Monday, 25 July 2016

SM's Guide to Sober Summer Holidays

The British summer holidays are officially here, as evidenced by the fifteen hour traffic jams outside the ferry port of Dover this weekend.

We enthusiastic drinkers often fret a lot about doing a summer holiday sober.

Summer holidays are totally connected in our minds with images of sipping (did I say sipping? Who am I kidding?) glasses of chilled white wine outside a Greek Taverna, drinking cocktails while dancing to dodgy holiday tunes, or rediscovering the romance over a shared bottle of champagne.


And the thing we really loved about summer holidays was the Summer Holiday Rules which, in my case, went something like this:

1. It's fine to drink as much as you want every evening because you're on holiday!

2. It's okay if you get drunk and behave really badly, because you can run away in a week or two leaving all those memories behind you.

3. It doesn't matter if you wake up with a terrible hangover, and are unable to do anything much for most of the day, because there's nothing you have to do anyway.

4. It's fine to drink at lunch time (every day), because that's totally normal behaviour in the Mediterranean.

5. It doesn't matter if 'lunch time' starts at about 11am, because you're on 'holiday time'.

So, summer holidays are dangerous times.

It's really easy to fall off the waggon because the wily old wine witch starts saying something like this:

Oh for f***s sake, you're on HOLIDAY! You deserve a drink or two. You've done so well! You proved you can do it, so you can do it again. Just drink while you're away. What goes on tour stays on tour, right? I won't tell anyone if you don't. You can quit THE MOMENT you leave. Or maybe the moment you get back (a drink or two on the 'plane would be nice ;-)).

Please don't listen. Because it won't work like that. You won't give up the minute you get back because it'll be too hard.

You'll feel down because of all the booze, and because you're back to reality, holiday over. You'll put it off for another few days, then another, then another.

Chances are it'll take a few months before you manage to re-gather all the strength and determination you need to quit again, and this time it'll be harder. It always is. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

The truth is that summer holidays without booze can be way better. Honestly.

Think about it. What are holidays really for?

They're for recharging the batteries, physically and emotionally, exploring new places, doing new things and reconnecting with family and/or friends. Right?

And all of those things are much easier to do sober than when you're endlessly drinking.

So, here are my top tips for having a fabulous, sober summer holiday:

1. Prepare.

Write a list of all the things you want to get out of your holiday, and remind yourself why they'll be easier to do sober.

Often the 'getting there' is the most stressful part of the holiday, so make sure you have your favourite alcohol free drink to hand for when you arrive.

(I always take a stash of Beck's Blue with me, but last year arrived at our rented cottage to discover there was no bottle opener. I ran around like a mad thing bashing my bottle over rocks, trying to dislodge the cap. This year I'm taking my own).

2. Love the mornings

Waking up in a beautiful place with no hangover, full of energy, and with no work to do is awesome!

So I go to bed pretty early on holiday and wake up shortly after dawn. The world is sleeping, it's just you and the birds, and that's the time when magic happens....

3. Look after yourself

Sober holidays are a great time to really recharge your body and soul.

Eat wonderful fresh food from the market. Get lots of exercise and fresh air. Take up yoga and/or meditation. You'll come home feeling (and looking) a million dollars, not all toxic and depressed.

(Try the yoga videos on YouTube, and the Headspace App for meditation. You'll feel much less of a pillock going all New Agey on a beach than you do in your kitchen at home).

4. Coping with cravings

The hardest times are when you're in a situation when you'd usually be drinking - like sitting outside a café, watching the sun set without a glass of wine.

So, if you get hit by a major craving, take yourself off as soon as you can, and do something that you do not associate with booze. Go swimming. Take a walk. Do that yoga. Have a nap. It'll pass....

5. Know the wine witch

You know what she's going to say (see above) at some point, or at several points during your vacation, so be prepared. Know what to say back. Know it's all lies.

But, the main thing, is to have a wonderful time. You've truly earned it.

