Over the past few months, I’ve gone out-of-town several times for birthdays, family events, and to visit old friends. Before I got sober, going on vacation meant I could guilt-free indulge in alcohol and let loose with no regrets (but I always had plenty of regrets.) Now, I’m always the only person in my family or friend group who isn’t drinking.
Needless to say, I have a lot of anxiety and doubt leading up to these trips. I worry that I’ll seem like a wet blanket, or that I won’t have any fun at all, or that I’ll be dragged to bars and parties and have to sit there and watch everybody drink. I get scared that my friends will think that I’m super lame now or that I’ve “changed.”
I will not lie to you and say that it’s super easy to go on vacation and be the odd one out when everybody is cheers-ing mimosas over brunch and ordering fancy drinks at dinner. However, I have a few tips that I think will help you survive your sober vacation based on my past experiences.
Let everybody know ahead of time that you’re not drinking, and that you’re serious. To avoid those awkward conversations and being put on the spot when you turn down a champagne toast or a beer, let your friends and family know that you will not be drinking on this trip beforehand. My suggestion is to not phrase it in a way that sounds like you’re temporarily cutting back or that you’re just not feeling well, etc. Tell them that you are sober. The times that I’ve beaten around the bush to come up with a less serious reason to turn down a cocktail are the times when people try to convince me to “just have one.”
Have a supply of coffee & energy drinks on deck. (Or whatever drinks you prefer!) Personally, I like to drink caffeine when I need a little pep in my step or to get in the mood to socialize. I make sure that I always have iced coffees or Red Bulls stacked whenever I’m out of town and need a quick pick-me-up. But if caffeine isn’t your thing, at least bring your own seltzer waters or juices. I also really like to drink hot tea at night when everybody else is drinking wine or whiskey to unwind.
Don’t be afraid to opt-out of drinking activities. There are plenty of things to do and see when you’re traveling that don’t involve drinking. I always have a good time shopping, sight-seeing, and eating at delicious restaurants during the day. The part that makes me uncomfortable is when everybody starts getting ready to hit the bars at night. I am very guilty of dressing up, showing up, and leaving really early to meet everybody else back at the house or hotel later…and that’s okay. You choosing not to drink is a healthy choice for YOU, and anybody who has a problem with that can buzz off.
Suggest non-drinking activities that are fun for everyone. Sometimes, it’s up to you to take the initiative and suggest doing something different that doesn’t involve drinking. My friends and family definitely like to party and their idea of fun is day drinking and bar-hopping. If I don’t suggest doing something like going to an aquarium or going bowling, they might assume that I just want to sit at a brewery and watch them drink (which I definitely don’t.) Take the time to do some research and find fun local things to do that don’t require alcohol to enjoy. They might actually thank you for it!
Remember that vacations are temporary, so make the best of it. Especially when you are newly sober, it’s very difficult to be thrown out of your normal routine and to be put in triggering situations. However, even if you’re having the worst time ever, you will eventually go home and be back in your comfort zone. Look at the bigger picture and don’t sacrifice your sobriety for a short-lived trip. Try to find joy in being in a new place, seeing new things, and being with people you don’t normally see all the time. Choose to indulge in the most disgustingly delicious food on the menu instead of cocktails. Buy a souvenir instead of a shot. Vacations are not all about alcohol, they just used to be for you.