How to Enjoy a Sober St. Patrick’s Day

Feel like everybody but you is going to drink alcohol this St. Patrick’s Day? It may seem like you’re the only sober person left in your city – or heck, even your country – but that’s simply not the case. In fact, just 20% of adults of adults plan to consume alcoholic beverages on St. Patrick’s Day. Even if your entire family or group of friends typically down brewskies on March 17th, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy this holiday while remaining sober. From documenting the night for pals to transporting folks around town, here are 4 ways to have a blast this St. Patrick’s Day without consuming adult beverages.

Become a Designated Driver

Approximately 1 out of 3 driving-related deaths involve alcohol. If you don’t want your loved ones to become part of that statistic, offer to drive them to and from their St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans. You don’t have to actually attend the events with them unless you’re comfortable doing so; you can bring a book or electronic device and wait in the vehicle until they’re ready to leave.

Want to make some extra cash while you transport intoxicated passengers? Apply to drive for services such as Lyft or Uber.

Photograph Pals

Stay busy during St. Patty’s Day festivities if you want to avoid the urge to drink alcoholic beverages. One way to do this is by grabbing your camera or smartphone and following your friends around as they engage in drunken adventures. Avoid taking photos of anything that may embarrass them or make them uncomfortable the next day, like if they’re throwing up in a potted plant or falling down drunk in the street.

Arrive Prepared

You may find it easier to decline offers for alcoholic drinks if you bring your own beverage with you. Some restaurants don’t allow outside drinks, but you can probably show up with soda, juice, or water if you attend a house party or St. Patrick’s Day parade.

You may also want to bring some healthy snacks with you. Sometimes people mistake hunger for thirst, so you may find it easier to resist beer or whiskey if your belly is full.

Chill With Other Sober People

If you’ve battled  alcohol addiction or abuse in the past, you’re not alone. More than 15 million American adults  have experienced an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and approximately 1.3 million of them have sought treatment from a facility that specializes in addressing this condition. Depending on how well you’re doing with the long-term treatment of your condition, you may find it stressful to mingle with intoxicated people or attend events where alcohol is present. Luckily, there are tons of people who are also in recovery for AUD, as well as people who have never consumed alcohol in the first place.

Not sure where to find sober folks? Start your search at Alcoholics Anonymous. This well-known association offers meetings  around the world for people struggling with alcohol dependence. Meetings are held 7 days a week, even on holidays, so you can easily find a group of like-minded people to spend time with on March 17th. The organization also offers events for members, such as bowling or swimming, so that may be an option if you don’t want to sit at a meeting.

If you’re religious or don’t mind attending a Christ-based treatment program, you can find sober friends at Celebrate Recovery meetings. Meetings aren’t held as often as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but you can request for your local church to launch the program if you don’t already have one in your area.

You don’t have to spend St. Patrick’s Day cuddled up on the couch with your pets – unless you want to, of course. Follow the tips above to have a fun-filled St. Patrick’s Day without consuming a single drop of alcohol.

Author Sarah Lockwood put together The Prevention Coalition after watching her daughter struggle with addiction for years. With The Prevention Coalition, Sarah provides an online forum where loved ones of people dealing with substance abuse can meet and get support.

Holiday European River Cruise to Christmas Markets

img_3143Holiday River Cruise to European Christmas Markets

Take a European river cruise to enchanting Christmas markets to get you in the holiday spirit. My sons and I had wanted to do this for a decade and finally went on a Viking River Cruise last December originating in Budapest and terminating in Munich. Although we had been to most of the places before, these cities are very different at this time of year with the incredible wooden stalls decked out in Christmas finery. Pack for both Artic and spring like conditions as weather can be a bit unpredictable. Throw in a few smart outfits for the evenings, but nothing formal. The beauty of river cruises as opposed to ocean ones, is that they are docked in the centre of the city in the midst of the festivities. The Christmas markets are usually about a ten minute walk from the ship, which is lovely for quick strolls after dinner. The wooden stalls full of toys, ornaments, food and much more are lit up like a fairyland in the evenings. What is nice about these markets is that one is buying directly from the artists, bakers and toymakers. The markets are often in the heart of the city near the shops, which makes ticking items off your holiday gift list quite easy.

