Let me get this straight. You want me to wake up at 5AM without a hangover, pack up a rental car with suitcases responsibly packed a day or more in advance, then drive 3 hours through the beautiful terrain of the Hudson Valley until I reach a cozy bed and breakfast in a house built in the 1870’s? Fine. I can do all that.
I suppose you also want me to stroll lightheartedly through the quaint vacation town, browsing antiques and old bookstores for hours on end, and I also suppose you’d like me to do all of that without spending a moment plotting, scheming, or obsessing over how I can convince the boyfriend that 10AM isn’t at all too early for a celebratory glass of something.
You’d like me to luxuriate luxuriously on cafe terraces while sipping espresso and eating a delicious, flaky pastry filled with tangy, tart lemon curd, chewing slowly, not wanting the mouth orgasm to end, watching the peaceful wanderers wander by in pursuit of the same contented Sunday afternoon.
And finally, you’d like me to end the day with a delectable meal at a lovely restaurant, all without having chugged a tallboy before leaving the house. You’d like me to decline the wine list, only order stupid food, and leave completely satisfied with what was one of the best meals I’ve ever had? Then you’d like me to cuddle up with the boys, watch movies, and drift off to sleep by 10PM, waking up by 6AM the next morning fully rested and hangover free, ready to start another day of peace and tranquility without the constant chaotic chase of that next sip, that next dip into a dive for a whisky/beer combo to propel me forward miserably.
You want me to have a sober vacation, but more importantly, you want me to LIKE IT?
That’s exactly what I did over Memorial Day Weekend.
It was marvelous.
I took this very same trip in the fall of 2013. It was a disgusting mess. I packed the very morning we left because I was too drunk the night before to get anything productive done. I drove with a pounding headache, not feeling normal until we made it to our destination and were able to grab lunch (a beer with a side of sandwich). I stumbled through the day, counting down the hours until dinner would arrive and heavier drinking could begin. Fuck antiques. Fuck strolling. Fuck serenity. Me want vodka. ME WANT DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.
In 2013, we made stops at liquor stores all weekend long, him sitting in the car while I ran in to buy large bottles of things for us both to drink, as well as mini-bottles he didn’t know about that were just for me. The minis would be stashed in my suitcase so I could stealthily sneak away, downing a few here and there, hoping to keep the levels in the “public” alcohol bottles located in the kitchen from dropping down too quickly, thus concealing the true quantities I was actually consuming. Side note: These empty minis would be found one year later in the same suitcase as I packed for another trip. I would sneak them out of the house to the trash, the shame flooding back as fresh as ever.
That trip in 2013 was total misery. I was in a constant state of sloppy, painful drunkenness peppered with extended periods of sloppy, painful hangover. The drunks and the hangovers blended seamlessly with one another until I was never able to tell if I was okay or not okay. Nothing was enjoyable.
When we returned home that year I felt as if I had been through hell. I needed another vacation to recover. And drink more.
I DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN.
I can live. I can stare at the sky and smile. I can savor time, tastes, smells. I can become consciously aware of sun on my face, of the antiquity and inevitable history built into old objects that I hold in my hand. I can feel the goosebumps running down my spine as my boyfriend grabs my fingers and squeezes while we wander down cobblestone streets, stopping for extended moments to admire the architecture and manicured gardens.
Before I got sober, and even for some time after I put down the drink, this all seemed impossible. During early sobriety I could hardly comprehend watching a movie on Friday night without a cocktail. I’m supposed to SIT? Stare? Watch? That’s IT? You must be out of your goddamned mind.
But I made myself sit there and watch the movie. It sucked. It still sucked the next time I did it, too, but less so. The only way anything started to make sense again was by LIVING. Experiencing. Trying. Being uncomfortable without grabbing for my medicine. When they tell you not to give up before the miracle happens, that actually MEANS something. Actively choosing to endure the discomfort when every cell in your body is screaming for a drink? That makes you stronger. That is lifting weights with your sobriety muscles. It hurts. You’ll be sore the next day. But you’ll never get stronger without it.
If you’re struggling, just know that with some time and effort, you too can be the most boring person in the Hudson Valley. You’ll love it.
Well written! Hopefully one day I will be that boring person on vacation…
Sounds like heaven 🙂 And we thought drinking was fun!
I freaking love you and I love this post. Day 2 for me. Last year my Outer Banks vacation sucked balls because I was drunk and hung over and blacking out. SUCKED! I too want to be boring like you!
My heart lifts when I see there’s a post from you. This one is as brilliant as ever. Thank you,
man, life is good, ain’t it?!
This is exactly what I needed to hear today 🙂 Thank you.
Your post highlights everything that is awesome about a sober life, and your description of a drunk vacation is painfully on point for me…thank you thank you thank you for this post!
