For many, a vacation means staying in a tropical getaway and drinking cocktails. For others, it means stressful situations that can lead to relapse. While traveling sober can be a great opportunity to find new passions and bring new meaning to your life in recovery, it should not be used as a way to avoid your problems.
Consider the Timing
You don’t leave all of your struggles behind when you cross a border. As a rule of thumb, start to plan a getaway once you have successfully managed your recovery for an extended period of time and feel you are physically and mentally able to handle potential vacation stressors.
Your trip should be filled with happiness and excitement, not anxiety and fears of relapse. Using a vacation to escape obstacles during early recovery can slow your progress and prevent you from enjoying your time away from home. In early recovery, you need to focus on sobriety.
Find Ways to Cope
Going out of town doesn’t mean your recovery takes a vacation. You know what you need to do to maintain your health. Continue to monitor your nutrition, sleep and energy levels, no matter where you are. Put some time for journaling or meditation on your itinerary. These activities can help with stress and keep your mind at ease. It may feel like having a daily routine takes away from the fun of a vacation, but a routine can provide the balance you need when social and environmental settings change.
Depending on where you are traveling, consider attending a support group meeting or having a sober friend’s phone number on speed dial. Before you leave, research Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings close to where you will be staying. It may be intimidating to attend meetings with people you don’t know, but those people can offer support when you need it the most.
Create Travel To-Dos
What do you want to see or do on your trip? Fight boredom that may lead to temptation by creating a checklist of things to do. Of course, don’t push yourself to the point where you’ll need a vacation from your vacation.
Engage in activities that promote your sobriety. Art classes, guided tours or other sober activities can validate the fact that you don’t need drugs or alcohol to enjoy a vacation. Have fun and treat yourself to something special so you don’t feel like you are missing out by not having a drink.
Plan for Triggers
Addiction triggers can lead to relapse. Things such as delayed flights or a last minute change of plans can bring extra stress to your sobriety and leave you feeling challenged in risky environments, such as an airport bar.
Acknowledge that vacation mishaps will happen and explore ways to overcome them. You can remove yourself from the situation, talk to someone about how you feel or practice breathing techniques during times of high stress.
Although planning and organizing a trip may be stressful, seeing and exploring new things on vacation can have a positive impact on your recovery. It can provide you with a new perspective on life that can take your recovery to new levels.