For some, the pleasures of the aperitif or the few late beers in the warm evening are integral components of the camping experience, but in one campsite in France, people manage just fine without wine…
Since 1972, the Alcohol-free camping in the Ardèche has been welcoming those recovering from alcoholism, so that they can enjoy a holiday break in peace, far away from temptation. But what is everyday life in a campsite without any alcohol?
Marianne Castanier – vice president of the Croix Bleue (alcohol dependency support group) says that it’s just like any other campsite, only better.
A recovering alcoholic, she goes to the campsite in the wild and beautiful department of Ardèche every year. Since she discovered the spot, she can’t resist going back and says that it has been of enormous help for her not to fall back into self-destructive ways.“I discovered this special place in 1994,” she says. “That year, I was recommended it by the head of the school that my daughter was attending after she had told him that I had a problem with drink.
“It’s a very convivial place, where there’s a great feeling of comfort. As most of the people there are also recovering alcoholics, we can talk about the subject freely. We’re all equal and because of that, we feel great.
“There aren’t just recovering alcoholics at the site, because families of those with drink problems are often there too.
“Other people have no problem adapting to the place because in this site, everyone has the right to speak their mind. Plus, even those who don’t have a problem with drink have to respect the rules of the site too.
“Just like the alcoholics, they must sign a disclaimer saying that they won’t consume any alcohol during their stay, either inside the campsite or outside of it. In spite of that rather formal starting point, it’s all really based on trust: there are no alcohol police searching in cars or caravans for contraband.
“However, if the management learns that one of the holidaymakers has broken the rules, there’s a discussion. Here, nobody sits in judgement because everyone understands that a moment of weakness is all too possible. All the same, the holidaymaker who doesn’t respect the campsite’s golden rule is given a warning. If they do it again, they’re out.
“Just because there’s no alcohol allowed, it doesn’t mean that fun isn’t permitted. Just like anywhere else, we sit around and chat at aperitif time.
“Obviously, we don’t clink glasses of Pastis or beer, but with fruit juice or coffee instead. It certainly doesn’t prevent us from having a laugh and sharing some fun times. There’s definitely nothing glum about this campsite!“The activities on offer are pretty much like those in any other campsite: barbecues, Boules tournaments, manual workshops, games for the children… we’re never bored but we do learn to relax.
“The objective of the campsite is also to allow former alcoholics to find a bit of tranquility. There’s no question of staying up ’til all hours on the lash: at around 10pm, we’re getting ready for bed. Rest is very much part of the therapy.
“I feel so great in this campsite that I go there every single chance I get. My husband and my grandchildren are part of the gang too and they never get tired of it.
“Each time, we love meeting up with our friends, who also come here regularly. This campsite is like a family – I feel at home there. In fact, I’m even now packing for a three-week break there with my family. I love it.
“From time to time, I also go on holiday in places where alcohol is allowed but I much prefer going to my campsite in Vernoux, probably because the temptation there is less than anywhere else.”