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A Sober Summer

This past weekend, my family and I went camping for Father's Day. The trip was somewhat of a spur-of-the-moment decision. My son is heading down to California for much of the Summer. He is living with us full time, now. Since he won't be around as much, I thought I better squeeze in a little camping trip to kick off the Summer. I booked us a camping site at Mossy Rock on Mayfield Lake in Washington state. At one point, after I had made the reservation, we had a scheduling conflict and I almost canceled the trip. Thankfully, I didn't. The campsite was amazing, the weather was perfect, and of course, I was in the company of my favorite people. This was the second camping trip we have taken since we began living alcohol-free. The first time was pretty early on in our sobriety and it was late in the camping season so not much occurred to speak of. We froze our asses off at night, I clearly remember that, but otherwise, nothing much grabbed my attention. This trip was different. It was busy. There were a lot of people on the campground and therefore a lot more to catch my eye. Namely, the abundance of alcohol and its effects.

In Summer's past, I took advantage of the time off to imbibe with fervor. Starting the morning off with a mimosa was the norm and drinking throughout the day was a gift to me for all my hard work throughout the year. I deserved it! I drank every day, too much, and the Summer vanished before I even knew what happened. I missed time with my partner, my son, and myself. I did not take advantage of the time off at all. In fact, I pretty much squandered four entire Summers due to my belief I "deserved" to drink my memories away. Why do we believe we deserve to not create lasting memories with the people we love? I guess it's a deep-seated subconscious understanding that we are throwing our life away. Whatever the reason, I missed out on a lot of time due to my alcohol addiction and inability to see any amount of worth in myself. Since living alcohol-free, that has all changed, and my Summers are now packed full with my celebration of love, life, and productivity. This last weekend's camping trip was the kick-off for that celebration.

But, as we all know, alcohol makes us more confident. Does it?

As I said above, the campsite we stayed at was on a lake, and with lakes come boats, and with boats come an excess of alcohol and partying. While the presence of alcohol does not influence me in any way, I could not help but witness the effects of the substance on everyone around me. Since Covid has kept many of us at home and out of the general public, there have been very few opportunities to witness the influences of the society of alcohol. Sitting at my campsite, not far from the boat launch, offered a myriad of circumstances to observe and evaluate in regard to how alcohol affects us as people and as a community. On several occasions, verbal confrontations broke out, and a few to the brink of physical violence. What instigated these arguments? Someone not understanding the rules of the launch area making it seem as though they were trying to cut in line. From an unbiased bystander's point of view, it was clear these people, and there were several of them, were simply confused and not trying to be the assholes they were accused of by the other boaters in line. How easy would it have been for someone to simply walk up to the confused person and say, "Hey, just so you know, there is a line for the launch that starts over there." I'm fairly certain the confused party would have replied with an apology and a quick redirect of their actions. No verbal abuse, no violence, no breakdown of the community fabric. But, as we all know, alcohol makes us more confident. Does it? Or, does it simply make us less intelligent. Based on this weekend's observations, I'm going with the latter.

Boaters aside, we had an amazing trip. We brought our two Newfoundland dogs, one is 4-years-old and the other is 7-months-old. They are a handful but they actually behaved quite well. The highlight of our trip was the day we spent paddleboarding on the lake with our puppies. My partner and I have paddleboards and my 11-year-old has a small kayak. The older dog had ridden on our paddleboards with us before, but the puppy was experiencing, not only water for the first time but also her crazy owner's antics. Unbelievably, the puppy took to the paddleboard like a fish to water. We spent several hours out on the lake as a family and had a blast. No alcohol required. I remember every single moment, every giggle and laugh, and every kind word and action we shared with each other. When we returned to the campsite, we were unlucky enough to witness the effects of the society of alcohol one more time.

I am sorry to anyone I kept up late due to my lack of awareness

While we ate dinner and attempted to relax by the fire with some non-alcoholic beverages and eventually smores, others were getting a second wind. The alcohol was flowing and the volume was increasing. When we finally went to bed at 10 PM, many of the campers were seemingly unaware of the etiquette that should be common knowledge in an open-air space at night. While we tried to sleep, unaware people continued to bellow, and the lack of awareness became increasingly evident. I don't even know when the noise finally stopped. I thought about asking them politely to lower the volume, but there were too many different campsites doing the same thing and I didn't want to risk putting myself in a bad situation. The next day, everyone left so we were all excited to have a peaceful night of sleep. Low and behold, the only other campers on the site decided to blare music, sing, and holler until the wee hours of the night. Maybe it shouldn't bother me. I mean, everyone has a right to do as they please at their paid-for site. If I am completely honest, I too was those people in the past when I was still drinking. I am sorry to anyone I kept up late due to my lack of awareness.

You may be asking yourself where I am going with all of this. Well, I guess I am simply trying to point out a few things that might not seem obvious in the larger picture of sobriety. One, how alcohol can negatively affect our influence on our community. And two, how it can negatively affect how we experience the world around us. For the first one, I don't think we spend enough time talking about how alcohol numbs not only our lives but also the lives of anyone who comes into contact with us. Think about it, when our consciousness is altered, we cannot connect and therefore communicate with others properly. Arguments are unavoidable, violence is more likely, and misunderstandings are inherent. For the second one, I cannot speak enough to the joy of not only creating memories but also the joy of remembering the memories we create. I do not know how many times I have been caught at a loss when someone says, remember that time... Not any more.

I am going to create lasting memories, be productive, and kick life in the ass

This sober Summer has already started out wonderfully. I have a plan in place for my mental health, my physical health, and my professional health. I am going to spend my days doing the things I love: spending time with my family, reading, writing, podcast and audiobook recording, playing drums, writing music, paddleboarding, and living life well. I am going to create lasting memories, be productive, and kick life in the ass. It's the least I can do for myself after a very trying and long year of work.

I mean, after all, I deserve it, don't I?

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