Port-less in Porto

Just last week, I was thinking that sobriety was starting to be easy. Now I realize this is going to be a roller coaster of temptation for a long time, if not for life.  While it is easier to not crave alcohol than in my first few weeks or sobriety,  I still have to actively remind myself “I can not have even ONE drink!”

I am in Porto, Portugal. The home of port wine. Every place I go, I am reminded how great their port is and that I can not drink it. My friend is not helping much. He keeps pointing out places that have good wine or good local beer. “Our beer is really good too. Shame you can’t try any.” I guess he is used to taking people to taste the local drinks. It makes me feel like some handicapped alien. He pointed out the port warehouses along the river that allow free or cheap tastings. Sorry. I am not going there either.

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Port Wine Boats Along River

It makes me a bit sad. I am a freak. It seems I can not partake in anything that is traditional Portuguese.  He points out cafes and and places were people sit out late drinking wine or beer. I know there had to be more to this culture but he hasn’t shared with me what else there is. Oh there is fish. Cod fish. That is the only local thing I know besides port.

It is an inner struggle to not want to try port. I actually almost accidentally bought a Bock beer thinking it was a local soda. Right now, I hear them opening wine bottles as he and a friend prepare lunch. It is pathetic that I have canine ears when it comes to opening bottles of wine. He then asked if I am okay with them drinking. I do not want to be the annoying guest that says “it is making me want to stab myself that I can not drink so please don’t”, so of course I lied and said it will be no problem.

I actually look forward to traveling on my own in a few days. I actually prefer traveling alone. I can get up when I want and start the day rather than waiting for my friend to get out of bed. I can go to sleep early. I can skip a meal. I can change plans. I can avoid alcohol more. That is a new benefit I am adding to “reasons to travel solo.”

I have my 3 sober coins in my wallet. I have my sober bracelet on my wrist. I have my sober blogs. I will stay strong. It just sucks.

Then I read this blog from Soberistas:  Booze The Liar. I will have to keep repeating this quote when faced with temptation:

Here’s what booze ACTUALLY provided me with; arrogance, self-centredness, laziness, lack of productivity, very bad hangovers, terrible life choices, low self-esteem, shame and bucket loads of guilt.

Mistake 192- Years ago when I wanted to be more than friends with the guy I am visiting, we got drunk and ended up in a hot tub. I do not remember any of it. He said I tried to initiate sex in the hot tub. Without a condom. He managed to hold me off until we got into a bedroom with a condom. After sex (which I don’t remember), he said I brought up talk of wanting a relationship.  He did not. I started crying. He left. He had to tell me all about this a few days later. He asked me if I have unprotected sex a lot when drunk. I told him I honestly did not know.

I think he wonders if I consider him one of my “drunk mistakes”. I consider the way it happened a mistake. I do not regret having sex with him and I am very fortunate it did not ruin our friendship. Now I have to remember not to take the chance of repeating those mistakes!

Travel: not what it used to be

I used to fly to Europe at least once a month many years ago. I would work a night shift, stay up afterwards, then fly to London. It would be morning by the time I arrived in London and my new day would start. From there, I would take a train or inexpensive flight elsewhere.  I almost always slept well on those flights.

This time, I barely slept. Is it due to the seats not reclining as much as before? Or because I do not fly with wine anymore? No more pre-flight Bloody Marys. Now I order water or orange juice with my meal. Or it could be because I am used to the window seat and this flight I had aisle seat. I envied the girl with the bulkhead to lean against.  I even got a little pissed that she was not taking advantage of it and she watched movies most of the flight. 

Yet arriving tired is better than arriving hungover! I am excited to start my day and a new country.

