I am currently beginning a trip through Central America. A few things struck me as I began to pack for this trip. Considering travels sans alcohol is still somewhat stress inducing for me because in my previous drinking life, travel = green light to get smashed every. single. day. So sad. I missed out on many moments because I chose to not be there. I had exited my consciousness on purpose. I missed many more moments trying to recover from the previous evening’s antics which always resulted in a debilitating hangover. And yet still, some old patterns in my brain tell me that I am missing out by not drinking while travelling. I know better. I was very triggered while preparing for the departure. And then an evening out with some old friends exacerbated the situation. The thought of a sober trip as I packed was causing discomfort and much reflection.
My backpack is old. I bought it to travel Europe years ago. Nostalgia took over as I was packing, remembering the young and incredibly naive traveller I once was. I used to be a traveller who took many risky chances while under the influence in foreign lands. Thank God nothing catastrophic ever happened. Backpacking provided a thorough training ground in the art of getting loaded. Before leaving for Europe I did not yet drink all that much. I found that alcohol made the evening short, the room spin, and my guts vomit. Apologies for that graphic detail, but I know the sickness alcohol caused me was my body yelling “stay away from that – we don’t process it very well.” But I overrode the message so many times and look where that got me.
As I packed for this adventure, I knew for sure that one thing was non-negotiable on my packing list: my yoga mat. It is such an integral part of my wellness, I would rather do with less clothes, shoes and reading materials than even consider leaving home without my mat. My daughter thought this was lunacy. I did not care. The mat is with me. When I rolled my mat up and placed it inside my ancient backpack IT FIT PERFECTLY. I bought this pack more than two decades ago and yet it is like it was made for the yogini I have become. I feel like the universe knew that the mat needed to be in my backpack more than any other item. It felt like a gift or an encouragement that I could do this and that things would be best without alcohol anyway.
Following a long travel day, we finally arrived for our first night in Costa Rica. We went out for dinner after we checked into our hotel last night. I was hungry, lonely and tired as I walked past many a cafe filled with patrons enjoying wine and beer and other cocktails. The old voice was loud: “you are away – what is the harm?” or “just drink while you travel” or “maybe you would be better at it now…” So cruel that addicted voice in my head.
I brought my one year chip with me and ate with it on my table during the meal. I made sure that I had enough to eat. I also made sure that I had a yummy non-alcohol drink to have back at our room. And a box of Smarties. Desperate times. We returned to the room. I was damn tired and yet I knew not to skip my nightly yoga routine which is very restorative in nature. I placed my chip on my mat for the entire practice. In fact, I dedicated my practice to my recovery and my gratitude for it, even though at that moment I was not feeling the gratitude so much. By the end of the session, I was feeling better, still tired but definitely better. I felt like the sane version of me was back in the building. The one who never wants to be alcohol obsessed again. The one who is excited to be a sober traveller. I was tired and so I listened to my body and turned out the light more than ready for sleep. And I made it without caving into the insane voice that tells me to drink.
The tools in my tool box saved me once again: living with the awareness of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – I have found in recovery that I need to be very aware of these indicators and engage in self-care immediately if I am feeling any of these things) and taking action at once to deal with the symptoms. Getting food took care of the hunger. Bringing my chip to dinner and placing it on my mat while doing yoga served to remind me of all of the people in my recovery circle who are rooting for me always – that took care of the loneliness. Engaging in my restorative practice followed by tucking into bed took care of the tired.
Last night was a reminder that feelings do pass with time. In the moment, I thought I would be jonesing for a drink the entire trip. But that is simply not true. I noticed the indicators and took action. Today I am back and wondering how I could ever think drinking on this amazing adventure could add anything but heartbreak and disappointment. And so right now I am in the hotel lounge fully enjoying my beverage of choice while my best buddy enjoys his. And I am grateful that it is tea I am sipping. Fat-free, sugar-free and as always regret-free! Happy trails…