Vacation Recap

Midway through the flight I realized it was going to be a long week. I should have listened to my gut – this trip was a bad idea. Go figure – attending a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort with a group of party people might not be the best place for a person in recovery. Of course I knew that, I just didn’t want to say no to this trip.

The flight attendants were pouring free drinks for the passengers on both sides of me and the aroma wafted by.

Feeeeck. Five more hours on the plane, seven days at the resort, and another flight home. What have I locked into? My brain was already clicking like an abacus counting the drinks of all 42 people in our group.

I had told myself, “How bad can it be? It’s a holiday! I can handle this.” One hour into the flight and I was bristling already.

I was reminded of having our first son in 1991. I had looked forward to labor and said bravely, “How bad can it be? It’s just a day of discomfort and then we’ll be parents. I can handle it.” When the day came, I was well prepared but things went badly. I was scared and overwhelmed and I wanted a quick fix but there was no way out, only through.  And we did make it through; figuratively for me and literally for my son. Eventually, all 9 lb. 8 oz of him was dislodged (he has been a delight ever since).

I have never forgotten that feeling of wanting out of an experience that couldn’t be stopped. I had a similar realization when alcohol started gaining momentum in my life – trying to moderate was like pulling a handbrake on a runaway train. I couldn’t gain control as long as I was drinking. I held on for a long time trying to change the course of the path but ultimately saw that “change” and “drinking” are mutually exclusive terms once addiction has set up camp.

Suffice to say I have had enough life experience to know better. Booze at the airport, booze on the plane, booze on the bus to the resort, and oh joy, more booze passed around the lobby of the resort. I could feel the anxiety rising as my drink counter click click clicked.

“I have to stop this,” I realized. “I can’t spend this whole week counting every one’s drinks and feeling like each one is a blow to my joy. The world doesn’t owe me compensation for every drink swallowed in my presence.”

Aha! That was it! Little by little I was keeping track of their drinks and adding them up as little bricks in a wall of resentment. We hadn’t even checked into our rooms and I was feeling deprived by my holiday. I knew I had to change my thinking or the situation could switch from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

So here’s what I decided. First, I had to stop thinking of drinks as little bonuses that I was missing out on. I don’t want 5 virgin pina coladas under any circumstances, let alone as a means to keep pace with others. If I caught myself keeping score and feeling resentful, I would realize something else “good” that the day had offered me and give thanks for it instead.

So…my group had had beer at the airport, wine on the plane, beer on the bus, and rum in the lobby. I thought of the nice moments I’d experienced during that same time frame: …watching a towheaded toddler pull his tiny suitcase through the airport…sharing a laugh with the female security guard who had to pat down my “sparkly bits” (I was wearing a sequined shirt)…seeing the excitement of the bride and groom, who we’ve known since they were just kids…the palm trees swaying above – always a delight for a Canadian, especially in November….my dry rough hands were already feeling softer….gratitude, gratitude.

It helped. Over the course of the week, I did a lot of self-talk and quiet reflection (in addition to the survival strategies from my last post). I stayed the course and made the best of the bad situation in which I’d put myself. I’ll know better for next time and I will listen to my instincts.

Speaking of next time, I have decided to give myself a “do-over” of this vacation. Yesterday, I signed up for a springtime yoga retreat in Mexico specifically organized for women in recovery (

After all, it is just as important to say yes to the good opportunities as it is to resist the bad ones.



  1. Oh my goodness! Thank God I came across your blog! I am SO WORRIED about the 8 hour flight back to the UK – as I tell my friends – I am addicted to alcohol AND I am addicted to free stuff, so free alcohol for 8 hours is a NIGHTMARE!!!! How will I cope?!


    • Hi fairykatie
      you will be fine on the plane for 8 hours. Get a good book, watch the movies and order a ginger beer or lemonade. Use it as a time to people watch. Watch everyone else drinking when you aren’t is always fascinating. Watch as they get louder and then eventually fall into an undignified sleep! You should keep up the water and when you get to the UK you will be refreshed with a bounce in your step.


    • Hello FairyKatie-

      I’m off tomorrow for a nine day all-inclusive family vacation that I booked when still drinking AND while drinking. I plan to keep my iPad nearby to write all the emotions going on as I face the journey without a drink. Having a place for my thoughts and fears to lands has been tremendous for me. I nearly had a panic attack when my husband and I headed into the adult candy store, our local wine and spirits superstore. I was surprised by my reaction. I know I can’t drink and don’t want to, yet here I was surrounded by all these “familiar friends” and I never anticipated missing them so much! I latched onto the feeling I had in the store, wrote notes in my phone about how it shocked me, referred back to my Bad Boyfriend journal entry (a thought stolen right here from Unpickled!) to remind myself how far I’d come, but I have further to go. I am not anticipating having anything but a marvelous time on vacation. I will, however, have my iPad nearby just in case I need to share with my alter-ego the struggle I’m working through and remind myself I made it through the candy store alive. Best of luck!


