"Would you like a drink before dinner?" the stewardess asked as she passed through the cabin. By then, I was already buzzed from a couple of eight percent beers in the lounge before boarding. When I politely smiled and ordered red wine, I knew as many more glasses as I wanted would be poured over the course of the flight. The freedom of knowing I had unlimited access to "free" alcohol without being bothered by emails and phone calls was almost better than the drinking itself.
Back then, I thought it would be the worst thing in the world not to take advantage of the free-flowing drinks on flights. Now, several months into my recovery from 30+ years of alcohol addiction, I realize freedom is probably the last word I would use to describe traveling in this bondage of booze.
You see, I had to get drunk on the flight. Otherwise, it wouldn't be fun, my mind told me. This "fun" usually led to a stop at the nearest airport bar once off the plane, a foggy Uber ride to the hotel, and then more drinks at the lobby bar before going to a liquor store to have the necessary inventory to polish off the night nearly passed out watching YouTube videos of my favorite '80s rock bands in concert.
My career had always "required" lots of drinking – be it hosting customer parties on the beach or hanging out after hours with professional colleagues and cohorts. I could justify it in so many ways, and I was more than able to function in this liquor-filled lifestyle – in fact, it actually fueled me to work harder and achieve more, so I could drink more! But by the end of it all, I was more than just a slave to the disease. I was miserable unless my mind was focused on the drinking that was to come during the day. The addiction controlled my moods, my mind, and, most of all, my relationships.
How do we break these destructive habits – which used to be fun – but are now burdensome? Form new, healthier ones minus the madness of alcohol and drugs? I would argue we cannot do it alone. In my case it was only with professional help from the trained physicians and psychologists, compassionate counselors, and a deep dive into my past so that I could begin to see a future without the "freedom" of drinking.
It’s now been several months since I left treatment, and in the early days of my recovery, one of my biggest apprehensions was traveling, which had become so synonymous with drinking for me. With the help of counselors, I’ve begun to recapture the joy of travel, minus the booze. Here’s what is working for me at the moment:
1. Look around and see who is really drinking at the airport
I used to think everyone around me was drinking, so I’d better not be the only person not boozing it up! What a lie my mind was telling me. I look around the airport now and see five percent or less of the people drinking at the bar. The rest seem quite happy doing anything else but drinking. Since I no longer want to be intoxicated, it feels good knowing I’m not missing out on something everyone else is doing.
Sounds simple for sure. But when drinking, those of us professionals have learned how to stay full on booze and not put any food in us so as not to mess up our stomachs or our buzz. Plus, grub never sounded good when the next beer was nearby. Now, I must say food has such a better taste to it than ever before! I can actually enjoy a good avocado wrap or a pastrami sandwich and not feel bad I’m adding more calories on top of the alcohol or killing a buzz. Who knew?
3. Stay mindful of what matters most
I have so many things I’m interested in when traveling. I enjoy walking around the airport, working on my laptop or phone, keeping up to date on my fitness and fantasy sports apps and news feeds, watching Netflix, and reading books on kindle to name just a few. When I used to combine these activities with alcohol, it stole the joy away from them. This carried into all parts of my life, to the point it was only the alcohol that mattered. My worry that life wouldn’t be fun anymore actually turned into understanding my life wasn’t as fun as I thought with the booze. In fact, it’s better now than ever before, which I never would have believed had I not seen it for myself!
Hopefully the above tips can help you recover your joy in traveling when new to the world of recovery. I know for me there’s no better joy than waking up each morning knowing I’m experiencing real life rather than trying to manufacture added fun with alcohol on the road.
So when the stewardess now asks me, "What would you like to drink?" I still politely smile...then I say "Sparkling water, please."