No More Sippy-Cup Full of Booze on the Beach Hike

I was speaking with someone new to recovery the other day. Per usual, I was telling her that being out in nature and getting physical exercise was a great way to stay sober. I went on to say that hiking or kayaking or even going for a long stroll on the beach was an excellent way to ensure that you would not be using alcohol or other drugs. I barely took a breath before I expounded on the benefits of fresh air and comradery.

She waited for a pause in the monologue and said, “You know, I don’t think that’s going to work for me. I drank while I was exercising for years.”

Exercise as a Trigger?

I am ashamed to say, with all my bravado, I did not have a good response. I think I said, “Oh my.” I was flummoxed when she listed the things she did while in her cups. She said, “Cross country skiing, hiking, biking – I carried a sippy-cup or a thermos. There are drink holders on bikes and pocket flasks to keep you warm while snowshoeing and there is nothing like pausing at the top of a hill for a rest and the reward of a slug of wine. I kept it in my backpack.”

I’ve been thinking of this conversation ever since. And what I should have said.

First of all, in recovery we are developing those practices that improve quality of life. You may say a belt of booze at the top or a mountain is refreshing, but what about the trip back down? And a “warming” guzzle of brandy in the middle of the winter woods, is actually dangerous. Let’s be practical. If getting on your bike gives you a yen for iced wine in your water bottle, shake things up.

Change it Up!

If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have given the following advice. Because moving your body and filling your hands with something like ski poles, is still the best way I know to sideline the cravings early in recovery.

  • Find some sober friends – This may be a time when you need to make new friends. I have found that sober people do not understand the need to anesthetize when gazing at vistas.
  • Develop new interests – If skiing was the place you always had a few red wines at lunch, try ice-skating. And hot chocolate.
  • Get on the bike with a bottle of water – The little metal holder on the frame is actually for water. Not a rum and coke. Force yourself to start on the ride with water in your sippy-cup. For the duration of the ride you will not have an opportunity to drink.
  • Which reminds me: stop calling it a sippy-cup – You are not a toddler. Stop acting like one.
  • Start being the designated photographer – I have found that filling one’s hands with a camera or a racket or canoe paddles keeps one’s hands busy. Busy hands are sober hands. In the photo above, not only am I navigating a slippery dock in 3 inch flip-flops, but I am waiting for the perfect, breaking wave…
  • Up your game – If you are able to drink a split of champers and hike back along the trail, you need to increase the difficulty. No one who is a real hiker or mountain climber would even think of drinking (or smoking or using) while on the trail.


Worth waiting for… Lake Michigan, a dock, my hands full of camera phone…

Thinking on My Feet…

It’s like those arguments where later you think, “Damn, I should have reminded him about the time he left me to clean up the trash the raccoons had spread all over the neighborhood…” I really do wish I had been better at thinking on my feet. The good news is that I write a blog. I always get the last word and I will print this and hand it to little Miss Sippy. She means well, and this was no argument. She was asking for advice…


Today I’m not drinking because I have a water bottle, not a “sippy-cup”…

How come you’re not drinking?