Summer of Love


Heads turn when our bright orange 1973 VW camper van passes by. People smile, kids wave, hipsters nod approval. I don’t need to smile back because I’m already grinning as soon as the engine starts.

photo-9I call the camper van my time machine. It’s retro AM radio and clunky controls take me back to being a kid in the 70s when a dashboard was eye level (at least on those occasions I was lucky enough to ride in the front seat). My husband and I keep the windows (cranked) down when we drive because it’s hot as blazes in there, and the breeze whips my hair as I gaze at the passing landscape. How is it that same view looks so different with the window rolled down? I feel like I am part of the scenery instead of a moving observer. I reach my hand out the window and let the air bob it up and down, something my mother never allowed. I hear the echo of a scolding voice in my head but I decide nothing will tear my arm off, as I was once led to believe. I feel free and happy and unfettered.


We bought this sweet old van to celebrate our 25th anniversary this summer and retraced our honeymoon route through the Rocky Mountains. Back then, a camping trip in my parents’ motorhome was all we could afford and we hoped someday we would be able to travel in luxury. Now we can afford to travel as we wish, and this humble classic is what we choose.

In my early posts, I feared I would no longer be any fun or have any fun on vacations. I feared life would be dull and I would be a wet rag who dragged down the spirits of those around me. I wrote this on my 7th day of recovery:

My husband and I have had many wonderful adventures together and the mental postcards I’ve collected all include a beverage:  Wiki Wackers on Catalina Island, Margaritas by the Riverwalk in San Antonio, PinaColadas on the beach in Dominican Republic, wine at an outdoor café on the promenade in Santa Monica.  As we plan and save for our retirement, we dream of vineyard tours in Italy and having a pint in an Irish pub.

Would I have any fun without alcohol? Would I BE any fun? Would my husband dread the rest of our lives together, saddled with a tea-tottling ninny for a wife?

Let me tell you something. Buying this van was MY idea and retracing our honeymoon was an amazing adventure. We laughed, talked, hiked, made out, roasted hotdogs, and genuinely enjoyed ourselves.

It isn’t that life is really all that different without alcohol. It is that I have changed. I am able to feel my joy in my bones; a deep peaceful resonance. I am able to relax, to be unhurried. When I drank wine, it was to speed up the process of unwinding and I was never successful at drinking my way to the good feelings that I find myself experiencing regularly in recovery.

It has taken time to get here. For the first year or more I wrestled with feeling awkward and self-conscious as a non-drinker. Then I started to get some results from addressing the underlying issues and became ravenously introspective. And recently this peace emerged, maybe some of the old hippie vibes from my van rubbed off on me.

Do I have any fun without alcohol? Can I BE any fun? Does my husband dread the rest of our lives together? Look at the smiles in this picture, and you tell me.

Yes, you will laugh again!

Yes, you will laugh again!




About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on August 30, 2014, in Getting Sober, Marriage and Alcohol Recovery and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 59 Comments.

  1. Hello you wonderful lady you. I’m a successful, over-achieving career woman with two kids, a high-profile job, respected in the community, great husband, nice home, etc. Also rounding up on 2 months sober after so many years of playing the “sneaky wine in the kitchen game.” Just wanted to pop in and say I have SCOURED your blog for the past two days and have joyously discovered the Bubble Hour. I could have written so many of your posts and several times your words have brought me involuntarily to tears (of joy I think?) that I am not alone. You have simultaneously made me laugh and feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I’m preparing for my first conference next month and was already dreading the unending parade of cocktails (not to mention I’m a professional arts fundraiser so my job is basically one big long cocktail party anyway). Your conference post was so moving. My husband and I talk about getting a VW camper ALL the time and I sent this to him and said “damn, she’s in our heads!” Just wanted to thank you for writing all this down for people like me to discover how NOT alone I really am. HUGS!


    • Hi Kate, I feel like we were having coffee together while I read your sweet comment. I am here to tell you that it possible to move through life with sober grace! And when I am not graceful or even all that delightful, well I am still sober and I always wake up happy about that. Please keep posting comments and stay in touch. We all learn so much from one another!


