Along with another chaperone, I took my 15 year old daughter and 5 of her girlfriends, to a lake house in Michigan, for a long weekend.
The weekend away was like a mini vacay.
A sober, alcohol free, rated PG, delightful vacation.
Is it possible to have fun without drinking?
When I was drinking, I didn't think so.
When I was newly sober, I wasn't sure either.
Now my vacations have gotten even better because they don't revolve around alcohol.
When I was drinking, alcohol crowded my thoughts.
Bringing drinks, mixing drinks, getting more drinks, keeping drinks cool, finding the right tool to open drinks, starting to drink, counting drinks, drinking more, cleaning up after drinking, replenishing drinks, rationing drinks from others, and recovering from drinking, were the center of my vacations.
This Girls Trip with my daughter was nothing like that.
Here's the play by play:
Stop for dinner on the way up.
Order the fried pickles/frickles.
Realize everyone in the group loves them.
What are the chances with a group of 8, that we all have this in common?
Proceed to order fried pickles at every single opportunity for the rest of the weekend.
Vote on the best ones after each sampling.
Arrive to our destination, pull off the main road onto a tree covered gravel road.
The girls squeal with delight.
I remember my annual camping weekends with friends of days past.
I get a lump in my throat missing my #1 camper friend who is no longer with us.
Feel the pull to stay present for the moment I am in right now.
I see the torch has been passed to my daughter.
She will continue making memories with her friends, just as I did.
We roll the windows down and let the wind run through our hair.
I take in the smell of the pine trees at dusk, the freshly mowed grass, the sand and unsalted lake nearby.
They hang their body's out the windows, and their hands out the sunroof, to my dismay.
They play an obnoxious and naughty weekend theme song.
They sing from the top of their lungs.
They want the town to know they have arrived.
They know I won't approve of this song, so I join them.
It’s a drinking song, about taking shots, but I don’t care.
I sing anyway.
Shots, shots, shots, shots.
We walk into the VRBO and run around checking the place out, like kids on Christmas morning.
This never gets old.
I am 15 again too.
The girls choose bedrooms and roommates with names that were meant for them.
The Pink Room, The Giraffe Room (for my girl), The Pineapple Lounge…
I pick a cozy first floor room, away from the rest.
I unpack and make myself at home.
I place my lavender oil, headphones, and my book on the nightstand.
I hang clothes in the closet.
Empty the cooler into the fridge.
Grab a cold NA beer and head to the hot tub with my friend, the other chaperone.
We play country music under the stars, reconnect, and stay up way too late talking about all the things.
I wake up excited to start the day, despite my lack of sleep.
First, I take advantage of the coffee bar.
I choose the most luxurious coffee possible.
I sit on the deck and enjoy listening to the birds chirp and sing, while my friend catches up on work.
She points out the bird watching brochure.
Our VRBO owner has all the right touches in all the right places.
I love having the morning to myself.
I take in the lake view.
I am thrilled with a change of scenery.
When the girls get moving, we head to the beach.
I am in my new vacation hat and cover up for the first time.
I throw together a picnic of fresh fruit and veggie’s.
I lay it out on a hand me down quilt, on the sand.
It's so picturesque.
Just as I imagined.
I watch my daughter jump in the waves.
I flashback to her doing this when she was 2, 3, 4, 5, ….15!
I make a note to remember her sunkissed 15 year old face forever, just like the rest.
I join her and throw my body into the waves alongside her.
I get hypnotized, mesmerized and transported by the waves.
It takes my breath away.
Her face, not the waves.
We walk the boardwalk to the lighthouse.
My hat flies into the raging water below.
A young surfer boy rescues it for me.
A small crowd gives him a round of applause.
I let a stranger take my picture.
I watch the windsurfers fly in front of me.
Reminds me of that Netflix show.
Then, we shop the town.
Cute little boutiques.
Flower boxes on the windows.
I sit patiently while others search for souvenirs.
I don’t need anything.
I eat fresh toasted pecans on a bench and people watch, while waiting.
We find a spot for dinner and a picnic table by the water.
Hot dogs, chili dogs, burgers, french fries, and frozen custard.
I let my ambitions for a plant based diet take a pause.
I feel no guilt, no shame.
I enjoy the indulgence.
We drive home, and take a detour to watch the sunset.
We get sorta lost.
We take a wrong turn, and then we take another wrong turn, on purpose.
We drive up a hill as the sunlight over the lake, streams in our car and I swear I hear the angels sing.
We arrive at the empty beach just in time before the sun goes down.
We watch the girls run into the water without inhibition.
I sit in the sand and smile at the sky, feeling free, content and at peace.
When we get back home, I wash the sand and day off, in the hot tub.
Then I take a shower and go to bed clean, happy and full.
My heart, my head, and my belly.
I wake up and have coffee on the deck.
I reflect on my gratitude to be chaperoning my daughter’s Girl’s Trip
I feel overwhelming love for my girl and her friends.
I have a front row seat watching them grow.
It is the greatest show on earth.
I recognize that I only get 18 summers with my kids and currently I am in the middle of the 15th with my firstborn.
My heart aches and swells.
Joy and pain.
Beautiful and brutal.
All at the same time.
I feel moved to tears, wanting to hold this moment, but get interrupted by the girls waking.
I make chocolate chip pancakes and smoothies while listening to good vibe music in the kitchen.
I invite a long lost friend to join me for coffee.
