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Vegas, Baby

Vegas. So many people love the city, but I am NOT one of those people. I’m not a gambler, and ever since my first trip when I was 25, I’ve never understood its appeal. It’s always felt like excess to the worst extreme to me and I’ve never had a great enough time to want to go back involuntarily. Unfortunately, as Murphy’s Law would have it, my career takes me there more frequently than I’d ever hope for.

I headed there this past week for a quick trip, my first since giving up alcohol, and it surprised me at how much it triggered me. I felt it from the moment I boarded the plane. I became acutely aware that my heart was beating faster, and that anxious feeling which I know all too well was coursing through my veins. I sat there trying to understand where it was coming from. I fly multiple times each month for work so I knew that it wasn’t that due to physically being on a plane. Yes, we were delayed, but I still could meet my schedule, albeit a little more rushed than I would have loved, but I was prepared and had accepted it so I knew that wasn’t where these feelings were stemming from either. That’s when I realized it wasn’t how or why I was going, but WHERE.

One of the things about being completely sober all of the time is actually being present and dealing with your emotions ALL. THE. TIME. I used to be able to take the edge off of them with a tasty beverage, but for the past year, they have been there. Popping up at unexpected times to remind me of choices made while under the influence of my toxic ‘friend’. Sometimes as a gentle ‘remember that time..?’ tap on the shoulder and at other times as a gut punch that knocks the wind out of me. I have a variety of memories from times spent in Vegas that do the latter. Times when I was not living up to the best version of myself. Times that I’m still working to move past and leave those memories exactly there: in the past. It’s remarkable how the brain works with triggers.

As I touched down at Harry Reid airport, I acknowledged my anxious feelings and reminded myself that each place I visit with a negative experience attached to it is an opportunity to begin to build positive, healthy memories. Much like Northern California. I used to have difficulty visiting there without thinking of a former boyfriend of mine who had moved there. We tried to make it work for a year long-distance, however in the end, my plans to move there with him ended. That was a remarkably tough breakup that ripped my heart out at the time. Since the universe likes to have a good laugh at me, a year after the breakup, I found myself working for a company based, where else, but in San Francisco. Each time I needed to travel there, it would reopen the wound a bit, as memories of better times would flood my mind when I found myself in familiar places. It was difficult and I wondered if I would ever be able to be there without thinking of him. However here we are, 4.5 years later and I realized a few months ago that I now equate California with SO many other great memories that have absolutely nothing to do with him. It’s no longer ‘his’ place.

As I sit here typing this, I’m smiling, because I'm hopeful that my relationship with alcohol and the memories associated with it will eventually be that way for me. Who I was then vs who I am now. With time, I’m hopeful that all of the things and places that trigger me now, will eventually be completely replaced with new, amazing, healthy memories that will feel more like a huge gulp of fresh air, rather than than the gut punch that they are today. I left Vegas this week with memories of some beautiful venues, fantastic meals, some delicious mocktails, and getting to watch the newest skyline attraction, Sphere in action. Not one moment was blurred or muted. Not one gave me anxiety on the plane ride home. All of them I was fully present for. All of them aligned to the person I choose to be. And that feels like healing to me.


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