You’ve waited all year for a much-anticipated break from the grind of daily life. You’ve researched all your options and planned every detail of your summer vacation down to where you’ll eat and what you’ll wear.
But if you’re in recovery from addiction, you may have overlooked some of the details that matter most.
How will you handle triggers to drink or use when you’re in an unfamiliar environment, faced with new challenges and stressors? What happens when you’re feeling stressed or anxious and the person next to you on the plane is drinking? Or your travel companions decide to hit up every party they can find in a one-week period?
You can’t predict every temptation that may arise, but you can take steps to safeguard your sobriety even when you’re away from home:
#1 Consider a Sober Holiday. New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Hawaii are continually among the most popular vacation destinations, but why limit yourself to what’s conventional? Many resorts, cruise lines and travel companies offer alcohol-free vacations in these and other hotspots.
There are even sober music festivals, spas, camping trips, surf and ski getaways, sailing expeditions, safaris, and golf and yoga retreats. In addition to putting away the alcohol and scheduling sober activities and meetings, vacation-goers are surrounded by a supportive community of people in recovery.
#2 Choose Travel Partners Carefully. Vacation is a great excuse to escape from life for a while. For people in recovery, it may also be tempting to take a break from sobriety. To keep yourself accountable, travel with people who are supportive of your sobriety and who will look out for your best interests, even if it means refraining from drinking or using drugs themselves.
#3 Minimize Stress. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but they can just as easily get stressful. Lost luggage, flight delays, bad directions and squabbles among travel partners can put hefty demands on your coping skills. To minimize stress, plan ahead as much as possible and then adopt a “go with the flow” attitude that helps you take any unexpected frustrations in stride. If you need a few minutes to wind down, use portable stress management techniques like meditation, yoga or reading.
#4 Continue Basic Self-Care. It’s easy to push yourself beyond your limits when you’re exploring a new place. Continue eating regular, healthy meals, exercising and getting enough sleep each day so that you don’t feel depleted.
#5 Research Local Resources. One of the greatest challenges of sober travel is doing without your usual support network. Just as you would investigate hotels, flights and sightseeing tours, research local support groups in case you’re in need of re-balancing while you’re away. A number of free smartphone apps are available to help you locate meetings and get support while you’re on the go. Also bring along the phone number of your sponsor and a few trustworthy friends.
#6 Be Your Own Advocate. As an addict in recovery, sometimes you have to be your own strongest advocate. Have a few responses prepared in the event you feel pressured to drink or use and don’t hesitate to remove yourself from any situation that makes you feel vulnerable or uneasy. You can also take precautions such as asking the hotel to remove alcohol from the mini-bar if you know that will be a temptation for you.
#7 Get Back on Track. Relapse isn’t inevitable on vacation or any other time, but if it happens, take advantage of this teachable moment. Evaluate what you could’ve done differently and call your therapist or treatment center immediately so that you can turn a slip-up into a learning experience rather than spiraling back into old patterns.
July and August are the most popular vacation months. This summer, don’t miss out on a well-earned break just because you’re in recovery. After all, recovery means having the freedom to do the things you always wanted to do but couldn’t because you were bogged down with drugs and alcohol. By taking a few precautions and staying alert to your relapse triggers, your vacation can be memorable for all the right reasons.