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!
I’d echo number 3 and say never go back to a previous destination- particularly if there was one, once, that was great, when your drinking was truly social. Consign that to past happy memories and, if you have to, concentrate on the last time drink ruined your holiday…never again. Pick one where there’s an activity that appeals to you and WHERE ALCOHOL IS IRRELEVANT; some fellow holidaymakers may enjoy a glass in its proper place but it’s an adjunct to the holiday, not the purpose. I’d tend to avoid good food/gourmet/cookery breaks too, sadly, as they tend to be too interwoven with alcohol tasting etc. Treat yourself, even if this means it’s a weekend not a cheapie week: a spa? learning a new skill? citybreak with copious sightseeing and coffee shops? By the end of 2016 I plan to have done all three .
Love these tips Felicity. A spa break is something I’ve been thinking about. I also love fitness holidays because you come home feeling great!
I have been on fun holidays with five star drinkers and it can get quite tiring. I now find a good way to deal with drinking friends and long sessions is to opt for alcohol free beers like Paulaner or Becks Blue. You really feel part of the crowd.
I’ve just been away on my first alcohol free holiday and it’s the first holiday EVER that I’ve arrived home feeling chilled out and thoroughly relaxed. Normally I need one when I get home and need a liver transplant. Trust me it’s not as bad as you might think. It’s good in fact and best of all I remember it all! X
Yes, holidays are meant to be relaxing – we shouldn’t come home feeling as if we need another one! Sounds as if you had a brilliant time Anna 🙂
I went to a rockabilly festival in Spain two years ago.
I usually go there every year and have loads to drink . I didn’t touch a drop and had great fun.
Sadly I went back on the booze a few months later.
Anyway I’m on My fifth week AF. I’m finding it ok, just feel a bit low sometimes when all my family drink to excess, I have to put up with their bullshit drink talk.
Love no hangovers and a clear head, would live to meet up with people in the same situation , tried AA a few times
And felt like a few drinks after the meetings, not for me but they really help a lot of folks.
Thanks for your blog.
The festival sounds great! Congratulations on your 5 weeks – I’m sure this will keep on getting easier for you.
Thanks for this, I go away on Saturday and it’s my first sober break so the timing couldn’t be better. I plan on really relaxing and enjoying my family instead of trying to fit in as much booze as possible. I’m thinking of taking some self help books as well to help keep me focused.
Taking some empowering and upbeat self-help books with you is a great idea. Enjoy your holiday – I’m sure you’ll have a great time!
Kate, I just wanted to thank you for another great post. I appreciate how you make sobriety fun.
Thank you Jennifer!
Great article. I started to get sober 6 weeks ago. Slipped twice and decided this is just not what I want! I’m enjoying all your tips and helpful advice.
Absolutely love these tips. I will be reading this blog over and over again on my upcoming vacation. Thanks
Great advice,everyone !
I have been a tee-totaller since January 1st,since I suffer from horrendous hangovers I decided to refrain from alcohol completely.
I am going on a break soon with my parents,who always have a bottle of wine or two with their evening meal.What I do is bring my own bottle of AF wine to the table – I have never found this a problem and I always ask politely if it’s OK.I find the”wine” relaxes me as I sip it slowly,as a lot about drinking alcohol is all in the mind,and the alcohol free stuff has some surprisingly therapeutic benefits!
I’m about to go on my first holiday without drinking. This is my first day alcohol free but I’ve been contemplating this decision for at least three years. One too many hangovers has pushed me to say enough now. The girls I’m going away with don’t know anything about my decision and I have no intention of mentioning it in case it makes them feel uncomfortable. I was going to just let them think I’m drinking if I can get away with it. Has anyone got any tips to help without having to say I’m on antibiotics etc as I’m sure someone will notice eventually. I really need the holiday to completely recharge my batteries without alcohol. I would be really grateful for any advice.
I’ve started to tell my friends that I think I am allergic to alcohol. It seems to be something they accept. I probably won’t get so many invites out, they will presume I don’t want to go.
I realised at the weekend that I just need to face up to the fact that I am a rubbish drinker. My husband and kids agree, I’m just boring and fall asleep before the evening even gets started. I’ve started to tell my friends that I think I am allergic to alcohol, I think they will stop inviting me to things thinking I don’t want to go. My husband can drink, but whilst he is supportive of me stopping it’s going to be hard with him sat next to me supping away. I have a big party and wedding coming up, can probably cope but annual holiday coming sooooooo non…. How will I not drink when every one else is? My friends and my husband will not be changing their routine on my account?? I need to slot in to theirs but sober and happy and not let people get on my nerves… Help….
Hi CG, I’d love to help you take a proper break from booze and stop this from being such a willpower game. Have you had a look at my online coaching programme? https://thesoberschool.com/course/
All the best,
Alcohol was seriously ruling our lives. My wife and I both now enjoy sobriety, being six months clean following detox/rehab.
Our previous holidays would always be ‘All Inclusive’. We were never fussed about location, nor dates, providing we got a cheap deal enabling us to virtually compensate the holiday cost with the amount of free booze we could consume.
We both appreciate we share this one dangerous alcohol trigger ‘All Inclusive Holiday’, which we can never book again.