Brittany Hong was watching a PBS phase on a conventional Thai tattooing methodology, Sak Yant, dreaming about getting the tattoo, when the conclusion hit. She was solely 26 years outdated, however she would by no means go to Thailand. In actual fact, she’d by no means journey wherever past her metropolis. Caught in an almost decade-long cycle of substance abuse, something past her squalid condominium simply wasn’t an possibility—except she made a change.
“I had all these large concepts, however the medication and the alcohol all the time took precedence,” Hong says. “You may have to have the ability to plan for [travel], and I simply may by no means try this. So I had these large concepts however a small life, and I simply watched my life continuously move me by from the barstool.”
What felt like her unchangeable future proved not simply changeable but additionally hopeful. That PBS second sparked one thing inside Hong. In 2013, two years after watching that phase on Thailand, Hong hit all-time low.
“Alcohol and medicines will rob you of every thing,” Hong says. “It’s an eventuality.” For Hong, it took the lack of her two youngsters—her mother and father took them below their supervision—and a brutally sincere dialog along with her mom to see actuality. Sufficient was sufficient.
“I detoxed alone,” she says. “That was actually impactful for me as a result of I discovered myself alone in a home with no mates, no household, and that’s the place it had taken me. No person was calling to verify on me. And once I received up, I went to an AA assembly.”
After that July 7 Alcoholics Nameless (AA) assembly, Hong by no means seemed again.
Lay a robust basis earlier than taking that first journey
Though Hong wished to leap straight into touring, she waited three years to take her first journey. First, she needed to do the work to set her life so as. Her sponsor (somebody in AA who was additional alongside in her sobriety journey) bolstered the significance of laying the groundwork for accountable maturity.
“She actually taught me the right way to be a girl with integrity,” Hong says. “I had spent so lengthy avoiding all my issues, hiding in a bottle, that I actually had misplaced the flexibility to know the right way to take care of my life.”
Hong began with small, sensible steps. This stuff included paying payments on time, constructing her credit score, and creating wholesome routines for her life. One of many easy but foundational routines her mentor requested was that Hong make her mattress every day.
“I used to be attempting to get sober, and my life was in shambles,” Hong says. “I couldn’t consider that this lady was telling me that I wanted to make my mattress. I had greater issues, however I had no thought what to do and she or he scared me somewhat bit, so I began making my mattress every single day.”
Every day that she made her mattress, Hong discovered herself taking different small steps: placing her water glass within the sink, placing her laundry away, or vacuuming.
“We are inclined to need to consider every thing as like, we go all in, and it’s these little motion steps that we construct upon,” Hong says. “It began with my mattress and I used to be in a position to actually begin to do issues and deal with myself.”
As soon as she had these parts collectively, Hong started to pursue her journey goals.
Begin small with what’s round you
Persevering with on her sober journey—and reunited along with her youngsters—Hong began with quick solo journeys that had been manageable for her as a single mom. As she overcame the totally different obstacles in her method—discovering sober-friendly locations, checking out childcare, discovering her personal pursuits—her perspective started to vary. She stopped on the lookout for excuses and started on the lookout for options.
“I had this mindset from consuming like, I can’t do that. It was all the time, effectively, I can’t, and I began on the lookout for the methods of how I may,” Hong says. “Thailand was off the desk, however going for a weekend journey? I stay in Tennessee. So can I am going spend the weekend mountain climbing within the Smokies? I actually began studying the right way to use my sources.”
As a single mom, Hong additionally realized to ask her mother and father and mates for help and childcare.
“Most individuals need to assist,” she says. “You possibly can go to a buddy and ask if they may assist watch your youngsters for the weekend so you’ll be able to go to New York the place you’ve by no means been. Give individuals the chance to assist out. We are inclined to draw back from that however for probably the most half, individuals need to have the ability to try this.”
Hong would additionally swap childcare assist with mates. She would watch her mates’ youngsters for a weekend, and they’d watch hers in return.
Tackling the logistics for extra minor journeys taught Hong the right way to be resilient, nevertheless it additionally allowed her a coaching floor that wasn’t too removed from residence if she wanted to return to her protected area.
Plan your solutions—and your exit methods
In environments the place there was alcohol, Hong needed to be taught what she felt comfy saying when requested why she wasn’t consuming. Throughout a go to to Los Angeles, she was seated on the bar space of a restaurant. Different visitors had been sending drinks her method, and she or he was the one solo lady eating within the space. She felt uncomfortable. Defending her sobriety in that second was so simple as flagging the waiter right down to get reseated someplace quieter.
“You don’t should be a hero; you don’t should show something,” Hong says. “If you happen to’re not comfy saying you’re an alcoholic or that you simply’re not consuming, that’s completely your alternative. One of many [lines] that I’ve used earlier than is that I’m on treatment that I can’t drink with. Or no, thanks, I’ve to drive tonight. No is an entire reply, however on the similar time, I additionally assume that after we’re attempting on one thing new, typically it’s good to have the ability to say, no thanks, and provides some kind of purpose.”
When she stays at Airbnbs or resorts, she all the time contacts the host forward of time to request any alcohol be faraway from the fridge or room. Hong additionally stresses the significance of getting a deliberate method out if you happen to’re going into an setting that is likely to be problematic.
