My memories of Asheville were foggy at best. I had visited this North Carolina mountain town once in the last year of my active alcoholism. It was at the end of a painful relationship with another alcoholic.
When I was there before, I was in my disease; blinded by ego with a negative view of everything around me.
“So many homeless drug addicts here!” I criticized. Little did I know that my judgement had much to do with the refusal to acknowledge my own disease.
Back then, I was too busy trying to manipulate outside circumstances to take an honest look at myself. I thought my boyfriend at the time was the only one who needed help.
In fact, during this trip he was “dry”. These little dry spells never lasted very long for either of us. Inevitably, restlessness and irritability set in and only alcohol could alleviate it.
I had no respect for his attempts at sobriety, something I’ll always regret. He was moody, and… well, kind of being a dick. So what did I do? Why, I drank of course! I remember dragging him around to all the different pubs and trying craft beers while he pretended to be satisfied with his Coca Cola.
It was a dark and lonely trip for the both of us. I don’t think we even stayed the night. He was antsy, ready to drive back home to Atlanta. Knowing what I know today about the disease of alcoholism, his behavior makes so much sense, but back then it only pissed me off.
Things fell apart rapidly as they so often do between two active alcoholics. By the end of the year I had moved to Savannah, GA and amazingly managed to create the same life for myself in a completely new place. I did not know anyone, yet I met all the same people. I had never been to these places, yet I found myself in all the same situations. Totally baffled, that’s when I calculated the only common denominator: yours truly.
I finally looked at myself. On the eve of Thanksgiving 2013, I took my last drink. Just a few days before my sobriety date 3 years later, I found myself once again in Asheville.
My stepmom kept mentioning Asheville, and every time she did I’d think of my previous experience and twitched internally. Then I remembered something my dear, wise friend once told me: that she wanted to “recreate” a place. She said she hadn’t been in a great space or with the best company when she had been before, and it could use a good recreation. This hit me hard. Why not recreate Asheville?
My family decided instead of a stressful Thanksgiving feast, this year we would head to the mountains.
We found a cozy Airbnb walking distance to downtown. An attic apartment with candles, twinkle lights, plants, Himalayan salt lamps, antique furniture, an outdoor patio with mountain views, and little nooks for bedrooms that resembled train cars. It was perfect.
It was like I had never been to Asheville. I saw the town through a totally different lens. The trees seemed to sparkle and glow wearing their autumn shades, the birds sang sweeter, the people were friendlier, and it felt more full of endless areas to explore. My world has gotten much bigger since getting sober.
I meandered through historic streets, breathing in the crisp mountain air. I found my people in the basements of churches. I perused my favorite spots, such as bookstores, record shops, places with vintage clothing, eclectic cafes, and spiritual healing shops. The food was to die for, and the people were charming. The server at Tupelo Honey Café told us the water was “free range”.
I fell in love with this place.
This experience is a great reminder that my perception is everything. When I drank, my perception was dark and cynical. After having a psychic change in sobriety, my view of the world was drastically altered. Even now, when I experience things such as rejection, frustration, disappointment, fear and loss – it’s not the end of the world. I know I will grow from it if I just keep going. In fact I’ve even begun to embrace and appreciate these experiences, because deep down I have an inner peace and know that whatever I experience can be used for the good of all if I am willing to share it.
Love you, AVL.