You are laying in savasana, eyes closed, Caribbean water sounds drift in and out of your mind. You realize, and are grateful that this isn’t a dream. With reality settling in, a rush flows through your veins.
You are in Mexico – finishing up a Vinyasa flow at the Hard Rock Hotel where you will be singing with Brandi Carlile in a FEW SHORT HOURS!
How did I get here? During the past year and a half of sobriety I have had so far – I find myself asking this question often. Is this truly my life that I am living? Who am I? My list of things “I wish I could do” are starting to slowly fade, and in turn I am actually accomplishing these thoughts and ideas that were once so very distant. Is this part of growth in sobriety? I would like to think so. Doubting myself has become less of a pastime, and more of a rarity – which is currently the most mind pleasing sceniario. Starting to accept this new found courage and motivation can prove to be challenging at times – but I am leaning into the unfamiliarity and just letting it happen. I give a lot of credit to my healing mind that hasn’t been poisoned with alcohol in 556 days.
We left for the Riviera Maya very early (1/29) and were at the resort by 3pm that afternoon. We checked in and receieved our event bracelet, some swag – and the festival schedule! There were a number of concerts and activities to keep us stimulated for days. Unlike our trip to italy, the alcohol here didn’t immediately catch my attention – and more importantly, my energy. It was free flowing – RIGHT THERE, EVERYWHERE we turned. Being that it was an all-inclusive vacation, that could really have thrown a wrench into things. Pineapple and cranberry juice with seltzer and a lime was my frequent drink request, which the bartenders didn’t seem to mind making whatsoever.
I could easily tell you in detail every minute of our trip – however, this post would become my first novel. As lovely as that sounds (hah), I will try and consolidate the incredible experience to a list that represents what has been lingering in my brain as the memories that are most indelible.
5. Yoga: Thankfully the resort offered a daily yoga class taught by a very limber and kind man named Joshua. Our first class was inside the yoga “temple” and I was so happy the learn it was vinyasa flow, as that has been my favorite type of yoga to practice. The second day the group moved outdoors nearer to the water on a patio. All of the heart openers toward the sky created a platform of gratitude inside my chest, and a sunburn on my nose and forehead. I was so glad to be there. The last day of yoga was taught by Tiffany Hanseroth and her friend Brandy. That was special because Tiffany is Brandi’s sister and one of the twin’s (Phil) wife. She was offering assists during class – but I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who recieved! How amazing was it to have been hangover free for this? It’s an unexplainable feeling. I am glad we packed our mats with us, because these classes were something Jen and I looked forward to attending each day.
4. Beach or Pool? Since neither Jen or I had ever been to an all inclusive resort – we weren’t well seasoned in having the choice between lounging at the pool or by the open sea. Most days the beach loungers won- as that was also the location of the smaller stage where the “sunset shows” were held. The pool area offered a swim up bar (for mocktails and cocktails alike), bottomless snacks, and great people watching. The beach area was full of clear blue water, big fish you could see under water from a distance, and people using several types of tubes – ones shaped like donuts, pizza, a cat, etc. The ability to bounce back and forth to either venue was exciting.
3. The camaraderie (and an AA meeting)! In any location we explored throughout the resort there were inevitably new faces. This didn’t create shyness or tension, instead – everyone was so kind and curious. “Where are you from?”, “what do you do for a living?” were among the very common questions I heard people asking one another. On the Facebook group for the Festival, people kept in touch and I noticed if one person needed something, someone else was on top of it. I was also able to attend an AA meeting. While at home I haven’t made AA part of my every day recovery, but when you are outside of your comfort zone and around more alcohol than normal – this was something I was willing and wanting to do. I am glad I did. Knowing there were others who were in the exact same situation was helpful. Similarly to the meetings I’ve attended in the past, I was honored to hear others’ stories, thoughts and feelings regarding sobriety, and in that meeting – what they were grateful for, as that was the topic of choice. It wasn’t too difficult to name a few things during this trip that made us feel thankful – however it is always nice to reflect and share.
