two bottle of Curiosity Cola on a table with window in the background

Why sober holidays are better

I’m just in the middle of cleaning the fridge-freezer with the radio on, singing loudly and badly to some great music 😆 This is a job I've been putting off for months! The reason I'm getting on top of it now is I'm off on holiday tomorrow and booked the day off work today so I could get everything sorted without any rush or pressure...

My bag is packed, my shopping list is done, my fridge-freezer will be clean, my bathroom is sparkling and I have fresh bedding on the bed. When I was young and rebellious, I would have laughed scornfully if you'd have told me coming home to a clean house would become important to me! But it has and I'm enjoying myself getting everything ready and cleaned.

My only challenge today is to entertain the dog for a couple of hours this afternoon... but that will turn out fun too!

This is about my fourth/fifth holiday since I stopped drinking and there is such a massive difference between my experience now and the first time I did it that I thought it worth sharing in the hope that it helps you feel more confident about doing it too.

It can help boost your confidence when you know that each time you do something new sober, it might be stressful, but the more times you do it, the more natural and easy it becomes. No matter how anxiety-inducing it is initially, it just gets easier. Eventually, you stop thinking about alcohol completely. Whether that's going out with friends, a meal with a partner or a full-blown holiday, practising it sober leads to confidence sober.

What has sparked this thought off was when I dug out two little bottles of Curiosity Cola from my smelly fridge:

I picked them up and thought, "Ooh, these will make a nice treat one evening while I’m away." I had visions of my partner enjoying a couple of beers and me treating myself to a cold cola.

And, there's the difference right there! As I was preparing for my first holiday sober, I was anxious rather than excited. I didn't know how I was going to cope with socialising. I was scared of having anxiety attacks without my reliable "medicine" to help me. I was worried I was going to be no fun and that people would realise I was the most boring person in the world. I felt like the “ugly truth" about me would come out without alcohol to hide behind. I was putting lots of energy into planning and preparing to ensure sober success and I certainly wouldn’t have had the headspace to get excited about two little bottles of cola!

Now, today, all that's happening is I'm looking forward to the journey, I'm getting excited about the coastal walks and I'm anticipating lots of rest and relaxation. I'm also looking forward to spending lots of time training and playing with the dog. We might even find some dog-friendly restaurants and enjoy some good food. Alcohol or the absence of it is not even a thought process.

Even better, I will have amazing memories and photos to look back on and smile about.

It takes some courage to do your first holiday sober but those of us who have had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol have courage by the bucket-load. We don't often think of it that way when we're in the clutches of that relationship but we have so much courage:

  • the courage to drag ourselves through each day
  • the courage to keep drinking even though we know it’s making us ill because we (mistakenly) believe we need it to survive
  • the courage to slow our drinking down, to monitor it, to create rules around it
  • the courage to keep going in the face of adversity
  • the courage to function through our hangovers
  • the courage to do things that scare us
  • the courage to pretend we’re okay when we’re not – all the acting, all the brave-faces we have had to use

Just think for a moment that all these things you have done through your relationship with alcohol have required a high level of tenacity, resilience and courage. When you reframe it like this, you definitely have the tenacity, resilience and courage to do your first evening sober, your first social event sober, your first family meal sober, your first wedding sober, your first holiday sober.

You have more courage than you might have given yourself credit for. Whatever has happened, no matter how painful, you’ve handled it. I’m not saying well or badly, just that you’ve handled it. Knowing that whatever happens, you can handle it and knowing you have all the courage you need to do what you’ve been feeling anxious about can make you feel more confident about approaching new situations sober.

My holidays sober are completely different to when I was drinking.

When I was drinking, all I would have been thinking about were the opportunities to get wasted. I would have been counting down the minutes between drinking sessions and the bits in between would have been a messy blur of hangovers, shame, anxiety attacks and paranoia. I used to be scared to look back at holiday photos because I didn’t know what version of myself I’d see reflected back at me.

Sober, I take pleasure in small things like paddling in the sea or climbing to the top of a mountain with amazing views. I enjoy a quieter and more peaceful appreciation of these things. I also get to meet new people, enjoy conversations, avoid embarrassment and feel confident being my authentic self whether I’m in shy mode or sociable and outgoing mode. And, I get to remember EVERYTHING!

Although it might not feel like it at first, you have the courage to do this too. The first holiday might just be about realising you can survive without alcohol. You might hide away a bit more than usual, you might avoid situations that are too challenging and you might have to do some preparation and planning to make sure you manage things well. But when you can return home without shame and guilt, feeling good about yourself because you did it, you end up with higher levels of self-respect and self-confidence that’s gone up a couple of notches as a result. Your next holiday might be about rediscovering yourself, becoming braver, having more fun and putting yourself out there more. Each time you practise enjoying a holiday sober, you’re retraining your brain and making it easier for the next time.

And, then suddenly, there you are, singing at the top of your voice to the radio as you pack. You’re getting excited about the journey ahead, all the activities you’re going to enjoy and you’re anticipating coming home to a clean house. And, you’re not thinking about alcohol at all. It just doesn’t feature anywhere in your feelings or thoughts.

The sooner you get practising, the sooner you reach this amazing place of anything being possible when you’re living life alcohol-free.


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