A Tale of Two Vacations

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 23, 2016 9:29:34 AM / by John MacDougall


Sobriety makes everything different, but it takes more than just the passage of sober days to bring about change. The idea behind my book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is that first we take the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to get our drinking to stop. Then, if we keep taking those same Twelve Steps, in sobriety, and apply them to everything we do, we end up happy. I’ve had enough time to try this theory out, and to measure the results.

In 1978,  Priscilla and I had been married just two years, and even though I drank alcoholically, we got along well. I was a peaceable drunk, at least with her. We had a lovely trip to the Halcyon Cove Resort in Antigua. There were lots of fun things to do, but most of what I did on that vacation was drink. I thought I had found paradise. I had a nice hammock in the shade. I ordered a strawberry daiquiri, and another, and another. Luckily, for our relationship, I was also a romantic drunk. Also, when drunk, I thought I could dance. If she had a few drinks in her, and we danced slowly, she thought I could dance, too.

We did some tourism. We toured the rum factories, and their sampling rooms. We went downtown and sat in upstairs bars, watching the street life. We swam a little, and we drank a lot, but mostly I returned to my hammock, and my strawberry daiquiris.

They hardly tasted like alcohol at all. They were just refreshing. As time passed, the sun moved. I wasn’t in the shade any more, but the sun was warm and comforting. I couldn’t imagine that life could get any better than this. I don’t know where Priscilla was, but I was in the most perfect spot in the world: warm sun, cold drinks, beautiful beach, perfect peace.

We rode the little cable car up the cliff to our room, had dinner, and went to bed. The next morning, I woke up with a terrible case of sun poisoning. I was way beyond sun burned. I was dehydrated, burned, vomiting, and had diarrhea. It didn’t get better. By the time we left Antigua, my legs had swollen so badly that the skin cracked open like over cooked sausages and my feet didn’t fit into my shoes. I had to walk across the melting asphalt tarmac at the V.C. Bird International Airport to board our plane to New York.

Our marriage survived. It’s 38 years later and I’m 26 years sober. This resort is the Four Seasons In Nevis, West Indies - I love the little nation of Saint Kitts-Nevis. This is our second family visit. The people have preserved a quiet way of life. The speed limit is 26 miles an hour. Schools open with prayer and a Christian reading, as do government meetings. The average boy gets 12 years of school, the average girl 13. Cursing in public is subject to fine and imprisonment, as some visiting rappers have discovered when they violate the terms of their contracts. There is full employment, and it is a friendly place.

I’m relaxed, drinking my regular Coca-Colas, and keeping my sunburn to a mild rose color. Instead of two people on vacation, we are five. We have visited the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, gone sailing, and explored the island. Living the Twelve Steps all these years has given us all the peace we need, and my granddaughter has never known me to drink.

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John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator of The Retreat. His book is available from

Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism, 12 steps of aa, Family Sober Support, Recovery Program

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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