Integrity: Waiting For My Cake

Today is the eve of my first alcohol free vacation – ever.

I’ve likely been on 30 or more vacations, and each one was spent for the most part absolutely oblivious and in a constant state of drunk/hungover.

The bartering has already started in my head.

“Maybe I’ll just have one drink with dinner tomorrow – you know, to celebrate Hubs’ birthday and to kick off our vacation. What if I set a boundary to only drink after 8pm, and to not let any alcohol into the apartment. Maybe I won’t drink for the whole week, then we can really let loose on our last night there…”

Maybe’s, what if’s, and how about’s – I only need to look at my track record to know exactly how those always end up when they involve drinking.


Things always end badly.

Instead of setting false boundaries that I know I won’t keep, I need more of a “this/or” approach. Like negotiating with a child – “Well, you can have one slice now, or if you can wait and behave yourself, tomorrow you can eat the entire cake”.

Waking up without a hangover, without the guilt of having given in to the alcohol trap, without undoing all the progress I’ve made, without an empty wallet and pockets full of regret – that right there is my cake.

That’s what really satisfies my sweet tooth.

I respond much better to praise than punishment. Who doesn’t? It’s a pretty simple choice: to wake up feeling accomplished, or to wake up feeling abolished.

The options are crystal clear: drink now, suffer later. Stand strong tonight, celebrate tomorrow.

So why is it so hard? Why is my brain already trying to convince me that I’ll have a much better time on vacation if I spend it waste it drinking constantly? Obviously, returning to vacation in the one place synonymous with drinking was probably not my brightest move. Every memory I have of vacations in New Orleans revolve around drinking: what we were drinking, where we were drinking, who we were drinking with, and how much I’d had to drink at that point – and how drunk I was by the end of the night.

Well, at least I’m consistent.

Where I’m not consistent is in considering my options. And there are always options. I tend to jump at the first impulse, latching on to what I’ve always done and somehow expecting different results.

Not only am I consistent…I’m also pretty predictable.

It takes awareness to catch myself when I start heading down the same habitual streets that all lead to the same place: drinking my face off. Making a fool of myself. Wasting my money and my health. Spending the entire next day chasing another high to somehow mask how awful I feel, only leading to another new low. Missing out on so much because I can’t bring myself to feel anything other than absolutely gross.

It comes down to integrity.

Integrity (noun): An undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.

Nothing wanting. Unbroken completeness.
The absence of need. Completeness. Being okay with things as they are, without giving in to the idea that adding alcohol will “somehow improve” what should already be enough – when I know in fact it will do exactly the opposite.
Other synonyms and definitions for integrity incude: honesty, being final, goodness, morality, freedom from guilt; principles, wholeness, dignity, and strength.

Each one is an ingredient I need to measure and add to the mix, so I can enjoy my cake tomorrow:

Honesty: Stripping away the false truths that are going to inevitably be whispering in my ear that maybe just one drink will help me relax, or have more fun. I need absolute transparency and honesty with myself about what alcohol actually truly does to me, and how much it takes away.

Being Final: Decisiveness. No wishy-washy-sitting-on-the-fence-deliberating bullshit. Like dropping the gavel I need to affirm my decision that under no circumstances am I going to drink. Final answer? Final answer.

Goodness: Appreciating the grace and worthiness within me that deserves to be healthy and happy, free of regret and remorse. And being grateful for the goodness around me, without the illusory lies that adding alcohol could somehow make things better. Celebrating the goodness within and without – and looking forward to how good I’ll feel eating that cake in the morning.

Morality: Unwaveringly standing by my new standards of behaviour and beliefs about what is and is not acceptable for me any longer. Being upright and decent and no matter what not giving in to my impulses to drink and degrade myself.

Freedom from Guilt: This one is the kicker! Guilt is freaking heavy. Not having to haul that around every day makes everything easier and lighter. This is the icing on the cake, the sugar that I’m craving.

Principles: This is my code. My beliefs. My creed. These are my new standards about what I allow, and no longer allow, in my life. This is knowing the why behind why I don’t want a drink after all. This is honouring what my best self deserves.

Wholeness: Knowing with my whole heart that I have everything I need, and that alcohol will not add to, but instead take away, from that wholeness. And I want to eat that whole damned cake tomorrow, so…

Dignity: Self respect. Plain and simple. Keeping it, and gaining it. Nurturing it and coming to understand that no glass or bottle of wine can possibly add to my feelings of dignity or self respect – and looking forward to my deserved sense of success in the morning after retaining my dignity the night before.

Strength: This is that binding ingredient that holds the whole cake together. It’s the courage to push through when I’m uncomfortable, to leave a room if I have to, and to remind myself of this list. It’s the strength to say “No” right now, because saying “Yes” to feeling great later is so very much more.

It’s time to start packing.

The first thing in my suitcase is going to be the integrity to be true to what I know in my heart I desire more than a drink, and I’m going to wear it like my favourite shirt all week.

And I’m going to pack a fork, but I want more than just a slice of dessert.

I want to eat the whole damned cake.

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.


  1. Isn’t it amazing how strong, loud and exhausting our addict thoughts can be? One of my dad’s relapses was triggered by a wedding. He thought he could have just one…nope. It’s like that with food and sometimes exercise for me. Either way it’s better to stick to the plan and not end up in front of a toilet 😉 I hope your vacation is awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I learned that sober vacations were hard at first, and now I LOVE them.
    At first, I felt sorry for myself. Later I loved waking up sober, seeing all the cool colors and flavors of the place I was at. I focused on food, people, and connections.
    Just protect your sobriety. Don’t let another person talk you into “just one”.
    They don’t live your life!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m SO looking forward to future vacations more than ever after this one! I was *terrified* before we arrived here. So far, so good, thankfully! 🙂 I also imagine I’ve gained about 5 pounds in the last 4 days.


  3. If I don’t do anything about the obsession in my mind, I will drink again. I must continually keep my thoughts and actions moving into recovery. The steps, helping others and seeking help are foremost in my day. It works, a day at a time. It has worked for over 29 years now.

    Liked by 1 person

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