What I Learned From NOT Watching the Film ‘Walk With Me’

It’s been nearly a year that I’ve been waiting to see the film “Walk With Me”, a mindfulness documentary that takes you into Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hahn’s Buddhist monastery in the south of France, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (which is reason enough to go see it). So you can imagine my excitement when I learned it was finally being screened in Waterloo – about an hour and a half from here.

Sobriety Perk #1: I knew I’d be sober and able to actually drive there for the 5:30 showing. Old Drunk Me would have dismissed it immediately because I’d “normally” be at least 2 bottles of wine in by that time, unable to drive and definitely unwilling to leave the house.

I ordered my tickets online and looked forward to it with the excitement of a kid at Christmas. Hubs opted out when the time came to leave, since there was some actual “work-work” to be wrapped up, so I decided to go by myself.

Sobriety Perk #2: Drunk Me would never have gone to see a film on my own, because it was easier to just wait for it on Netflix, where I could cozy up to watch it with a gallon of wine and fall asleep in the chair during the first 3 minutes.

I set my GPS and off I went, listening to my “Peaceful Instrumental Movie Scores” playlist like I was a truck-driving Sober Zen Master. Most of the commute was on backcountry roads, so of course I imagined I was in some ambient music video on my way to absolute enlightment. I was already in full-on Mindfulness Mode and I hadn’t even reached the theatre.

Sobriety Perk #3: The ability to actually recount everything that happened yesterday. Drunk Me would have been a passenger and obviously not driving – if we ended up going at all – and would have forgotten most of the trip there, with the exception of the multiple washroom breaks I’d have required. Plus, I would have spent most of the drive just googling licenced bars within walking distance of the theatre for before, and of course after, the show. How very ‘mindful’. #InsertEyeRollHere.

So I arrive. I park. I am at the wrong theatre.

I obviously need more practice at this whole leaving the house and doing stuff thing. Last Friday we made it downtown for my first sober concert – and I left the tickets at home. Sober me is definitely more outgoing, but his memory still sucks.

I walk (a delightful change from stumbling) my way back to the truck. I’m seriously impressed with myself, because just 2 months ago this situation would have made me irate. I’d have been cranky, blaming, frustrated and wanting a drink. Despite the calming nature of the film, I would have been heading into it like a raging bull. But instead, I took my time, didn’t panic, admired the old architecture of downtown Waterloo and took some nice deep breaths of Spring.

Sobriety Perk #4: I am 2 billion percent less reactionary. When things didn’t go according to plan, or situations of spontaneity popped up, Drunk Me would either a) pull up my defences à la Jackie Chan or b) turtle and withdraw à la Cowardly Lion. There was no in between. Sober Me is happy to go with the flow, more à la Autumn Leaf on a Babbling Brook.

It’s at this point, a couple city blocks later and closing in on showtime, that I figure out the correct theatre was literally around the corner from the one I just came from. In my defence, I’m not from Waterloo. I’m also not particularly adept at directions. I finally arrive (back where I started) and head in to pick up my tickets. It’s a charming theatre that smells like a bottled up retirement home. There’s only one screen, and the box office is also the concession stand – cash only, of which I have none.

Sobriety Perk #5: Old Drunk Me would have panicked at this point (and likely went on a rant about how ridiculous it is to not accept cards in 2018 of all things, and on and on and on…) because the idea of sitting through a 90 minute film without something to drink – even water – was unheard of. I needed to be drinking something at all times like a liquid pacifier locked to my lips. Sober Me? Totally happy to find myself a seat, people watch, and appreciate how I just saved myself from buying a $9.00 bottle of water.

Time passes, and we’re 10, 15, 20 minutes past showtime (luckily I had my phone and Zen Koi game to play…it’s oddly therapeutic). People were becoming mindfully impatient, until a theatre rep explains there had been a power outage in the projector room, and it would be another 10 or 15 minutes. No big deal, I was oddly content, alone in the theatre staring at a big, blank screen. I was learning so much already and the film hadn’t even started. 

Sobriety Perk #6: The longer I’m sober, the more patient I’m becoming. The classic “One Day at a Time” mantra applies to literally everything in my life now, not only sobriety. And sometimes it’s just one moment at a time, or just one second – but I am shockingly more tolerant of pretty much everything (other than talking politics – ain’t nobody got time for that). Drunk Me, in classic addict fashion, demanded immediate gratification. I didn’t want to wait for life, despite me giving life no option but to wait for me for so long. In recovery, I’ve learned to happily let life take it’s time, as it’s in those moments of waiting that life is actually happening. Drunk Me was always searching for that “life” like it was the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box. It took sobriety for me to notice that the real prize was the enjoyment of all that sugary caramel-coated popcorn on the way down.

