i knew it was temporary, i knew i was ‘fine’

holy. i’m a chick who doesn’t like to fly. I can do it, just not always very happily. I usually have a beer before we get on the plane, then two small bottles of wine (or more) during the flight.

not this time.

I flew yesterday for the first time since getting sober a year ago. Thank fucking holy i had one full year of sobriety under my belt. Cuz that shitty day+flight put me at about 50% sober-strength.

I was worried off and on in the days leading up to the flight, but yesterday morning i woke feeling very calm. I knew i’d be fine.

We got to the airport and found out the flight was delayed 2 hrs, then 3, then 4 hrs.  All the sitting and waiting. The plane was not at the gate, and the updates were super non-specific. “We’ll update you again in another hour.” After they announced that the delay was because of a technical problem, I immediately felt a combination of “the plane is going to have some kind of mid-air problem” AND “they’re going to cancel the flight and I’m going to have to do this all over again tomorrow.”

My response? I started crying in the departure lounge at about the 4 hr mark. They fed us sandwiches, gave us almost no information, and then 4.5 hrs later the plane arrived, we boarded, and took off.  The crowd actually applauded on take-off.

And then … and then the flight was super bouncy. Three separate patches of turbulence, one particularly bad. But here’s what’s interesting.

I knew i wasn’t going to drink, and i was feeling pretty terrible, but I knew i was going to have to tough it out. I did have anti-anxiety medication in my bag but I knew that if i took the drugs i wouldn’t be able to drive the rental car on arrival (and yes, my husband could have driven…).

So i did it sans drugs. But holy fuckers there was a moment when it was bad.


here’s the big light bulb moment.

you know how sometimes when you’re anxious, like something happens, then you feel anxious afterwards in the remembering of it.

That didn’t happen for me during this bumpy flight.  As soon as the turbulence would end, i was right back to my normal self, smiling, eating, watching the movie. There were no after effects.

And I witnessed myself feeling different even during the bumpy parts. Instead of thinking my usual: “i’m never flying again, i hate this, this is terrible” – instead i was thinking “it’s almost over, look there are even tiny breaks during, the steward is still pouring hot coffee for fucks sake, this isn’t even an event, if i press the down volume on the movie then the bumps will get smaller and smaller.”

And then it was over.

OK. let me try to be clearer (super tired, batman!):  Before, when drinking, i was more anxious. And the anxiety lasted longer, was more catastrophic, and i felt like it was all impending doom. Now, even when something was happening that i truly didn’t like, i knew it was temporary, i knew i was ‘fine’, and as soon as it was over there were no shadows or traces. I’m not dreading the flight home because i know that every flight can be good or bad, and there’s no telling in advance, and it doesn’t matter i’m doing it anyway, and even if i don’t like every single minute of it i know that i can do it sober and be totally fine.

i felt anxious but not panicked. if that makes any fucking sense.

And today. i’m so proud of myself. i not only flew sober, i was coherent enough during crappy parts to register growth, improvement, well-being.

Though tired, today i’m feeling pretty terrific. Eating a north american breakfast is also probably the best solution to most of the world’s problems! i highly recommend bagel breakfast sandwiches with home fries and big bowls of café au lait 🙂


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • I’m so glad you made it through your turbulence… and I THANK YOU for helping me through my day 10 turbulence! 😉 I hope you have a great trip.

  • I completely can relate to this part….”Before, when drinking, i was more anxious. And the anxiety lasted longer, was more catastrophic, and i felt like it was all impending doom.” That sums up EVERYTHING for me while drinking! I felt like everything that was happening around me and to me was breaking (like a plane about to crash) and it was all impending doom!
    I also like the reference to “50% sober-strength”. You explain things so well Belle! I’m so glad that you made it safely and that you learned something about your strong sober self! Awesomeness!!! 🙂

  • I hate turb! I hate it so much! It never affected me until I was in my mid-20s…then, all of the sudden, I’m getting adrenaline shakes and sweating balls when we hit any turbulence. I have my little rituals (I’m embarrassed to say what they are!) and they help, but from my experience, what you’ve discovered is totally spot-on–coming from someone who isn’t really afraid of flying, just annoyed to the point of being nervous when there is turb. I mean, when I didn’t drink on flights, it was just easier to chillax, realize that the plane is NOT going down, sort of bump along with it, and know that it’s going to end when the pilots get their SHIT together and adjust the FUCKING altitude (can you tell that turb makes me angry, too?). I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I drank, sometimes I’d feel more nervous, too, just due to the effect of wine making me feel more…willy nilly inside. Hard to explain, but I think you totally made progress here on your fear of flying, which is amazing. Congrats…!!!

    • i was pretty shocked to discover that booze made my flying anxiety worse, especially since i “told” myself that i was drinking to feel calm. what a fucking liar wolfie is.

  • Isn’t it interesting how we used to drink to relieve anxiety, and now that we don’t drink we realise that it actually increased anxiety. And isn’t it amazing how good a North American breakfast can make you feel!