Day 25 - Surviving Business Travel

Christin Deacon

12/8/2021 7 min read

Exercising restraint in the face of constant bombardment with booze is exhausting. When I stumbled into this journey just over three weeks ago, I assumed it was like any other muscle, the more I exercised it the stronger it would get and the easier it would get to lift or squat more. But I find that this muscle tires very easily and when you wear it down, like I just have, it wears all of you down. I’m not saying that my ability to abstain has necessarily been compromised, no, rather it is like one feels after an ironman or an ultramarathon – your body and mind ache from the incredible amount of physical and mental exertion you have just experienced.


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking anything away from marathoners or ultra athletes, I am just drawing an analogy to give a sense of the utter exhaustion resulting from keeping your abstinence muscles flexed ALL THE TIME. What, pray you, was the ultra marathon event of sobriety I just went through that has exhausted me so? Glad you asked.


First work trip – sober. Shit, first trip sober! Actually, first time on a trip in over 20 years where I didn’t give myself permission to drink in the airport, on the flight, on the train… you name it. Nobody blinks at an 8 am bloody mary in the AMeX lounge. 11 o'clock champagne after a bump to 1st class, why not! Wine bars everywhere, wine bars for everyone!


So that’s the first observation, everyone in the Airport TGI Friday’s kicking off their trip with a ritualistic drink. How would I handle this predicament, where would I put this nervous energy that would normally be stabilized by joining the ranks of numbers at the bar:

Coffee? Should I actually spend my calories on a nourishing breakfast…no, I’m still not used to spending calories in the morning on food or anything that competes with my evening calorie consumption that was typically saved for booze…. or do I pretend like I’m in the airport time warp – what happens in Terminal B stays in Terminal B, and just cheat a little? I’m actually considering it – will anyone see me? I’m thinking, will I get caught? Do I have cash so there is no record of my slip? But FUCKING WAKE UP Chris – no one fucking knows you are getting sober and no one cares except you. Who are you cheating on, BUT YOU! How can you be so stupid! Ok, stop judging yourself, it was just a passing thought and probably part of your ingrained havit of hiding and thinking/knowing that everything you do needs to be a secret because it is so shameful.


By the time I have had this prolonged battle with myself, wholly in my head, I have forgotten about replacing the ritual and I just decide to walk. You could call it pacing, but I believe the distance covered likely warrants the description of “walking” rather than “pacing.”


Next up, the plane ride. As I write this I can almost taste the bad airplane wine in the miniature screw top bottles. I would order to at a time and do my best to hide the second one so that I could give myself a refill without having to call the steward again, thereby alerting everyone in the immediate vicinity that I was really going for it!


When I would travel with young children I would give myself a free pass to drink without judgment, mine or anyone else’s. After all, the stress of air travel with children calls for booze, at least thats what I told myself. I think most people agreed with me too, or at least that’s what I had convinced myself. When I would start to doubt whether drinking during flight travel was really that wise – you know, God forbid worst case would happen - I would be responsible for these three small humans that counted on me for everything. But somehow my warped mind convinced my warped mind that I was actually a better mom when I drank, a calmer and more collected mom that could handle anything life handed my way – even crash landings and water slide exits – if I just had my cup full of the elixir of life.


But this time, on my work trip, as I board the plane I am perfectly lucid, polite, patient, together and hopefully not going to have to get up to pee before we even take off because I didn’t just down an extra drink at the bar. I have my journal, my book, my ear buds for Audible, I’m ready to go. The flight was easier than the airport and fairly uneventful. The primary difference was I didn’t give myself a sore neck because I wasn’t dozing off (i.e., passing out) after a few drinks. Sure, I napped a few times during the 5 flights I endured this trip, but in those cases I told myself “lets close our eyes” having made the affirmative and active decision to rest rather than the booze doing it for me.


Next up, the hotel bar…. Usually upon check in to a hotel where I have a couple of hours before my first meeting or if I arrive in the evening with no meeting planned, the first step after dropping the bags is making a sophisticated and confident single stop in the lobby bar. Depending on the vibe (male sports bar, or sophisticated cocktail bar) I’ll either get a beer or a stiff drink. When ordering a beer, I look at the right side of the list only - i.e., what sort of alcohol content are we talking about? If its over 7.0% I’m good, even better if we get really boozy at over 9%. I’ve got most of the highest alcohol content beers memorized, just in case the beer list doesn’t disclose the % on the list.


If I am going to be staying in the hotel for more than 1 or 2 days, I’m hitting the local grocery or wine shop for a couple of cheap bottles (or even a box). This way I can have a quick lubricant before the networking event and also enough to keep me set for after the evening events. I tell myself that if I keep wine in the room for later, then I have no excuse to drink more than I should at the business dinner. I tell myself if I can be one of those people that has ONE sophisticated glass of wine at dinner, or one martini and then switch to Perrier, I’ll not only knock their socks off with our pitch but I’ll also be demonstrating will power, responsibility, restraint and all of the things I think of and envy in those people that can just have one. Nobody has to know that I had a serving or two before I left the hotel and plan to have more later. Nobody needs to know that but me.


BUT, as you might imagine, I’m still not able to stick to just one, despite my well thought out plan (insert eye roll here). I would like to say that I never REALLY made an assof myself, but you know, I’d be lying because honestly I have no idea. I can’t imagine I got smarter as I slowed my brian function, and I sure as hell don’t get prettier when my nose fares up and turns bright red…. Sure I may feel like I look better or speak more wittily, but really I don’t think that’s physically possible.


The night either ends at dinner or a couple of us fun ones decide to grab a couple more at the lobby bar. By this time I have missed my window to call home and wish my babies and husband sweet dreams. He has texted me several times but I have missed them all…. I know that he will be upset but its as though 3 hours has flown by and I excuse my behavior because I’m just a working mom trying to make it in a man’s world. I know before the night has even started that this is how it will play out – and the shame of my recklessness and repeated patterns of behavior changes nothing despite the pain and shame I feel in abandoning my family (even for just a few hours) just to get my fix.


By the time I make it back to the room, I’m ravenous and tired and drunk. I think nothing of eating the $5 snickers and $15 peanuts and $8 chips from the mini bar. Then the guilt finger goes down my throat. It serves multiple purposes: I can erase the calories I just inhaled; it can get rid of the last few drinks that I downed; it can lessen the hangover I’ll feel tomorrow. BUT the real reason that drives me…. Or at least the real rewards, is the cleansing feeling that washes over me after I have purged and punished myself for what I have done - the physical act of releasing what I have put in it in such a manner that physically exhausts me to the point of collapse is not simply ritualistic, it has come to feel sacred. I vomit, rinse my mouth, and pass out. The next morning I deal with the consequences. I vow that today will be different. Wash, rinse, repeat. Its never different.


So, this time, I get to the hotel, walk past the bar and straight up to the room. I catch up on emails, then fill myself with nervous energy… do I take a nap? No. Go to the gym? Yes! So back to the room, shower, get ready for dinner.


To my surprise, at dinner I am not awkward, I’m not shy, I’m pretty witty and I’m completely sober. I overeat a bit (according to my standards which, I concede, are grossly unrealistic and have been designed to account for an inordinate number of liquid calories consumed on a daily basis). This part of the business trip, which I was really dreading, is actually pretty easy – probably because of the fantastic company at this particular dinner.


This type of routine took place in three different cities, in three different hotels, in three different airports, and on five different flights over the course of 4 days. I am exhausted.