2. The music: This seems like an obvious one, but it must be discussed. We went to bed early on day one in preparation for the coming nights. Around 9pm one of Brandi’s songs started playing loudly – party animals were out there! Or so we thought. All of a sudden I realized it was her SOUND CHECK! We were up and out the door so quickly. What a treat! We were happily spoiled with constant music. There was a jam session under a hut each day, and the people who showed up with their instruments and sat around in a circle with us were insanely talented, welcoming, and fun. There were sing-alongs, solos, and many tribute songs to Brandi, The Indigo Girls and other musicians who were adorning the stage during the 3 day festival. These sessions were a catalyst to me feeling more comfortable singing around others – to see so much confidence was inspiring. Every night we were graced with a concert on the main stage that was jaw-dropping and emotion provoking. I was flooded with elation, and then in the same second would be thrown into tears just feeling the gratitude of being present during this first ever Girls Just Wanna Weekend. The pioneering experience of validating that women can provide a successful music festival. Ask anyone who was there – it was life altering. I’ll never forget looking around and just knowing that we all were on the same page. From what I saw – it was all about the music. During the last night at the show, I vividly remember leaning into Jen as we swayed to one of the last songs. Her arms were wrapped around my waist – and I could feel the love we had for not only each other, but for that very moment we were able to share.
1. Brandioke: The universe must have thought it would be a very good idea to get me to quit tip-toeing around the edge of my comfort zone and DIVE IN. I knew it was a possibility I would have to, since I was the one who submitted the video of myself singing – but again, I was really just trying to stretch myself. I did NOT think I would actually get picked. However, on 2/1 at 3:30pm, I found myself and nine others in the lobby, and we were escorted to the backstage area of the Heaven Beach Stage. Several of us were terrified we would forget the lyrics, we did “power poses”, and tried our best to soak in each moment. I looked out into the crowd and found my people. Jen, along with several friends had turquoise t-shirts with my FACE and “Carey Born’s Fan Club” screen printed on them. Brandi, Tim, and Phil entered the backstage area and went directly up on stage – forcing our first meeting to be when we were JUST ABOUT TO SING WITH THEM! I was 9 on the line-up, so for the first 8 singers I sang along, watched the audience and practiced deep breathing exercises. It was an incredible feeling being called on stage and realizing that my hands were not shaking, I didn’t want to run and hide, and my fears were recreated into motivation to sing that song the best I knew how. Brandi was tuning her guitar and looked at me and said “you look beautiful today!” – aw shucks! Did she really just say that? I heard Jen yell – “yeah she is! She’s taken”. So I had to tell Brandi that my wife was yelling at her. HA! The song begins – I took a deep breath, and just sang. It was a no brainer to keep my eyes on Jen in the front row who was singing it right back, and then as I skimmed the crowed, I truly felt it was an out of body experience being able to take that stage alongside her and her band. How did I get here? A once in a lifetime opportunity started and finished within 5 minutes. I can without doubt say that it was a fleeting moment that I am still not sure I fully comprehend. When it was over, I hugged each musician – when Phil her bassist said, “you sound like a sweet angel!” Seriously?! The entire group was able to get a picture with the band once it ended, and that was that. Every person who I had the pleasure of having the experience with was so special and talented in their own way, and I hope to keep in touch with them. The moral of this situation is: SUSPEND YOUR FEARS! I know there is no way I would have taken the time to push the worry aside and post a 1 minute video of me singing if I was still drinking. The rational for this isn’t completely clear, but I am convinced I wouldn’t have been able to handle the undercurrent of anxiety based around what other’s thought of it all. At this point – I’m actively practicing the “who cares” mentality.
Here is where you can click to see the performance: Brandioke!
If you are still reading – I give you credit, and thank you for being interested. This trip was therapeutic, relaxing and a slingshot for me in my growth. We decided that no other vacation we take will be without music being the main ingredient. It ties together relationships, feelings, and emotions so precicely.
Sobriety lends itself to experiences becoming so much more enjoyable. There is no more moments of “what did I say/do?”, the worry of if you can or can’t control yourself dissapates – and instead, you have this ability to just live.
Until next time.