Travel was such fun for everyone when I used to drink and fly, the entire airplane once erupted in cheers. That’s right. On an extended flight to Germany, all passengers cheered heartily and loudly – or so I was later told – after my hours-long drunken babble finally stopped because I passed out.

Why flying drunk sucks

Like anything else in most alcoholics’ lives, an airplane trip is another excuse to drink. Alcohol IS served on a plane, after all, which means it’s not only acceptable but downright encouraged. Besides, flying drunk can be oodles of fun, as long as you consider fun as:

  • Annoying everyone around you with loud, garbled, nonsensical babbling.
  • Getting flirty with whoever happens to be sitting next to you, even if that person is a dozing 108-year-old man with bad breath.
  • Starting arguments and fights for no apparent reason, and then expected whoever is sitting next to you to defend you (even the dozing 108-year-old man).
  • Being sick enough to actually use the barf bag if your in-flight drink doesn’t arrive in time to quell ongoing withdrawals.
  • Running the risk of peeing your seat if you pass out before you take one of your 82 bathroom breaks.
  • Running the risk of being kicked off before you even take your seat for your stumbling, obnoxious and pushy behavior.
  • Having to be shaken awake to disembark the plane.
  • Missing your connection to the next flight because you either didn’t disembark the last flight quickly enough or just HAD to make a pit stop at one of the overpriced airport bars.
  • Ordering as many drinks as humanly possible the moment the bar cart thing comes rolling down the airplane aisle, and then wildly slamming every last sip until the flight is about to land.
  • Nearly starting a riot when you decide to push your way down the aisle upon boarding, disembarking or during your 82 bathroom breaks.

While the above list by no means covers every single possible in-flight drunken adventure, you get the gist that flying drunk leaves a lot to be desired.

You CAN stay sober on a plane

Even though flying drunk sucks, it was the only way I knew how to fly. And my first attempt at a sober flight in early recovery left me totally petrified. I didn’t travel for some time after I quit drinking in 1999 for that exact reason.

Letting the fear of flying sober stop of me from flying at all, however, was just another form of letting alcohol control my life. And I’ll be gosh-durned if that’s going to continue to happen once recovery had given me so much to live for.

So I got input from other sober folks and added some of my own handy tips to help me get through that first sober flight (subsequent flights were easier and by now I don’t even think about a drink while flying – unless I’m blogging about it on the way to Florida, of course).

Tips for flying without a drink

The overall strategy for staying sober on a plane, especially in early recovery, is to ensure you have the three recovery bases covered: physical, mental and spiritual.

Physical fitness for flying sober

Quash the urge for the physical habit of drinking by:

  • Drinking something non-alcoholic, like water, herbal tea or Arbonne Energy Fizz Sticks
  • Keeping your mouth busy with hard candies, cough drops, jawbreakers or giant lollipops
  • Relaxing your body with deep breathing exercises, counting to 100, then 1,000 and then starting all over again

Mental fitness for flying sober

Deter your mind from thoughts of drinking by:

  • Staying occupied with anything from video games to a good book, crossword puzzles to trying to discern the meaning of life
  • Writing down how you’re feeling to get the stinking thinking out of your head and down on paper
  • Meditating to clear and soothe your mind
  • Bringing along a natural calming agent, like that herbal tea, essential oils you can put in a locket or handkerchief, naturally calming supplements or your favorite travel crystal companion (try iolite, the one Lief Eriksson and his Viking pals put on their ships during voyages)

Spiritual fitness for flying sober

Ensure your spiritual state is grounded, balanced and geared up to successfully get through the flight without a drink by:

  • Bringing God, your guardian angels or a whole fleet of angels with you on the flight (purchasing extra seats is optional)
  • Meditating to calm and caress your soul
  • Praying throughout the flight as needed to receive the strength to endure what you must to stay sober
  • Listening to guided meditations or music that incorporates tones that affect your brain waves to produce an instant dose of calm, such as those from Hemi-Sync

And if flying sober just seems too dang scary at the moment, don’t do it. Find another way to get from point A to point B, or hold off traveling until you’re ready. It’s perfectly OK to do what you need to stay sober – even if it means missing an important out-of-town event because you don’t feel ready to fly.

In the meantime, you can work on strengthening your recovery in general, which is likely to eventually enable you to fly sober with absolutely no problem – other than those horribly long and annoying security lines.

Want more tips for staying sober in the form of a personalized recovery plan? Try Rynski Recovery Coaching. Schedule a free mini-session now.

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