keeping things in perspective (travel habits pt. 5)

When I make plans and work on strategies, I can develop a kind of tunnel vision. It helps to step back and remind myself why all this work is worthwhile. After all, with five posts in a row making vacation-planning seem like a minefield of drinking challenges, moderation is starting to seem a bit like the chore that critics sometimes claim.

The fact is, I used to spend FAR more time managing my drinking on vacations (and at home). Drinking was a constant source of anxiety, upheaval, and shame. Anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to get enough to drink, irritability when I had to cut back, and shame around my behavior. Round and round it went. Besides the logistical challenges, and the emotional volatility, vacations all took on a certain fuzzy sameness. I love traveling, but the more I drank, the more my vacations became centered around managing alcohol, same as every other part of life.

What a waste.

I don’t miss that version of my life, or the way I could never seem to gain any traction against that boozy rip tide that was slowly eroding the ground I stood on. I appreciate that moderation has helped me get closer to the kind of person I really want to be. I don’t want to be a person who drinks every day, or who drinks immoderately most times I drink, because those habits aren’t healthy, and because I have first-hand experience of what they do to my life. But changing those habits is hard work, and I shouldn’t lose sight of that just because I’ve managed to get to a point where it doesn’t feel like hard work on a daily basis.

There was a time when I had to plan like this for everyday life (although usually in a much less organized fashion, because I was struggling more then). Figuring out how to get through my back door, through my kitchen, and through another evening without wine was enormously challenging. There were times when I despaired of it ever getting easier, or embarrassed myself with how frustrated I felt. Now, I walk in, set my bags down, settle into my evening routine, and completely forget to marvel at how easy this feels. Taking an hour or two to formulate a plan to help make sure (not) drinking is equally non-intrusive during travel feels regressive, simply because I’ve acclimated to the total ease of my day-to-day routine. But its actually a tremendous privilege.

Really, I wanted to write these posts out in exhaustive, boring detail precisely because I couldn’t do this when I started. Changing my drinking habits was really hard at first, and I was too scared and overwhelmed to pick things apart to any great extent. These vacation habits, by contrast, have much lower stakes, and I have a much bigger bag of tools to tackle them…and yet, I will still struggle, and probably fall a little short. And that’s okay. This is a long process, and I’m happy with the direction I’m heading. In fact, it feels almost refreshing to revisit a prior stage, because I can do so with such confidence. The ground beneath my feet is stable now, and that makes a tremendous difference.

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