  2. Your posts are always inspiring me!


  3. I love your blog! I’m 428 days sober (finally made it into a meeting for my overdue 1 year chip yesterday!!) and I find a lot of similarity with your writing “would my husband dread the rest of our lives together, with my tea-totting wife”. I am so proud of who I am again, able to see the “perfect” in my imperfection. However, I fear that my husband will get bored with me, or wake up one day and think”OK, so are you done yet?” I know he dreams of living on a vineyard someday, and while that is most likely NEVER going to happen for reasons being that we have no history or experience with vineyards, but I feel he sees that dream not happening as my fault. I feel like he sees my sobriety as taking away from his future. He never says that, but he has moments when he says “Obviously we can’t do THAT” and I tell him I have appreciation for grapes…I just don’t DRINK them. lol Anyway, thank you for your posts, I often find similarities in your stories and mine and enjoy reading your blog! Enjoy your VW!!!


  4. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing. You both look so happy and vibrant and good for you for finding so many things in sobriety to not only fulfill you but that makes you happy and your marriage better, and is much more fulfilling and better than the drinking days. Many women new to sobriety after being married for a very long time decide that they want to leave their spouses because they have changed and want a change. I find it wonderful that you are doing things with your hub of 25 years to make the marriage better and more fun and wonderful and bonding with this classic van and doing things together that are meaning full. No marriage is perfect and I believe if we work on ourselves and our marriage, most the time, we can survive and it can be great again!! (I know some marriages are not work working on that involve abuse etc. ) We have always had our ups and downs but I find if I work on myself more and get more grateful for all the wonderful things about my mate and find things to do that recharge us like buying a Van like you and your husband did, it helps to bring us back to appreciating each other. My husband and I are on this sober journey together and it has been 9 months since we had our last drink!! Our 30th wedding anniversary is coming up in December and because we love to travel and bring our bikes to explore everywhere, and ride on the various rail trails in the states we would be interested in purchasing a VW Van for camping and travel, also we have two grandkids ages 8 and 11 who would get a huge kick out of camping with us in this. If you wouldn’t mind, I would love to talk to you about any information you could share with me about how would one go about finding such a van and any info on what to look for as far as restoration best years on these classics etc. My email is


    • The van found us – our friend was selling it and called me out of the blue to see if we might be interested. It took me months to convince my husband. As for restoring it, I bought some of the materials from and they have a ton of youtube videos showing how to install everything from new awnings to tabletops. Highly recommended! I felt like such a rock star once I was done each little project. Post pictures and let me know how it goes! and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!


  5. Thank you, I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this. Tomorrow I will begin my own journey and I feel a little bit better now as I often wonder the same thing. Beautiful photo, you look vibrant, clear and healthy. I only hope to follow in your footsteps.


    • No need to follow – link arms and let’s walk this road together. It is a joyful journey that is meant to be shared. I could never have imagined how much better my life would be alcohol-free!


  6. Oh, by the way, Unpickled, you were the FIRST blog i found a year ago that inspired me to even consider giving up the booze. I shouted out to u in my first blog post God Help Me.


  7. So beautiful. And gets me deep in the gut where i am just learning are all the things I’ve been dousing with wine to keep from being felt…let out. I’m on day 3 and just started blogging in goes that it sticks this time (after 9 months of attempting sobriety). Thanks for support.


  8. New blogger here! Congrats on your recovery 🙂


  9. Sweet. My favorite vehicle I ever owned was a ’72 VW camper bus. I loved having the roll-back roof because my chocolate lab could stand on the icebox and put her front legs on the roof so she could watch the world go by while we were driving up the west coast from San Diego to Seattle on Hwy. 101, or across Canada. Enjoy!


  10. Hi, I haven’t commented in a while. I’ve spent the summer being pretty successful at moderating. Probably still not within government guidelines, but way, way better than before.

    What I’ve noticed is that since I quit the stupid job and have spent the past few months at home with an occasional odd job here and there, the constant burning stress anxiety and need to drink has left me. If I drink now, it’s out of habit or boredom, but not out of NEED. The URGE is pretty much gone. Ironically, I think I’m starting to get bored with drinking. Does that make sense to anyone?

    Plus, I’m starting a new job next week! I’m really looking forward to it because I know it’s going to be a positive, fun, healthy place. And the schedule will be such that drinking on a work-night is pretty much out.

    I’m starting to feel like a winner! Can I ask you and your readers for input and advice as to my next steps?


