It's our last night in Noosa. Tomorrow we head back home to Christchurch, and I can't help but think I'm returning a different man. I'm still the same ordinary, and flawed, person that landed at Brisbane airport a week ago, but I'm even more convinced now that the sober life suits me.
We just went to the resort's restaurant for our last dinner here. I drank a virgin mojito (it tasted pretty similar to the alcohol version) as my eldest daughter and her cousin danced like dervishes by our table. My three-year-old is ready to go home. She's struggling with a virus. As soon as I finished my dessert I walked her to our villa to read her bedtime stories. Some strange didgeridoo-esque bird sound, echoed across the resort as we walked up the steps - a truly Australian moment. I read a couple of books, and she drifted to sleep cradled in my arms.
As I think of home, I'm reflecting on this time away with a quiet feeling of satisfaction. It's not just the not drinking part, but in how much I've enjoyed the holiday without alcohol. In the past alcohol has gone hand in hand with holidays, yet this sober week away has been my favourite holiday EVER. There must be something in that. Aye?
My afternoon drinks have been soda/ginger ale with lemon, lime and bitters, ice and a slice of lemon. My newly pregnant sister-in-law and I have been sober buddies for the week. We had a dinner out and I laughed and chatted just like a drunk version of my sober self (I'm not sure that even makes sense, but what I mean is I'm getting better at being myself in social situations - enjoying myself - without the crutch of alcohol). It's all practice and being mindful about it. On Wednesday an old friend from University days come to see us and we spent time together at the beach. We drank quite a bit together that year, but I found out recently she quit booze the year after we graduated. Today she posted to Facebook about reaching eight years' sober. I really wanted to talk to her about her sober life. The one thing I'm finding hard is not being able to talk to anyone about this stuff - someone who truly understands. My wonderful wife is totally supportive, and she knows better than anyone why I'm ditching alcohol, but she can't truly share in this - not in the same way as with a fellow non-drinker. She does read this blog, so I know she understands what's happening with me but by talking with my friend I found the common ground I had been craving.
Today another mate came to visit. It was great. But we got talking about all the 40th birthdays happening this year and I told him I had quit drinking. He just said: "Why did you do that?" I don't think he was trying to be insensitive but I just think he didn't understand it, at all. I know I'm going to have to get used to that sort of incredulous reaction. It's hard to explain to people from the drinking world how great it is without booze. Yet, non-drinkers get it straight away. It's like we're all in a secret club. We all know how much better life is without alcohol. We also understand how hard it can be to quit. We can see through the common drinking myths. We get it.
I've been enjoying getting up with a clear head. I've been running nearly every day. I was fit before, but since I gave up drinking I've gotten into the shape of my life. I feel healthy and strong. I play cards much better sober. I wonder if this is the best version of myself so far? Have I reached some sort of peak? Will it all go downhill from here, or will I just enjoy the way things are for the rest of my life? Was alcohol the thing that had kept me locked into a closed and safe way of thinking? The mind shift that has come from giving up alcohol seems to have freed me to chase some the things I've lacked the confidence to attempt in the past. And other stuff has come along. Good stuff. I'm reviewing books - a first in my career - for a magazine I've wanted to be published in for a very long time.
I'm not a religious person but there's no better way to describe how I feel at the moment than truly blessed.