Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen that I had concern about travel over the next couple of days. I’ve been fortunate to have a small break from it since January, but I do hop on a plane at least 40 times a year for work, with a handful of pleasure trips sprinkled in between. While I don’t mind flying in general, I’ve developed massive anxiety about turbulence in recent years. When things start to go bump, I become a nervous wreck despite knowing full well that it’s an unnecessary reaction. I haven’t always been this way, and most things don’t really bother me. Hell, I’m the woman who can ride the world’s tallest roller coaster a hundred times over without so much as a second thought, but throw some rough air my way when I’m 30,000 feet up and I’m clutching the arm rests for dear life. Being a passenger in a car is about the only other thing that rattles me, but that’s a tale for another day.
The typical way I’ve soothed myself when facing down a flight was to plan ahead and grab a drink before boarding. This felt like a proper way to calm my nerves, until it started to take more than one drink to keep me at ease. I didn’t used to do it at all before a flight where I had to work when I landed, but turbulence isn’t selective and I always knew there was plenty of time to sober up, so a quick stop for a double Bloody Mary on my way to the gate became a routine every trip. Despite the massive size of my local airport, the bartenders at my regular spots knew me and usually also knew what I was going to order before the words could come out of my mouth. I was pretty good at sticking to the one drink limit while on the way out for a work trip, but heading back was an entirely different story. If time allowed, I’d usually have at least one vodka and soda, followed by a glass of wine. When there was a delay, or if I had any other time on my hands, several drinks might be in order. I always made sure to have water in between so that I wasn’t drunk enough for anyone to notice because I didn’t want any difficulty boarding. I’ve seen it happen to other people and it isn’t pretty. But once securely in my seat, you’d better believe I’d have another when the drink cart came around. Because I’m a frequent flier, many of my flights included first-class upgrades, which meant the booze flowed easily in my direction.
As much as I tried to kid myself that I allowed for substantial time before getting behind the wheel of my car to head home after landing, I’m ashamed to admit that there were undoubtedly a number of occasions when I should not have been driving. I carry some anger and disappointment with myself because since the age of Uber and Lyft, I’ve been the queen of catching a ride if even one drink has been consumed. I preach to my friends and family about not taking any chances and how one small mistake could change lives. I saw my dad drive drunk too many times to count, and it was this same drunk driving that ultimately ended his life. But here I did it anyway. In some twisted way, I think I lied to myself about being intoxicated. If no one was around to see it, then it didn’t actually happen.
Fast forward to this morning. I just hit my 14-day sobriety milestone and I was feeling pretty good about it. What I wasn’t feeling good about were the two days ahead of me. I had to make that familiar trip to the airport and make things worse, high winds and bad weather were expected. It was going to be a long flight and my seat was once again in the front of the plane, which meant the alcohol would be easily accessible. To combat my nerves, I did some preparation of a different kind before heading out. I made a point to wake up extra early for yoga, took a few minutes to write in my gratitude journal and then loaded up my phone with meditations and Bubble Hour and ODAAT Chat podcast episodes. Just before walking out the door, I even placed one of my new temporary tattoos from Soul Stamps on my wrist as a reminder that I can be brave, which also means that I can stay sober.
I made the walk straight to my gate this time, passing several bars and one of my favorites for breakfast along the way. I briefly thought about stopping in just for some food, but opted for the protein bar in my bag, instead. I was too afraid that the familiarity of that place would make it too difficult to keep from ordering my old standby. As I sat in a chair at the gate watching the rain outside and nervously checking my phone, I found myself listening to the conversation between a group of women seated behind me, which was entirely about drinking. They were laughing and carrying on about the Bloody Mary’s and mimosas they just drank and what cocktails they were going to have when they arrived at whatever destination they were headed to. These ladies were having a seriously good time and, for a moment, I wanted to have that good time, too. Instead, I turned to Twitter and the next thing I knew there was comfort and support from the online sobriety community coming at me. I cannot tell you how much your thoughts and messages meant this morning, so thank you all.
Just as my courage started to pick back up, my flight was delayed, then subsequently cancelled. I was relieved, plain and simple. This almost felt like it was a test run to see if I could handle just staying sober in the airport. It looks like I passed. To you, turbulence, I say – until next time.