NOTE: This is my own personal experience with sober travel. This may not work for your program of recovery. Please discuss any and all areas of this topic with your sponsor!
When I was newly sober, I asked my sponsor, a Dublin-born Irishman, if I was ever going to be able to travel again. After all, as I quickly followed up, how would I be able to tour Ireland and not have a pint at the pub? At that point, sober travel seemed like an impossibility to me! Eventually, I would find a place in my recovery that not only allowed for a full travel schedule, but I enjoyed many Irish pubs as well!
Comfortable in My Own Skin
One of the key parts of my sobriety is feeling comfortable in my own skin. I can be me, without trying to change myself to fit what others THINK I should be. Before you go rushing off to the nearest pub, ask yourself how you feel about your program. For myself, I came to a turning point along my path when I had to go on my first sober business trip.
After almost a year of working a solid program with my sponsor, I found myself alone in a city in another state. No one knew me here. In all probability, nothing I did was ever going to make it back to my hometown. None of my family or friends (or even coworkers) would ever know if I went down to the lobby bar and had a cocktail.
Of course, I would know.
I found myself at a place where I knew I was honest enough with myself to know that I felt comfortable inside. What I needed to know was that I could handle myself from the outside as well!
A Solid Program is the
Foundation for Sober Travel
I always wanted to fit in! When I did a searching and fearless 4th step, I found that a primary cause of my drinking was fear of not being a part of the crowd. This part of my personality led me to resentment for not being ‘cool enough’ to be a part of whatever group I was with at the time. I had a fear of being left out! I never wanted to stand out!
The key to sober travel is knowing that you are who you are. Your program is strong enough to not be bullied by those fears. You have a strong enough program to confidently refuse kind offers with grace. Most importantly, you give yourself an out. At the first sign of not feeling comfortable, you give yourself permission to leave.
Of course, there’s no need to walk into a pub and announce that you are not going to drink. In all probability, no one will even notice you are not! (Trust me, they don’t notice at all!)
Sober Travel is About Trusting Yourself
If I had gone to the Irish pub or the Italian restaurant early in sobriety, I would not have had the strength to know that I was enough. I would not have been able to step back and enjoy the experience without thinking I was missing out.
Truth: You are missing SOME of the experience. There’s no way to get around it, you will not know what the pint at the Irish pub tastes like. The pairing of handmade Italian pasta with a lovely Chianti will pass you by.
Those things are a small price to pay for sitting under the stars on a warm Florence evening, people watching while enjoying a great meal.
My recovery is strong enough to trust myself. I see the world through the lens of “what I get to do” rather than “what I am missing out on”. That was a MAJOR shift in my perspective gained through the program. I don’t need to do things just to fit in with the crowd. The crowd does not care!
An Offer You Cannot Refuse
Have I been put in a position where drinks were ‘obligatory’? Absolutely. I’ve been in a restaurant where the owner poured me a tall glass ‘on the house’ without asking. In eastern Europe, they pour booze in your coffee cup, assuming that you want it that way! That said, I find that my recovery is strong enough to let me confidently decline the offers! You will not offend them! Even if you do, they will get over it… while your sobriety will not.
Before your first sober travel adventure, ask yourself, “Do I really trust myself?” If you begin to feel uncomfortable, will you extract yourself from the situation? Will you always plan an ‘out’? Do you put your sobriety over the perceptions of people you have never met and most likely will never see again?
If you can answer a solid yes to all of those, then you may be ready to hit the road!
NOTE: Also keep your sponsor’s contact information close. In these days of instant global communication, they will be more than happy to take your call no matter what time it is!