My kids and I have always enjoyed cruising. Years before Rae began her alcohol addiction recovery, we figured out that it was our favorite type of vacation. So, it sounded quite exciting when, last fall, my oldest son proposed we go on a midwinter cruise during spring break of his last year of law school. We have not been on a cruise for four or five years, and he found a great deal on one. So, we all signed up.
During the six months since signing up, Rae and I have both mentioned, on more than one occasion, how different it was going to be for us to be sober throughout a cruise. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it or not, but I gave up alcohol the day Rae gave up alcohol almost two years ago. I did so in support of her alcohol addiction recovery and sobriety. Also, even though I never considered myself an alcoholic, I admit that I usually ended up having too many once I started drinking and would tend to get too affectionate or too depressed or too angry, etc. I had no trouble giving it up and discovered I actually preferred sober living.
However, every cruise we had ever been on had been experienced through a haze of alcohol, just as it was for everyone else on the cruise. We knew prior to coming that this would be different.
In all honesty, I worried from time to time that it might not be the best thing for Rae to be around all the drinking and alcohol on a cruise while she is in alcohol addiction recovery. I mentioned it to her a few times, but she seemed quite confident that it wouldn't be a problem and that she would still have fun.
I also thought that I would have a great time just being with my children, away from work, and taking part in all the fun activities that I had always enjoyed on cruises.
As we set sail for the first time since Rae began her alcohol addiction recovery, things were very different. Instead of drinking exotic drinks with little umbrellas in them and dancing to the live band as we started on our adventure, we sipped Diet Cokes and sat looking on as our fellow cruisers ordered round after round of alcoholic beverages.
We watched them dance and laugh and sing, losing themselves completely to the power of alcohol. As much as I hate to admit it, everyone looked like they were having a better time than we were.
At one point, I looked across the table and saw my son’s drink, recognizing exactly what it was because in the past, we always drank the same thing. For one split second, I wanted to ask him for one sip. It looked very inviting. But I knew one sip would only make me want another and I didn't want to break the resolution I had made to myself the day Rae gave up alcohol. Not only have I wanted to show my support for her, but I also don’t find it reasonable to expect more of her than I do of myself. I ordered another Diet Coke.
Then, we were off to dinner. Dinner had always been a really fun occasion for us while on a cruise. Cocktails before dinner, bottles of wine with dinner, after dinner drinks, and then those crazy little shot glasses for fun. Who could remember what we actually ate!
Well, once again the picture was really different through the lens of alcohol addiction recovery. No cocktails, no wine, no after dinner drinks, and no shots. The food was okay, the service was good, and we had a lovely table located right on the water.
So why didn’t I feel happy? And why didn’t Rae look as if she was having a good time? We have had many fun times at home since the beginning of her alcohol addiction recovery – from going out to dinner, to going shopping and going to the movies …. Why was this different?
After dinner, Rae, Sam and I went to the chapel for one of the cruise’s AA meetings. We thought it would be a somewhat organized meeting, that there would be someone leading the meeting.
Unfortunately, this was not true. Only two other people showed up for the meeting and there was no one in charge. We had never been to AA meetings on board a cruise ship before. During prior cruises, I remember always hearing announcements about friends of Bill W meeting in a certain area, several times a day.
I guess I never really even knew who Bill W was or what a Bill W meeting was. But, now that I knew about them, I thought it would be interesting to go to one and I thought it would be an organized well-run event. After all, my daughter certainly could not have been the only one in alcohol addiction recovery on the ship who might need support to fight her cravings, especially being surrounded by all of the alcohol on a cruise.
The few of us that showed up introduced ourselves to each other, chatted briefly, and agreed that we hoped there would be a bigger turnout the next day. In the hallway outside the chapel, Rae and I sat and talked for a few minutes. She voiced what I had been thinking ever since boarding the ship: She was wondering if it had been a mistake to spend money on a cruise when it seemed that cruises are mainly for the inebriated, and she wasn't having much fun.
As she and Sam left to walk around the ship, I remained sitting there, feeling exactly the same way. Not only was I feeling a bit lonely because I had come with all my children and the older two were in pairs and my youngest was off having fun with the youth group, but now I was also worried about Rae.
I have never handled it very well seeing my children even the least bit unhappy. What in the world was I going to do for seven more days, and more importantly, what was Rae going to do for seven more days? What was our problem? Was it the lack of alcohol? Was it the fear of alcohol? Could it be that we had just been on too many cruises and they had become boring?