Illustration: Derek Bacon
It was October 2007. I was exhausted and needed a holiday. I’d always wanted to visit the Maldives, so I booked a trip. The only thing unique about any of this was that I was travelling alone. I was heading to the Most Romantic Destination in the World on my own. But it didn’t bother me: I’ve always been comfortable in my own company. And I had spent the past decade so focused on building a career as an ad filmmaker that vacations—and a love life—had simply slipped by and I didn’t even notice. So when I made the decision to actually go, the last thing on my mind was the fact that I was going alone. If anything, I was thinking about my father, and the incredible travels we had shared while I was growing up: glamorous trips to Thessaloniki, St Moritz, Vaduz and Dublin. At a time of great political instability, we took a road trip from Lagos to Lome to Cotonou. My father was a brilliant conversationalist, and our lunches would often take up most of our days. He’d teach me about wine, and we’d often end our meals with sambuca. Over time, we became estranged, but what had continued was my drinking—heavily. Alcohol had become a companion; it also enabled me to fly solo. I didn’t have to think about anyone else—and there was nobody to tell me off for having one too many.
So when I arrived at the exquisite resort in the Maldives in 2007, the first thing I did was go to the poolside bar and order a beer. Clouds were looming and all around me were couples. Speaking softly, practically in whispers. Smiling. Laughing. Many weren’t even drinking, just sharing each other’s company in what seemed to me a deafening silence. There was no music. No sign of a party. Just peace and contentment. As I sipped my beer, discomfort came over me—the opposite reaction of what usually followed a swig.
I went to my large room, which opened out to a private deck with a staircase into the sea. I napped. When I woke up, I wondered what to do. There was a bottle of Black Label above the mini-bar, looking over at me. I poured warm whiskey over three ice cubes—a familiar, comforting action—and sipped a familiar, comforting taste. And then, a powerful sense of rejection burned inside me. I carried the glass over to the sink and poured the whiskey out. I opened my laptop and began to type: “This is the last drink you’re ever going to have. Remember how you’re feeling right now.”
It wasn’t that I had an epiphany that day in that beautiful place. It had been a persistent building up of what felt like manageable pain. But that afternoon, enveloped in beauty, among people who seemed so happy, so comfortable baring their souls to each other, I had a singular thought: all these years, I had believed that alcohol enhanced my life when actually, it was preventing me from enjoying it.
I left the Maldives with great intentions, but truth be told, it took more than a year of struggle for me to actually quit drinking. And when that moment came, it wasn’t a happy ending, either—much like a wedding, it’s actually the beginning of a new journey, with highs and many lows. I found myself trapped in a fortress of fear. What would I do at parties? Whom would I hang out with? How would I travel? I associated all these things with drinking and didn’t know how to get through life without it.
It took time for me to realise that alcohol was a crutch. What was imprisoning me was the fear of opening my heart. It was easier to be on my own, inside my fortress, than to share my vulnerabilities and fears with another person. Things began to change slowly, excruciatingly. Sober, no matter how hard it got, I knew I was experiencing my life fully. I had some slip-ups, but I got back on track. It’s now been four years since my last drink. I’ve fallen in love, had my heart broken, switched gears at work, taken up street photography, even worked up the courage to make a movie after 17 years. The fears that plagued me for years have fallen away. I have a fresh energy that lets me see the world differently.
I’ve had so many dreams come true that would have been impossible before that trip to the Maldives. Yes, it is a fantastic place to visit with someone you love. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, travel will enable you to love yourself.
Full details are available from the link below:
Source URL: Google News