Imagine you have just finished work on Friday afternoon, and you have a flight leaving early Saturday morning for your family vacation. Everyone is excited to get away from the busyness of life and spend a week together making memories. But you have one unsettling thought that is keeping you from really getting in the vacation state of mind: How are you going to cope with the challenges that travel might present to your addiction recovery journey?
Whether you are traveling to the beach, the ski slopes, or the African Sahara, alcohol is likely to be involved in the leisure of the journey. Likewise, there may be opportunities to fall back into drug use as your routine and environment change. Perhaps you wonder whether this trip might be the first stumble into a downward spiral.
While you may have valid cause for concern, there is good news. Your progress in active recovery from drugs or alcohol does not mean that you can no longer enjoy your trip. Follow these suggestions to help set you up for success and maintain your sobriety while traveling.
Make up your mind before you make your reservations
If you are traveling for one of the first times after committing to a life of sobriety, you need to have an unwavering resolve to keep your own promise to yourself. Visualize yourself power-walking past airport bars and ignoring drink menus at restaurants.
Have entertainment prepared such as music and podcasts to keep your mind busy while waiting in frustrating security lines, sitting on planes or on long car rides. Be mindful here to choose things void of references to the party scene, substance use or anything else that might be triggering to you.
Be overly prepared
The sensations of hunger and thirst can heighten a craving for drugs or alcohol. Have food and drinks on hand wherever you are, so that your natural body rhythms don’t talk your mind into thinking you want something that you don’t.
Be mindful of your organizational preferences in order to minimize stress. If you are likely to become overwhelmed by planning every detail of your vacation, take this opportunity to see where providence leads you. On the other hand, if a lack of structure is daunting, take the time to plan your days well in advance.
Plan excursions strategically
If you are vacationing somewhere with sand and sunshine, you are guaranteed to be presented with the temptation of drinking during your beach and poolside leisure. The locals may present various opportunities for drug use that might be considered novel. That being said, tropical places have a lot more to offer than drug and alcohol indulgence. Instead of a lazy booze cruise, plan adventurous activities such as jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, or wakeboarding. Avoid places of heightened opportunity for failures, such as beach bars and nightclubs.
Perhaps you are jetting off to a wintery wonderland. Begin conditioning your mind to look forward to hot cocoa by the fire in the ski lodge instead of something alcoholic. Remind yourself that if the temptation arises to use substances, you are more devoted to achieving your long-term goals than any short-term sensation.
When planning your activities, be sure to double-check whether alcohol will be a part of the trip. Call the tour company before booking to confirm that drinking will not be involved. Online reviews are a great way to separate fun activities from relapse-triggering ones.
Talk to the concierge at your hotel or resort for suggestions on location-specific activities to embark upon. Websites like Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Airbnb are great tools to help find exciting pastimes for you and your travel companions.
Timing of excursions can be helpful in maintaining your sobriety as well. Plan early-morning activities so you are more inclined to go to bed early the night before. Staying out past the eleven o’clock hour can lend itself to a weakened will and a heightened chance of relapse. Look for active options for the early morning hours, like a sunrise hike, yoga class or all-day city tour.
Celebrate your victories
Vacationing sober is no small feat; be sure that you give yourself adequate recognition for accomplishing such a daunting task. Practice gratitude when you wake up in the mornings without feeling hungover. Indulge in dessert when you make it through a whole dinner without an alcoholic beverage.
Drugs and alcohol are not cheap. Take note of the money you are saving by refraining from substance purchases and reward yourself by buying a special souvenir to remember your vacation.
Stay rooted in your support system
We live in a digital age. Don’t be afraid to use the technology that is available to you. Whether it is a daily text message to a supportive group chat, a phone call with a loved one or some other form of accountability, be sure to stay connected to the people who provide support in your recovery journey.
Be proactive in searching for recovery resources in the place of your destination. Research Alcoholics Anonymous locations and meeting times in advance so you have an idea of your options before you get there.