A New Kind of Happy Hour- Embracing Sobriety on the Road

Happy hours are as much a part of the RV lifestyle as are black tanks and flat tires. In this article originally published in Escapees magazine, Rene shares how she and her partner embraced sobriety on the road.

Sobriety found us at the worst possible time.

Halfway through our first “Dry January” challenge of 30 days without alcohol, we stumbled into another epic Xscapers Bash. That night’s free-flowing margarita throwdown and wild party vibe was unlike anything Quartzsite had ever seen. The dance music blared while imaginary devils urged us to ignore our short-term sobriety commitment. We didn’t and, instead, cheered empty-handed from the sidelines, tiptoeing through an alternative universe that people in recovery navigate every day, one day at a time.

Whether you’re still working or retired, if you’re living this fun RV lifestyle, it’s always happy hour somewhere. Toasting to wanderlust on any old day is easy, and for my husband, Jim, and me, full-time RVing and alcohol always went together like gin and tonic. But last year, we started running marathons and reduced our alcohol consumption through events like “Dry January,” where millions of people around the world commit to a month without alcohol.

During our most recent 30-day dry spell before a race, I happened to glance at the Birds of a Feather (BoF) group descriptions in Escapees magazine. One group with an

intriguing name caught my eye: Friends of Bill W. Then I wondered, “Who’s Bill? And why do these people like him so much?” It didn’t take long for me to find the answers. Named “One of the Most Important People of the Century” by Time magazine, William Griffith Wilson, aka Bill W., was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alcohol-filled Happy Hours can make sobriety tough for RVers

Finding Friends Around the Country

In the Escapees community, the Friends of Bill W. BoF members are solos and couples of all ages who belong to the AA fellowship of support. They are RVers building connections through AA, the BoF’s Facebook page and occasionally meeting up in real life. They are ordinary people with extraordinary stories of redemption from a legal substance that directly kills over 62,000 men and 26,000 women every year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. As the largest alcohol dependency support program of its kind in the world, AA isn’t the only path to sobriety, but it’s extremely effective at facilitating a booze-free lifestyle for anyone willing to try.

Friends of Bill groups exist outside of the official organization as another way to let program participants know they’ve found their tribe. When they connect, conversation flows with inspirational AA mantras to help participants stay sober, such as:

Easy does it.

Live and let live.

First things first.

One day at a time.

Keep it simple.

One is too many; a thousand is not enough.

AA participants often discover they are among friends just by observing what others say, wear or drive. It happens a lot in the RVing community. Someone might toss “Keep it simple” into a conversation. Another might wear a bracelet with “One day at a time” inscribed on it. Or an RV might pull into a campground with “Easy does it” on the license plate holder. “It’s just like when you meet another RVer you have that instant connection because you talk the talk. It’s the same with program people,” explains Beth, a solo RVer since 2016. “You have this commonality that a lot of other people can’t understand, like how you got through an addiction, and it just connects you.”

 

She revels in the nomadic lifestyle while keeping her sobriety commitment strong, thanks to a national network of AA meetings held every day of the week, at all hours of the day. During her RV travels, Beth has serendipitously bumped into others who were also in recovery, whether boondocking at Quartzsite or hooked up in a park. Finding the Friends of Bill W. BoF was a bonus and another way to maintain ties to people who understand the ups and downs of the RV lifestyle. She said, “I need this, It’s another way to connect with people on the road.”

Finding a meeting as you travel can be a huge help in maintaining sobriety on the road

Meetings Build Community and Resolve

In this laid-back lifestyle where “Wine- Thirty” can happen from morning to midnight, AA meetings are an important link that reinforces a person’s sobriety commitment. Friends of Bill member, Jamie, has 34 years of sobriety under his belt, but he and his wife still make meeting attendance a priority when they’re taking their toy hauler and Harley Davidson motorcycles around the country. Even during the wild Sturgis, South Dakota, biker rally, Jamie and his wife find support when they need it, like at the clubhouse meeting room on Main Street that offers support to partygoers who want it.

“I continue to go to meetings weekly and have been to meetings in many different states, from Ohio to South Dakota to Florida,” Jamie explains. “Our favorite place to camp is Ocracoke Island, in North Carolina, where we found the ‘Kitchen Table Group’ that meets in the firehouse and puts on a jamboree in early November, attracting up to 500 sober people to the island.”

The pandemic put a temporary halt to in-person AA meetings, but Internet workarounds are keeping members in touch with each other. Although some members aren’t fans of online get-togethers, Jamie doesn’t mind. “The meetings on Zoom are actually very helpful and are being held everywhere. I attend one in New Jersey and Rhode Island to see old friends online. It keeps me connected until the face-to-face meetings come back.”

Maintaining Sobriety on the Road

The BoF is another important link for maintaining sobriety. The group is managed by Nikki, a full-time RVer who committed to sobriety in 1980 after correlating a string of career setbacks and relationship struggles to a substance that had once helped her feel more social and confident. The BoF hasn’t held any organized gatherings lately, but it’s still not uncommon for members to connect.

