10 Reasons It Didn’t Suck to Be Sober in Italy
- No Wasted Moments…or Money
Let’s face it: travel is expensive so it is important to make the most of every second. As I sipped cappuccino and welcomed each morning, I felt rested and refreshed. When our afternoon adventures ran long or we found one more sight to visit before returning for dinner, I had no feelings of rising anxiety or obsessive thoughts about when and how I could start drinking. I was fully present for every wonderful moment.
- Mmmmm….That Food!
When we were finally showered and sitting to dinner, I could focus and appreciate the subtleties of handmade pasta, fresh ingredients, and regional specialties. (Pictured above: a 12-course seafood appetizer and yes, we followed it with entrees!) I happily drank water with dinner to rehydrate after hours of endless walking Venice Streets and hiking the mountains of Cinque Terre. Afterwards, I regularly indulged in desert knowing I saved all those alcohol calories for something better.
- No Pressure
I had built up the idea that I would offend restaurant staff by declining wine, as though I was turning up my nose at the pride of Italy. In fact, I was never pressured anywhere and my requests for “Tonica, per favore” – dramatic slashing hand gestures – “NO GIN! NO ALCOHOL PER FAVORE!” were consistently granted without incident.
- More Energy for *Other* Things
Italy is very romantic…wink wink …say no more…
- Early Morning Church Bells
In my little corner of Canadian suburbia, churches are generally modern buildings without bell towers. What a treat to wake up at 7 a.m. by the ringing of authentic church bells from multiple nearby locations! The ringing continued several times a day – for morning prayers, at noon, evening prayers, and mass times. Joyous, old-timey, community-calling ringing of the bells. Gorgeous! The morning clangs were doubly lovely knowing that I would not have appreciated them nearly so much in my wine days.
- A Lighter Load
I am wildly proud of having managed a 70L/55lb backpack throughout this trip, partly because of the physical effort required and mostly because of the necessary packing restraints I had to embrace. I wore the same leggings and sweater for most of the trip and washed socks and undies in the sink at night. Where the hell could I have tucked in the necessary 6 boxes of wine that 16 days abroad would require?! Thank God I am sober! My back couldn’t take another ounce!
- Long Walking Days
The best way to see a new place is on foot at a leisurely pace. Stroll, feel the breeze in your hair, smell the sea and the bakeries. Hear the languages being spoken around you. Stand at the foot of a historic building and experience its scale against your size. Reach out your hand and touch the ancient stones. Climb the steep terraces that locals have travelled for centuries. (Step aside as a 90-year-old local rushes past with impressive agility.) Spot something in the distance and say, “Let’s go see what that is!” I promise, you’ll be blissfully asleep by 9:30 pm – no emotional numbing agent required.
- My Sweetheart
My husband and I had spoken about our expectations for each other ahead of time. We had a plan to ensure we both experienced the vacation we wanted. It is important to travel with someone you trust, who values and respects your sobriety, and is willing to look out for you.
- A Flexible Mindset
I have developed a lot of routines and habits that support my sobriety. Morning coffee, evening tea, time alone, and self-care are vital parts of my day, and missing out on these things can spike my anxiety. I realized that I would have to be flexible and sacrifice some of my routine. Tea before bed was rarely possible, my husband and I were together 24/7, and there was little room in the backpack for my giant bag of cosmetics, flat iron, nail polish and body lotion. I had to make do, and often do without – or at least do differently. I had to get dressed and go in front of other humans before morning coffee (gah!) but Italian cappuccino was worth the effort.
- Living the Dream
We waited our whole lives to explore the world, and I didn’t want to miss a thing. Prior to the trip I had worried that being sober would spoil my trip to Italy, and that Italy would spoil my sobriety. It occurred to me as we drove to the airport that the two were not at odds, but a perfect union. Being sober made everything better, more real, more memorable.