Eventually, another theatre rep appears to explain with sincere remorse that the projector had overheated and the showing was, indeed, officially cancelled. “Walk With Me” would not be watched by me, or any of us. I expected rotten tomatoes to be thrown, or for belligerent boo’s to erupt. But instead, people applauded him for his efforts (plus, we all felt bad for him because he was obviously terrified of getting up in front of the crowd to announce this). I suppose that’s the sort of crowd a documentary about mindfulness and a bunch of Buddhist monks in the South of France attracts.

Peaceful, calm, understanding and accepting people.

I hate to say it, but if we had been there for a screening of Jackass: The Movie, I’m certain the crowd would have gone wild, and not in a celebratory football touchdown sort of way, but more of a…well…jackass sort of way. Mindfulness attracts mindfulness, as jackassery attracts jackassery.

Sobriety Perk #7: This is where Drunk Me would have escalated. First it would have started with feeling like all the muscles inside me were angry and contracting, my internal body temperature would have flushed my face and I’d immediately source out the nearest open bar and bottle. It’s quite possible that Drunk Me would have been secretly pleased, since it would have meant I was that much closer to drinking myself to sleep that night. I would have been angry – just in general. Drunk Me did not like surprises, of any sort, ever. But I was good. I was content. I gathered my things and made my way outside, collecting my complimentary pass for the next show (which I likely won’t go to see because of the distance). I wasn’t fixated on how the show was cancelled, but instead enjoyed how it was still sunny outside, observing that I was a little bit hungry, and that all in all this Comedy of Errors was pretty entertaining.

I was so in control of my emotions and my non-reaction to everything that had just happened, I felt my inner Buddha stirring with pride (and a little hunger). It was okay. I was okay. The waves of anger and disappointment, frustration and blaming that would have normally turned this molehill into a mountain didn’t arrive. And it wasn’t waiting for me around the corner, or across the street. And I’d know, because I walked around for quite awhile before I finally found my truck (I told you I have navigation issues).

It was glaringly obvious that alcohol was truly the fuel that turned all of my smallest fires into infernos. It is ethanol, after all, so it’s no surprise that pouring buckets of it on top of my generally already volatile emotions would only give the smallest spark more gas to burn.

Alcohol turned all my first-world-problems into explosive, first-world-Armageddons.

I climbed back into my truck (found it right where I left it!), discovered my new favourite playlist (Buddha Beach, on TuneIn Radio), and made the one and a half hour drive back home as witness to one of the prettiest sunsets ever. I was as content or more than if  I had seen the film I had waited an entire year to apparently, not see.

Sometimes, the anticipation of something is better than finally getting it. I would always feel relaxed immediately when I was buying the wine – not necessarily drinking it. I would feel relief in a restaurant after ordering a bottle – not when it arrived. Knowing the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box was waiting for me made all the caramel corn along the way taste that much better.

(n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures

Ya, that’s a new word for me, too, and apparently it’s in German. But the feeling is more than familiar, regardless of what language it is. The rush of anticipation is universal. From drinking, to watching (or not watching) the film last night, to looking forward to a vacation 8 months from now – that’s the real prize.

That’s the popcorn on the way down.

Perhaps I’ve always just been addicted to having something to look forward to, because that’s where living and being alive actually takes place: right between the wanting and the getting, in those aching, anxious moments of imagination where simply looking forward to it is enough.


  1. I smiled throughout.
    My mantra is stillness and peace. It has only been through sobriety that that has been possible.
    Like you, my life used to be all about reaction, blame and easy discontent. Not anymore!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love reading this Anne!!! I can definitely see the pattern of my attitude before rehab, during/after rehab, then how all mindfulness practice fell to to side during relapse…and has miraculously returned now that I’m sober again (60 days today!). It’s impossible to find stillness when you’re tormented inside!


  2. Another vivid example of “There are no accidents or coincidences in the Universe.” Your Higher Power (or whatever you choose to call It) gave you the opportunity to be in the moment with Sober You and practice the fruits of sobriety. You went to see a movie about a Buddhist monastery, and instead were given the gift of what it’s like to live in one. Add that to your list of best things about being AF. #peace

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wanna see that film! Buddhism resonates with me and is my go to. Love reading your work. I’m glad you’re not hiding your sobriety light under a bushel! Keep on moving. Nothing matters. X

    Liked by 1 person

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