Updated: Mar 8
Throughout the majority of my adult life, my vacations started with drinks at the airport, followed by drinks on the plane, and more drinks when I reached my destination. And then there were even more drinks all throughout the vacation. I often chose vacations that were “all inclusive,” meaning that booze and food were included in the price. I also chose vacations centered around drinking, such as beach vacations.
When I didn’t fly to my destination, such as when we go on hiking trips, a cooler was filled with beer and stashed in the trunk of my car. If someone else was driving, I might even drink along the way. Restaurants were chosen because of their drink lists and I rewarded myself for long hikes with plenty of drinks afterwards.
So, in early February, when my husband and I took a short vacation – my first since I quit drinking nearly eight months ago - I was very nervous.
I wasn’t sure I knew how to travel without drinking. On top of that, to the purpose of the trip was to attend a wedding. Yikes! Who goes to a wedding and doesn’t drink? However, sober vacations are possible. Here is what I learned from my short stint away from home.
It is possible to travel without drinking. It is actually better.
In the past when I had several drinks, I had to use the restroom on the plane several times, making it super uncomfortable during periods of turbulence, when that fasten seatbelt sign is illuminated. A woman with a small bladder should know better than to slam beers before the flight and beers on the flight, but it took me years to learn.
I was extremely judgmental of myself on those flights too because I was struggling deep inside with the desire to quit drinking. When ordering drinks on the plane, I felt ashamed and had trouble making eye contact with the flight attendants.
This trip was so different.
Instead of feeling shame, I was proud. Instead of wasting several hours drinking and feeling like crap later, I read a great book and had a nice conversation with my husband. When we landed at our destination, I was fresh and alert. During dinner with my hubby’s parents and I wasn’t focused on where the waiter was with my next drink. Instead, I actually enjoyed time with my in-laws, who are truly wonderful people.
It is possible to socialize without drinking but is even easier with other sober people I got to know my mother-in-law and father-in-law so much better on this trip. I spent much more time visiting with them and actually making a connection. I have known them for nearly seven years, but during this last visit with them I became closer to them and felt more at ease with myself around them.
My husband’s parents are that true anomaly. They have only one drink and then stop. Oftentimes they don’t drink at all or don’t finish their drink. I will never understand that person who leaves a half-full glass of alcohol on the table, but that is who they are.
We played a very competitive scrabble game, sat around visiting about current events, and I made them dinner. It was a wonderful time – better than any time I have visited when I was still drinking.
We also had the opportunity to visit with other family members and created more connection with them as well.
It’s possible to dance at a party when you’re sober.
My husband and I danced at the wedding and we didn’t have to be drunk to do it. It is actually more fun to dance sober. There was no tripping or falling or bumping into people.
Drunk people are annoying and I used to be one of them.
I am in awe of how I used to act and of the fact that I thought it was completely acceptable behavior. But this time I was not that annoying drunk trying to get people to dance when they didn’t want to, picking on people for not drinking, talking loudly, telling the same story over and over again, and dropping F-bombs every few words.
Those are just some of the behaviors that I observed from guests at the wedding, and once again I felt proud to be sober. I didn’t feel proud in a judgmental way, as I feel that everybody has their own journey. Instead I felt proud that I finally got myself out of that lifestyle and that I am growing more comfortable with sobriety.
Don’t go to a party once you get sober and hope to connect with people, as those who are drinking heavily are not able to connect on your level. This is one of the most interesting observations I’ve made on my sober journey. Once I became sober and aware of my surroundings and aware of other people’s emotions, I noticed how hard it is to get to know people, especially in a drinking situation.
I actually want to talk about life with my friends and family and hear their thoughts, fears and hopes. I want to connect and get to know people better. I have noticed that alcohol really doesn’t allow for the type of true human connection that I am seeking. In fact, in many cases it seems to be a barrier.
Not only is it hard to connect with people while they are drinking and you are sober, but they also start spending less time with you once they know you don’t drink anymore. When this first started happening to me I was very hurt and angry, but now I’m beginning to accept it.
Getting up at the equivalent of two in the morning in your home time zone is a lot easier without a hangover.
The plane back home leaves at 6:00 a.m. EST so we had to be up at 4:00 a.m., which is 2:00 a.m. MST. Almost every other time we have taken that flight I have been terribly hung over but not this time. I was tired when we finally arrived home but just a normal tired. I went to bed early and awoke feeling fine the next day. I actually felt refreshed after my vacation, even though it was only five days long - total. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone on a vacation and come home feeling refreshed. I used to need a couple days to recover from my heavy drinking. My body would usually feel beat up and my head foggy for a few days. This time I had a relaxing vacation and came back ready to return to the responsibilities of my life. I actually felt energized and renewed with a better attitude than I’ve had in a long time.
I spent years wasting time being afraid of quitting drinking. I thought life was going to be boring and I never thought I would be able to get through social situations without alcohol.
I was wrong. Life is so much richer now. Sometimes it’s boring, but I suppose everybody’s life is boring at times. In fact, instead of learning to be comfortable with those feelings, I suppose that’s why a lot of people drink and never really get to experience the true pleasures in life. On this vacation I experienced the joy of connecting on a deeper level with my husband and a few of his family members. I got to know them better and I also had the opportunity to show my true self. I felt happy and proud of myself for staying sober and discovering that I can function without alcohol. Even though my insecurities arose, once I welcomed and made peace with them, they dissipated and I danced!
I came back home refreshed and with an improved attitude and outlook on life. That really can’t be beat. In the beginning sobriety seems scary and insurmountable, but as time goes on and you face the fears, they fade away. It really is worth trying. Life comes with challenges. As you overcome them, life gets easier.