Whisky is usually my friend. But cheap whisky and I are, I’ve now come to accept, not on the best of terms. At my AirBnB I was several drams of $8 Canadian Club down as I waited for the new friend I’d made in Montreal to let me know when he and his friends got to the bar they’d invited me to. I was in the mood for some socialising, and had mostly come back to Montreal on his insistence – he wanted to introduce me to some people and show me around. He’d let me know when they got there. I waited, had another whisky. Then another. And hell, one more to lift the spirits. The message never came, and by midnight I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up cross and with a head well and truly Canadian clubbed. Cheap whisky hurts. That same guy had originally invited me to a food festival that day, but since my phone was still sans messages I sacked off the idea and took myself out for the day.

The whisky had darkened my mood to an unreasonable level of irritability. I could feel the black cloud creeping. Booze is never good for the head, let alone one trying constantly not to dunk itself into anxiety and depression. It is like someone treading water grabbing hold of a bucket – it will float at first, keep you up, make you feel secure, but eventually it will fill up and drag you down. One thing I did have on my side – other than this level of awareness that I was booze-cranky – was the weather. Spring had sprung, practically overnight. The sun shone gloriously warm over Montreal, the sky blue and clear, my smallest jacket still too padded for the balmy 7-degree temperatures. I wandered to the Jean Marche, the farmers market. I took in the barrels of shiny red apples, the perfect pyramids of oranges, the tumbling stacks of freshly baked loaves, and the spread of golden cheeses. I treated myself to a just-made custard tart, and stopped for coffee.

But although this was nice, I decided to do something even nicer for myself. I booked into Bota Bota, a spa on a docked historic ferry in the old port. I’d wanted to go on my last visit to Montreal, but when you’re travelling on a shoestring a spa day doesn’t exactly fit into the budget.  Some things, however, are more valuable than a luxury. This was bona fide self care. And it was only $40 for three hours, I’d been living off Lean Cuisine all week, and didn’t spend any money on Friday night bexcuse I was sitting at home being pissed off. I deserved this, dammit. I deserved Bota Bota.

Photo by @coraliedpn

It could just be the best decision I made that week. I didn’t bring a swimsuit in this leg of the journey so I went in my bra and undies. (They were Knixwear, and passed impressively for a bikini.) I was beyond caring about what I looked like; this was about how I felt. Free of my phone, free of everything but a big white robe, my sunglasses, and some flip-flops I’d picked up from Dollarama, I could focus on feeling good.

Three hours of circulating different parts of the boat in a rhythm of sauna, steam, cold plunge pool, hot tub, and relaxing on a bean bag or a lounger looking out to sea. I sat in the round porthole window in a silent relaxation room and contemplated staying here they kicked me out. But alas, they had my credit card, so eventually I peeled myself away, feeling incredibly relaxed and calm, tranquility coming out the wazoo. I downed litres of water, I craved fresh fruit, I bought melon and salmon at the supermarket. I decided to take a break from booze. My body had become a temple. I felt unbelievably good.

Back in the real world, reunited with my phone, I had a message from the dude who’d stiffed me. “Hey, did you show up to the bar last night? I was wasted.” I paused as I wondered whether to reply, or whether, in fact, to just throw my phone into the port. I imagined it plopping below the surface, sinking slowly down. Instead, I threw it into my bag. “Reclaiming my time” I thought, and bit into a massive piece of melon.