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Vegas is not my favorite place. I didn’t like Vegas when I was drinking and I find it overwhelming now as a sober guy. It’s really more about being an introvert than it is about the drinking, drugs, and debauchery that are on public display. I am sensitive to being overly stimulated and Vegas is a constant buzz of activity, blinking lights, and noise. And yet, I’ve found ways to go to Vegas and enjoy myself.

It took me a long time to get here though. In my first few years of sobriety, the trips to Vegas felt like a burden. I felt like I was being tested — put in an untenable situation. How could a guy in recovery be expected to go to Vegas?

I get to go to Vegas roughly twice a year for my job. Usually for one technical conference and for my company’s sales kick off. Both are grueling events that start at 8 AM with sessions until 5 or 6 and corporate “fun” events in the evening. Corporate “fun” is code for drinking. For the first several trips, I would grind through the days, make an appearance at the corporate event, and then retreat into my room. It was a strategy, but probably not the best strategy.

Last summer, I tweeted my dread about going to Vegas and a fellow technologist who is in recovery responded with a tweet that reframed my perspective. He said, “Vegas has great food. It’s a Fat Boy’s dream. Let me know where you’re going and I’ll give you some restaurant recommendations.” Now, I’m actively working to not be a fat boy, with some success, but I love food and so this resonated. I got some recommendations and made some plans.

Previously, going to Vegas and partaking in the drinks at the corporate events meant that I didn’t spend any of my money at these events. I ate what they offered, which is generally garbage, because I really didn’t care since I was getting loaded. But now that I’m sober, I really do care about the quality of the food on offer. And the company has policies about not expensing food at these events. Since they are paying for all the catering — I get it, even if I don’t like it — I’m not allowed to expense any meals that I get on my own.

Vegas is expensive. The same cup of coffee that I get for $3.13 at my local Starbucks is over $7 in Vegas. Lunches, a sandwich and fries, are over $25 in the hotels. I don’t like it, but I have reconciled that I am making a choice that helps me to stay sane and sober in Vegas. So I spend my own money and don’t worry about it.

I’ve also learned that I don’t need to be at every corporate event. This past trip, I didn’t attend a single corporate party. And guess what? No one noticed and no one cared. It helps that I’m open about my recovery. My management knows that I don’t drink and so the expectation that I’ll hang out at a drinking event isn’t there.

Since I got sober, I’ve been going to a lot more concerts, and guess what you can find on pretty much any given night in Vegas. That’s right, a concert. And not just a local musician busking on the sidewalk. I now make it a point to look for an act that I’d be interested in seeing when I go to Vegas. Last summer, I saw Jackson Browne one night in Vegas and this past week I caught Aerosmith. I’ve gone by myself, and I’ve invited members of my team to join me.

Again, it’s money out of my own pocket on a business trip, but it’s worth it to keep me sane. I’ve also realized that I used to spend more on booze in a week than the price of a ticket to a show. A ticket to see a band is money well spent when I put it in that light.

And so, my perspective on Vegas is changing. Whereas I used to say, “I have to go to Vegas twice a year for my job.” Now I can honestly say, “I get to go to Vegas for my job.”

Do you travel for business? If so, how do you keep yourself busy when the corporate parties get rolling? Drop me a line in the comments with any additional ideas.

 

8 comments on “Having Fun in Sin City, in Recovery

  1. Ainsobriety says:

    I rarely travel for business, but I have been to vegas many times sober. I am impress by the unending options of things to do.
    Concerts are definitely on my list. And the golden knights. Best hockey atmosphere anywhere. So fun. I can’t wait until the nfl gets there.

    I also find it’s an easy to drive around in city, so shopping is nice.

    I avoid the strip and freemont. Freemont is way too sleazy. Once is enough. Lol

    Have fun. That drink looks delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. damien says:

      Can’t go wrong with a vanilla milkshake!

      Like

  2. No business travel, but even on vacations I focus on good food and fun activities!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

  3. msnewleaf says:

    Vegas also has rollercoasters!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brian Adkins says:

    At 5 months sober and in an active job search after my previous employer and I decided to “just be friends”…I have not traveled on business this time in sobriety. My previous travels when I was actively drinking were a combination of drained bank accounts, regretful activities and paranoia about whether there would be any lasting damage (did anyone see me out that late? Did I smell like booze? Was I slurring my words? Is my food receipt ok or does it suggest there are drinks on it?).

    Not to mention, airports were always my party zone. Unlike most travelers, I would choose to have at least a couple hours between flights (excluding transit time from terminals). I loved the idea of being an anonymous person at airport bars, sitting for several rounds while others would grab a quick bite and a beer. Not me, I was camped out. There was more than once I missed my flight because I simply wasn’t paying attention to anything other than the party in my head.

    The last 5 months have been far different than any of my other attempts at sobriety. Those felt like attempts rather than solid changes. And in the wise words of Yoda “Do or Do Not, there is no ‘Try'”. I am looking forward to getting back in the job force and even having the conversation about why I don’t drink. Not going through my entire drunk-a-logue, but generally stating that I got to a point where alcohol was no longer serving any positive purpose in my life. So I cut it out. Thanks for the blog!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. damien says:

      Glad you’re here. I spent a lot of time in airport bars myself. I used to get angry if there wasn’t enough time to grab a drink between flights. So much better these days. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Best wishes in the job search.

      Like

    2. thesoberraccoonreturns says:

      I hear you about the airports thing! I would get grumpy when the actual flight time was approaching because I had to stop drinking and go and board the flight! I’d have happily sat in the bar all day getting inebriated. Congratulations on your sobriety btw, you must be 6 months now. Awesome! Hope I too can achieve this 👊🏻

      Liked by 1 person

  5. thesoberraccoonreturns says:

    I have only been to Vegas once. I was drinking and I almost completely ruined the experience. I hear you regarding the high intensity stimulus though! It isn’t really a great place for us introverts. We went to see ‘The Love Show’ (the Beatles, Cirque De Solais) and wish I could remember it much more than I can!! Too many slushy cocktails beforehand by the hotel pool (at $25 each!! Bloody expensive!) I think you’re a champion for going to Vegas sober. It must be hard with temptation absolutely everywhere! 👍😊

    Liked by 1 person

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