Love SM x


  1. Yes SM! I am just back from a lovely week in Northern Spain (via the Isle of Lewis) and my best bit, was waking up one morning before Himself and the boys to see the sunrise above the bay. it was wonderful. We swam in the sea, snorkeled, sailed, hiked round Cap de Creus and laughed a lot. Not drinking = winning at holidays.

  2. You described my drinky holidays perfectly! I've managed one short break booze free and am already preparing for a two week break later in August! Good tips. thanks x

  3. Thanks SM, nice tips as Eeyore and family head out to Italy in a week - I'd never have thought a vacation in that lovely red wine country would be possible - but that's the plan this year.

  4. Hi, SM! Yes! Thank you. Waaaaay too hard. That's one of the things (among the other zillion of course) that keeps me from drinking (or smoking): I'LL HAVE TO QUIT ALL OVER AGAIN AND IT REALLY SUCKED THE LAST TIME. So I'll just keep it the last time, easier that way.

  5. Great tips! Another tip that really helped me from the Bubble Hour's Coping with the Summer Sober is having a "buddy!" Having a sober friend you can text, call or email while on vacation when that wine witch hits is great. It gives you ownership and you don't want to let that person down! I personally was worried about the ENTIRE summer. It was always such a huge drinking time for me! So far, so good! I am leaving Saturday for a week away and have planned a lot of hiking (which I usually could be found in a bar!) and running! I hope it works! I am going to print your list! xo

  6. Totally unrelated but I've just read this article and thought you might be interested SM? And all your readers!

    It is promoting his book: The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease by Marc Lewis is published by Perseus at £17.99

    It might be behind The Times' paywall so apologies to non-subscribers:

    1. Thanks WoS! Really interesting article (if a little dangerous!)xxx

  7. Very timely for me. I am planning a vacation in a couple weeks and I am dreading it. It is going to be my first EVER vacation that I am going to attempt to stay sober. I will try really hard. Your post is getting printed and folded into my pocket. Seriously!

    1. Ditto...I'm going on vacation next month and would like to stay sober but am a bit worried. I'm also taking this post, crossing my fingers and calling the resort ahead of time requesting sparkling water in the room. The last time DH and I stayed at a resort, waiting in our room was a complimentary chartreuse board and a bottle of wine. It seems that the wine witch had actually beat us to our destination. Planning ahead this time!

  8. I'm lying here, listening to Joe Cocker (Into the Mystic), chilled, 10Kg lighter, sober for nearly 7 months - so lighter and more alcohol free than in decades - to be blunt - I don't intend to fuck it up now. So, timely words SM, timely words. The M4 still drives me to drink though!!! Sorry to all you holidays makers out there but could you please stay away from Somerset, Devon and Cornwall for the next 6 weeks? Go to France or Scotland or the Lake District!! Sorry, Simon and Garfunkel now - Baby Driver, restores my equilibrium.


    1. So sorry, but I'm off to Cornwall in ten days! Yay!

  9. As one in the middle of my holiday, I appreciate your thoughts on surviving them sober!

  10. Yup! That's the holiday alright! As to spending the day nursing a hangover, Mummy was still Mummy the next morning with all the responsibilities that entails and alcohol leads to monster mummy not Zen mummy. All so much better waking up fresh!
    As an aside, I got a new fitbit recently after last one died last year. My resting pulse now (post alcohol) is way down compared to previous (during alcohol), let alone sleep quality. How about that? Happy!

  11. Such great tips at a very good time. We only have a few more weeks of summer and that's when the cravings can get worse. I'm going to save this as I know I'll need it again.

  12. I am so thankful I found your blog! I made this choice along with cutting my caffeine out 6 days ago! It is rough right now but definitely worth it. I am wanting to start a blog like yours but not sure I have the time. I feel that, however, your blog has so much support for us all in it! I live in the mountains of Montana and feel as if we are kindred spirits. I just want to thank you for sharing what you have done and giving me an idea of what I am about to go through. I am scared but I have Narcolepsy, 2 little kids, am a teacher and in need of weightloss. Between my faith and this blog, both have helped me to choose to jump in head first. Thanks again!