Mistake 191- My first time in London, I went to meet up with a group of friends I met online.  We had a good amount of people that showed up at this pub. I was excited that such a large group of Brits came out to meet me. Three of the guys that were there were three of the guys I spent a lot of time flirting with online. By the end of the night, I made out with all three plus another guy I did not know. One guy never spoke to me again and told some of the others in our cyber community I was a “slag”. Another guy is known for being a player so no one was surprised.  The guy I did not know was married. And I went home with the fourth. Actually, we did not go home but went to his car. Then after sex, we slept in his car in front of his mate’s house.  The positive thing out of that was when we went into his mate’s house for breakfast, I met his mate’s housemate who I began dating. But for the 10 months we dated, I could never understand what he saw in a slag like me.

Tools for Travel

I am preparing to go on a trip to Portugal in a few days. I am quite excited. I have never been to this country. I only know one word in the language (obrigada). I have been having fun planning everything and keeping myself from too many plans. I like to keep my travels flexible. I have friends joining me for some of it but I also am looking forward to alone time. And I look forward to doing all of this sober!

I have been on a few roadtrips and mini-vacations since quitting alcohol. But this will be my first foreign trip. I love exploring other cultures but I do get anxious about the unknown. I like to learn new words but I get stressed by the language barriers. I hope I can handle the nervousness without turning to a bottle. I used to love trying local beers and I have a collection of beer labels from around the world. I am going to miss that.

But I am not going to miss all the time and money I wasted drinking. Keeping memories of the drunk mistakes I made on other travels will, hopefully, keep me from taking that first sip. I have missed sights or did not fully enjoy wonderful places because I was hungover. I have spent so much money drinking alone or with new friends in bars across the planet. I even paid $25 to drink one Singapore Sling in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore! What a waste for a drink! I squander so much of my life around the culture of alcohol.

I know in Porto there is going to be a lot of temptation to drink port. I remember drinking wine in Australia that was a port but called LHS, which stood for “left hand side.” I always tell that story when I used to drinm port. Will the Portuguese people understand that I can not drink any alcohol? Maybe I need to say it is my religious beliefs that keep me from drinking? Maybe no one will care?

I think I am more excited to travel sober than I am worried about relapsing. Not passing out drunk in strange places is always good motivation!

Mistake 188- I was visiting a friend in Thailand. She was living there for a year and I was traveling the country. We went to stay at a guesthouse in the jungle for a few days. It was very beautiful there. We woke up hearing Gibbons calling and saw many beautiful species of birds.

We had some plans of hikes and a lake tour. Since she was living there, she needed to do some work on her computer. While she worked, I drank. I started drinking Chang beers at noon everyday. I drank beer late into the night while she drank fresh fruit smoothies and tea. One of the days was rainy so I drank more than usual. The next day was the lake tour. I was very hungover that day. I looked forward to grabbing another beer as soon as possible to fix my headache. I lovingly called it my “Changover. ”

We charged all our meals and drinks to our room. When we were checking out, the manager pulled me aside. My friend knew him so we got discounts on the room and meals. But he said he recalculated the bill many times because he couldn’t believe how much I spent on beer. “Did you really drink THAT much?”

I would have to find my notes of my travel expenses to remember exactly how much I spent. But it was wasted money and time.

Sober First Class

First my flight was delayed. Then they changed the airlines. But it was changed to a direct flight rather than having a connection. I would actually arrive an hour earlier. I thought that sounded too good.

Then, as boarding, they tell me my seat had to be changed to balance out the plane. I walked onto the flight with a pissed off attitude. When checking in, I picked a seat in the back of the plane, in a row of three, and I was supposed to be the only passenger in it. I better not have been moved to a full row!

Nope. I was moved to Economy Plus for free. I got upgraded to the seats with more legroom. I had one person in my row, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since I could stretch more. Awww the perks of having a frequent flyer membership! I got settled. Took off my shoes. Started reading. Then a flight attendant brings me a new ticket. “Seat 2f” she says. I thank her and stare at it confused. Is this for my return flight?

“Go to First Class please.”