    • Well done. And yes that’s how I feel – I am just so bored of drinking too. I did read lots about alcohol and the dangers of it for quite a few months – so i do feel like I have brainwashed myself out of heavy regular drinking. Perhaps keep topping up your new resolve by revisiting blogs like this one. Good luck with your new job – sounds like it’s going to be great.


      • I used to be in pretty good shape with healthy eating habits. Then the complete sh*tstorm of a career hit me and my fit lifestyle slowly went out the window. 60lb curls replaced by 12oz curls, you know? Over the past three years, I gained at least a pound a month and now my body is almost unrecognizable to me.

        The next birthday I have is a “speed limit” birthday. It’s 11 months away. I want to close in on that birthday at a healthy weight, with healthy insides, a healthy relationship to alcohol (and no beer gut), and most importantly knowing that I didn’t just waste another year I’ll never get back.


  11. Looks like you had a great time. I love camper vans and have had a couple of holidays in a van that looks very similar to yours.

    I’ve also read all your posts (about a month ago now) and I have found your blog to be the sanest, insightful and most inspirational i have stumbled across. It made me take a good, long hard look at myself and stop being in denial about how much I was drinking (and poisoning myself).

    I have been moderating – not drinking in the week – only at weekends. This is week three – the good news is I have brain washed myself out of the joys of drinking and look forward to Monday’s when I don’t have to drink!! The first week was hard but the second week was easy and now I just think ‘please get a life’ if i feel any urge to have a glass of vino (which i fleetingly did this evening cos i was bored!). The bad news is I still feel I am over drinking at the weekends and want to cut back some more as I just hate the after effects of it. Makes me feel so worn out – and that’s just a sad waste of life.

    Mine is a habit of many many years – like an overplayed record that you once thought you liked the tune of – but now just really gets on your nerves! Over drinking is a totally tedious habit. Thanks for helping me make changes for the better.


    • Hi Vida
      Was wondering if you’ve been successful at moderating your drinking? I would love to think I could just be a social drinker, and maybe I can. I am on day 8 without alcohol.
      Curious if week-end only drinking works for you. Thanks.


  12. Oh this so resonated with me. 6/29/86. My life has been totally transformed and beyond even my wildest dreams.
    Joy. Down to my very bones.


  13. This is awesome so encouraging. I’m exactly in that space of feeling awkward not sure how others perceive me….like that matters at all. But I’m doing the work and so happy now with my life I’m sure I’ll work through. I love your blog….so personal and honest. Thank you. And love the van.


  14. I have been following your journey as I travel my own. Your posts have shown me that quitting drinking isn’t just about avoiding the negative consequences, it’s about opening my heart and letting the good come in. Ah, those grins, the bus, the raw honesty. Thank-You Jean , you’ve shown me the way to live an authentic life.


  15. I just want to thank you for your blog. I’ve been reading for a while, but have never commented before. My husband is an alcoholic who has been trying for over a year and a half to get sober. He’s been attending AA almost daily that entire time, and has fallen off the wagon numerous times. Today he has 60 days. Obviously, it’s a work in progress – sometimes more disheartening than I can bear. Reading your writing gives me hope. Thank you.


  16. Absolutely love this post! And as an added bonus, it was posted on my birthday!! Thanks again for such great work. I’ve read every word you’ve written on this blog, all within the last few weeks, and you replied to a comment of mine with some great enthusiasm and heartfelt encouragement a few weeks back. It means a lot. I can now say my own journey has begun.

    I kind of doubt my 1995 Honda Civic will ever be as cool as your 73 VW. And I don’t think my new blog could possibly be as entertaining, insightful, well-written, and generous-of-heart as yours. But I’ve started one as a journal of sorts to help me through. Thanks for the inspiration!

    2 days sober.