A Christmas river cruise is on a ship of around 100 to 150 passengers. There is much mixing and interactions among the passengers. Meals are open seating with dinner at a specified time with beer and wine included. Activities take place in the lounge and this is a time to mingle with others. One night we had a German Children’s Choir who sang carols in either German or English. They were adorable. There are a variety of lectures, concerts, folkloric dances, a cooking demonstration and so much more.

There is an on board library with reference books and games. There are shelves of books that others can take and replace with one that they have read. I really like the cappuccino/hot chocolate machine that is available round the clock. In the afternoons, local cookies and pastries are provided. The young European staff are amazing and the concierge will arrange for tickets, taxis, reservations or whatever is desired on shore. The holiday décor on the ship is exquisite.

The itinerary includes city excursions which may very slightly during the winter. In the summer we went to a marvellous organ concert in Passau, Germany. On this cruise we went to a gingerbread store that had been in the same family for generations instead. It was interesting learning about the different types of gingerbread and nibbling on the samples. One Christmas market was a bit of a drive, and that was in lovely Salzburg. Fun to see where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. They had quite an extensive market and a very walkable city

The markets in various cities have specialities. We got the potato dish in Bratislava and the cheese recolette in Salzburg, and Munich. Bratwurst was prevalent everywhere.  Hot mulled wine was available in all of the markets and even in the gingerbread shop in Passau. Budapest had unique baked goods as did the other markets. Viking gives handouts on what to buy, both in crafts and food at each market. They explain what is unique in the markets and cities being visited. Their history of the regions and maps are helpful.

This trip was my Christmas present to my sons and we arrived home on December 21st. I bought a few treats on the trip for Christmas morning. This river cruise to the Christmas markets was magical and is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s Bucket list.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine

Vacations for Single Parents, NZ and Australia

When one is newly divorced, there is the dilemma of where to go on vacation. Do you repeat family trips that you did while still married, or start different types of adventures with the kids? Is it sad or reassuring to follow vacation rituals from pre-divorce?

A little over a year after my divorce, my healthy mother had a quick series of vascular events and ended up in Hospice. My two sons and I already had a week cruise to Alaska scheduled and Hospice insisted that we go on it, since we were on the verge of breakdowns. This time was so special and we bonded over having normal conversations again that did not involve death. The incredible scenery and other passengers were just the tonic we needed at this point.

Before she had her medical crisis, my mother had demanded that we go on a Christmas/New Year’s cruise to Australia and New Zealand (I am an only child). While on board the ship in Alaska, it seemed like she was whispering in my ear to book the holiday trip for my two sons and me. Holland America kept saying that there was availability, but the pricing was not correct. They had to give the cruise to us at the price on their computer, which was three for the price of one passenger! The day this happened turned out to be the very day my mother passed away. That was her parting gift to us. My travel agent later said that this nominal cost was unbelievable.

What a special adventure this turned out to be and a more pleasant way of spending our first Christmas without her company. We flew into Auckland, NZ, checked into our ship, and threw our luggage into our cabin. Several people told us before we left, that Waiheke,  a magical island caught in the fifties, was a short ferry ride from Auckland. Indeed it was a fantasy of laid back people in a breath taking environment. The coffee shop, beach, and plethora of flowers just banished any blues. This was our second Christmas since my divorce and we decided to start new rituals.

Distraction is a way to divert energy from worrying about troubles, into having positive experiences. There were plenty of diversions in New Zealand, such as going to a wildlife center, a farm to watch sheep shearing, and learning about Maori culture and that was just the first port of call. New Zealand has warm people, stunning fiords, and Napier which is an Art Deco city. We went from a horrible divorce, my mother’s death, to laughing and viewing life in a more light-hearted way. Steward Island, NZ is mainly a nature preserve with citizens that came for a holiday and have stayed for a decade or so, such as the barista in the coffee shop. Bring medicine for sea sickness if you sail from there through the Southern Seas to beautiful Tasmania. After Melbourne, we ended this journey in breath-taking Sydney. Kids will love Sydney as there is so much to do, such as the aquarium and going to Bondi Beach.

Consider going on a cruise to break away from past rituals when starting your life anew post-divorce. A single divorced pal did a similar Christmas/New Year’s cruise and loved the festivities and not needing dates for dances. The ship’s décor and live holiday musical performances was exactly the pampering I required.   Please read more