Not drinking at Christmas is easy. It's airports that are tough.

“Isn’t it hard, especially at this time of year? How do you do it? There are so many parties…”

Another day, another arduous conversation about not drinking at Christmas. Question after bewildered question peppered with furrowed brows and head tilts of utter confusion guaranteed to make this non-drinker feel like an outsider.

Right now, most people are trying to pace their festive frolicking through December to give themselves a day in between each event to recover; that’s no longer a concern for me.

This will be my second Christmas with no booze and it brings a sense of peace and relief that’s a giddy novelty to a reformed daily drinker. Surviving the office party is plain-sailing now. I’ve cracked it. I can accept invitations, stand in packed rooms making fizzy chit-chat with a coke in my hand (diet) and not eye up the bar as if it’s a hot guy. When everyone starts to get glassy-eyed messy and the hair tossing dancing that spells R-E-G-R-E-T rather than YMCA begins, it’s time to flit away into the night. I wake up without the banging headache or horrifying flashbacks. Plus, I haven’t left my credit card behind the bar. Ahh, the bona fide Christmas bonus.

Christmas parties have long been an excuse to drink too much. Love Actually, image via YouTube, Snowweisz.

Truth is, not drinking at Christmas is easy. It’s just a day with a different label on it. The real struggle is airports.

Early next year I’m going home to England on an exciting adventure that includes a wedding, Christening and weaving European train trip. On arrival I will be greeted with warm hugs from friends and family with cold noses and squeezes so hard that only year-long separation brews. The trip will be amazing – when I arrive. The journey, not so much.

I’ve done the long haul trek once since I stopped drinking and it totally blind-sided me. I’ve psyched myself up for being sober at social events, passing on wine at dinner parties and got my explanation for why I quit down-pat, but the airport endeavour I was not prepared for.

I sat in the airport lounge not knowing what to do with myself. I wandered around shops not wanting to spend any money; that took about 8 minutes. I sat and read for a while but was too distracted to focus. I looked up into one of 604 bars and saw a chattering, laughing ease I’ve left behind. In my past life, I would perch at the bar and sip on a cold chardonnay. Perhaps a Pinot Grigio. I’d smile at the barman and make effortless conversation with other people who were also travelling alone. I’ve done so many long-haul journeys I didn’t realise airport drinking had become as much a part of my trip as checking in my luggage. Minutes dragged for hours. Drinking really is the unparalleled way to pass time.


On the plane it got worse. I’d booked my usual aisle seat which ensures essential trips to the toilet don’t include straddling a snoozing man who’s cocooned sausage-like in his blanket. My TV worked, take off was smooth, I was all set. Then the drinks trolley came clinking down the aisle. Stop, start, chink, clink, and stopped right beside me. It startled me.

This scene from ‘Bridesmaids’ perfectly encapsulates why it might not be such a great idea to get drunk on an aeroplane. 

Video via Bridesmaids

This was the first time I hadn’t taken advantage of a couple of wines on a 13 hour flight, possibly a G&T to send me off in a peaceful slumber like the chappie in a sausage cocoon. The bottles were right beside me, the smell once so familiar wafted into my personal space uninvited. My sensory memory recalled the happiness a miniature bottle brought to mark the beginning of an exciting journey. We all know that drinking on a flight is bad for you, but it’s as common as treating yourself to a McDonalds after clearing security. Drinking is a travelling ritual.

The couple next to me ordered bottle after bottle of wine, whisky, G&T, then back to wine.

“Drinking is a travelling ritual.” Image via iStock.

They were up and down to the toilet, spoke increasingly loudly, wriggled and bashed the seats in front. On reflection, they became as embarrassing as the OTT mob at Christmas parties. I wondered if I’d ever been so annoying. Probably.

But unlike the Christmas party, here I was trapped. I wished I had a Xanex to ease the excruciating agony ahead.
The claustrophobia of an airport and aeroplane is like being trapped in a Christmas party you can’t leave. It’s like a mile-high lock-in.

Maybe it’s just a matter of time before drinking is banned on flights, like smoking. One drunken air-rage incident too far could ruin the travelling ritual for everyone when airlines concur its more troublesome than turbulence.

In the meantime, I’ll have to take up knitting.