Woot! Yea! First class baby! I grabbed my stuff, shoved my feet into my shoes, and shuffled to the front without even tying my laces. This should be an awesome flight!
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Then why do I keep feeling dread? Like too many good things just happened. Like I am at the top of the roller coaster and I know the scary, downhill part is next. It is not even like I won the lottery or received some amazing life news. I got a better flight and a better seat on a plane. Am I just used to disappointment? Like I feel it is expected.

Since I got to my seat late, the attendant asked if I wanted a cup of water. She did not have time to get me anything else. THANK YOU! No way to tempt me with free booze. “Yes water would be lovely.” Now let’s see how I handle the next 6 hours. “Do you have O’Douls?”

… (an hour later) The woman next to me had white wine.  I could smell it.  It smelled like cheap wine.  Chardonnay?  Then the attendant asked if I wanted wine with my meal.  No thanks.  I really have no desire. And it feels awesome to not have that desire.

… (two hours later) She has had 4 glasses.  They are small.  She is now asleep. I keep smelling the unfinished wine that is sitting on our shared console. I am reading but I keep getting distracted by the scent.  It smells good now.  Cheap or not. But… I can’t remember what it tastes like.  I am enjoying the scent and I don’t REALLY want to sip it. No. Does one want to sip poison even if you enjoy the smell?  I do not want to taste the wine nor taste the guilt that would follow.

We got dessert. A nice ice cream sundae. That is better than cheap wine!

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Then I napped. I woke up to a beautiful sunset out my window.
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I checked my phone after landing. Had a few messages from bloggers. A few wanted advice to quit drinking. It reaffirmed my decision to not have free cheap wine!

*This blog was actually written at the beginning of my trip and before dealing with my unsupportive friends.

Mistake 140- After my first DUI and I had to stay on a friend of a friend’s couch, I mentioned that I made many mistakes. Let me try to remember them all because I did not write them in my journal from back then. (All my journal entries from back then were just very depressing thoughts.)

The friend I was staying with was a gay guy in the Navy and he had a lot of other gay friends stay over a bunch. I think there was one couch and if someone was staying on it, I got the floor. I was not really a friend anyways. He was doing our mutual friend a favor by letting me stay. Maybe there were two couches?

I remember one night, I brought a guy back to the house. I knew this guy already. So he wasn’t some stranger I picked up in the club that night. But I was very trashed and we had sex on the living room on the floor. With a gay guy on the couch! He started to stop me and say we shouldn’t cause someone else was there but he says I said “it’s okay. He is gay.”

Drunk logic?

The guy that owned the house was very angry. I spent the next week trying to avoid him and the other guys that always stayed over. I kept apologizing via emails. Finally, he cooled down enough just to promise me I would never do that again. I promised. But alcoholics do not always keep their promises.

Returning to the City of My Last Drink

I am flying out for a small vacation this weekend. I travel a lot, so I don’t really think of this as a “vacation”. Just some days off on the other side of the country. I am going for a class reunion. I am no longer looking forward to that because the only events they planned for the weekend are golf and a brewery. Boring and boring (to a sober alcoholic.)

I am also going to visit and stay with some good friends. I had my last drink last time I visited this couple. Last time I saw their place, I woke up on their couch with my last hangover. When I last told her I shouldn’t drink because of my drinking problem, she tried to convince me I do not have a problem.  She told me to just drink a few that night. I got drunk to “prove” my problem to her.

Neither she nor her husband have commented, texted or liked anything on my Facebook when I mentioned I went sober. I created an event for my friends to make plans to see people this weekend and stated in it I quit drinking so meeting in a bar is not something I want to do. The couple still has not said anything except “are you planning to stay with us?”

I am worried they are going to be uncomfortable.  In the three years I have known them, a lot of alcohol was consumed. They used to buy IPAs for my visit. Beer tastings. Wine tastings. We would take turns at mornings of festivals providing the champagne for mimosas but usually the three of us would go through 2 bottles. While we have a friendship outside of drinking, I am really nervous being around them. I feel like stopping at AA to grab a pamphlet for them like “So Your Friend is an Alcoholic” or something similar.