Sobriety feels sooooooo good!
I love that you don’t ever have to do the 2013 vacation again. Keep being inspirational xx
Another great post but most importantly it’s so wonderful to read how great you’re doing. I just celebrated one year of sobriety. The road was long and treacherous but now I experience the “miracle” of living everyday. I’m taking in the moments, noticing things about a place I’ve lived for nearly 20 years that I never saw before, through clear sober eyes. It’s a wonderful life and I’m so happy that you are living it too. Carry on beautiful soul!
I LOVE this! I am looking forward to being the most boring person in Atlantic City and Wildwood this summer 🙂
I’m the most boring person in Cape May! So, I’d like to think you’ll be in good company or at least close proximity! Enjoy the summer!
This was just absolutely beautiful.
Love this. I took my first sober Vacation to Mexico on the beach in January and was dreading it. It was the first time in seven years I have been sober in Mexico, and I think only. It was also amazing. so much to do eat and experience. Glad you had such a good time.
Simply. Amazing. So happy for you!!!
Love this. And so perfect for right now as I just finished packing for a 4 day self-supported bicycle trip in which it might (s…t!!!) rain for some of the days. The scenario before would be me upstairs with husband pretending to be all calm and cool while my head freaks out that it can’t stand it and how in gods name am I gonna fit 4 days worth of stuff in this LITTLE bag. So I’d better run downstairs and do a big shot of vodka and then a shot of orange juice to mask the smell (right, like that ever works). Then come back up pretending to be the calm one in the situation. Then come back downstairs under the guise of getting some more ziploc bags for our stuff and do another shot (yes, this will make sure that I forget at least 2 things and get to have a misery fest in the car and find somewhere to buy them on the way to the meeting spot). Then spend at least half of my waking hours of the trip thinking about what I’m going to drink when I finally arrive at the nightly lodging destination. Worrying that my friends will notice that slightly desperate look while I try not to gulp the first glass in a minute. Wishing I could have 3, fighting with myself to have 2. On and on. The scenario now is that I actually enjoyed the process of packing and helping my husband pack. Everything seems so much easier. It is like swimming slowly up from the bottom of a pool, this process of healing from alcohol. I never knew how much more anxious and stressed I was from the physical effect of daily alcohol until I stopped for months. Stopping for weeks here and there felt better but the anxiety was still there. My memory is working again; that really helps. It took a significant period of time for the brain to heal (9 months next week). The difference is amazing and so worth it. But you nailed it on the head John. The experience of enjoying the things I used to think were ordinary or too boring to be tolerated without alcohol is an almost daily shock. (Enjoy folding towels? WTF!) And to feel a rush of joy at normal activities like watching a movie or getting a new book to read–haven’t felt that for nearly 20 years. I just want to say thank you, and I love your posts.
Great post – hit the nail on the head for me. We have just come back from our two week holiday – which i had crippling hangovers for at least half of the trip. My birthday hangover was the straw that broke the camels back. I haven’t drunk since – only eight days but already sleeping so much better. Just have to stop drinking its wrecking my life. To keep going – I have the inspiration, humour and wise words of your blog behind me which I have been reading (and thinking about) for months.
Aww Leslie that was beautiful to read. John, I’m so proud of your soberness. It really is easier as time goes by and comparing the nows & thens is a great confidence builder.
Next month I’ll celebrate 4 years as an unchained soul….simply put, it’s been a challenge at times, but oh what a much better way to live.
I love your voice. I love your humor. I almost spit my coffee out on my own Day 7. Thanks for this.* I love how boring you are.
I really identify with this post except for the boyfriend sticking around part. Mine left three months into my sobriety. That was more than two years ago. At the time, his abandonment was just one more pile of shit to trudge through (sometimes poop comes in piles) on top of an unexpected and unrelated job loss. It’s taken me those two-plus years to fully accept that I’m better off without someone who was too immature and selfish to support me in my greatest time of need. However, though many might speculate that I’m stronger for having walked through the storm alone, I can’t help feeling that it probably would have been a greater comfort to have had the support of a loving partner. I’ve no doubt you’re grateful for the support and love your boyfriend has so selfishly delivered. Cherish him.
Thanks so much for bringing into focus exactly what a drunk vacation is. I’m new to sobriety and our family vacation to a Mexican resort is going to be a challenge. When we booked it, I was specifically thinking of the all-inclusive drinks and how much “fun” it would be. Really, it would have turned into a nightmare of drinking too much, feeling like crap, and not even really being present with my family — I’d be in my own alcoholic fog. It is so helpful to read stories from others who have successfully made it through the exact same struggles.
That’s awesome! I’m so grateful to be sober today & to not have to do that anymore! Glad you had an amazing sober vacay! Wishing you many more!
Thanks for sharing your experience, strength, & hope!