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If the thought of vacation gets you salivating for Mai Tai’s, it’s time to rethink your upcoming travel itinerary. But don’t fear. If you’ve been in recovery for a while, you’ve probably already learned that there are many ways to have fun without drinking or getting high. Whether you’re going on a British Virgin Islands catamaran charter or a few days in the sun in Southern California, the key is to extend these things to your vacation.
Here are some tips for staying sober while traveling.
- Remain focused. Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure, or to visit family, remember the purpose of your visit. Stay focused on what you’re there for, and you’ll be less likely to get caught up in “letting loose.” Even if you’re going on vacation and traveling for fun, that’s your purpose. For example, if you’re going to Colorado to ski, everything should revolve around skiing. This means that you should be in the best physical shape to ski.
- Have a plan for stress. Stress is inevitable when it comes to travel. Even if you’re going on a relaxing vacation, stress can get the best of you at the airport or on the road. Make sure you know how to handle stress in a healthy way before you set out on your trip. Whether it’s meditation, exercise or breathing techniques, know how you’ll combat stress when it comes your way.
- Remind yourself of the downside of drinking. Your travel memories may be filled with joyful toasts, but do you remember the hangovers? What about the moments that you don’t remember? Remind yourself that it’s better to live and be present in the moment than to be intoxicated.
- Make plans in advance. Anyone in recovery can tell you that downtime is your worst enemy. Plan as much of your trip as possible before you leave. It’s all about keeping busy, so you barely have time to think about imbibing.
- Choose smart destinations. Maybe you made an annual trek to partake in Oktoberfest activities, but that’s not the wisest destination for you now. If you want to visit Germany, consider going in the summer instead. It’s also wise to avoid vacations that are centered around drinking, like cruises or trips to Napa Valley. If you want to stay safe, avoid putting yourself in harm’s way.
- Exercise daily. Exercising can help keep you busy and may even help keep you from relapsing. A review of published research shows that exercising in sobriety may reduce compulsive behavior. Most hotels have a gym that you can use for free, or you can plan outdoor activities for each day. As an added bonus, if you plan to exercise in the early morning, it’ll give you a reason to hit the hay early. This will make it less likely that you’ll go for drinks at night and give you something productive to focus on.
- Travel with a good support. If you can, travel with someone who understands your recovery efforts. This person may be sober also, or they may just be an extremely supportive friend. The worst thing you can do is travel with someone who plans on partying the entire trip. Just like with choosing your destination, you should choose your travel partners wisely. If you can’t choose your travel partner, make sure you have a support line open. Tell your sponsor or sober friend that you may need to call on them for support while you’re away.
- Keep a light heart. Whenever you plan a trip, something will go wrong. It’s almost inevitable. As long as you go into your trip knowing this, you’ll be okay. Get ready to laugh at life’s surprises.
- Find support on the road. Especially if you’re traveling within the US, you should be able to find a 12-step program on the road. Look for one in advance of your trip, so you know exactly what to do if you feel a relapse coming on. Even if you’re traveling overseas, you should be able to find providers. Do an internet search on your location before you get there.
- Keep everyone in the loop. Make sure everyone you’re traveling with knows that you’re in recovery. If they know this, they’ll be less likely to invite you out for drinks and may even be supportive of your efforts to stay sober. You don’t necessarily have to lean on these people, but they should be aware of what’s going on.
As you plan your trip, remember that traveling should be fun. Plan how you’re going to stay sober, and then focus on the more interesting elements of your trip.
One of the reasons why traveling is different in recovery is that it’s a change from your routine. Once you have a few trips under your belt, this will seem like second nature. You’ll form new sober memories and habits that will follow you throughout the rest of your life.