I can’t imagine a more bizarre way to get sober – except it’s working.
I’m 26 days sober and wanted to share a little more about my living arrangements. It’s not something I would recommend or even wish on anyone else. But for me it’s the right place and the right time.
By happy accident, I’m living in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We have 8 people in a home just under 800 sq feet. It’s not a nice part of town and my host family doesn’t allow me outside without entourage.
If you came to visit, you might mistake it for a slum. I’d disagree because we get water 3 days a week in the alley spigot. Not to mention electricity about 4 hours each day.
The weather is amazing. It’s always Summer in Haiti. Usually 90° F in the daytime and 72° F overnight. It’s the best winter I’ve ever experienced.
We have a personal driver because the traffic here is beyond my skill. The family prepares my every meal, hand washes my clothes, and bosses me around like I’m one of the kids. My only chores are personal hygiene and carrying water from the alley spigot to the barrel reservoirs in the house.
My days are very simple and completely stress free. I wake up around 7am, jog at a local track, enjoy a cold water bucket bath, eat lunch, then spend the rest of my time hanging around the house. That means lots of time for reading, talking with my friends, playing on my smart phone, chatting on Twitter, watching Netflix or taking naps.
Most importantly, I’m working my on my sobriety.
I’m not sure if this is house arrest or something like a sober living home in the developing world. At this point my recovery is self-directed but certainly not solo. I’ve been seeking help online and found dozens of fellow addicts willing to offer their advice. I’ve got books on Kindle, recovery podcasts, and friends available for video chat.
How did I land here?
I’ve always been a showoff, now I’ve gone over-the-top with my personal breakdown. As my sister told joked:
You didn’t just abandon your family. You left the country and stopped speaking English.
The last few years I’ve been volunteering in Haiti. This was possible because my online business had given me a laptop lifestyle. I was free to work anyplace that had internet. So I traveled to Haiti about 6 times each year doing charity work. I made friends, learned a new language, and fell in love with the culture.
When alcohol finally blew up my life, I made the decision to disappear. The only safe place I could imagine was back to Haiti where people still respected me despite the meltdown.
There was also another woman, but that’s a story I’m not yet ready to write.
To be fair, I wasn’t thinking straight and had no intentions of going sober. It was just somewhere to hide from my problems. It was a destructive choice. Even tonight my kids back in the USA are praying for their daddy to come home.
That was me in December 2016, drunk and sleeping over at the Miami airport.
As you will imagine, my drink problem followed me down to Haiti. I started over with a harm reduction plan – only one beer per day. My host family was totally onboard and understood I couldn’t be trusted to drink. Don’t give Tony beer was the family motto.
Within a few weeks I was blacking out again and throwing up in my little alley. The addiction had gone international.
January came and I attempted to visit my kids in the USA. It didn’t amount too much because I spent most of the time trying to get drunk or hide when I was drinking. Eleven days later I was back on an airplane for Haiti. That was when I knew I was hitting my rock bottom.
February was all drama. The more I drank, the more conflict I started with my Haitian family. As much as they hated my drinking, I was the guy with the money and they couldn’t make me obey. The final crisis came on Valentine’s day.
That’s me and my sidekick. This photo was was only 10 am but I was already blacking out on Haitian rum. Yes the kid is holding a beer, I probably gave it to him.
I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but I think we were running away from home together. I spend most of the day staggering around this ghetto, loudly arguing with anyone who told me to go back to my house.
Not sure how I survived that one.
Alcohol had destroyed my old life in USA, now it was wrecking my imaginary fresh start. I slept it off that night and haven’t turned back since.
What happens next?
At 26 days sobriety I have nothing but question marks about my future. Just today I cancelled another flight home to visit my kids. I feel like a coward. I’m not ready for the stress, the airport temptation, the big pile of drama facing me when I arrive.
My recovery friends tell me it’s better to wait. I need to get more established. It’s pulling me apart because I am in a wonderful place here for recovery but want to be there for the kids ASAP.
I’m learning to be patient. For now sobriety has to be the deciding factor in every decision. That means staying put and living with some unresolved questions.
There is only one certainly – my future won’t include alcohol.