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Reliving “The Scarlet Letter” in Costa Rica; What is Your Letter?

Costa Rica Living – Last night as I sat at home working and enjoying a night not around the multitude of people in Costa Rica that had taken full advantage of labor day by imbibing as much alcohol as possible,  I was contacted by a friend.   Although it seemed like an innocent conversation about trying to conquer addictions and demons, I knew it was a cry for help….the underbelly of Costa Rica had caught him and was dragging him in.

internal-demonsWhen I arrived in Costa Rica over 6 years ago I was running from a past that I was not proud of and thought that changing locations where no one knew me would give me the fresh start I needed.  There was a problem with this plan, no matter where you go or what you are trying to get away from it will follow you and find you.  Your internal demons will chase you to the end of the world and the only way try to conquer them is truly standing up to them.

I was fortunate enough and yes I say fortunate, to have alcohol and drugs almost kill me.  If that had not happened I would still be drinking and snorting today or dead on the side of the road somewhere.  I spent 3 months in the hospital on the edge of death after having open heart surgery.  While lying there you are given a great deal of time to reflect.  I looked around and alcohol and my lifestyle had pushed everyone I cared about away and although in my mind I thought I was doing fine professionally, it was just delusions of grandeur. I was trapped in a downward spiral that I could either escape from in the present or be dragged into the dark abyss that my alcoholism was currently taking me.

I am an alcoholic. I have not had a drink in over 3 1/2 years.  Does that mean I am cured of alcoholism? Absolutely not.  When I first quit drinking I felt like I had lost a part of me.  I did not know how to socialize without drinking. I did not know what it was like to go watch a football game without having a beer in my hand.  I lacked the knowledge of how to kill my stress after a long day or week other than with a few shots.  When I celebrated an accomplishment in my life it had always revolved around having a drink. I had to completely redefine myself and learn how to live again.

So many people come to Costa Rica in search of a new life and with visions of escaping. There are people trying to escape a bad relationship, a criminal background, addictions, or just an overall change of life.  But unless internally you truly want to change Costa Rica will amplify your problems, especially addictive behavior.

If you have a cocaine habit in the past the inexpensive cocaine in Costa Rica will be a temptation. If you have a drinking problem there are more than a few people that will get hammered with you each and every day.  If you want sex, it is around every corner.  In the USA and other countries you have to somewhat subtle about indulging in these activities but in Costa Rica it is generally accepted as a part of everyday life.

There are so many people that come to Costa Rica and see their first few months in the country as a college Spring Break. They go to Jaco or another small beach town and party like they were 18 again.  They spend nights drinking and doing blow.  They have sex with as many locals or hookers as possible. They get trapped in underworld (which is not so under) and then wake up from their alcohol or drug induced haze wanting to start their new life after a few months.  Then they wake up to the reality of the situation.  Their reputation will forever be that of their first few months.

Costa Rica is a small country. The beach towns are even smaller.  Reputations and gossip spread like wild the scarlet letterfire in these communities.  If you sleep with someone it will be around town before you do the walk of shame the next morning.  If you are a whore monger and spend time at the Cocal, do not plan on dating a decent woman anytime in the future in the area.   If you are a partier and head home at sunrise then that will be your label.  Think of Costa Rica as Puritan Boston in the 1640’s and you are Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter. Your first few months in Costa Rica can cause you to have to wear that scarlet “A” for the remainder of your time in the country.  What will be the letter you are forced to wear?

Almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail that positive ones.  If you spend your first couple of months in Costa Rica thinking that you will easily be able to change people’s opinions of you quickly, think again. When you were in high school if you were the kid that had sex with the teacher or got caught smoking cigarettes, most likely that stayed with you the entire high school experience.  It might not have been talked about as much at parties but it was still whispered about behind your back.  Costa Rica is the exact same, except that many of the adults here have the maturity level of a 15 or 16 year old.

Costa Rica can be a place to start again and find both happiness and yourself but you have to start your new life and your new path from day 1 in the country.  If you allow the negative and underbelly of Costa Rica to draw you in, it is very hard to escape.  Your reputation from your first few months in Costa Rica will stick with you for a long time, be sure to think about that when you are enjoying your “Spring Break” freedom. When you went to Cancun during college “the time you had sex with the ugly hooker story” followed you back home. If you live in Costa Rica it will remain with you during your stay. Finally, if you want to overcome and conquer your demons you have to confront them and stand up to them internally. Only the strong will be able to push them aside as there will be temptation around every corner and more than a few people that want to drag you down.

Costa Rica can be a new beginning or it can drag you into a personal hell that can kill you or send you packing, returning home with the same personal demons carried in your luggage.

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