  17. Just want to say thank you for writing. I’ve read a number of your top posts and feel as if I could have written them myself, if i was a better writer and more witty. I’ve had almost the exact same path of struggles from disordered eating, trichotillomania, and the heavy over-drinking in a fully functioning way that no one knows the full extent of. In the last couple years especially I’ve really let go and given in to alcohol – lunchtime if someone else suggests it, evening always, with plenty of excuses to keep me going – it’s only wine or beer, some of my friends have the same habits, I’ve never had a “problem” that has led to any disastrous event. If it’s so bad, why hasn’t my husband said anything? Well finally he did, he said bluntly that he thought I had a drinking problem. I think it took a lot for him to say it. And I think he’s right. I can feel the “stink” you talk about and I want to be healthy, that’s the only motivation for me right now, is not to die from liver or kidney problems. So i’m struggling with how to fix the problem. Can I reduce? Right now I think so but I’m open to being wrong about that. I can relate to swearing off alcohol every morning and pinpointing the time of day when that decision is vetoed. But anyway, just wanted to say thanks for all of your amazing words and insight, you’ve encouraged me with your concept that it’s not just fixing the drinking problems, it’s fixing “you” so to speak.


    • Oh my heart goes out to you. I feel the heaviness of your words and remember well the ache of longing for change that seems impossible. I hope that our similarities show you that there is nothing wrong with you, that all of these things flow naturally as ways that many of us try to cope and end up creating more problems. Please know that you can overcome this. If you are going to try moderating, decide first how many strikes you will give yourself. 2? 3? Normal drinker find moderating easy. Normal drinkers find abstaining easy for that matter. So if you find it a struggle, well, it could be an indication of a problem. Look into that, okay? Please know that changing your life is very do-able. It is simple, but not easy. And worth it!!


  18. What a great post. I envy you the camper van – we recently looked at modern alternatives with all the gadgets as a way of capturing some lost “freedom” I think.
    We went to our honeymoon destination some years back for our 25th anniversary too – although that wasn’t a road trip – we spent ours on a very small island!
    Next year is 30 years… we’ve been talking about what to do and not do. We got swept up with what others thought we ought to do at first now it is becoming much more “us”… 🙂


  19. First time on your blog and I must say, I’ll be back. I am a newly recovering alcoholic (it’s scary to even write those words) and your thoughts on being fun again really resonate with me. Your sentiments about what your husband might think of you are mine exactly. I have yet to tell him about my sobriety, it’s still too new and I don’t want to disappoint myself if (please no) I re-lapse. Having said all this, we also just bought a 73 bus with a camper and are looking forward to many trips in it! Thanks for your honesty and have fun with the bus!


  20. I love this post Jean! I went to a Jimmy Buffet concert this weekend and a loved one had the balls to tell me I wasn’t any fun since I stopped drinking. Funny since that person didn’t spend any time with me during the concert because he was busy in the VIP drinking while I danced my ass off and sang at the top of my lungs. I will be celebrating 6 months sober next week there is no question I’m having fun. Thank you for paving the way and proving we can INDEED have a blast living life. I love your van and want a ride in that time machine someday! Happy Anniversary.


  21. This is such an inspirational and reassuring post for so many of us who wonder whether we will be as fun going forward! Thank you Jean. I love the smiling faces! Happy Anniversary.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I found your blog last week. I am on day 6 today! Your outlook really helped me. I am feeling good and this post really resonated with me. I want to be smiling & laughing like you in that picture. I have an alcohol assessment with a treatment facility tomorrow (outpatient). My goal is to have a plan. Alcohol no longer works for me and I want peace & happiness. I’ll get it! Actually, I am on my way! Thanks for your blog! Love it! Love the van!


  23. One day at a time

    What pure joy. Lovely to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I love everything about this 🙂 From the awesome van to your perfect description of why being sober is amazing. I actually enjoy life and have fun.. Instead if all the focus being on what I am drinking and when I am drinking it. Enjoy the rest of your anniversary trip! And happy 25th!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Hi Jean, I didn’t realize I was part way “here” “there” “wherever,” until I read this post. Much of the time I feel kind of stuck in sobriety, but reading this, I can see that I AM becoming more fun, my natural personality is starting to gradually reveal itself in the things I spontaneously say or do. Love this post, thanks for sharing with us! The pictures are amazing, love you ❤


  26. Your blog was where I landed on my journey to find sobriety. From here I have found some of the most wonderful bloggers that I want to call my friends even though they don’t know I exist. Thank you with all sincerity.
    I agree this is currently my favorite post and just the inspiration I’m needing at the moment.
    Cyber hugs ~..~ from me.