  2. Just dropping by (from my Weekend Project blog) to say hi, Jean, and to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas! Sending happy and warm thoughts… Grateful for you!

    Shine on, beautiful! Christy / RoS xoxo


  3. So glad to have found this blog. Worried about the holidays and getting through them sober. I just quit four days ago and wonder if I can really do this. Can I make it through the parties, time off, friends(who drink) staying with me. What to do. I can do this I know I can. But I’m not going to pretend like it is going to be easy. Love your insights. They really hit home with me.


    • “It’s simple but it’s not easy” – that’s a phrase we often hear that sums it up beautifully. You have it in you to succeed and there are lots of tools and pathways to get you to recovery. It’s a well-traveled path! You’re not alone.Stay strong and be good to yourself.


      • UnPickled…Have been following you for several months. You are truly an inspiration. My relationship with alcohol is like yours had been. I am, on the surface, professional and in control of my life. But, after a long day, I enjoy a few glasses of wine..Enjoy it too much. In addition to taking the edge off the day, it helps ease the pain of getting old and relationship issues. During this holiday season, just wanted to thank you for helping me through the rough patches.. Peace and love..


      • I just started reading your blog and am finding all of these stories and comments extremely powerful and inspiring. However, and perhaps I just haven’t read enough yet, how does this work when you don’t have a partner who is ready to share the same desire and need for this type of drastic change. I am 40 years old with two daughters 9 and 11. I have been drinking off an on since I was 13 years old. I have never been so ready to eliminate alcohol from my life as I am right now. I have asked my husband to refrain from having alcohol in the house and he just can’t do it. I am not really sure what one does in this situation and was wondering if others have been here and what has worked/not worked?


        • This is a very hard situation. I am able to stay sober with alcohol in the house but for many people this is an essential component to their recovery. It is also a show of support from your partner so maybe it is the combination of unconditional love and support along with the absence of alcohol that is key to success. I chose to allow it in my house because for me, it is already down the street at the store, it is up the road in the bar, so I feel like if I am going to drink it doesn’t matter if i have to walk 10 steps or 10 blocks. But that is just me. If I needed it gone my husband would step up (I believe so anyways). Readers, what have you all found? How have you resolved this issue. and PS – I am really glad you’re here!


  4. I’m going to have to mentally tattoo this brilliant insight. I fear I will be the same over Christmas and New Year keeping count of everyone’s drinking and building that wall of resentments and perceived loss. Setting my intentions and gratitude have to be the way forward so thankyou 🙂


  5. Thank you for your posts. I just started reading your blog and look forward to reading it from the beginning. I am going on a cruise for Christmas. I booked it prior to the Sober journey and am quite nervous about it. However, I loved your turn to the positive and the small victories in the airport, etc. I will take this with me and instead of counting others drinks and feeling deprived, I hope to celebrate the experience with sound mind. I’m 5 days sober and hoping after the cruise that will be 25 days.


    • The staff on cruise lines are well trained in great customer service and often you have specific servers assigned to you. I highly recommend you turn one or two servers into your allies and quietly tell them you are newly recovered and need their help. You would be surprised the lengths that some people will go to in order to take care of you! Be brave – it could make all the difference to your holiday and your recovery! xo, UnP


  6. Hi UP,
    I am a 36 year old pickled girl prob for the last 15 years. I found your blog two days ago and relate to every word as if they were my own. I am a successful nurse, in grad school, everyone thinks I’m perfect. Little do they know my nightly wine marinade. I am going into work now and will comment again, but I just want you to know, that you have inspired me and this is my Day One. <<<exhale… 646 am and a long way to go. Thank you. Work is calling…..


    • Hi successful.Nurse….I am successful NP….nobody would ever know what I have achieved or who I am……You can do it too! I work in Geriatrics and cardiology. I Take call like nobody business! and work amazing hours….
      Stay strong! You can do this!


    • You have a stressful job with crazy hours, plus it is Christmas – how are you coping? It can be very hard to self-manage recovery so be sure to make use of the ample help available if you find it overwhelming on your own. I am thinking of you! Touch base and let me know how you are doing.