“I have occasionally met up with Friends of Bill members,” she explains. “One instance stands out where I posted that I would be in Maine on a specified date. Well, one of our members contacted me, and he met me at a recovery meeting. After the meeting, we spent about an hour talking. It felt like we had known each other for years.”

It might seem like the transient nature of this lifestyle makes it hard to maintain ties to the sobriety community, but the AA experience reaches far beyond state borders. “One of the blessings of this life that I didn’t anticipate is that I’ve met people all over the country. It’s really expanded my network of people to call if things get tough,” says Patrick, a Friends of Bill member who is from Wisconsin and has six years of sobriety behind him. While towing his custom fifth wheel christened “The Den of Acceptance,” Patrick and his wife, Colleen, are full-time RVing around the country and staying connected to the AA community. When choosing new locations to explore, he won’t stay anywhere for more than a couple weeks unless a regular meeting is nearby.

On some days, the unpredictable nature of hauling his home around can put sobriety to the test. “I really wasn’t challenged until we got out and started doing this,” Patrick explains. “I had no idea of how different of a lifestyle this was. It wasn’t my physical sobriety I had to work on, it was my emotional sobriety. And I still work on it today.” His abstinence is solid, but the support is still invaluable. When asked if a person with an alcohol dependency issue can find sobriety while full-time RVing, he’s not sure.

“To do the full-time RVing thing and move around, I wouldn’t recommend it in early sobriety because it’s a very different way of life. If somebody were looking to do this, my recommendation would be to get stationary somewhere with a good recovery community. Once you’re established, then get out and do what you’re going to do.”

Marc, an Xscaper with 18 years of sobriety, somewhat agrees. “I think the chance of success would be a lot less, but I don’t want to say it’s impossible. I know people who live in the middle of nowhere, and they’re willing to drive four hours to go to a meeting. If you’re a nomad, that doesn’t mean there’s no meeting and no community around you.” In his years of full-time RVing,  wherever he’s roamed, Marc has maintained an alcohol-free lifestyle through tools like AA meetings, fitness, meditation and spirituality.

Making a sobriety commitment of any length sounds daunting, but the Friends of Bill W. prove that it’s possible even when you’re traveling. “It may be more of a challenge to find treatment, a therapist, or other resources while being transient; it is not impossible, however” says Susan, a retired chemical dependency counselor and full-time, sober RVer. “Whatever a person finds to help them make the changes they want to make is a great choice. Whatever lifestyle someone chooses can be adapted to recovery. Treatment for addiction issues is available everywhere.”

Key to maintaining sobriety as an RVer is disassociating Happy Hour with alcohol

Is It Still Happy Hour Without Alcohol?

“Today’s full-time RVers don’t always celebrate with an adult beverage,” Susan explains. She has watched liquid courage lose its luster within the RVing community. “I have found social gatherings or happy hours are not as alcohol-centered as they once may have been. It seems to me that people no longer raise an eyebrow when someone requests a non-alcoholic beverage at the social gatherings. Of course, this can be because of my own shift in attitude.”

And in this lifestyle where RVer party guests are expected to bring their own plates, utensils and cups to social events, Susan reminds me that it’s easy enough to come prepared with a non-alcoholic drink. When you arrive with a full cup, nobody offers to pour anything inside of it, or questions why you’re not drinking something stronger. The idea is so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.

To Learn More About Friends of Bill W BoF contact noblecyd@reagan.com or call 404-578-0864

Alcoholics Anonymous resources are available at aa.org, and Dry January Challenge information is at: https://tinyurl.com/dryjanuarychallenge.

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Embracing Sobriety on the Road
A New Kind of Happy Hour- Embracing Sobriety on the Road 1

Author

Rene Agredano

Rene Agredano, Jim Nelson, and their dog, Wyatt, are enjoying their 14th year as full-time RVers and location-independent entrepreneurs. Their adventures are chronicled at www.LiveWorkDream.com.

5 Responses to “A New Kind of Happy Hour- Embracing Sobriety on the Road

  • Rene Agredano
    Judy Stringer
    1 month ago

    I have experienced a frown for refusing an alcoholic drink. If I liked the taste I might be an alcoholic, so I’m not casting aspersions. But I almost resent that “Happy Hour” has to have that connotation. Thirty-five years ago Escapees held a happy hour every afternoon, and we always said it didn’t mean alcohol. It lasted about an hour and we were all happy. Some brought an adult beverage, many had something non alcoholic. But at most RV gatherings, everyone brings their own beverage, so really, it’s your own business what you are drinking. I admit I do enjoy not having to defend why I’m not imbibing. The social acceptance of sobriety is a comfort.

  • There is a Friends of Bill W SKP subgroup and Facebook page we have to communicate if your an escapees sober member. Search SKP BOF FOB and put your SKP # in the questionnaire for verification.

  • I’m a full-timer and Escapee since January of 1995 and sober since August 1999. Here to tell you that yes, if you want to get sober, and you’re on the road, it absolutely IS possible.

  • I’ll be at the next bash and plan on setting up an area with a coffee pot for all sober people to enjoy.

    Kevin sober since 1991

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