Traveling the Straight and NarrowAugust 8, 2017
By: Mary R., Crossroads Recovery Blogger
One of many blessings in my recovery journey has been learning to travel sober all over again. What a great feeling to fully take in the experience of new places, people, sights, and tastes — and to actually remember them!
I didn’t like to take vacations when I was drinking. Not only were there the TSA rules about liquids in carry-ons, but the hassle of trying to buy alcohol in strange cities — and to find a place to drink it the way I wanted. And then I’d have to dispose of the empties at a hotel or a friend’s home, and worry about “evidence” I may have left behind. It was all so much work and all so darn complicated. It was so much easier to just stay home and drink.
Since getting sober about four and a half years ago, I’ve been on more than a dozen trips. Two really stand out for me because, by the grace of God, I was able to so clearly see how my life was changing and the promises were coming true!
When I was about five months sober, my husband and I went on a special trip to Italy. We had planned it for a long time to celebrate his 60th birthday. So with my Big Book and a plan to call my sponsor if needed, off we went to the land of my favorite beverage: wine.
The first few days went fine. While wine was served everywhere and with every meal, I was so engrossed in the sights and experience of new places that I resisted. Every night I went to bed grateful to be in this amazing place, and for one more day of sobriety.
But around Day 4, at a nice restaurant in Florence, it hit me. Like an out-of-body experience, I felt like I was floating above the scene where everybody was having fun but me. I spoiled our meal by complaining about everything, and my husband finally said quietly, “Let’s just go.” “Fine!” I said as I stomped back to our hotel room, where I shouted, slammed doors, and threw a temper tantrum because I “couldn’t” drink.
Not knowing what to do with me in this state, my husband said, “Do you want me to buy you a bottle of wine? It’s your choice, I won’t judge.” I stomped my foot and yelled “NO!” And in that moment, the desire to drink left me.
Flashing before me was the clarity of what we call “playing the tape forward.” The picture was clear: I’d drink the whole bottle. I’d want more in the morning. I would have to find a way to get it in a foreign city, have a purse big enough to hide it in, sneak it back to the room, and figure out how to do this for another week in Italy. Then, I’d have to endure a nine-hour plane ride without a drink. Back home, the whole thing would start again . . . and I didn’t want to go back to my old life, ever.
Fast forward to about 15 months sober. I was in Denver visiting my daughter to help plan her wedding, and we had a wonderful time. I was so grateful to really be there for her, doing what moms are supposed to do. On the day of my departure, my daughter took me to the airport — and I walked right past the old bar airport where I used to drink. I just smiled to myself about my new life.
At my gate, I learned that a snowstorm would delay my departure for about three hours. In the old days, that would’ve been a perfect opportunity to drink. But now, though I’d have to wait a few hours to be back with my husband, that was three more hours I could spend with my daughter! It occurred to me that being with the people in my life had become more important than finding time to get alone with alcohol. What a miracle and a gift of sobriety!
Sober travel has been a real eye opener for me, in more ways than I can count. I can go anywhere, and the world is open for me to explore with a joy, curiosity, and enthusiasm I’d never known.
Mary R. is a wife, mother, daughter, retired business owner, and recovering alcoholic. She shares her strength, hope, and experience so others may recover from the prison of addiction. When not volunteering for DLC or participating in 12-step meetings, she enjoys playing tennis, traveling, and trying out new recipes.