Going On A Drinking Holiday And ... Not Drinking?

Photograph by Anna Jay for Refinery29.

Photograph by Anna Jay for Refinery29.

When dealing with insecurity or worrying tendencies, sometimes even the occasions that are supposed to be care-free throw up feelings that might leave you self conscious or anxious. When we received this submission from Sophie, the way in which she consistently understood and worked on herself, for herself, stood out and was so inspiring. We hope you find as much motivation from her self care motivated decisions as we did!

“Not for me, thank you!” I hold my hand over my glass as the sun-soaked waiter goes to pour an eighty euro bottle of wine. The confusion in his face as he asks ‘oh, something else?’ tells me how little he probably hears that. 

I made the decision that I wasn’t going to drink for the foreseeable future while I was on a Holistic Lifestyle Retreat in Ibiza. I’d been battling with going completely off alcohol all year, so arriving at a health camp where we’d be detoxing all week seemed the perfect place to set my plan in motion. And when our zen life therapist for the week asked ‘what habit do you have in your life that you don’t want to experience anymore?’ Mine was alcohol. I even burst into tears in front of a group of 17 new people as I explained how I didn’t like it, but often felt the pressure to drink it for fear of being labelled ‘a bore’ or ‘no fun.’ After all, a vegan who doesn’t drink isn’t exactly likely to get invited to many parties now, is she? 

You see, the less I’ve been drinking, (as in, nothing passing my lips for an entire 6 months) the more I’m able to notice how even a drop of alcohol truly makes me feel. The moment it touches my mouth I get a turn in my stomach, an instant rush of pain to my head, a flush to my face that makes me feel dizzy. The smell, the feeling, the sense immediately fast forwards me to the crazy anxiety I’ll be getting the next day, the headache and the length of time it’ll take for me to feel well again. (The 3 day hangover struggle for age 26+ is real!) And it just doesn’t feel worth it. 

But naturally, heading to Mykonos on a girls holiday, I sensed there would be an abundant flow of alcohol and I wondered how on earth I would manage with being the non-drinker of the group. Would I be a total bore? Would I enjoy it? Would I ever be invited on holiday again?

However, as it turns out, as well as the fact I saved myself £400 on the wine that others complained ‘they didn’t even enjoy,’ I felt like I could soak in every inch of the place, with a clear head to boot. I could taste the close-your-eyes-and-chew delicious food, I could focus on the sunset as it glowed behind the mountains, and I was wide-eyed and ready for a morning yoga session in the sunshine at our villa overlooking the town each day.

I’d set my stall out early on, by letting my friends know I wasn’t going to be drinking that week, and to my pleasant surprise was greeted with ‘congratulations’ and ‘that’s so great, I’d love to be able to do that!’ There wasn’t any obvious eyeballing, at least not to my face, so I took that as a good sign.

Granted, I felt my own self-inflicted extra pressure to compensate by showing ‘just how fun I am’ - but what that really did was: show myself how fun I am! With a little extra nod to myself, I was first to dance on the tables, to chat to random people with confidence and remember the entire conversation, waving my arms and closing my eyes to feel the beat as if I were on some narcotic high. Perhaps I didn’t ‘need’ alcohol to be the most fully-expressed me, after all. 

It certainly felt like worlds away to the drinking holidays I had once become accustomed to years previously: sticky fish bowls, slurring my words and forgetting any kind of conversations I’d had, and spending the entire next day in bed under the air-conditioning. It wasn’t exactly the dream.

I don’t know when alcohol became a requirement for a good time, you see, but the Western world seems to have subscribed to it as a given. 

Enjoying a cold glass of your favourite tipple on the deck as you breathe into relaxation because you like the taste and the way that first glowy rush makes you feel, I can totally get on board with. But hearing the phrase from confused peers ‘don’t you feel like you *need* to drink on a night out to have a good time?’ worried me, and also made me question: if you feel you ‘need’ alcohol in order to have a good time, might it be time to change your interests?

I concluded that if we were all encouraged to explore how much fun we could have in the company of our friends without being intoxicated, perhaps we’d start wondering what benefit alcohol really does have after all. And most importantly: why we feel the *need* for it?

I wonder if rather than getting ‘out of ourselves’ through some bloat-inducing substance, we might prioritise instead learning how to get into ourselves, how to enjoy ourselves without a fizzy confidence crutch, how to feel more comfortable in ourselves that we don’t need a protective barrier of alcohol to blame on the overt expression of who we really are: that we like to sing loudly and dance with reckless abandon, and burp. 

It came to be a personal self-discovery lesson for me in: who am I without alcohol? And it turns out, I’m alright, actually. I learned you can still have a good time without putting a fuzzy filter on it to make things look better. And I felt liberated by the observation that when everyone else is drunk, they neither notice, care or remember what you’re up to, so you can let loose without the dread of a dwindling bank account or a looming 3-day headache!

Sophie French is an NLP Master Practitioner + Business Coach who helps female creatives to back themselves instead of attack themselves and how to master their message, so they can show up with their brilliance and blow up their business. She runs 1:1 coaching programmes, online workshops + retreats across the UK & Europe. You can access her free email course From Frazzled to Freedom right this way >>>.