Learning to enjoy a holiday without booze:
After temporarily giving up the drink more than three years ago (it’s still temporary as I can’t seem to make up my mind whether to go back on it), I find that the only time I really long for alcohol is during the summer holidays.
Many, perhaps most, of the other associations that my brain had made with the booze have died away.
The more often you do something without taking a drink or drug, the more the link between that activity and your poison of choice fades. But this one remains, probably because I don’t go on all that many holidays.
I miss the drink most if I go to a sunny country where I used to enjoy the pleasure of having the freedom to drink lots of beer in the sun and to doze my hangovers away. I liked that. But I often fail to remember – when I’m drooling at the sight of an ice-cold can of beer – that about a week into those holidays I used to cut out the daytime drinking because it just got boring and completely pointless.
Don’t get me wrong – there are worse things than sitting by a pool having a pointless experience, the only problem being that it is, well, pointless.
And it helps to remember that the people who actually live in these countries – I’m thinking of France and Italy for instance – don’t sit there guzzling wine and beer all day. Although they are known for the place of wine in their culture, the amount of boozing they do is so little as to seem almost like abstention to some of us in this part of the world.
I recall sitting in a small cafe in Spain, which served mostly beer and wine rather than food, marvelling at locals coming in, drinking one bottle of beer while chatting to the host and then leaving again. This definitely wasn’t the Irish way.
Not a freak
So in not drinking my way through my holiday I am not a freak in the eyes of those who live in the sun, though they might very well find complete abstention rather odd and a form of self-deprivation.
I also tend to forget, as I cast a longing eye at someone’s glass of deep red wine, that holidaymakers who drink their heads off, perhaps starting in the bar in Dublin Airport (if not at home before they get into the taxi), aren’t necessarily having the fantastic time my brain tells me they’re having. If drinking is normal for you then when you’re drinking, you’re just having a normal time (unless you are one of those who is elated by alcohol, which is different and, maybe, dangerous).
It strikes me as I write this that I cannot point to a holiday over the past three years and say that I regret not having had a drink during it. I’m not denying that I would have enjoyed the pleasure of drinking but however I may have felt about it at the time, it doesn’t seem to make any difference in retrospect to my enjoyment of a holiday.
In a way, the key issue isn’t whether other people are enjoying themselves more because they are drinking, but whether I am enjoying myself – usually the answer is yes. So if you’re off the drink and going on holiday I would suggest staying well out of the comparison game and sticking to enjoying yourself, which doesn’t actually require falling off the wagon.
By the way, I don’t have any missionary zeal about drinking or not drinking. My attitude to people who down plenty of lager on their holidays in the sun is, good luck to them.
However, those of us who are choosing not to drink at the moment but who find holidays a bit of a challenge, can meet the challenge by remembering that the brain is lying when it says booze equals enjoyment and no booze means no fun. And if a holiday is no good without alcohol, maybe it’s no good.
My attitude to people who down plenty of lager on their holidays in the sun is, good luck to them