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I celebrated 3 months of sobriety with an all-inclusive vacation. I fell off the wagon when I got home, but I'm trying again.

Jennifer Greenberg wearing a patterned shirt while on vacation.
Jennifer Greenberg went to an all-inclusive vacation shortly after getting sober and avoided drinking alcohol.Courtesy Marc Greenberg
  • My grandmother was a great support to me, and encouraged me in my quest for sobriety.

  • I stopped drinking when she died. Three months into my sobriety, I took an all-inclusive vacation.

  • Though I drank again when I got home, I decided to be easy on myself and try again.

In her last year alive, my Grandma Bevy boosted me up after a dark period. She encouraged me to join a gym, lean on my support system, and find stability in the family business, an electrical wholesale distributor. She knew that I had sought help for alcohol addiction, because I told my mother everything, and my mother had confided in her.

While embarrassed at first, I didn't mind too much; I appreciated my grandmother's support, even though I was still sneaking Coronas at my friend's apartment, buying Manhattans with the spending money she had given me, and downing malt liquor by the canal. Once she passed, though I'd no longer be able longer ask her for advice, I knew what she'd want for me: sobriety, and the honesty that came along with it.

I watched as a relative rushed out to the liquor store, wasting precious time during my grandmother's final hours; this was how our family dealt with all occasions, whether stressful or festive. Then, I winced at the endless cabernet-sauvignon that accompanied dinner the night before the funeral. I witnessed the pillaging of her whiskey collection when we all gathered at her apartment after the ceremony at the cemetery.

I turned my nose up at every opportunity to drink the sad feelings away, my coping mechanism for the last decade and a half. While I had dabbled with sobriety the year before, I had finally decided on the gray December day that I said goodbye to Grandma Bevy, that I'd be saying goodbye to alcohol, too. But, unlike the previous times I had gone on the wagon, this time, I would be doing it for myself.

My parents invited me to an all-inclusive resort not long after I stopped drinking

I managed to soar through the winter months following her death without liquid confidence. I found it easy to pass on tequila shots at parties and gained a taste for alcohol-free beers. When my parents offered to take me on vacation in March, I thought to myself, "I can do this."

As I had my challenges with binge drinking in my 20s, I had avoided all-inclusive resorts since a vacation in my teens, when my brother and I were accidentally given adult bracelets and our parents turned the other cheek. We spent mornings sampling the "drink-of-the-day," afternoons ordering pina coladas poolside, and evenings sipping White Russians at the lobby bar. I knew if I ever went on one again, I'd crumble under temptation, so until now, I had turned down my parents' annual invitations. This year, however, I was determined I would resist the urge to splash Kahlua in my coffee.

Our trip got off to a rough start. My mom lost our passports, my father lost his phone, and I lost my mind. At the hotel, I made a beeline for my mini-fridge out of curiosity as to its contents. It was filled with diet soda — no beer in sight. I thought this was an act of God, but it turned out to be my mother requesting a dry room for me, while theirs was stocked with complimentary wine and beer, even though they, too, no longer drank.

At first, I was sure I could resist the itch for a cold pilsner, but a few days later, when I returned from dinner to a curt text message from my cousins, canceling our upcoming visit to New York to see them the week after our trip, I wanted something to take the edge off. I slipped out to the swim-up bar, but it happened to be closed, which I took as a sign to stay on the right path. I returned to my room and white-knuckled it until the gym opened at sunrise.

As I was no longer alternating between hazy and hungover, my mind was more clear, and I found it difficult to sit still with my thoughts. It was too easy for the devil on my shoulder to whisper into my ear, "What's the harm in having just one drink?" I kept my body active and my mind distracted. When I won a bottle of rum at bingo, I hesitantly asked for the bag of coffee beans instead. I traded in happy hours for long chats over cigars with my father. The closest I came on that trip to slipping was sneaking a bowl of rum raisin ice cream from the buffet.

I had a slip when I got home, but I'm trying again and being easy on myself

When I returned to Montreal, I had gone through the beginning stages of grief: denial, anger, and bargaining. But when depression snuck up, it led me back toward wine, beer, and harder liquors, too. I revisited my usual neighborhood haunt, got slightly tipsy with friends, and allowed myself to "casually drink" during the spring, even though I wasn't convinced it would remain casual. The first time I had one too many gin-and-sodas and woke up with a hangover, I knew things were no longer OK.

Three months after our Punta Cana getaway, the family reunited for the unveiling of my grandmother's tombstone. As her tombstone was revealed, I realized I had reached the final stage of grief: acceptance. I acknowledged slippage earlier in the year and forgave myself, something I have never been good at. I reminded myself how much strength it took to make it through eight days of temptation at a hotel surrounded by booze.

I could honor my grandmother — Beverly Mendel, a loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother — by making a conscious effort to work toward a healthier balance. I got on my laptop and started Googling addiction therapists, just like I had a year prior. I knew that the road to recovery would certainly be bumpy, and it may have a few more detours, but the final destination suddenly felt much closer.

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