Here in the Riviera Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast there are early morning beach walks, delicious meals and lots of relaxing by the pool to be had.
But my favourite days are Tuesdays and Saturdays when I drive forty minutes south to the surfing town of Sayulita to attend a recovery meeting.
At first I thought it would be a bit of a drag driving so far to go to a meeting. They do have meetings here in La Peñita, in Spanish, and also an English speaking one in the nearby beach resort town of Guayabitos, but they are on a hiatus for the summer as the gringos return to their northern homes.
Sayulita is the closest English speaking recovery meeting operating during the hot, humid summer and so twice a week I bundle into the car with a chilled bottle of water to make the trek.
This drive is one of the most beautiful forty minutes of my week. I crank my music and sing at the top of my lungs as I pass wobbly old trucks stacked high with ripe pineapples, marveling at the beauty of the tropical jungle which enfolds the road like a warm embrace.
My cracked wind shield… it had to happen some time.
I think about how I came to be driving along this road, a certified gringa in my mud-covered Mexican car which has carried me to so many places within this amazing country and beyond to Belize and Guatemala.
I think about my first recovery sponsor telling me in the early days of my sobriety (which I navigated as shakily as a newborn foal), “Hang onto your seat girl, you’re in for the ride of your life!”
I think about how she didn’t know exactly what was in store for me but that she new it would better than what I’d experienced so far, and how that must have given me a sense of faith before I knew what one was.
I wonder if driving along a jungle road in Mexico, returning the waves of the cheeky road workers who probably expect me not to and belting out this song while gratitude and joy pervades my every cell was what she meant.
Sometimes I think about all the hundreds (thousands?) of people I’ve had the privilege of meeting in recovery rooms all over the world, from Bangkok to Beijing to Bali, Guatemala and Mexico and I think about what a shame it would have been if I’d missed out on all this.
I think about how I can never, ever, explain how recovery has cracked my life open in every conceivable way and started me on a journey so rich; so filled with discovery, connection and love and pain; good pain, the kind that heals.
I used to sit in meetings and think, “Fuck, my life has come to this,” and now I think, “Fuck! My life has come to this!!!!!” and I feel humbled and grateful and beyond blessed that my greatest failures have led to my biggest discoveries about myself; about life; about the power of true human connection.
Sometimes, like the other day, I think about my friends; my girlfriends from back home who have known me almost my whole life and who have stuck around and supported me through everything and a pang of sadness rips through me that I cannot be in their presence to curl up with a cup of tea for a chat.
Then I just feel so blessed for the messages and calls and photos we share, about their job or their kids or the Kardashians, and about how sometimes one of them will ask me for advice which completely and utterly floors me; they they are asking me for advice on life which I clearly have more questions than answers about.
And I think that maybe that is what is what the people at my first meeting meant when they told me, “Keep coming back, it gets better.”
When I pull into the entrance of Sayulita, there is often a young man who navigates the pot-holed road on crutches, his legs twisted under him like driftwood. His strong brown hand clutches a used yoghurt pot in which to receive coins.
As I deposit some change and say hello, his smile, so genuine and glowing and joyful gives me enough inspiration to see me through to the next time.
People are amazing. People in small towns and villages and cities all over the world are overcoming and transcending their circumstances in quiet, humble ways and witnessing it gives me the impetus to continue overcoming mine.
I drive through the touristy town of Sayulita filled with quaint boutiques, taco stands and beer stores, while seedy vendors try to sell weed and coke to amped up surfer wannabes and holiday makers who don’t know any other way to relax than getting totally loaded.
I’ve been there, but I’m not there anymore, and in spite of the occasional desire for instant gratification via the consumption of mood altering substances, I’m grateful I don’t have to be.
Sometimes I buy a vanilla ice cream loaded with chunks of chocolate and gooey caramel, which really should be classified as a class A drug for how utterly ecstasy inducing it is. It doesn’t make me abandon myself and say something I don’t mean or become rude or arrogant or miserable, however, so I think I’m okay with it.
I pull up outside the meeting room on a dirt road in a local neighbourhood, where tiny children wearing only their underwear run around barefoot amidst stacks of green coconuts and piles of trash.
The sign over the door says it all as I walk in to see my new friends, who seem as happy to see me as I am them. And I sit down, grateful to this journey for always bringing me home.