fact that I can now always hold intelligent and coherent conversations. I’m healthier, I’ve lost weight, my 40-is-on-the-horizon wrinkles are fading, and I have energy Every. Damn. Day. I’m waking up earlier and enjoying sunrises for the first time, like, ever. I don’t suffer from hangovers (which is ah-may-zing!), and I still have a social life. To be honest, my husband (who also quit drinking) and I wonder if we were the ones doing most of the instigating among our social drinking network, because now our friends are mysteriously not drinking or cutting back.
And let me be clear too – by not drinking, I mean not consuming copious upon copious amounts of alcohol each week. I don’t even want to admit how many drinks I may have been having on any given week, depending on the reason to celebrate or the holiday season. Granted, I had been pretty proud of myself for discontinuing “school night” drinking awhile back, so I was left to binging on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Maybe the odd Thursday too. But I went from lord-knows-how-many drinks to zero drinks, and now, six months into it, maybe I’ll have a maximum of two adult beverages each week.
I still enjoy a good craft beer or a really nice glass of wine, but I’ll only have one from time to time, and that’s it. I have completely given up on liquor; I haven’t touched it since midnight on New Year’s Eve. And instead of going out and feeling “pressured” to drink because I’m out and that’s what you do, instead I can confidently NOT drink. And you know what? No one really cares! More often than not I’m going out on weekends and sipping on club soda and mocktails. Do you know how amazing mocktails taste BTW?? I can’t even fathom putting vodka or tequila in and messing up my fine mocktail now. A good bartender will whip you up a fancy mocktail that probably tastes better than your friend’s leaded cocktail. He probably assumes you are pregnant and wants to take extra special care of the expecting mother, because we all know how revered motherhood is in the islands.
Throughout this process, I realize how many things I actually missed out on by hanging out at the bar all the time. It was windy recently and we went kiteboarding at happy hour instead of belling up to the bar like we normally would. Instead of a bottomless mimosa brunch a few Saturdays ago, I did Acroyoga with a girlfriend on the beach. I did a Reiki training on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday recently. When I was drinking, there is no way that I would have cut into my alcohol time like that. I’ve started cultivating a deeper connection with my yoga and healing community, finding all the support, inspiration, and strength I need, much more so than with my rah-rah bar-bros.
And yes, that was me several years ago ruminating on all the countless ways to enjoy recreational drinking on a rock. Think about it: I can’t be critical of the drinkers because I used to be one. I will forever own the fact that I was a Parrothead escapist, wasting away in Margaritaville. But now I’m working on cultivating my zen-filled meditation-mind focused on health and healing, and fully practicing what I preach.
So can you stop drinking on a rock too? Of course. It’s not as scary as it seems. You actually enjoy your sunsets more without the blur of the rum lens. A piece of advice if you do stop drinking though – try not to be too evangelical about your new lifestyle. The island drinkers don’t want to hear about it.
Do you struggle with the lifestyle of heavy drinking in the tropics too? How to do you balance the happy hour culture in your island life?