Travelling Sober

I’m on a works trip to London today and, as I write this, I’m sitting in the lounge at Belfast City Airport awaiting my flight. Everywhere is packed not least the airport bar. In fact no matter what time you are at an airport the bar is packed to the gills. People seem to throw acceptable etiquette concerning alcohol consumption to the kerb when they get airside. No matter what the hour, they can be found downing over priced drinks to their hearts content.

In my drinking days I would have been in the midst of them. It was never too early and some of my most memorable (what I can remember that is) trips to sporting events began at some ungodly hour seeing how many pints of Stella Artois I could get down my neck in the bar before the flight was called. There then followed an Olympian sprint to the departure gate which normally sobered me up sufficiently in order to board the plane. Where I would promptly start drinking again.

And so on. Once checked into the hotel there would be a quick turnaround before the imbibing started again. Food was reluctantly eaten but the primary concern was more alcohol. At some point the evening would become a blur and I would vaguely recall stumbling back to my room following last orders where I would lie comatose for a few hours before the dreaded morning came around. At which point hell would be unleashed.

Waking up in a hotel room in a strange city with a horrific hangover is no laughing matter. Especially if you need to bring your ‘A game’ to an important business meeting in less than two hours time. The fear strikes hard. Did I embarrass myself in front of my colleagues last night? Where did I leave my wallet? Will Fionnuala still be speaking to me when I phone her later? Waves of paranoia and self loathing would sweep over me as I struggled to work out how the shower worked and recovered my crumpled clothes from the floor.

Breakfast was a continuation of the torture. Pushing greasy food around my plate and pretending I wasn’t ‘that rough’ to my invariably chipper colleague who had wisely retired at an early hour to leave me talking to some random stranger about football and the meaning of life. You would always meet the same guy in the lift the following morning and exchange embarrassed small talk before we shuffled off to our respective tables to die the death of a thousand fried eggs while trying to avoid projectile vomiting over the waitress.

There then followed the meeting itself which was always held in a hot, stuffy room. You tried to nod and smile in all the right places while inside your stomach performed somersaults and your inner voice condemned you as the most useless, worthless human being ever to have cast a shadow on God’s earth. Your colleague would make excuses for you and you would thank them profusely during the nightmarish tube journey back to the airport.

Today the strongest liquid I will be partaking of is Diet Coke. I’m giving the bar the widest of berths and muttered about having to fork out ยฃ1.15 for a bag of crisps. I’m dragging my colleague out for a run later as opposed to dragging her to a pub. And I fully intend to be tucked up in bed with my book by ten pm at the very latest. Breakfast tomorrow will be a totally angst (and vomit free experience). My wife will be speaking to me and all will be well in the world.

I’m not perfect but I’m feeling perfectly fine today. Progress to becoming a better human being is measured by how you behave when faced with situations that you previously failed miserably at. I’m taking small steps but I’m taking them in the right direction. Sobriety is a choice and I choose it today. Then when I wake up hangover free in my hotel room tomorrow morning I’ll have to make the same decision all over again. It applies to any vice, struggle or temptation you face.

What do you choose today?

What’s been your most horrific airport or hotel experience?

46 thoughts on “Travelling Sober

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  1. I feel you on this one brother. Great post! The last time I flew I almost was kicked off of the plane. One stewardess flagged me, but another stewardess served me. My seat mate, who loved me at first? She wasn’t speaking to me by the end of the trip to LA. The next time I fly, I will be sedated-with an Ativan and as much grass as I can imbibe. ๐Ÿ™‚

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              1. Seriously, I would LOVE to come see you both. I’m neat and clean, but you’ll have to keep me from the pubs, where, if I had my druthers, I would petrify in one place while singing the songs of my people. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I love it and I can totally relate! I love that I can have even more fun now that Iโ€™m sober and I can remember the fun!! …school is winding down which means my subbing days are taking a summer break as well. I recently texted my long time best friend who also substitute teaches and said โ€˜we need to go have a celebratory drink for making it through the school year, skip the vodka, letโ€™s head straight to the Mountain Dew!!!โ€™

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  3. It’s funny to read this post today, for as I was writing about our trip to Portugal, one custom stood out for me. Happy Hour at one restaurant/bar was from 9am to 11pm, so basically a happy day. I was so surprised to see people drinking beer at 10am, and I thought what kind of day will they have or remember if they start to drink before noon? So, i wondered if drinking before noon is a custom for Europeans? But your post reminded me that there is a cost to pay. It’s why I do not drink alcohol any more, and I hope I am just as much fun to be around.

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  4. First, congratulations! Itโ€™s always one day sometimes one moment at a time. Youโ€™re doing great!

    Today I am choosing to overlook those who I feel have something against me but wonโ€™t say it. Iโ€™m choosing to enjoy and embrace those who do love and care for me unconditionally.

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  5. I chose to continue working on my goals – my photography, writing, and teaching – despite feeling overwhelmed. I tackled the things that I wanted most to avoid and I am feeling better about it. I am glad that you chose to stay sober and that you realize that you have other choices that in the end make you much happier. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. The scariest airport experience I had, well two I guess. The first, I had missed a flight because my plane was late in arriving to the airport. But God provided, it was all taken care of. The second one, I had arrived from a flight to an airport KNOWN for how big it is. I was convinced I was going to miss the flight. I was running with my bags and finally went to sit down only to think I heard my name be called, I walked up to the lady and asked. She told me they just about to leave. I get to the plane panting heavy and thank the people for waiting, apologizing. They were more concerned about my health haha. It all worked out. But it was scary.

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  7. Great post Stephen fantastic observations. What annoys the hell out of me about airport drinking is the fact that every single person feels the need to post a picture of their preflight beverage on social media. I mean we all know what a pint of beer looks like, what a glass of wine looks like!! I find it totally unnecessary.

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