Shake, Rattle and Deal With It

Well, at least it isn’t Monday! Short week ahead and I’m looking forward to the weekend so, so much – Dave Grohl, here we come!

Still not a fan of flying, I’ve discovered. I haven’t flown since I quit drinking as it happens – our trip to Paris was on the Eurostar – but here it is already, a faint worry and vague sense of anxiety at being trapped in a steel tube at 38,000 ft. It’s quite a lot of fun to see life unfold now that I’m sober and discover what worries and fears are actually real ones and which ones were entirely induced by the depressant that is alcohol. I’m pleased to report that I’m actually quite brave! There honestly isn’t all that much that worries me or situations I feel unable to cope with and the things that do rattle me, rattle me a hell of a lot less. Well, what do you know – turns out I probably won’t casually stroll on (or into, as it were) aforementioned steel tube with a serene smile and barely be bothered by take-off. You know how some people just sit down, peruse the newspapers or read a book and just get on with it, seemingly completely calm at any bump of turbulence. Take-off usually consists of me taking a solemn farewell of my life as an earth dweller, clinging on to hubby’s arm and crossing my fingers I’ll be unconscious by the time we suddenly take a nose dive mid-air and tumble straight into an active volcano. Something like that. Never been a fan.


Bear in mind that over at least the past decade, I have probably not once flown without a hangover. This means that any time I’ve stepped on a plane I have been all the things I am when I’m hungover: anxious, nervous, uneasy, muddled, frightened, jittery and shaky. Sum total: all the times I’ve flown in recent history I’ve already felt scared and massively so! Add to that a situation where I have no control whatsoever.

This is another important thing I’ve discovered when I’ve been comparing Drunk Me and Sober Me: when I’m sober I am calm and I don’t need to be in control. Sober Me is mostly happy go lucky, chilled out and almost prefers to just hang back and see where life takes me – if anything, Sober Me LIKES just jumping off even when I don’t know what exactly is below. Screw maps and plans and just see what happens!

When I was drinking I felt so awful all the time that I needed to ensure my life was as friction free as possible for me to even get to the end of each day – it was incredibly stressful to get through those hangovers as it was. In fact, additional stress made it unbearable and I think it’d probably be fair to say that a lot of people find air travel stressful even if they don’t feel scared. When I was still drinking, getting myself to work was daunting for God’s sake. So Drunk Me needed to have things in place to make sure that I could navigate all the things I had to do by creating a path that was as stress free as possible and where everything I could control I controlled. A longer queue than I’d expected at Starbucks was enough for me to turn around as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stand there with the shakes and feeling dizzy for more than a couple of minutes. That’s what happens when you’re so fucked it takes all you have to stay upright. With flying, this meant selecting my seat in advance, getting to the airport with plenty of time to spare, checking the weather along with flight safety statistics on various apps ahead of flying and generally have a step by step plan in my mind that so long as I rigorously followed it meant I felt a tiny bit better. Still, I was pickled with the relentless anxiety and fear of a hangover, so even if everything did go exactly to Sophie’s Plan, it was an ordeal from start to finish. And then of course, add air travel to that. See what I mean? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – being a drunk is fucking hard work. I should get some sort of award for persevering with the wine for so long, actually.

And Sober Me? As I said, I doubt I’ll step on that plane and feel completely fine with flying. I don’t like it, period. I don’t like the sensation and I don’t like being that high up in the air. I like terra firma under my hobbit feet. But when I’m not using every last bit of energy I have on fighting extreme hangover anxiety, I can focus on my breathing and remember the things about flying that make me feel OK:

  1. Turbulence is never dangerous. Ever.
  2. There is nothing Mother Nature can throw at a plane that’ll cause it to crash.
  3. Flying at those speeds the air resistance means it’s like going through thick goo but most of all AS STABLE AS THAT!
  4. A plane can glide 20 times its altitude.
  5. Air pockets are a myth, but think of the skies as the sea and waves.

Well, I suppose we all know it’s the safest way to travel, but I’ve always liked to understand WHY something is and stuff like this helps me. It does make me feel better to know that rather than “that sound is normal” I am told e.g. “that’s the sound when the wheels are pulled up“. I’m a rational creature at heart and I love understanding the ins and outs of why things are the way they are, and with flying especially this is the case. Having said that, Sober Me is way more likely to be happy with a “it’s normal” without needing to know more than Drunk Me who needed so much more reassurance.

There is a little bit of nervousness, definitely, but it’s nothing like it used to be, which was actual anxiety and fear. There is such a huge difference though, because I no longer have to control everything given I’m not in the grip of booze anxiety and therefore won’t have to see each bloody step as a huge battle, so I can just relax and get on with it. I can allow myself to feel nervous and focus on things that’ll relax me. Everything else won’t be a problem like before, because without being ravaged by booze it’s not an ordeal to 1) get up, 2) get ready, 3) check in, 4) go through security, 5) get to the gate, and so on and on and on…. Gosh, it’s SO much better to be Sober Me and I feel sorry for that sad little Drunk Me who found the simplest situations almost insurmountable at times. Fuckinell, I don’t know how I coped – I get exhausted just thinking about it.

Now when I think about it, flying this weekend is a bit like the blood test I had a couple of weeks ago. I don’t like needles. REALLY don’t like needles and never have. And here we go again: Drunk Me – in absolute bits and sometimes so hysterically scared I couldn’t do it. Sober Me: not particularly liking it but taking deep breaths, trusting the nurse and lo and behold, I got through it JUST FINE. Not liking it, but it’s no longer something I can barely cope with. I absolutely CAN cope with it. Not a fan but apart from a bit of nerves, not THAT big a deal. So I’m sure that by the time we are on the final approach to Landvetter Airport I’ll be very happy that the bit up in the air is over, but unlike when I was still drinking it won’t be a hellish experience.

When I started this blog I was terrified of sobriety and that’s what I expected to write about – my long and hard battle to live without the wine. Turns out sobriety is the best thing I ever did for myself and the only difficult part was the drinking. Who knew!! Life will always have its ups and downs but when I don’t drink I can deal with anything it throws my way. Drunk Me couldn’t. Drunk Me had to of course, but it was TOUGH. But now? Oh yeah, check me out – surviving flights, living to tell the tales of blood tests….. I’m a champ!

Today I’m not going to drink.