She drives 2 hours round trip for 30 minutes with me.
We catch up on everything in 30 short minutes of smiling across the table from each other.
We give the longest hug when it’s time to say goodbye.
We look into each other’s eyes, fully present and alive.
We speak a million stories with no words, our hearts knowing.
She’s a breath of fresh air and I miss her the second she leaves.
We gather the girls and hook 8 tubes and a cooler full of water, soda, and sparkling water together.
It is not recommended to hook so many tubes together.
We do it anyway.
Then we float down a river for 2 hours in perfect weather.
We see turtles, drying off on rocks.
Hawks flying through the sky.
Dragonflies landing on our legs.
We get stuck in branches too many times to count.
We praise the helpers, and criticize the lazy.
We share shoes that don’t fit.
Hilarity ensues for the whole float.
We see a baby and then a dog floating beside us and befriend them immediately.
The baby looks like Charlie Brown, but I keep this to myself.
We see a young, friendly, hippie couple and befriend them too.
We sing along with them to their music.
The whole river trip is wonderful nonsense.
Dirty water, beautiful sky, green shoreline.
I feel my roots as a country girl.
We miss the get off point, a small tragedy.
We momentarily panic.
Cue story and adventure beginning, with a cast of local camper characters.
We become slapstick silly at the comedy of errors.
Somehow we get out of the river, and into the ice cream parlor.
They have cherry dip, my hard to find favorite.
We arrive back to our vacation home.
I nap, rest, shower, read, while my friend runs errands and the girls play games.
I enjoy 3 afternoon NA gin drinks in a fancy glass, with a lemon wedge garnish.
I love day drinking.
I chat with my husband on the phone.
I remember how much I love him and how when we started dating long distance we would chat for hours (and hours) every night.
He's a good phone talker.
My friend returns and we get ready for a fancy dinner.
I take my time and do my hair and makeup.
I wear my favorite dress and heels.
We take pictures.
We try new poses.
I play photographer for the kids.
I climb up to the balcony for a good shot.
I tease about the shots song, meaning take pictures, not liquor.
Shots, shots, shots, shots!
I am in the middle of making memories, and I am aware of it.
There is nothing in the world more powerful than that.
Living your life while you are still in it.
We enjoy a fancy, late night dinner, after a fried pickle appetizer, of course.
We get home late, and I head straight to bed.
I sleep like a rock.
I wake up deliciously late.
We have to hustle to pack up and leave, but I feel no push, push sense of urgency.
I make a huge salad and create a homemade DIY pizza bar for the kids.
I brought fresh basil from my garden.
My body is ready to get back to veggie’s and real life too.
I have no panic or hangxiety for the drive home.
The owner of the VRBO arrives to clean and we were caught like a deer in headlights, still there eating our lunch.
I apologized and chit chat with her.
She loves hearing about our adventures.
I love hearing about how she got her VRBO, a lifelong dream.
We share our recommendations so she can pass it on to the next visitors.
I looked her in the eye and made a real human connection.
I am sorry we are not ready at check out time, but I can easily forgive myself for this small error.
I am not guilty.
I am not full of hot shame.
I am not hot, shaky and hungover.
We stop for coffee and bagels on our way home.
We make better time than I expected.
We listen to lite rock and conversation flows.
The energy of the weekend hype is coming to a close.
The girls open up to me.
I guide them towards their mental health.
I offer support, resources, and encouragement.
I shut up and I hear them, I really hear what they are saying.
I am not full of myself.
I am not preoccupied in my own head.
They know they can always come to me.
They can always depend on me.
I will alway be a reliable, safe, and loving place for each of them.
This is who I want to be.
Would a Mom getting drunk in the hot tub be more fun?
I don’t think so.
I think it would be embarrassing.
I think it would be disappointing.
I think it would make the girls feel a little uneasy and unsafe.
Especially if I slurred or stumbled, which of course I would do.
If I was drinking, the weekend would have been about me, instead of them.
I would have made it that way.
I would have had resentment having to chauffeur them around, delaying my drinking.
My own daughter and I would have tension between us, because of my drinking.
I would feel sick every day.
I would be filled with anxiety.
I would have wasted the mornings laying in bed hating myself.
I would have cut our days out short, so I could get back to my drink.
I would have modeled bad behavior to 6 teenage girls, including my daughter.
Maybe it sounds boring to you, but I think being at peace with your inner world, is what life is really all about.
I think being free from worry, as you watch the sunset, is worth everything.
I think being awake and aware enough to watch your daughter jump in the waves, is the kind of thing movies are made of.
These are the moments that I live for.
The hippie girl on the tubing trip asked us for a lighter, which of course we didn’t have.
It feels so much better to need nothing.
To be addicted to nothing.
Since I've gotten sober, I can find peace anywhere.
I can laugh freely.
I am free.
Because I know how vacations go as a drinker, not a minute goes by that I don’t notice the difference.
It's not that I can’t drink.
I can drink as much as I want, whenever I want.
I wasn't court ordered or doctor ordered to quit.
And even if I was, I could still choose to drink.
I don't want to.
As a drinker, I could never understand not wanting to drink.
Drinking was the only thing that made me feel good, how could you not want it?
Now, being alive makes me feel good.
Drinking alcohol makes me feel numb, dull, and less alive.
I don't want to miss this one precious life I have.
p.s. the last pickles were voted unanimously the best. Because, of course.