A year ago tomorrow, I set off on my final drinking holiday ever. In one word, it (I) was carnage.
Of course, I didn’t know it was my last drinking holiday ever but it certainly contributed to my eventual abstinence of the poison ruining my life
The first part of the holiday was with 3 close girlfriends & started, as always, with a large glass of rose at the airport before 9am. Start as you mean to go on eh?! The thought now makes me shudder but at the time it was my own personal tradition & made me feel like the holiday had truly begun.
The hotel I stayed at in Majorca was a firm favourite. I’d been many times before as it’s selling points were that it was for adults only, served gin in a glass the size of a fishbowl & served Prosecco for breakfast. Not that I managed the Prosecco most mornings as was too hideously hungover, but the option was there nonetheless.
On day 2, I got totally into the ‘spirit’ of the holiday, ordering buckets of gin from the bar by the pool. My favourite gin was Hendricks, not a cheap option, and it was going down swimmingly. Too swimmingly in fact. I was proper drunk by late afternoon & handing over Euros like it was Monopoly money. In fact, that afternoon & evening, I handed over nearly all the money I’d exchanged in the U.K, approx 250 Euros, all on gin & a one lowly bowl of pasta, to line my stomach of course.
Unsurprisingly, the bowl of pasta didn’t stand a chance against the amount of gin I was knocking back & I was sick the next day. Proper sick to match my proper drunk. There’s nothing worse in the heat & I was conscious that I was wasting a day of my holiday in hangover hell. To combat the sickness, I drank fat coke & ate carbs & eventually it stopped. But it ruined a precious day, a day I had worked hard for, a day I would never get again.
But did I learn? No, of course I didn’t. A few days later I met my other friends & got way too overexcited. We mixed our drinks starting with homemade Pina Coladas & finished with, you’ve guessed it, gin.
The following day, I was hung over the toilet bowl (see what I did there) in the searing heat. The heat & dehydration were making me feel sicker but I couldn’t keep water down. I remember thinking I can’t keep doing this to myself & I don’t believe I drank gin ever again. My friends’ ingenious solution to making me better was to take me to nearby Magaluf & get me a McDonalds. It almost did the trick until we arrived at our destination beach for the day & I threw up again.
This year, I’ve decided not to return to Majorca, the scene of the crime. My holidays there have always been alcohol fuelled & as part of my transformation, I need to visit other places not associated with my past & do more than lie around a pool all day. I will miss it but I won’t miss the view of the bathroom or the wasted days feeling shocking.
I still think about this holiday, scarred by the hideous hangovers & the monster glasses of gin. Hopefully one day I can visit & change the memories into more happy, sober ones. One day.
I’ve always been an over thinker, a predictor of the future. Before every situation, I’ve already pictured it in my mind & thought of all the possible disasters that could happen. I’ve always been this way & guess the reason is because when things work out well, I can feel a sense of relief that things were not as bad as I thought!
I’ve been so lucky to have visited this area in France many times over the last 20 years as my friends family have a holiday home here. On my first holiday here, I was aged about 19 with 5 girlfriends. It was boozy. We drank on the plane & on the way to the house & spent a good chunk of our holiday money on ‘supplies’ to last the week at the local supermarket & then drank nearly all of it in one night! After that, I’ve come with many different sets of friends & gained the (undisputed) reputation as the one who got pissed in the daytime. Some of our friends would do yoga by the pool & some would go for a run. Some would swim a lot or find somewhere to play tennis. But not me .. I’d be the one opening the Sancerre at midday or whipping up a Sangria.
I’ve never really ‘moved’ much whilst I’m here. I would tend to get on the sun bed and the only travel I would make would be to the fridge. Despite coming here so much, I have never really had a clue where I’m going beyond the house as someone else was always driving & I had no real desire to explore.
This time is so different. All the things I thought would be massive triggers have not bothered me in the slightest. Unnecessary worry. You don’t ‘need’ a drink at the airport .. in fact, obstacles that are put in your way are far more easily dealt with sober, with a clear head.
You don’t ‘need’ drink on the plane. Plane wine is abysmal anyway and costs the Earth. I had water & a kip.
If I had drunk the night before travelling out of sheer excitement, then drank at the airport then on the plane, I would’ve arrived at the house feeling shocking. Instead, although tired & a teeny bit stressed, I was in much better shape sober.
I’ve been lucky that my friends I’m staying with are not drinking much although it really wouldn’t bother me if they were. But it does make it easier not to think about the ‘what ifs’ & just enjoy my precious time.
I had also thought that the French would frown upon someone who didn’t drink their national delicacy but in fact, I’ve seen lots of cocktails ‘sans alcohol’ & the supermarket is packed with alcohol free alternatives.