Then again, they have been busy house hunting and trying to get pregnant. Maybe my sobriety is not on their radar. Maybe they did not notice or have time to comment. Maybe she is pregnant and not drinking either. I need to stop thinking everything and everyone revolves around me and my alcoholism.
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Mistake 135- I was visiting the same city I am going to today a few years ago for St Patrick’s day. Since I was drinking in the park at a festival all day, I was trashed by the evening time. I went with my friends to a pub. Not sure if it was an Irish pub or not. A friend knew the band that was playing. He was a regular at this bar.

I ended up getting kicked out of the pub. I was falling all over everyone and passing out. I embarrassed my friends. My friend that was a regular was told to never bring me there again.

Boozing and Backpacking

I saw a thread floating around on Facebook about traveling backpackers. I laughed. A lot of that pertains to me. I miss traveling.

But the bits about drinking got me wondering if traveling sober well be difficult for me.  It is easy to tell myself “you will save so much money without drinking” but bars do tend to be a natural habitat for backpackers. I used to pick out places to eat in the backpacker areas based on the drink specials. I avoided hostels that did not allow alcohol consumption. If a hostel sold beers, I sometimes had the highest tab by the end of the night. I spent one Christmas Eve getting drunk at an elephant camp in Thailand with other travelers and the guide was shocked that I drank more beers than anyone. Even the German guys.  Beer really was cheapest beverage in some countries. That was my excuse when I kept getting drunk in Czech Republic.

I need to remind myself of the times I put my life at risk by getting drunk in other countries. The times I got lost or went home with strangers. The times I lost my wallet or passport. The time I almost got arrested in Mexico or ran nude in Muslim countries. I never drove drunk in other countries because I rarely drove in other countries. (Though once I drove from Tijuana to San Diego after a lot of tequila shots for lunch. I was so worried the border patrol guard would smell my breath but he was more concerned I wasn’t smuggling people.)

 

in a bar in Istanbul

in a bar in Istanbul

I have a trip planned in August to Portugal. I am a little nervous. It is my birthday gift to myself. I am already planning to spend the day at art museums and then a nice dinner. As of now, I will be spending it alone. I keep skipping the parts of my guide book that mention clubs and bars. In the past, I would go to bars alone in strange cities. I would sit and observe. And drink. I am hoping I will be able to stay strong and sober while traveling.

Mistake 119- I was staying at a hostel in Melbourne, Australia. I bought a bottle of abstinthe that day. I was so excited because it was still illegal in the United States. I remember I did not know how to drink it properly. I was mixing it with juice and some Gatorade type of drink. I got trashed on it by myself. I met a cute Swedish guy somewhere in the hostel. Either in the kitchen or common area. For some reason, I think it might have been by the soda machine. I don’t remember much except we ended up having sex in his dorm room. We were on the top bunk. He had 3 upset roommates. I told some friends about it the next day and everyone said “that is dorm life!” I spent the rest of my stay wondering if any guys giving me strange looks were his dormmates. Never talked to the guy again.

 

 

 

 

Coma

I received an email that a friend of mine is in a coma. I met him while traveling in his country. Another mutual friend suggest we meet up. We got along right away. I don’t use this phrase usually, but he felt like a brother.

We have stayed in touch via Facebook. He used to be a recipient of my drunk chats since he is 12 hour time zone difference away. I would be drunk and he would be at work. We discussed traveling, relationships and diving. I was supposed to go see him last January for a diving trip but I changed my plans and went to Borneo instead. Now I might never see him again.

He had an asthma attack. That caused severe pneumonia. That led to cardiac arrest. He has been on a ventilator the last few days fighting for life.

I hope he wakes up. This has also been sort of wake up call to me.  A message to appreciate my life daily. To be very grateful my drinking never put me in a coma. Or I never killed anyone. Just one drink could take me back to my blackouts and getting behind the wheel of a car. Even if I think I could drink and just “plan” better to avoid driving, I have proven over and over that the drunk monster will screw up plans.

Sobriety brings me a new respect for my life.