  27. I Love, Love, Love this post!


  28. Running From the Booze

    I’ve always dreamed of having a VW van! ENJOY!!!!


  29. I really enjoyed reading this post this morning. Took me back to the 70’s…however I only remember drinking through them. Good to see some smiling sober faces in front of that VW rather than my bleary eyed drunken self.


  30. Oh, Jean, I needed that post today! My husband and I just sold our wine collection that represents over 10 years of travelling and sipping something warm and red in front of the fire at home. We both felt sentimental and vaguely sad, “what has happened to us? Why can’t we be like our friends who snatched it up so quickly and happily”…Thanks for the reminder that fun is possible without the liquid accompaniment. You’re a true help and inspiration.


  31. I love it! Such great experience and joy in life! Thank you for sharing!


  32. I am blown away by our similarities but the most hilarious is my hijsband and I also travel in the luxury of our VW van. I will send you a photo.


  33. Oh wow! I love this post! Had the same thoughts myself in those first few days/weeks. My husband and I plan to buy a house in the sun, rural Europe somewhere and I lamented over the fine wine I wouldn’t be sipping each evening on the terrace. So much so, I even thought we might as well abandon that dream – I mean seriously?! Having just returned from another brilliant sober family holiday, I am no longer worried about not having that kind of fun, it had stopped being fun years ago. I look forward to the years of relishing in the freedom I’ve since found and embracing the unknown sober adventure. I wish you so much fun with yours. Love your Van 🙂
    Thanks Carrie x

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I love this post, Jean. And your smiling face was just what I needed when I woke up to another Day 1 today. Even though I’ve had so many failed attempts recently, I feel a little bit stronger each time. But I am struggling. Thank you for your hope and joy. Annie xxx


  35. What a beautiful motor and the correct seventies colour too!

    I am sharing my own story about booze but I’m so happy for you two


  36. Love love love 🙂 We have a campervan too and it is a joy, although our kids are still small so love it more than we do! xx


  37. Love this! My life has expanded immensely since I stopped drinking. So much time for fun now I don’t have to spend it drinking, drunk or hungover. I didn’t realise till I stopped how it had taken over. For the first year or two I kept thinking “Can’t do X because I will be drunk”

    Also, I never had any money because I drank it all. Now I have money to spend on hobbies and holidays.


  38. I think that ‘fun=alcohol’ is the Last Lie. perhaps because it is the most wholesome of the images society associates with alcohol, and therefore the most insidious? I realised a while ago how much I am still affected by the advertising of alcohol which was prevalent in my youth, not just the advertising which prevails today. and that is definitely the equation which was being sold back then.

    wonderful post, and image. the latter will have caused a rash of smiles to break out spontaneously in all your readership! thanks as ever for your inspiration and for setting me on this journey as the sober blogger I read first right back at the beginning. 301 days sober now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  39. This is just marvelous. I love it.


  40. The retro van and those joyous smiles are spectacular ways to go from being a moving observer to part of the scenery. You have been officially deemed “fun!”


  41. You look great and so happy. As a matter of fact you remind me of the actress Julie Bowen, Modern Family. Most importantly, thank you for this post that reminds us things just take time. I have remained sober this last month, but have been challenged in ways that are almost a little scary. So thanks for the reminder about taking time and looking deeper/inward. Love your posts. And hope you have/had a great trip.


  42. Too cool! Thanks so much for sharing, and showing that life in recovery can be and should be a blast.


  43. Thank you I, you say exactly whar I am feeling. I know I owe you a response to your kinf,offer to get together, but have been avoidance mode. Your posts are a kick in the side as to what I need to do, but haven’t had the balls to.


  44. Well done! You have been an inspiration. Thank you. 🙂


  45. What a beautiful expression of freedom and joy and peace xx

    Liked by 1 person

  46. runningonsober

    Yep, it’s official. This is my new favorite post of yours.

    Beautifully written, beautiful reverie, beautiful smiles, beautiful Jean.


    • That means a lot. xo

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Jean, this post couldn’t have come at a better time! My husband and I just sold our treasured wine cellar this weekend, that represents trips around the world and quiet, winter nights in front of the fire at home, sipping something warm and red. We both felt pangs of sentimentality and then fear, “wtf, what has happened to us? We use to be fun!” We needed that post this morning. Thank you!!!!


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