Brad S's Travel Plans
I am currently away from home for work. That got me reflecting about the different travel plans I have implemented over the course of my sobriety. Basically, I have had three different travel plans that have evolved over time, just as my sobriety has evolved:
Early Sobriety – Let’s, for the sake of argument, define this period as starting prior to my becoming a member of AA and lasting until my first AA sober birthday. These travel plans might include something as simple as going out to dinner with friends, or something as extravagant as the trip my daughter and I took to Europe for two weeks. I quickly discovered that I needed to have a plan for travelling, even for something as simple as dinner with friends. First of all, I had to consider who I was going with and where we were going. Then, if I was feeling ok mentally, I could probably go. If I was not in a good place that day, I learned it was much better to decline the invitation. If I determined it was ok for me to go, I soon discovered that I needed to be in control of my own destiny. I had to be able to leave when I needed to leave. I was caught a few times in situations where I had travelled to wherever I was going with someone else, and they weren’t always interested in leaving when I wanted, or more importantly, needed to go. I spent some uncomfortable evenings trapped in places I no longer wanted to be due to my lack of planning. Interestingly enough, the two weeks in Europe went fine with my daughter. I never attended an AA meeting the entire time we were away but we were very busy, and I think that kept me preoccupied.
Mid-Sobriety – For the purposes of this post, I consider this to be my second year of sobriety. By this time, going out to dinner with friends or some other seemingly innocuous event was fine. I knew that depending on the event and the company, I still needed to have my own mode of transportation so as to not be trapped somewhere. At some point, the smell of the wine or something else was bound to get to me and it would be time to go. So that part hadn’t really changed. The big difference now was, that when I was traveling out of town, I would look up on the internet when and where meetings were held. I would take that information with me and be prepared. However, at this point I was still extremely nervous about going to a new meeting that I had never been to before. I got sober in a relatively small town and was used to going to any meeting and knowing almost everyone there. A new meeting out of town felt just like going to my first meeting all over again. It probably wasn’t quite that scary, but it was close. The main difference was, once I entered the meeting and the first person said hello, all that fear and anxiety instantly washed away. I was in a place of comfort and I could relax. Once I learned to trust this to be true, the anxiety about going to a new meeting was finally lifted. My wife and I once took my sister and her husband to an open meeting when we were visiting in Houston. On the way, my sister asked me if I was ok. I told her how nervous I was and she said they didn’t need to come with us. You see, she thought the problem with me was that they were coming. The real problem for me was that I was going! Although this actually happened in the first year of my sobriety, it is a good example of the irrational fears I felt attending a new meeting in those first few years.
My current travel plans are significantly different. I still like to plan for the work commitments and dinner outings with friends. I like to provide my own transportation and have the ability to leave on my terms. The need for this has entirely changed, however. You see, now I just get bored being around people that are starting to have too much to drink. Once I start to hear the same stories repeatedly, I know its time for me go. Sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable because I know I was that person that tended to repeat himself a lot. I don’t begrudge my non-alcoholic friends for having a good time, but I do know at some point my motives for being there may no longer be so pure. I also still plan ahead for trips away from home. I look up meeting lists and am prepared before I even leave home. I think for me that is key. I always know where I can go to a meeting, even if I don’t end up going. However, the biggest difference now is that I WANT to go to a meeting when I am away. I no longer have the fear of going to a meeting I have never been to before. I look forward to meeting new people in new places.
Some amazing things have come about by going to meetings away from home. My wife and I celebrated our 3rd AA birthdays in New Zealand. We went to a meeting one day in Auckland. In talking with some of the local members before the meeting, they discovered we had had our birthdays while we were away. Unbeknownst to us, a young man left the meeting and returned with a large bouquet of flowers for each of us. The whole group also signed cards for us. I kid you not, if you read those cards, you would have thought those people had known us since our first day of sobriety and that this was our home group! The love you find even amongst strangers in AA is truly amazing and beautiful.
Over time, my reasons for having a plan before I leave home, and the plan itself have evolved. I don’t always go to a meeting when I am away, but I take great comfort in knowing that the meetings are available everywhere I could ever go. Our next big trip is to a small Island in the South Pacific to celebrate my daughter’s wedding. I have already looked up when and where meetings take place. It is going to be a busy couple of weeks, but I am pretty excited to meet some new people. There is a contact person on the local AA page and I plan on making contact before I ever leave home to find out about meetings near our hotel. Maybe that will become part of the next evolution of my “Travel Plan”.