I pray for my friend and his family.

sober

Mistake #82 – When I met my friend, it was for a festival. It was a last-minute decision for me to go there. I was staying with an acquaintance of a friend since all hotels were sold out. There was a large group of us that went out together. We watched parades during the day and danced in a club at night. I do not remember when the drinking started but I got drunk on cheap, local beers. One of the locals invited everyone back to his place for afterhours drinking. The guy I was staying with was getting tired and wanted to leave. As usual, I did not want the partying to stop. “No just stay! Stay a little bit longer. Everyone is having fun. Don’t be a party-pooper.” This guy insisted on leaving. I was too drunk to notice when he left without me.

I woke up on the end of a bed. The guy hosting the afterhours had many people crashing in his room but I was a surprise guest. “How did you end up staying here?” I blamed my host. He just left me! A lot of the people in the room were not fond of that guy so they all agreed how rude that was to ditch me. But I now admit I acted like a little, drunk brat. And thankfully I was at a safe place to pass out drunk.

International Women’s Day

Happy International Women Day to all the ladies out there!

I know there seems to be a lot writen about women and alcoholism. I have downloaded Drinking Diaries to my iPod and thinking of downloading Her Best Kept Secret next. I listen to them in traffic. I am not sure why it has to be a separate subject. It almost seems that is it more shameful for women than men to have an addiction. Is that because women are meant to be seen as pure and motherly?

I will admit when I see a news story about a death of a woman and they add “and she was a mother of 2”, I get bitter. I think “oh so that makes it worse? If I die it won’t be as bad as a mother dying?” I feel I am less worth. I feel no matter what good I have done compared to that mother, she will be seen as more valuable because she reproduced. Maybe I just feel anrgy about my messed up family.

It some countries, women drinking is definitely look down upon. And I never cared. Usually. I drank plenty in Muslim countries and almost got in trouble a few times for it.

A few years back, I spent one to two weeks traveling the state of Kerala in India. It is a beautiful place known for it’s spices and beaches. This is the first elected communist state in the world. It has the highest rate of literacy in all of India. It also has the highest rate of alcoholism. And I just googled an article that the alcoholism and crime are increasing in Kerala. I remember seeing long lines of men at the government liquor stores before the stores opened. I pulled into one town on a bus at 10am and a line was down the block and around a corner. I saw mostly women working everywhere because the men were usually too drunk. I did not drink while traveling in Kerala because 1) I was tryiing to lose a few pounds before the beaches of Goa and 2) I did not want to be the only female in the liquor store line.

(This was a line at a different store later in the day.)

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Mistake # 39- I went to Chicago in March 2008 for International Women’s Day. I was meeting up with a group of international nomadic women. It was a good weekend and I met several interesting women. We all talked about difficulties exploring the world as women alone and gave each other travel tips. There was a dinner the first night to introduce ourselves to each other. The second day there was a lunch and a tour of the city. (Freezing cold tour!) I also took some time to visit the Art Institute because it is my favorite art museum in the United States. And that night we were meeting for dinner at Uno’s followed by a bar crawl. We were going out to party Chi town style!

I started drinking at lunch.  I think I was tasting each kind of Goose Island beer, the local brew, they had on tap. Again, trying to help the local economy. I wasn’t driving so I didn’t care and the booze would help keep me warm. I drank a lot at lunch. The large glasses only, please. I was tipsy on my visit the the art museum. I stopped in bar after for a few drinks before dinner. I was drunk by the time we got to the bar crawl. I have photos of me and some of the women. We looked like we were having a fun time. There was a lot of dancing. I think some men were swinging around a stripper pole? I do not remember which bars or to how many we went. But I know I got kicked out of the last one. I do not know what happened or what I did. But all I really remember, that is not in the photos, is me crying outside of a bar and apologizing and a bounce telling me I am not allowed back inside. I don’t know if one of the women helped me get a taxi or if I managed to do that on my own. But the women I met that weekend never spoke to me again.