Sober firsts part 1
las vegas 1 week in!
After kicking off the blog with four posts that took me 6 months to write I promised myself I would get more up ASAP. When trying to decide what to write about next I got to thinking about the things that I was most interested in reading and hearing about in the very early days when I first quit drinking. One of those things was other people’s experience of their first time doing some of the things that we consider to go hand-in-hand with drinking. Things like parties, weddings, Christmas etc. I was reminded of The Bubble Hour podcast episode called Sober Firsts (which I talked about in my sober podcasts blog here). In it, one of the guest speakers, Megan, talked about some of her sober firsts and I related so much to her that I ended up emailing her and from there she basically introduced me to the online sober community that were to become my lifeline during my first year.
I like reading shorter blog posts because I’m always a bit time-poor myself so I’m going to write each sober first as a single blog post rather than try to cover them all in one go.
Considering the amount of things that I had coming up in the weeks following my day 1 I could have told myself that I’d quit “after the holiday’ or “after the wedding” but there was always going to be something to get in the way so I knew that there was never going to be an ideal time. My sober firsts came thick and fast. At 29 it wasn’t unusual for me to have a hen party or wedding almost every month. I’ve heard so many people talk about the fact that you can say no to anything you don’t feel comfortable going to but I don’t know how realistic that is for most people. Saying “Hey best friend, I can’t be your bridesmaid in two months and I won’t be at your hen party either” or “Hey husband you know that trip of a lifetime we’ve been planning for the past year and are going on next week? Can’t do it!”. I mean, yes, obviously we all have free will to say no but the things that I had going on in early sobriety were really important to me and to some of the people that I love. I pulled out of all of the unnecessary ones but some just could not give nor did I want them to.
First Sober Holiday
A week after I quit drinking myself and my husband were going on a 4-night break to Las Vegas. It was our first proper break away from our then 9 month old son, we had saved enough money to splash out a bit and enjoy ourselves and after a busy few months we both really needed the break. My husband isn’t a big drinker so I knew that me not drinking wasn’t going to bother him (rather he was relieved that for once I wouldn’t be insisting that we stay out for “just one more” which was never just one more). In my head, however, Vegas went hand-in-hand with champagne and cocktails and I felt that our holiday would be lacking because of me.
I’m not a nervous traveller and was happy that our son would be well looked after so thankfully neither of those things were worrying me as we set off. On arrival our trip and my sobriety were given a big boost when our hotel room was upgraded to an executive suite due to a shortage. That really felt like a sign to help me because in my head I had bargained with myself that if things were too hard I would just chill in our room for the duration of the trip. If chilling was all I’d be doing then I was now going to have plenty of space, a Jacuzzi and six televisions to keep me happy!
Our huge suite could definitely have served as my hideaway if necessary
As it turned out there’s quite a lot to do in Vegas that doesn’t involve drinking and you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out. The weather was fantastic so we spent the early part of our days at the pool. I had imagined that there’d be pool parties and drinks on the go all day but in reality most of the other sunbathers were drinking water like me. I had stocked up on sobriety memoirs and Bubble Hour podcasts and proceeded to devour them over the five days.
Later in the day we would hit the strip to eat, shop and generally take it all in. There is so much choice for food in Vegas and we ate rings around ourselves. At that very early stage of sobriety I didn’t know the science behind why we replace alcohol with sugar in the beginning. I just knew that I needed cake and chocolate on the regular and that it helped a lot. Shopping was also a good distraction and I’m sure I bought lots of unnecessary things because my mind wasn’t exactly the clearest it’s ever been but again it served its purpose.
I went home broke and probably a few pounds heavier but I can honestly say it was the first holiday where I actually did the things I said I would do during the day. On other holidays I would often be hungover and wouldn't bother with some of the sights. I'd always say I didn't care but the truth was that I couldn't be bothered because I was hungover.
All of the food all of the time
I needed none of the clothes but all of the retail therapy
Doing the actual things
There were plenty of times when I felt the “poor-me’s” as I watched couples sharing champagne or groups of girls knocking back cocktails. It felt like everywhere I turned I was getting a taste of all of the events and scenarios that I would no longer be part of. Luckily there was a great hotel gym so I would take myself off to it, podcast and run, and then head back out into the world again feeling a bit more positive. Because we had missed a lot of sleep travelling out to Vegas I naturally fell into a routine of waking early and going to bed early and this also helped because it was at night that I most felt out of sorts. Although one night when we were heading back to our hotel room I saw a gambler being escorted out of the hotel in a wheelchair because he was so drunk and this experience was not lost on me. He had totally lost control of himself and while it was upsetting to watch it was good to see the not so glam side of it all.
If I ever get to go to Vegas again I’ll be making sure to check out Yoga in the Sky which is basically Yoga taught inside the High Roller (the London Eye of Vegas). Another sober sister, Carly Benson of Miracles are Brewing, is one of the instructors there. We went on the High Roller one of the nights and it was amazing but unfortunately the Yoga sessions weren’t running back then. It was expensive but I could justify it when I thought of all the money I hadn't spent on alcohol. If I had been drinking I wouldn't have forked out for this but would have thought nothing of spending close to a hundred euro on a night out.
The fab view from the High Roller
I don’t want to use my blog to tell other people how to do things because each of our circumstances are different. The point of writing it is to share my own story and hopefully people will relate to it and see that life is not over just because your drinking days are. Despite missing alcohol, particularly wine, so much in the early days I felt very sure of my decision to quit drinking. Had I not felt like that, had I felt unsure as to whether I could get through things like the Vegas trip, then maybe I wouldn’t have gone. In sobriety and recovery communities you hear people talk about riding on the ‘pink cloud’ which to quote Elevations Health refers to “the feelings of elation and happiness that are usually felt by someone in early sobriety”.
My pink cloud was big, bright and sparkly. It came in quickly and lasted for about 6 months.
That’s not to say I felt absolutely amazing every day and that it was all plain sailing but it did help. I’m now so grateful that I experienced it and for so long. There were a lot more challenging days and nights (and far less exciting places than Vegas) when it had passed and I’ll be writing about them too but by then I had some sober roots under me. At the end of the day I’m so glad that I didn’t back out of our trip because the experience of it helped me realise that life would go on without alcohol and that it could be enjoyed rather than endured.
Thanks for reading,