When I first stopped drinking, something I really struggled to get my head around was the idea of not drinking on special occasions. Cutting out booze on a day-to-day basis was one thing, but staying sober for birthdays, weddings and – gasp – holidays?! That was different.
My annual holiday had always been a great excuse to drink a lot. After all, when you’re on the beach, it’s perfectly acceptable to open your first beer before lunch. And you can’t possibly order a soft drink from the pool bar, right?
It turns out that sober holidays can be absolutely bloody brilliant. Like everything else in sobriety, there’s a bit of adjustment at first. But it’s worth the effort to come home feeling rested, refreshed and able to remember every single moment.
If you’re planning your first sober trip this summer, here are 5 tips for a fabulous, alcohol-free break:
View this holiday as a chance to look after yourself.
A holiday should be a break from the daily grind and a chance for you to recover physically and mentally. Hangovers and heavy drinking make this virtually impossible. So rather than focusing on what you think you’re missing, concentrate on the benefits of being alcohol free: proper rest, relaxation and wellbeing. Now is the time to be pampered and treat yourself – remember, you’re saving lots of money by not drinking!
Get clear on what ‘fun’ really means to you.
We live in a culture that believes alcohol is key to having a good time, and therefore holidays can’t possibly be fun without booze. This is nonsense, of course. The way to stop yourself falling into the ‘I’m missing out’ trap is to get clear on what real fun looks like. Is it drinking in the midday sun and feeling so drunk you can’t concentrate on a book? Is it drinking so much that the next day, you can’t remember the ‘fun’ you had? Is it nursing a hangover in the heat, or hiding in your room? Is it ordering more alcohol to relieve your hangover, so you can get ready for more ‘fun’? Think about the last 10 or 20 times you drank. How much fun were you having, honestly? Are the beliefs you have about what equals fun actually true?
Be prepared to do something different.
When you were drinking, the chances are you designed your holiday around it. When you take booze out of the picture, you might find yourself wanting to do different things. That’s fine – don’t resist it. This is you working out what it is you genuinely like to do. So make sure you go somewhere that has more to offer than bars, beaches and clubs. Look for holidays that have lots of activities, sight-seeing opportunities, good restaurants or just nice places to sit and read a book.
Choose your companions carefully.
Whether you’re holidaying with friends or family, it’s an awful lot easier if you’re with people who have similar expectations of the trip. If, in previous years, you’ve been the one encouraging everyone to do shots until the early hours, then you might like to give people a heads up that things have changed! Managing expectations in advance is much easier than doing so once you’ve landed. It’s also really important to go away with people you genuinely like. Alcohol does a great job of blurring reality; without booze, it becomes much more obvious who you do and don’t get on with.
Take support with you.
Think about what it is that keeps you on track when you’re at home. Books, podcasts and your favourite drinks are all easy to pack. If online help is a big part of your support system, make sure you’re able to get online whilst you’re away. Think about the other parts of your daily routine that you’ve come to depend on. Do you just have to have a certain drink at 5pm? Do you exercise or meditate daily? Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference and there’s no need to stop doing this stuff just because you’re away.
Got a great tip to share?
I’d love to hear your advice and experiences in the comments section. Happy holidays!