      • Doing good. Thanks!. Keeping close to all of my internet sites/family. No office parties for me…that is just the way it needs to be for me and for now. I also find I do better/on the straight and narrow path if I keep very busy. But…so far…so good! Merry Christmas!


  7. Frenemies…that’s the post I latched onto. I have the fun boyfriend who beats me into a blackout every few months. When I decided to quit this time, the analogy of the boyfriend has enabled me to visualize the break up I’m going through. My family and friends question why I feel I need to quit and think I’m being too hard on myself because the majority of the time I drink just fine. I can pass on alcohol when not in the mood, have a glass or two, but every few months I take it to the point of no return and no remembering.

    I went to an AA meeting about 10 years ago and when I told a woman my drinking pattern she straight up said to me, “you are the hardest alcoholic to get sober.” Truth is, I didn’t identify with AA. I don’t identify with being an alcoholic. I believe it’s my choice to drink and my choice to stop. So this time I woke from the beating, devoured the book “Almost Alcoholic” which identifies the gray area we move into from social drinker to alcoholic, and came across your blog. All the drinking patterns I identified with in “Almost Alcoholic” made it clear I was heading down the slippery slope but it was the bad boyfriend analogy that made me say, “Enough!”


    • Wow, thank you for this. You’ve clearly done lots of thinking and gained insights. Almost Alcoholic is a GREAT book and hits home the realization that there’s no need to ride the elevator all the way to the bottom. So happy for you! Xo


    • I am just the same, can go for days without drinking, sometimes stop after a few but every few months go on a really bad binge that leaves me sick for a few days during which I swear off the booze until the next occasion to have a drink comes up and I’m off again. My last binge was so bad I walked into an AA meeting the next day but didn’t really feel a connection as I have no problem not drinking every day, the kids really help with that I assume, I have 2 young ones. Like the analogy with the bad boyfriend, sounds like I’m having an affair with him too, will get the almost alcoholic book and see, hope I can do this before it really affects my family to a point of no return. I am really scared as I don’t know how to live otherwise.


      • All or nothing-
        It’s good to be scared. It means you understand how negatively your drinking can impact what sounds like a family and life you truly cherish! I can tell you what worked for me. I wrote about my last time in a journal and then I told almost everyone I knew I’d quit drinking. This was truly the hardest part because it gave me no out in a few months when I feel good again and the last blackout is a dim memory. People were both understanding and extremely supportive. I had always hedged returning to drinking by never telling anyone I contemplating quitting forever. Truth is, by putting it out there I feel free.

        Here’s an intimate look at how I felt that morning I quit. All my husband could say was, “wow!” Can’t argue with how I felt about alcohol after reading this and I keep this on my phone for reference. Give your thoughts a place to land.

        He beat me

        He beat me. I didn’t see it coming. I rarely saw it coming. The mood would shift and I would feel the edginess. There was a brief moment in time, not that long ago, when I pinpointed the triggers and prepared myself for the shift. Only when clear in the head could I see it and diffuse the situation before it happened. But I had to be on edge and the edge is a sharp to sit. Then whack.

        He’d hit me.

        I wouldn’t feel it but the lights would go out and I was a victim to those surrounding me, protecting me, never fully comprehending the damage being inflicted. I’d wake sick, the taste of vomit in my mouth, excruciating pain from the axe planted in my skull, the pain from the pummeling my gut took. He beat me and, in time, I forgave him. And he stayed.


  8. Dear UP. I’m only on day 12 and I have read your entire blog. You have made me laugh out loud and cry. I am inspired by your journey. Your latest post makes me realize what future will bring and the self talk you had with yourself is so real. The thought of “missing out” is the hardest thing. Thanks for sharing,


  9. Ok – it went through ! I stumbled upon your site last night. It was a miracle . I had gone to daily mass at 5:30 ( I’m a catholic) and dedicated my mass and the miraculous medal novena to myself for God to send me the strength and grace to continue my sobriety. ( I’m on day 5 ). I had been browsing websites the last 5 days but something was different last night . I googled- ” God help me to quit drinking” and up popped your site. As I read through the blog, tears welled up in me because The Lord answered my prayer so quickly ( along with Our Lady”s intercession). I read the post you had written how it blew you away that people found your blog by typing in ” God help me to quit drinking”. I knew right then the miracle had taken place. God placed you, me and all the other alcoholics on this site to heal us. Thank you for responding to His call and putting this support blog out there. A little history on me: I’m basically a binge drinker and don’t know when to stop and actually like feeling buzzed/ drunk. I could pretty easily resist any alcohol during the week but come weekends or any ” occasion” and I was flying high! Recently, my husband ( who incidentally is my child heart sweetheart) of 23 years marriage has began binge drinking more too and it was turning ugly between us when we”d drink. Last sat was the final straw. We had a huge fight in front of our 3 children ( ages 21, 17 and 11) . It was devastating , especially my 11 year old.
    I woke up ( as I did many times in the past and said ” I”m done ! No more alcohol!” This time I mean it . I need support as this is soooo hard Round holidays and parties. I will need help from this site. I haven’t told my hubby yet, as I have to do this for me and find my strength first ( with The Lord and His mother) .I plan on telling hubby soon but I want to be firmly planted in my will first. Sorry this was so long, I” ll be shorter in the future .