The timetable here is so different on a sober time zone. We’ve been getting up early to walk .. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sunrise here before unless it was an extra late bed time. I’ve also rarely been up before anyone else in the past .. I was usually the last to stagger out of my dark, shuttered hole complaining of feeling sick. I’ve also never been to bed to early however the combination of walking loads first thing & the heat means you’re fit for nothing beyond 10pm. Unbelievable!
So in summary, all of the things I worried about were just a figment of my overactive imagination. We can cleverly think we need to throw alcohol in the mix because that’s what we’ve always done, what everyone else does. But actually there is a lot of life beyond alcohol. There’s a whole world out there beyond the cocktail jug & the sun bed. A whole lot more hours available to enjoy everything France has to offer. I can honestly say I think I have enjoyed this holiday far more than others before because it actually feels like a holiday, a chance to recoup, to recharge the batteries and be kind to myself.
As Dawn the Drinker, I was well known for getting far too excited, far too early. For example, I’d always get hammered the night before a wedding in anticipation for the next day & generally spend the first few hours at the ceremony feeling like death, propped up against a wall, my face an interesting shade of green.
I was the same with holidays. The night before, whilst packing, I would always indulge in at least a bottle of the white stuff, with the end result being a stonking hangover to travel with. It was also compulsory to have a few large glasses at the airport .. the only thing that would stop me was if the hangover was too severe!
This year, it’s going to be very different. And whilst I’m a little apprehensive, I’m also a little intrigued to feel what it feels like to travel and enjoy a holiday completely sober.Ironically, I’m going to the land of wine, cheese & baguette, a Sober Slimming World persons dream (or nightmare). I’ve been to France many times before however was mainly drunk or eating carbs. It will be interesting to see how the French ‘cope’ with me as not sure the non alcoholic choices are going to be extensive. I’m also interested to know what it feels like to wake up with vigour every day rather than stumbling out of bed, gasping for water.
Historically, I have never moved much on holiday .. mainly to the fridge or the bar .. but this time will be a novelty as I still need to walk 50 miles towards my challenge. I will be packing my trainers for the first time ever & am still getting used to the thought of the essential space they will take up in my minuscule hand luggage.
And then there’s my holiday money, previously spent on copious amounts of alcohol & cigarettes. I’m still debating how much I’ll need .. it’s like being a born again holiday virgin .. and I’m guessing that this time, I might actually come back with some Euros in my wallet!
This weekend, my friend and I were talking about the good old times, of drunken nights gone by.
For example, when we went to the pub for a ‘quick one’ after work. After putting the world to rights, her with a bottle of Prosecco, me with a bottle of the finest red, we ended up playing Battleships in a dark corner of the pub. To this day, I still have no idea how to play, who won (but pretty sure it wasn’t me!), or if we ever actually finished the game, but we still laugh about how ridiculous it was now.
Or last summer, when I stayed with her in Majorca and we drank homemade Pina Coladas and smoked copious amounts of cigarettes, whilst dancing on the balcony, watching the beautiful sunset, listening to Chicane.
Brilliant memories of brilliant times, clouded for me however, by the dreaded hangover. The Battleships night was a school night, shortly after I’d started a new role at work. The next day was horrific, woken by the alarm that I mistakenly thought was the sandwich van. Yes, I already thought I was at work and hadn’t even made it out of bed yet. I was sick first and then had endure a whole day feeling rubbish, counting the hours until I could get back in bed and die.
The same happened after Pina Colada night. Sick. For hours. We ventured out for a drive and I just remember feeling ill in the back of the car, not knowing what to do with myself, saved only by a Big Mac & a fat coke in Magaluf and a dip in crystal clear waters.
My point is that, whilst I had fantastic times on a high, there was always a low. And my lows had become unbearable. I know some of my friends are starting to mourn the old me, realising it is unlikely she will ever come back but to be honest, I’m glad that I will (hopefully) never hug the porcelain telephone again (**).
I am starting to understand that a sober life is a much more steady life emotionally. It can feel a bit ‘flat’ at times however I think that is a fair trade to be in control and not ill. I dread to think of the damage I have caused to myself over the years and just hope that now, I can repair some of it.
I am not dead. I’m a work in progress, slowly transforming into the new me. Or perhaps I’m actually becoming the real me, not clouded by the deceiving cloak of alcohol; not hiding behind a large Sauvignon. Only time will tell whether I can be ‘just as fun’ without my faithful protector and whether I ever see beyond midnight again!
(**) – calling Jesus on the porcelain telephone’ – the act of clinging to the toilet basin whilst throwing up violently after a heavy night on binge drinking