Saturday, 12 March 2016

Sober Long Haul

After a year off the booze, I'm finding that doing most things sober has become the 'new normal.'

But then, every now and again, you do something for the first time, and it's hard.

Yesterday was my first sober long haul flight, and in my mind, flying is totally connected to booze.

Firstly, there's the excitement of going away somewhere, or the misery of returning to reality - both of which really necessitate a drink.

Secondly, there's that whole 1950s PanAm glamour thing.

Even though flying has become more and more painful, what with all the sticking cosmetics in see through bags (why? Can you really bring down a plane with a mascara? And, if so, why does being able to see it make it less deadly?) and taking off belts and shoes, it still has that halo of sophistication, which goes nicely with a glass of bubbly.

And thirdly, however much you sort of get the whole science of lift and drag, and differential air speed over the curved wings, it still seems counter-intuitive that such a massive hunk of metal is going to stay in the sky.

Plus there's always that fear that your baggage is on an entirely different aeroplane, or that forty five minutes really isn't long enough for you to make your connecting flight.

A drink helps take the edge off that knot of anxiety.

So, I found not drinking on the flight really hard, and was acutely aware of the 'snap' of the lids of all those little miniature bottles of vino going off around me.

And you know what? Long haul flights feel really long when you're sober.

Everyone else had a drink after take off, and wine with lunch, then happily snoozed for a good long stretch. I, meanwhile, was wide awake for ten hours! It's almost impossible to doze in an economy seat without the anaesthetic of alcohol.

So I was a bit cross.

Then I reminded myself that for the last few years I'd found long haul flights really rather difficult.

I was convinced that BA had had an efficiency drive, and reduced the amount of wine they served on flights (I still have no idea if this was really the case, or if it was just me that had changed). Two of those teeny weeny bottles of wine were nowhere near enough on a long journey!

I used to get really edgy waiting for the interminably slow progress of the trolley down the aisle, and then, when I'd finally got my hands on, and finished, my allowance, I'd wrestle for hours with the dilemma of whether it was worth the embarrassment of asking the hassled stewardess for more...

It wasn't relaxing, or glamorous, or exciting any more. It was stressful!

So yesterday, although I was slightly annoyed, was so much easier. And I didn't arrive with that terrible dehydrated, groggy feeling. I bounced off the plane, all bright eyed and bushy tailed (in as much as that's possible at the age of forty seven).

And I know that the return flight will be that much easier. And eventually, sober long haul will feel entirely natural.

After all, it wasn't so long ago that I couldn't imagine a long haul flight without chain smoking! And doesn't that image belong in a whole different era?

(Didn't you meet the most interesting people in the smoking section of planes? Yet another corroboration of my theory that addicts are the best).

Now, here I am, sitting on my terrace, sipping green tea, watching the sun set over a turquoise Caribbean sea, and listening to the faint thwock of croquet mallets connecting with wooden balls on the perfectly manicured lawn below.

Thank you, thank you for all your comments on my last post! If the whole plan comes off it will be as much down to all of you as it is me.

You're awesome. In fact, everything is pretty awesome.

Love SM x


  1. That's a pretty great analogy. The ride to sobriety is bumpy but once you reach your sober destination (or destiny) it all proves to be well worth the ride. ENJOY! LNM x

  2. Well Jel! Have a lovely time! X

  3. A well deserved break SM. Have a fantabulously wonderful time. And if it's not fags and booze, it might as well be croquet! Us addicts like to put our heart and soul into whatever we do. That's part of our charm. So I fully expect to hear you're top of the Caribbean league before your return! Much love. SPB. xxx

  4. turns out that alcohol is a bit of a con really.....

  5. I used to love flying maybe it was the booze but now I'm quite anxious & have to white knuckle the whole flight but I wont let it stop me from traveling. As uou say at least we don't arrive dried up like a prune.

  6. I hear you!! I was only 9 wks sober when I flew to India and the first few hrs I was in pain. Watching that trolley go up and down, everyone drinking their drug of choice. The wine witch constantly saying, one won't hurt. After a fabulous 4 wk AF holiday, she was not there with me at all on the return leg. Have a wonderful holiday SM, you do so deserve it x.

  7. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Sleep, eat, read and rest lots cos it'll be back to the craziness soon enough. The start of the holiday will be the hardest and you know this cos you've done it. Weird how it can still be so hard sometimes but tbh I need to hear that sometimes otherwise I feel like I'm the only one struggling. Mostly it's great but there can still be times that the desire to drink (lots ie get steamboats) is overwhelming. But back to the old mantra. ... play it through to the red, take one day at a time, etc etc ....

    1. Awww! I was just puzzling through, thinking you'd popped some fun, new - perhaps casino-related- mantra! 'Play it through to the red...' Sounds good!

  8. Have a lovely holiday.. You deserve it!

  9. It's not the flying that bothers me, it's the airports. I always want my double vodka Bloody Mary, Bloody Hell! The only time I ever drank vodka or tomato juice was in an airport, usually because I was so damn hungover, I needed something to get on that flight. In a particularly cruel joke, a year ago, they were handing out free shots of Jack Daniels at the Duty Free Shop at the Cancun airport. And you have to pass through the Duty Free shop to get to the terminal at the Cancun Airport. I was traveling alone and no one would have ever known, Except me. Dammit and Thank God I'm so judgmental of myself. Enjoy your escape.

  10. Flying is a drag for sure - economy even more so - but if there's one place you really medically shouldn't drink it's on planes. Glad you felt great in the morning and are ready to enjoy your vacation - rather than be all grogged up from booze and dehydration.

  11. My worst drinking behaviors came out on airplanes. This is no longer the case for me. I fly sober and LOVE! I used to be terrified but now I love the sky, the clouds and traveling around the country. I no longer have to think about when the damn cart is heading my way or how much wine will I be able to consume. Thank God for these miracles!
    Boston Strong/Boston Sober

  12. Dear SM - great to hear you did sober flight. Sounds like and idyllic holiday already. Have a great time. You so deserve it. Looking forward to any sober holiday tips you can give me. Love SFM xxx

  13. Jealous much?! Ah but you deserve this holiday SO much. I don't fly much and when I do I'm zanxed and boozed up to the max. Find it horrendous. Haven't flown since given up wine but hope to. Sometime!
    Anyway, enjoy yourself, rest, relax, eat! Read lots. Swim. xxxxMtts