By Peggy Spear
Original Source: soberinfo.com
Several years ago, during one of my unsuccessful tries to stay sober, my four best friends went on a Girls Weekend together and didn’t invite me. They didn’t even do me the favor of turning down the invitation. I was heartbroken, and the ensuing fallout did irreparable harm to our relationships. They are no longer my best friends, a gut-wrenching development.
Later I found out they thought they were doing the right thing by keeping me out of temptation’s way. After all, their trip to Lake Tahoe was going to be a wine-fueled getaway from the stresses of family life. They figured I wouldn’t have wanted me to be in temptation’s way. It was thoughtful of them, but the secret way they went about it still hurt.
If I’m honest with myself, I would have had a horrible time. I was newly sober, but still not committed to embracing my own sobriety as a way of life. I hadn’t yet accepted that I have a disease, an allergy that can’t be cured. So it was inevitable that I drank again – partly due to the pain I felt by losing my friends.
It’s different today. I have embraced my disease and accepted my alcoholism. I am an addict, and I need to steer clear of “slippery slopes.” Luckily, that doesn’t mean that I have to avoid hanging out with – and traveling with – people who drink normally (“Normies”). I can be involved in book groups, birthday parties, women’s get togethers, concerts and even travel, from weekend getaways to the mountains to Cabo. I have tools now that I can use.
Traveling is probably the hardest thing for a sober person to do with drinkers, but I have a few ideas on how to make the experience rewarding and fun for everyone – especially the non-drinker. Here are seven suggestions.
1. Find AA or NA meeting schedules for where you are going, and try to hit one. A good time would be when the others break out the wine or cocktails for Happy Hour. There is nothing as unique and even fun as experiencing a meeting in a different locale, and realizing no matter where you go, alcoholics are the same. I’ve been to meetings in Mexico and New Orleans’s French Quarter, far from my northern California home, and felt just as comfortable and welcomed there as I did in my homegroup.
2. If you don’t want to miss the fun of Happy Hour, bring your own special non-alcoholic drink. My favorite is Diet Coke and grenadine, an old-fashioned “skinny” Roy Rogers. In these columns, I’ve also often talked about the tastiness of Torani or other flavored syrups in soft drinks or sparkling water. The bubbles seem to make the drink more festive, and I don’t miss my old champagne guzzling days.
3. If you are going out for Happy Hour, explain to the server that you are allergic to alcohol and ask the bartender to make you a non-alcoholic mocktail. Many bartenders will happily accommodate that and come up with something delicious.
4. Plan a walk, jog or workout if you don’t want to be around other people who are drinking. If you are away from home in a beautiful spot, this is a great time to explore.
5. Talk about your alcoholism with your friends. Let them know that their drinking doesn’t bother you, but that sometimes you must exercise self-care to strengthen your program. You might be surprised by the support you receive.
6. Take your own car, and arrive late – or even the next day – if you expect heavy drinking and you think you will be bothered by it. I have a friend in AA whose book club routinely goes away for a rowdy weekend. She enjoys the women and wants to be part of it, but she knows that the first night they arrive is ruled by alcohol. So she avoids it and arrives early the next day, when she can enjoy the more low-key remaining part of the weekend. Try to know your limits.
7. Practice self-care before, during and after your trip. Catch a meeting before you go, and plan on purchasing something special for yourself during the trip. Then plan something nice for your return – a massage, mani-pedi, special evening out with your significant other.
There is one other option: You can choose not to go. Sometimes our FOMO gets the best of us and we feel like we’ll miss out – or that people are talking about us if we’re not there. Chances are, if the idea of time away with drinking friends is too worrisome, it’s not worth going, yet. There will always be a next time. One of my former best friends just asked if I wanted to plan a girls’ getaway. I said yes.
Peggy Spear is a writer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area.