where we’re going we don’t need maps

I used to pour over map books the way one might over a really good book. I loved using the key and then snaking two fingers along the page until they met at the exactly right part of the grid.

Knowing how to get places was a matter of necessity in my line of work as a volunteer coordinator for a hospice in metropolitan DC. Sometimes hospice is an actual building where people go to die in peace, smaller and less clinical than a hospital. But usually hospice refers to services provided in a dying person’s home, which can be anywhere. I had to be able to explain to volunteers how to get there and often delivered medical supplies or sat with patients myself. The internet was around then but I didn’t have it. Portable, affordable phones with instant directions in a soothing female voice would have sounded like some serious Jetsons witchcraft. I kept a well worn ADC map book in my work bag and then picked up another for the county where we lived and kept doing this each time we moved until Jetsons witchcraft came true.

I miss those ADC map books. The last one I bought was eleven years ago at a Wawa up the road while we were looking for a place to live. It was kind of pricey but I knew we would use the hell out of it. That very first day I opened to the master map and saw that red star next to the name of one of my favorite breweries. It turned out they had a brewpub down the road from one house my husband I both liked. It wasn’t our dream home or anything. The kitchen had and still has faux butcher block countertops exactly like the ones from my childhood home. The carpet in the living room still smells faintly of cat piss when it rains. The back yard was a blank slate then, no landscaping whatsoever beyond a handful of mature maples scattered around. But the view, oh the view. Beyond the neighbor’s lot, we could see a skyline of trees, layered like a painting with hints of soft color at the spring to come. My husband and I both saw it and said the same thing: we could live here.

a different, southern view
Before we made an offer, we decided it would be prudent to come back one more time and see the house again with fresh eyes. We lived hours away at the time and planned the trip around a visit to see family. I opened the map book and saw that red star next to the name of my favorite beer and said to my husband let’s check it out afterwards. This passed for high adventure in my mind and his too, I think.

If not for that ADC map book, we may have lived there years before finding that brewpub. It was buried in the middle of an industrial park, housed in an old Pepperidge Farm bakery. By the looks of it, not much had been done before moving in. The walls were bare except for a few beer banners and old black and white photographs of stout women in hair nets from its bakery days. There were long oak tables and farmhouse chairs and the wait staff was casual and friendly. They welcomed us for lunch even though we’d walked into some kind of staff chili cook-off. It felt as much like coming home as any new place can feel.

We made an offer on the house and came back to visit the brewpub many more times. The chili cook-off became an annual tradition, though I stopped going when I quit drinking. And also, I don’t really love chili. I mean, I make it a few times a year, but I never really get excited about eating it. Now, you give me a cupcake cook-off, I don’t think I would have missed a single year. This brewpub isn’t known for desserts but it does make a mean soft pretzel and their home-brewed root beer is also pretty great. But it took a long time sober to fully appreciate these other gifts.

Today I’m headed back for the first time in many years for another chili cook-off. A lot happened in the last eleven years. Although I no longer drink beer, a lot of people still do and business was so good they completely renovated the old bakery to the point where you have to close your eyes to imagine stout ladies in hair nets. They had enough left over to build two brand new brewpubs. The chili cook-off will be at one of those.

It’s not my favorite place to go because it smells like beer. They brew it there and that smell was pretty triggery in my early days of not-drinking. I smelled it and remembered bellying up to the bar by myself a few Friday afternoons to get the growler filled. I remember meeting my husband there a few times without the kids and feeling like we were getting away with something or the time I took my oldest kid on a Saturday afternoon and kept putting quarters in the claw machine until we won a stuffed purple gorilla in a bowler hat. None of these memories are particularly pleasant now and I don’t think they were then, either. I don’t want to discount everything that happened pre-sobriety, lumping it all together like one big mistake, but I was not at my best then. Some days I was a crackly shell of a woman.

I read two things so far this morning about facing triggers in sobriety. (They are not blogs, so I can’t link to them.) A friend wrote about knocking off early on a workday and, instead of heading to the bar, he went home and performed a delicate mechanical task he would have previously saved for Saturday and a delicately hungover state. This would have led to frustration and ultimately failure. The second thing I read was about someone reclaiming camping and late-night porch-sitting in sobriety. Both were examples of sober people going back to things they used to love while drinking but hid from for awhile. They figured they had to bury those old loves like we do when we’re newly sober. Since we’ve never lived a sober life before, we don’t know what it will be like. What we start to be able to imagine after a month or three or nine sober isn’t always great either. We don’t want constant reminders of what we’ve given up so sometimes we hide from things for awhile (and that’s okay).

A great things happens when we stick to the path we were meant for. It levels out and the brush clears and while the climb might still feel steep here and there, the views are spectacular. We find and take new paths and revisit old ones only to discover new joys. Some we put behind us forever. It’s important to listen and know when to do this, but also remember there are so many other paths. I kind of wish I’d kept my old ADC map book to snap a picture of how battered it got, the edges curled and worn from riding side saddle in the car all those years. Each memory is like a page, and I see how little I knew then and still now.




