Monday, 9 April 2018

How to survive your first alcohol-free holiday

This is a blog I wrote a week ago when I was on holiday...

I’m writing this blog from my first alcohol-free holiday with friends. It’s 6.30am and I’m up with my first cup of coffee looking out across the ocean watching the monkeys play on the beach, willing them not to come any closer to me (but more about that later), while everyone else sleeps. I am truly loving my first sober holiday but there are some big differences between this holiday and every other holiday I've been on since I was around 17.
My blog writing spot

Embracing the daytime

As I’ve morphed into a booze-free person it has started to dawn on me (you’ll get this metaphor in a second!) that I am an early bird, not a night owl. I would much rather be in bed before ten and be up before seven. This seems to have spilt over into my holiday routine. It’s quickly become apparent that I’m working on a different time scale on this holiday to all of my friends. When I’m leaping out of bed enthusiastically at 6am, my mates are still snoring away. On the flip side, when my friends are revved up to take the party to the next level, I am stifling yawns and sneaking off to bed.

The downside to this has been that when I decided to take on the monkeys who were smashing bottles outside our room at 6am yesterday, there was no one around to save me as I became surrounded by the little f**kers, snarling and flashing their teeth. It appears monkeys don’t like being told what to do and when you piss off one monkey, the whole tribe will come to their aid. Unfortunately, my tribe weren’t available to help me so I had to defend myself!

The bottle-smashing monkeys

Expelling the fear

Now that I don’t drink, the breakfast buffet has become a far more pleasurable experience. This is because I can enjoy it without a splitting headache and cringe-worthy memories from the night before flashing back to me. Now I no longer have the fear, I can look everyone in the eye with absolute certainty that I didn’t embarrass myself in front of anyone the night before. Hopefully I come across as a far warmer person now as I am able to greet people with a smile and a cheery ‘good morning’. 

Committing to anything

Over the past three alcohol-free months, I have gradually realised just how many things I wouldn’t have committed to in the past, knowing that I would be too hungover the next day to cope. I feel a little sad thinking about all the things I have passed up on doing and the opportunities I’ve missed thanks to debilitating hangovers. However, this holiday it has been exhilarating to find that I am able to commit to being up early and, for example, going diving in the morning, safe in the knowledge that I will be clear-headed and raring to go.

Sitting out on the fringes

While during the day on the holiday I have felt very much part of the crowd, once the alcohol starts flowing, there is a noticeable change. I move from being part of the group to looking in from the periphery. When you have played out your entire adult life as one of the chief instigators of drunken debauchery, it feels unfamiliar and abnormal to no longer belong to that group. To be honest, I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity and I’m not entirely comfortable yet with this new sensible, calm, less extrovert character that is emerging. 

Becoming an observer

Without alcohol I have become an observer rather than a participator. I have witnessed the standard loss of volume control, the incoherent and repetitive conversations, the meandering stumbles home, the loss of use of limbs, the collapsing and being incapable of getting back up, the sound of alcohol-induced vomiting and the screaming rows. I’m really not commenting on this judgmentally as I have pretty much ticked all of these boxes on various booze-fuelled holidays in the past. However, it is a great relief that I am now watching the mayhem unravel rather than being one of the centrepieces of the carnage. 

Saving money

Finally, I have spent very little so far on my holiday as I’m predominantly drinking water, with the odd calamansi juice or fruit shake when I’m really pushing the boat out! Knowing I have saved a lot of money by being sober has made it easier for me to justify taking my PADI Enriched Air Diver qualification so that I can dive for longer on nitrox. So, I will come away from this holiday with something of value, rather than a pair of sore kidneys - win/win!

Overall, would I want to change my first alcohol-free holiday? Abso-bloody-lutely NOT! OK, so there has been the odd moment where I haven’t felt as though I have slotted into the group as comfortably as I would have done, had I been drinking too. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh this minor negative, which is far more about me getting used to my new normal than anything else. I just need to stay patient as I know that sooner or later I will acclimatise to being this more reserved, less chaotic version of me.

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  1. Well done you. I'm three months in as well (100 days tomorrow) and everything is great but I am quieter at parties and more of an observer. Perhaps this isn't a bad thing. I now see the effect of alcohol on those around me who I though had a grip on their drinking and it reaffirms that there is no moderation.

    1. Well done on 100 days - that’s fantastic. I’m a bit torn about being an observer. I am really missing not being part of everything but I am totally not missing the consequences of that. Whenever I feel myself waiver I just have to bring myself back to how utterly rubbish alcohol made me feel. Keep up your great work. 😊

  2. Really enjoyed your blog thank you,my first sober holiday is looming large.i am going to Cyprus with my family.I will be 18 months sober in August when we go,looking forward to being present, not making excuses to disappear and drink .Also feeling nervous but expected I think Thanks again


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