That Trip Out of Town

Diane posted:

I have to attend a professional meeting this upcoming weekend, and I am looking for any suggestions people might have on successfully staying sober through it (anything from “Just don’t drink!” to arcane rituals will be welcome). I’m sure you know the sticky parts: planes, trains, hotel bars, meeting cocktail hours, etc.

Frankly, this has been something I haven’t handled well before (why CAN’T that lady get into room 353? Right room number; ooops, wrong hotel, bye…) and I really intend to succeed this time.

Any tips appreciated.

Mary Ann replied:

Is there a meeting where you’re going? Find out, plan to attend it. Skip the cocktail hour, if you have to go then go late (got caught up in work, networking etc…) have a soda, stay away from the bar and people who are obviously there for the drink. Better yet arrive late, bump into someone causing your drink to spill on you (wear light color, dark stainable juice) then you really must leave to change clothes and don’t go back. Don’t go into the hotel bar. Get a rental car (even if you have to pay for it), drive to a meeting (SOS, AA, NA, Alanon, Alateen). Tips on how to find a meeting: http:/ (SOS), phone book for AA, NA. Call the local treatment center/hosp. is there a meeting, or someone you can talk with. As for the airport, bring a SOS book, have the airport PA system page “any friend of J. Christopher or Bill W.” to meet you for a mini meeting. Bring a sober friend with you to wait. Use the phone call someone. Do airport have internet terminals now??? Sign on to SOS Email or Friends of Bill W. chat room. Hey, anything in a tempting situation is worth a try. Keep that last experience (oops, wrong hotel) fresh in your mind.

Craig replied:

I am off on a business trip this very week, and for the first time in a while I was apprehensive about booze before I left – I was concerned that being in a small city in Montana at this time of year would be a problem, what with the early sundown and unavailability of the usual outdoor recreational options in this part of the country, as well as the omnipresence of bars in this frosty climate. Well, my concerns were unfounded, I have had absolutely no urge to throw away my life whatsoever. I even turned down repeated offers of beer and wine tonight when I had dinner at a colleague’s home – and you know what? The antelope steaks were still yummy, the conversation was still amusing, and neither he nor his wife thought any less of me because I chose not to drink. I had a really good time, and I know that I behaved well enough that they meant it when they said they wanted to see me again. It’s a good feeling.

You don’t have to drink to have fun. You don’t have to drink to be interesting. There are only two possible reasons to drink: because you want to or because you need to. Since you are here, it is pretty clear that you don’t really want to. And since you are here, you have probably decided that you need not to drink more than you need to drink. So just keep in mind that no matter what, there is no possible reason that you should pick up a bottle, regardless of what others (be they “normal” or drunks like us) do.

Hugh replied:

Diane and all, I haven’t joined in the discussion till now; I’ve just been eavesdropping, but I appreciate this problem, Diane. I’m a historian and these conferences are REALLY tough tests of sobriety. What I’ve done is just flat out tell people I have stopped drinking because too often in the past I have gotten knee-walking and I don’t want to chance that any more. The reaction has been almost uniformly favorable: people were GLAD AND RELIEVED that I would not be making an obnoxious spectacle of myself. People who didn’t know me, didn’t care that I didn’t drink. And what a difference it made! Instead of returning home with an aching head and fervent hopes that I was not wanted by the local police, I had lots of new, useful information for lectures, etc. and, more important, clear memories of good times with old friends I only get to see at these conferences. I really can’t imagine screwing up one of these occasions again for the sake of alcohol. I really enjoy this group and have benefited from it enormously.

Diane responded:

I just wanted to thank you all for the very useful and creative suggestions and support. It has been definitely helpful for me to see how other people handle this kind of situation. I’ve printed all of your e-mails and will be taking them with me this evening.
I also used your suggestions in combination with a technique in the SOS Handbook. I sat down last night and listed off all of the potential PROBLEM situations I could imagine arising and then matched them with possible SOLUTIONS:

“Liking those little bottles of California Chardonnay on the plane” — make sure I have something nonalcoholic to drink.

“Going out with a group of former colleagues” — try just telling them that I stopped drinking — they’ll probably be just as glad; remember that there is no reason for me to pick up a bottle…et cetera.

I realize that this might sound like major overkill (I even called the hotel to make sure the room doesn’t have a minibar!), but this is the first time I have traveled for any reason and I want it to be a success.

Three days later, Diane posted:


I just wanted to thank everyone for all of the advice and support re: conference travel. It WORKED! Had a very nice time (actually remember the content of the sessions! — laugh), enjoyed seeing old colleagues — and even attended two receptions fueled by nothing stronger than Diet Coke. (I did skip the invitation to go “brewpub crawling”, however — went back to my hotel and got into the pool instead, then went down for a nice dinner with a good book. I brought all your e-mail with me and it was most helpful to review the suggestions and my plan and to know that I HAD a plan, and options to deal with it.

Didn’t even want to drink on the train ride home — AND got an unexpected bonus from that: turned out my boss was on the same train (unrelated travel) and we didn’t know it till we disembarked (by which time yours truly USUALLY would have had at least three of those cunning little bottles of wine (“oh, they’re SO small….”).

Anyway, thank you all once again, and enjoy a sober Tuesday! (Even if it IS cloudy and Novembery here, it’s not cloudy in my head today. And it doesn’t have to be anymore.


(Posted Nov. 5 – 11, 1997)