Learn­ing to en­joy a hol­i­day with­out booze:

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Pádraig O’Mo­rain

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).

No re­grets

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

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