30 thoughts on “where we’re going we don’t need maps

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  1. Pre-GPS days, I always bought my husband a fresh map book every other year or so. I was intimidated when reading them but he absolutely loved them. I found one in the clutter closet the other day.I thought about throwing it out but decided to keep it. Beautiful post. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you write this piece while tackling your insomnia? If so, just know it looks good on you.
    Your friend mentioned that you wrote it like a song – it reads like a treasure map.
    You answered a question I have often wondered and you did it with eloquence, grace, and authenticity. I have no doubt that another story will unfold as you enter that place again, and I’m guessing that the Pretzel will be amazing ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, you know it! I’m curious what your question was though guess it wasn’t why cupcake cook-offs aren’t a thing as I have no answers. Here’s to insomnia and occasionally putting it to good use.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oops! Yes – I should have mentioned the question! I am so tired this morning!! I often wondered if it was hard to still enjoy the things you used to enjoy while drinking – bars, camping, and even cooking are things that popped into my mind, because (when I do drink) those are the instances I would. I think about you (and Christy, and Karen, and Josie and Mish) during those times. Weird, huh?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Gotcha. I don’t enjoy sitting at bars though occasionally will with my husband. Cooking is something that may never come back in the same way. (Could be the waning energy levels of an insomniac by early evening.) Everyone is different. It’s sweet you wonder about us…shows that curiosity and thoughtfulness we love about you.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. When you write, you write with clarity and openness. This is not something which comes easily, yet you seem to make it your own.
    I have continued to read your work for a couple of years now and have enjoyed the apparent ease with which you convey a story.
    I hope you continue with writing and writing with this freedom. Far too many times, writers restrict their story by placing restrictions upon themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know your post was about a lot more than maps, but I so miss maps. I, too, loved looking at maps and tracing the lines and figuring out how to get places. And as long as there weren’t too many turns and different streets or highways to get me there, I could memorize the directions and get there without help. I hate that whenever we go somewhere, somebody has to pull their app up on the phone and Siri starts chanting directions.

    Maybe it’s because my dad was a navigator in the Air Force. Maybe it’s because they unintentionally gave me a name that spells MAP. Maybe it’s because I’m still kicking and screaming at what technology is doing to us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about memorizing the way, and one thing about relying on technology is I think I’ve lost some of that ability. Could also be age, ha. Think of how much new technology we’ve seen in the last decade alone. No wonder we fight some of it.


  5. I had to look up ADC Map Book as I had never heard of them before. My own favorite were the delorme gazetteers that I would buy for each state as I traveled through. I traced all the roads I had been on with a yellow highlighter. For the states of Louisiana and Mississippi I aimed to travel down every road listed, but gave that up long ago.

    In reading your post I realize that I miss a lot of that now. With Google Maps, I really don’t pay that much attention to roads I take, because I know I can always get back to the place I need to be and have therefore, seemingly eliminated the possibility of being really “lost” anymore.

    Thanks for the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an admirable goal, to travel every road. I still try to take new ways when I have time, and figure knowing I can’t ever really get “lost” allows me to do that.


  6. My father still uses roadmaps. He will not use his cell phone to get directions. He might use it to find the address but he will not use it for directions. He thinks the cell phone makes it more difficult (which is crazy i know). Thanks for the post.


  7. I don’t think about sobriety much anymore (though my teenage daughter may put me over the edge…), but still, reading posts like this, well down Recovery Road, offer comfort and a collegiality. So thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought of a few random things while reading your post, “we don’t need no stinkin maps” and such, I had to start and read the post again. It’s such a beautiful post. The way the path we were meant to travel appears for us if we let it.

    The post also reminded me of that “The Head and the Heart” song “Rivers and Roads.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Totally get the smell-trigger thing. I did a dry January (I think you know that) when we were in the UK last year and foolishly, went to a Belgian-themed pub in London before a play with about an hour to kill, and the smell was sickly but also triggery. That smell gets in things like cat piss when it rains. You do sound at peace with the journey and I like the comparisons to going uphill, the view, clearing out brush. Such is life. Killer painting there, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I still have the maps – an AA one of the whole of Britain in the boot (trunk) of the car and an AtoZ of London in the door pocket. I decided to continue to use maps not rely on the automaton in the dashboard. It means I have control of my route and my decisions and I chose the route based on my desires. A bit like my recovery I hope.

    I also so relate to the triggers, but funny how you can face these and they then disappear. I’m out for a meal with Mrs F for Valentine’s tonight in a place that in early sobriety would have been loaded with triggers – an old pub/restaurant I’d drunk in a lot. Now it’s not a thought, no trigger. Going to a bar when playing guitar, that was a paralysing huge fear and trigger. Today I’ve faced it, walked it, done it, tamed it, belittled it. No trigger.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m not sure what more I can add to these wonderful comments, except to validate them all and restate what a marvelous writer you are! And someday I’d like to visit the Brew Pub myself and see if I can imagine the stout ladies. I bet I can 😉


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