By Brandon Meyers
I had my last drink September 12th, 2017, back home in Tacoma, Washington. I had come to the realization that my life was a mess, and that I needed a major change. I attended meetings daily, found myself a home group, and got myself a sponsor. From the beginning, my sponsor told me to put all my ideas and preconceived notions of the 12 steps and the journey to sobriety, into an imaginary box, and be open and willing. Shortly after working with him, I received a message from a family friend, who resides in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. He was also a gay, recovering alcoholic with 34 years under his belt. He suggested I come down for a total of 4 months, and help run a hostel he manages in Alamos, MX. At this point in my sobriety, I had less than 30 days, but I had an imaginary box, an open mind, and the power of suggestion on my side.
I took some time to consider the risks and the benefits. I had only been to Mexico once before, and that was to party and drink in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, all of which was a big blur. I had discussed the trip to Mexico with my friends, family and sponsor, and I came to a decision. I wrote back and told him I was completely on board with the idea! With his reassurance that I would be in good hands and a safe environment, he bought my plane ticket, and I was in for an adventure of a lifetime. On November 7th, I met the owner of the hostel and my new friend, Jim, at the Seattle airport. From there, we flew into Tucson, and drove 10 hours south to the beautiful city of Alamos!
Mexico was not a place I would have ever expected to launch the beginning of my sobriety. However, three days into being in Alamos, I received my 2 month chip. So that was a great spiritual boost and reminder, having a few days sober in Mexico, one day at a time, I can accomplish anything. Not only had I left behind all my family and friends, but I was in a Spanish speaking country. I hadn't used or practiced my Spanish since high school, so there was a huge language barrier that I was facing, from the very beginning. I was also doing a job that I had never done before; running a hostel. Renting rooms out to people seems simple enough, but throw my poor Spanish on top of that, and you have a lot of frustration and anxiety. I wasn't going to give up or give in. However, I was alone a lot at the hostel in the beginning. I've always been a codependent person, so I was pretty lonely. That's where the beauty of the meetings, and my imaginary box came in handy.
Alamos has two English speaking 12 step meetings and another English speaking support group per week. There is also a Spanish speaking meeting every night of the week, as well. My personal experience with the people in the rooms back home has always been warm and welcoming, regardless if it was a meeting I would be attending again. To little surprise, that is exactly how they made me feel here. Every meeting I've ever attended is just a little bit different, but they all have the same core purpose, to help you stay sober!
The first week, I attended the three English speaking meetings, and one Spanish speaking meeting. I certainly hadn't prepared myself spiritually, or mentally for the Spanish speaking meeting, and I left discouraged, and upset. My mistake was not being open to what the meeting had to offer. I came in with an expectation that this completely new and foreign meeting, was going to be amazing and powerful. This meeting was the first meeting I had walked out early on. Another reason why I was so upset and angry. The beautiful box I had created to get me through anything, I had ultimately forgotten to use. Later that evening, I came to terms with myself that I hadn't spent enough time here in Mexico to feel this particular meeting beneficial. The English speaking meetings, however, really helped me open up my awareness, and I would leave with a very positive attitude. I certainly didn't overcome the language barrier over night, but the feeling of being alone slowly dwindled away by attending those meetings and the constant development of new friendships.
When Jim would stop by and relieve me of my duties for a few hours, I took the opportunity to get out and explore this beautiful, cobblestone city. Whether it was going to lunch, finding neat shops, or just walking around, my personal strength and self-acceptance kept growing. Due to the responsibilities of managing the hostel, I needed to be there most of the day in case we had guests checking in. So I had to find a way to fill my spare time with something productive that didn't include drinking. After one of the meetings, the follow-up fellowship lead me to hear about a meditation app one of the members had started using. She was raving about it, so I decided when I got back to the hostel, I was going to check it out.
Personally, I never felt meditation was for me, because I never had time to sit and do nothing for any length of time. This is when the power of suggestion crept up, and I was open to trying something new, making more space in my busy little box. After a few days of guided meditation from the app, I had really started to enjoy it. There was something serene about doing nothing for a certain length of time. I was learning to take care of myself spiritually and physically. The meditation came in handy when the internet would go down, which was often. I had managed to find a way to ease my troubled mind, avoid the thoughts of drinking, but I hadn't overcome the feelings of being lonely just yet.
Being in a third world country, fresh into sobriety, and not having any connections in Mexico, I needed to make friends if I was going to survive, mentally and emotionally. After spending a month in Mexico, I had developed great friendships among the recovering alcoholics, as well some of the locals. I was getting comfortable enough to ask Jim to hold down the fort more often, so I could go to lunch, play cards, or visit with others. That proved to be a highly effective spiritual booster. I hadn't spent much time thinking about drinking, because the people here surrounded me with so much love and encouragement.
With the holidays around the corner, being away from home was sinking in. When I agreed to go to Mexico, I never thought how the holidays would affect me being away from my friends and family. There was Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's which also happened to be my birthday. I had a few moments where I felt emotionally compromised, and was burdened with sadness. The beauty of the program and the people I had come to love here, was that those moments of sadness didn't last very long. I was about to face two severe and foreign obstacles; being sober for the holidays in a third world country, and facing the holidays for the first time sober, ever. My elegantly wrapped imaginary box, with a bow on top, was about to be opened before Christmas. By this time, it was winter break for most of the states, and we had accumulated a lot of visitors here at the hostel, and in Alamos, as well. One day at a time, turned into one moment at a time. I was meditating to alleviate stress, and I was spending a lot of time on social media, to regain sanity.
Jim came by more often, allowing me to participate in the extracurricular activities happening in this magical city. Winter in Alamos is an extremely busy time of the year, and I was learning that very quickly. Christmas came early for me, manifesting in many forms. Members of the program had asked me to play a king in their nativity scene, and that was an amazing experience. Afterwards, I dressed up as Santa and passed out candy to guests at their resort. Feeling included in the community gave me the sense of belonging, and being of service. The other manifestation came in the form of a doctor and his family. The doctor himself, was part of the program, and had a lot of family in Alamos. His family was gracious and kind enough to invite me to celebrate with their family during the holidays. It was a true and authentic Mexican experience. Stress and worry slipped away. Being surrounded by all the warmth and love of the people here in Alamos, there wasn't a moment where I felt alone.
With the chaos subsiding from the holiday season here in Alamos, I get to look back at my accomplishments in my sobriety. The tools provided by the program itself have blessed me with 3 months, and counting, of a sober and healthy life. In my experience, whether in Mexico, or back home in the states, living every twenty-four hours at a time, I can accomplish anything without a drink. As of recently, I found a temporary sponsor here in Alamos, who is keeping me on track with my step work. Advancements in technology have allowed me to keep in contact with friends and family back home, giving me a glimpse of the joy I get to return to in March. The emotional wave I experienced in the beginning of physically being away from home, has diminished. I still have two more months here in Alamos, MX, but if I remember to be open and willing, and have my imaginary box ready for any doubtful or uncertain circumstances, I have a feeling I will be alright. Here's to the next 24 hours.