Napa Valley, California — the first thought that comes to mind, most likely, is Wine country. Known for its sprawling vineyards, world-renowned wineries and beautiful scenery (not to mention the gorgeous Northern California weather), it’s no wonder many flock here for vacations, honeymoons and the like.
With this reputation, it might raise a red flag or two for those overcoming a substance use disorder or who have recently completed time in treatment. Is Wine Country totally off limits?
We say, no. With the right plan ahead of time, anyone can enjoy the beauty of Wine Country, including those living a sober lifestyle.
See more than just wineries
Wine Country is in Northern California, after all, with countless things to do and see, from national parks to horse back rides to days spent on the beach. So if you just want to go to see the countryside, the natural beauty of the location will make it well worth your time.
If, however, you do travel with people who are there for wine tasting events, there are numerous ways to incorporate both wine tasting with other activities, like tour bus excursions and bike trips through countryside vineyards. This way, the focus isn’t so much on traveling from winery to winery, and you won’t feel left out at all.
Talk with your travel buddies ahead of time
If you’re traveling with family or friends, take the time ahead of the trip to talk with them about your thoughts, concerns and ideas for the trip. Speak with them about your choice to remain sober throughout your time there and allow them to ask questions and brainstorm additional ideas with you.
If you have an open and honest conversation with your people before the trip, you can avoid awkward situations while you’re there, as well as assign an accountability partner to yourself in the form of a willing friend. Not only will this support you in the moment, it will help you feel more confident going into the trip.
Have a game plan
If you are on the trip and things do get out of hand or too tempting, have a game plan set out for yourself. That might include sending for an Uber or Lyft to drive you back to the hotel; perhaps it’s skipping out on a winery tour and going to the beach instead. No matter what it is, knowing ahead of time what you’ll do when you need to escape will help you stay strong and make the right choice for your sobriety, even in the heat of the moment.
Be the DD
Another helpful way to maintain sobriety while visiting Wine Country is by assigning yourself as the trip’s designated driver. Being the DD will immediately get rid of all temptation because your friends getting home safely relies on you. This also keeps you accountable to yourself — assigning yourself DD ahead of time automatically removes your ability to drink at all, so even if temptation were to present itself, you have a more than valid reason to say no.
Know the vibe of the trip
There are certain trips characterized more than others by the presence of alcohol. If you’re sightseeing Wine Country with your relatives or family, it’s not as likely that the intention of the trip is consuming as much wine as possible. Most likely, it’s touring the vineyards, seeing how wine is made and then having appetizers or a meal afterwards, during which you can absolutely participate.
If, however, the trip is for a bachelorette weekend, you might want to think intently about whether it’s a good trip to be on – not because you hold it against your friends, but because it might be a challenge you’re not ready for or simply don’t want to undertake.
Make healthy decisions for yourself
No matter what, it’s important to make choices for yourself that increase your mental health and aid in your recovery regardless of what others might think. During recovery, or throughout sobriety, it is important to remain dedicated to the lifestyle you have chosen for yourself, even in times when others might question it or you feel particularly challenged.
When traveling Wine Country, healthy decisions for yourself can look different, and only you will know what you need to do before and during your vacation.
We also recommend speaking with your therapist before you travel; this will allow them the chance to offer you additional advice, as well as give the two of you a chance to follow-up after the trip to discuss your successes, or things you might’ve done differently.
If you’re seeking a therapist to help with these aspects of sobriety, or would like to learn more about maintaining a sober lifestyle, our professionals at Rehab After Work are here to help. Call anytime to speak with someone at 610-644-6464.