    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for all you’ve shared. I am so glad you have found your way here to connect with myself and others who share your experience. You will find lots of encouragement and a list of resources on the side bar. Poke around and see what looks helpful, pick a pathway to recovery and get started on your journey! You are right where you need to be.


    • Hi Mary! Your post moved me. I too went to Mass on 11-24 and said same prayer . I came home and read an article about another Mom who found help which lead me to tiredofthinkingofdrinking and found Belle and signed up for 100 day challenge. I’m on day 11. Hang in there! I’m rooting for you!!!


  10. this was my first sober holiday as well. Thanksgiving day was day 21 for me, I was with my husbands whole family in VT — all “norps” able to have none- or 1 or 2 drinks (never more) — and stop ! amazing to watch as I was always the only real drinker in the group. If I would have had one I know I couldn’t stop. I can only imagine what they thought of my drinking all those other years, there is no way I was hiding it as much as I thought! What an eye-opener for me to see this for the first time. I actually saw open bottles of Chardonnay and didn’t want any.
    My real trial is coming up, going skiing to Mt St Anne in Canada over New Years. I am looking forward to my first sober New Years Eve.


  11. “I don’t want 5 virgin pina coladas under any circumstances, let alone as a means to keep pace with others.” AMEN, sister! Had my first sober Thanksgiving this weekend, and one thing that brought me some amount of joy was thinking about all the goddamned calories that I *wasn’t* consuming. (Hell, I will take moments of gratitude about sobriety anywhere my creative littl mind can find ’em).

    Also, this line was terribly, beautifully insightful: “I held on for a long time trying to change the course of the path but ultimately saw that “change” and “drinking” are mutually exclusive terms once addiction has set up camp.” Well now isn’t that the God-honest truth…I think I shall put that into my Word Bank. That’s where I keep my favorite lines, words & reminders about why I need and WANT to stay sober. I dip right into the good old WB regularly 😉 XO


  12. I recall the first time I went to an all-inclusive was a year after I sobered up. Talk about “why didn’t I come down here all those years ago?” moments. Booze everywhere. I am surprised they didn’t fill the pools with it. But I was able to see past it pretty quickly, as I knew it wasn’t an option. Hanging with the family, counting the iguanas, playing with the wee one, settling in for nice quiet evenings, etc. was enough. Like you, I didn’t see how alcohol would have enhanced my trip in any way. And it was nice to be able to get past this “first”. And frankly, I didn’t see a lot of debauchery. I probably would have been the one making a scene…ha ha.

    Thanks for sharing this..!

    Love and light,


  13. Glad you stayed on track….. Hope you still were able to relax and enjoy. Your post kind of scares me. I am only on day 40 and at 102 days I am going on an all inclusive vacation with 5 other couples. It will be a drink Fest., it was last year and I was drinking. I will be the only one not drinking. I am trying not to even think about it yet…..

    Your yoga retreat vacation sounds amazing… I turn 40 this coming year and I actually thought how awesome that would be.


    • Well, Momma Bee, if I could make the decision again I would have listened to my gut and stayed home from this trip. I sincerely urge you to give it a lot of thought. It was pretty damn miserable and I never dreamed it would be so hard at this point in my recovery (2 and a half years!). It could be a dangerous place for you in early recovery. Please do what is best for you and do everything you can to ensure you get the self-care you need. Now the recovery retreat, I would love to see you there! Or anywhere that is geared toward supporting your recovery.


  14. Oh good on you! Sounds like really really really hard work but good on you. I have a similar (but different) experience one a year at our Easter holiday which is in a confined space with a group of people all of whom are consuming alcohol at every opportunity. First year I was all sparkly shiny sober and it was fine.. second year i found it so unbelievably hard and miserable and was counting bricks like you.. next year I’m determined to not let it affect me so much. Yours are great tips… concentrate on all the other good little lovely things that are not alcohol (or lack thereof) related. Man how I wish I could attend that retreat! Sounds lovely. xxxx


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