“Go forward and plan to solely keep for an hour and see how that feels,” she says. And understanding transportation is essential. “If I am going out, how do I depart if I begin feeling uncomfortable, or all people’s simply drunk, and I don’t need to be there anymore? How can I get myself out of this case?”
Hong all the time prefers to have her personal methodology of transportation. She remembers an occasion when she went on a weekend journey with a buddy however every of them drove their very own automotive. What she thought could be a sober-friendly getaway rapidly changed into heavy-handed consuming. As soon as she realized the scenario, Hong left rapidly and safely in her automotive.
Stay open to new experiences
On the journey of sobriety, there’s additionally a technique of studying new hobbies and pastimes as outdated habits get lower out.
“Once I first received sober, somebody requested me what I love to do for enjoyable,” Hong says. “I keep in mind it leveling me. What do I love to do for enjoyable?” In sobriety, she began attempting new issues. She took pottery courses, ran a half marathon, and realized the right way to rock climb. “I began creating these hobbies,” she says, “and I carried them with me into my travels.”
When planning new experiences, Hong tries to e book actions unique to the realm she’s visiting.
“Use your sources,” she says. “Wherever you’re going, lookup daytime actions. Google is our greatest buddy. Ask different individuals. Journey teams for ladies are actually large. Do your analysis as a result of there’s a lot to do; we simply slender that for ourselves after we consider actions which are like, ‘How can I get drunk?’”
With alcohol off the desk, Hong says she’s been in a position to go a lot deeper into her journey experiences with actions like cooking courses and rappelling in Zion Nationwide Park. She additionally observed deeper connections with these she meets in her travels.
On one solo journey to Lake Powell for a half marathon, Hong was on the lookout for a beginning place earlier than the race. One other runner caught her eye, and Hong felt compelled to strike up a dialog. The runner and her husband turned out to be sober.
“Out of the hundreds of individuals at this race, I walked as much as the 2 people who had been sober. She and I ended up operating collectively the entire time,” Hong says. “She was simply one other lady residing her life large and daring, and I wanted an instance of that in that second, and I walked proper as much as it.”
Lean in your group
Even on her solo journeys, Hong depends on her help community—her sponsor specifically. Earlier than journeys, they might focus on how she felt and potential issues or points to look out for.
“I might verify in along with her earlier than [I left] after which every single day or each different day,” Hong says. “Simply being tethered to somebody, letting them know the place I’m at and what’s occurring—which is a protected journey observe basically.”
She encourages different sober vacationers to do their analysis earlier than occurring a visit and hook up with others throughout the sober group.
“Do some due diligence,” Hong says. “Like asking a sober buddy to go along with you, planning it with any individual who’s sober, and in addition seeing what sources are within the space. Be considerate in your journey: The place am I staying? Is it that type of vibe there?”
One of many optimistic outcomes of the pandemic has been the elevated accessibility of conferences and sources as issues are moved on-line. Hong encourages individuals to search for accountability and help teams within the locations they’re visiting but additionally take into account on-line help teams.
Perceive that not everybody will perceive
When she first started touring solo, Hong obtained loads of pushback and disgrace from others for not bringing her youngsters alongside.
“It was necessary for me and my story to seek out my id and discover what I liked,” stated Hong. “After being a mother and being in energetic habit, I had misplaced myself. I took a deep accountability to change into an entire particular person and a contented particular person so I may then present up for my daughters.”
It wasn’t straightforward, particularly as individuals implied Hong wasn’t an excellent mom or that she was elevating her youngsters flawed. She stated it actually impacted her, hurting her emotions to start with.
“I used to be questioning myself so much at first, however the extra I did it, the extra I understood I used to be turning into a greater particular person,” Hong says. “As a result of it’s a muscle, proper? As a result of it doesn’t come intuitively. We’re anticipated as ladies to place all people earlier than you, so I needed to observe getting OK with that and observe swimming up towards the stream.”
Hong’s choice to go towards the grain hasn’t simply impacted her life. She’s seen a ripple impact within the lives of these round her too.
“I’ll by no means remorse the travels and the issues that I’ve carried out,” Hong says. “It makes me a greater, happier particular person and a greater mother and I’ve watched it give my daughters the liberty to be extra authentically themselves.”
Hong attributes her perspective and braveness to her sobriety. Sobriety has given her a second probability at life, a second probability that she doesn’t intend to take as a right.
Hong has gone on a number of journeys since getting sober and makes it a behavior to go on no less than one solo journey per yr. And Thailand? Hong lastly made it in 2019, the place she received a Sak Yant tattoo (a tattoo historically given by Buddhist monks as a protecting talisman).
Ajarn Kaidet, also called Toto, was one of many few Sak Yant masters who would carry out the tattoo ritual on ladies. Hong sat on the cool tile flooring whereas the previous monk hand-etched the tattoo onto her again, chanting protecting prayers as he dipped the lengthy bamboo needle into ink after which into her pores and skin.
“I simply keep in mind considering, I used to be lastly in a position to make my very own goals come true,” Hong says. “I used to be ready to try this for myself, the self who by no means thought one thing like that will have the ability to occur.”
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