This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for.

Waking up and eating my King Cake.

Each day that goes by without alcohol is getting easier, even though my brain likes to try and convince me that things I’m about to do will be harder than when I’ve done them in the past because now I’m doing them sober.

And it’s such a little liar.

Since I booked this trip to New Orleans, I’ve spent most of my time dreading a lot of the situations I was willingly placing myself in, instead of looking forward to all the awesome I’ll experience doing them sober. Like not drinking at the airport. Not drinking on the plane. Not stopping for wine on our way to the apartment. Not drinking with dinner. Not drinking even more (and more, and more) after dinner. Avoiding certain neighbourhoods. Avoiding that trench that always leads me to getting embarrassingly hammered, because I’ve always followed the same path each and every time we’ve come here.

It’s fair to say that trench has been worn down pretty deep.

We had an easy flight, and my first worries of drinking at the airport were quelled instantly without having to calm myself down like a traumatized child who couldn’t have what they wanted.

It was early, maybe 8:30am. We’re walking through the concourse at the airport looking for breakfast. Most places are serving a few people, with the exception of course of the massive lineup at Starbucks, the lineup being as iconic as the brand and the coffee itself. Then, we spot a place that is literally packed – standing room only – filled to the brim with travellers killing time, but no one was eating.

Hockey Town. A Detroit Red Wing’s themed “restaurant” that seemed to have nothing to do with hockey, or food.

I should have taken a picture. There must have been 100 people in there, everyone with this obscene, oversized stein of draught beer (with empties piled up on their tables), drinking their faces off at 8:30 in the morning.

Because that’s what you do when you’re allowed to. That’s the magic of airports. Everything tries to run like clockwork in an environment where time doesn’t care what you do, and you’re free to check your moral compass at the same time you check your bags. When you can’t legally serve alcohol until 11am at most places (in Canada, anyway) – the airport doesn’t care, it’s 5:00 somewhere.

I was afraid of this, leading up to the trip. Seeing everyone so “relaxed” and “having fun” while they killed more than time waiting for their flights – and wishing I were one of them.

Because that’s what I’ve always done.

I’m coming to learn that just because it’s what I’ve always done, doesn’t mean it’s what I always have to do.

It’s like I’ve always chosen Door #1 each and every time, and kept winning a damned toaster oven, when meanwhile a shiny brand new car has always been waiting for me behind Door #2.

I had never boarded a plane in the past with anything less than 4 or 5 drinks in me, regardless of the time of day. Part of the “fun” of flying was the no-holds-barred access to booze at the airport and in the air itself. I was that guy that would order 2 drinks at a time on the plane, and sometimes get Hubs to order 2 as well – for me, of course – so I wouldn’t have to call the attendant back to top me up.

Seeing it in action from just barely on the other side at 39 days sober (40 days, today!) turned my stomach instantly. Picturing myself there in Hockey Town, bloating myself with beer at 8:30am made me anxious, claustrophobic and a little bit sick. I must be doing something right with this cognitive dissonance thing – trying to keep my unconscious and conscious minds in balance – because the battle I had been bracing for leading up to the trip simply didn’t happen.

I just kept walking. I didn’t want it, and I didn’t envy a single person in that bar, enjoying their liquid breakfast. I was looking forward more to the feeling of not being groggy and irritable on the plane than what a beer or three would give me for a few fleeting, overpriced minutes.

Sober Me: 1
Alcohol & Lies: 0

As a result of not drinking at the airport or on the plane, here’s a few things that didn’t happen:

  • We didn’t spend at least $100. That’s probably what we would have spent between the airport and in the air on alcohol for just 1 flight (at the inflated prices airlines charge)
  • I didn’t have to excuse myself and climb over the poor soul in the aisle seat so I could relieve myself 8-10 times during the flight. You know how 1 drink goes in and 3 come out? I certainly didn’t miss that magic trick your bladder plays on you while you’re drinking.
  • I wasn’t irritable at how long it would have taken for service – or refills – at the bar in the airport. I didn’t have the thoughts that “this place is so understaffed” or “as if there’s only 1 bartender working” or “I may as well just order 2 because it’s going to take them so long to bring me refills”
  • I wasn’t irritable at how long it was taking the airline attendants to start the beverage service when we were in flight. It’s usually 20 minutes or so before they start. When you’re needing a drink, that can feel like hours.
  • I wasn’t irritable at how long it was taking them to return with more drinks after I slammed back the two I would have started with, and finished, before they even made it to the back of the plane.
  • I didn’t have to buffer the shame that comes with drinking 4 beers or (airplane sized) bottles of wine at 9am, thinking “Ughhh this airline attendant must think I really have a problem…”
  • I didn’t have to buffer the next wave of shame that arrives after the earlier worry of what the airline attendant must think of me, because it would always lead to me thinking “Ughhhh what is wrong with me, I have such a problem…”
  • I didn’t have to ask the taxi driver to pull over somewhere so I could relieve myself (again) on our way to the apartment after the flight (and likely having gone 3-4 times at baggage claim, too). Seriously, this has happened before. I’ve had to beg a taxi driver to just pull over anywhere because I couldn’t hold it any longer – because I was carrying an entire winery inside me.
  • I didn’t feel like I needed to have a nap to be remotely tolerable once we reached our apartment, from that increasing sleepiness that arrives with gusto once we’ve landed and the flow of drinks comes to an end, until…
  • I didn’t have to run to the closest CVS to buy 4 x 1.5 L bottles of whatever wine was closest to the checkout.

I think you get the idea.

The list of awful, uncomfortable, expensive, and awkward, soul-sucking moments that didn’t happen are enough to prove (again) to myself that getting rid of alcohol, even while travelling, is the best choice I’ve made.

Without feeding you a “this is what I did today at school” diary of the rest of our day, in short – we had an absolutely amazing dinner at our favourite restaurant (Lüke, on St. Charles), and I opted for a virgin Bloody Mary to sip on while we slurped back 4 dozen oysters. We had an early night (because waking at 3am to catch your flight lends to a really freaking long day) and I had an amazing sleep.

I woke up to the biggest, figurate cake this morning. I didn’t once give in to the non-stop opportunities brainwashing propaganda begging me to drink yesterday.

And, I didn’t even want to.

I didn’t trade my great big King Cake this morning for a crappy little slice yesterday.

And I woke up happy.

Time for Day 2, and discovering the NEW New Orleans.

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.

12 comments

  1. Shawn, I always want to say something, but it seems always to be suggestive. I wanted to say I remember my first travels early on and it was just as you have described. Today though, I don’t even notice people in bars anymore, that obsession is gone, it happens gradually, of course with little evident change, one day it’s gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I experienced New Orleans sober myself recently, at an Anheuser Busch sales convention of all places. I continue to earn my bread in the beer business, despite the fact that it no longer imbibe that which I peddle. Been learning and applying all kinds of wisdom through this journey.

    Such as the wisdom from sponsors and accountability partners to know the “Why” as to putting myself in situations. So when I was out with coworkers on Bourbon Street, I knew “why” I was there..,simply for comeraderje and to strengthen relationships within that group. By about 11 PM…the “Why” was done. My friends were experiencing the alcoholic rush, the music was too loud to even try to have conversation, ‘‘twas time for this guy to roll out…

    That being said, kinda liked New Orleans and would like to visit in a different context.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. SOOOOO TRUE! My night last night is pure evidence of that – swarmed with people drinking, and I know from my past of doing the exact same thing, at the exact same place, that I had a MUCH better last night than I ever did before!

      Like

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