Staying sober can be difficult when we're destabilized. We can face loss, mental health disorders, or difficult situations which bring adversity. However, traveling and vacation can also bring some chaos. Although often a pleasant experience, going on vacation without drugs and alcohol can bring some stress. We're accustomed to using while traveling, we go on vacations centered on drinking, and we're pulled out of our normal routine. Staying sober while traveling takes a little bit of extra attention, but we can do it!
1. Choose Travels Wisely
First, put some thought into your vacation. Sometimes we don't have a choice, and that can create a need for us to just practice some acceptance! If we do have the opportunity to choose, it's worth putting some thought into. We can try to steer clear of destinations known for partying when possible, like Las Vegas, Cancun, or Amsterdam. Instead, maybe we can choose a vacation that is more relaxing and away from the party scene. Try going somewhere quiet, chartering your own sailboat like Tehiya, or picking somewhere known for nature and relaxation.
This first step of the vacation process can make a huge difference. Our environment can create a dramatic effect in our experience when traveling and in daily life. Whether you were a binge drinker, functional alcoholic, or a heroin addict, being in an environment with lots of drug use and drinking can be a trigger. You may try finding an organization that offers sober vacations even, like Sober Celebrations or any number of other companies out there. When you do decide to go ahead and travel, run it by a mentor, therapist, or sponsor to see what they think about your decision!
2. Create a Routine
In our daily lives, we all have some sort of routine. Whether we are the type who like to keep a strict schedule or the type who like to play it by ear, routine is part of life for all of us. Going on vacation or traveling can be destabilizing as our routine is often disrupted. We're in a new place, perhaps around other people who have different schedules, and not able to keep exactly to the routine we're used to. We don't need to cling to having a perfect schedule, but we can work to create our own routine. There are many benefits of having a routine, and we can carry this with us on our vacations.
Without trying to control every little thing, we can create a schedule for ourselves. Know when you plan on going to bed, when meals will be, and try to keep some consistency to your days. Although it may not seem to make a huge difference, creating routine can be a game-changer. It offers some stability, and the ability for us to know what to expect. We can prepare ourselves for difficult situations, create time for ourselves, and help prevent surprises we're not ready for. However, no matter how much we plan, we can't control everything. So remember to practice some patience and acceptance as well!
3. Stay Connected
Even if we're traveling with others or around family, we can still experience loneliness while traveling. There are many things to do to help with this, but one of the best things we can do is simply stay connected. Connecting with other people is an important part of our recovery, and central in many spiritual traditions and therapeutic modalities and group therapies. When on vacation, we can feel isolated. We aren't as deeply connected with our normal support network, which can be quite dangerous to feel. Instead of being lonely, reach out and stay connected with those who support you.
You can connect via phone, text, or email of course. There are also many options now for online support groups and meetings if you want. Maybe try finding a new meeting in the area in which you're traveling! There are always opportunities for finding ways to connect with a support network, so give it a shot.
4. Plan "Positive" Activities
Along with creating a routine, we can plan activities to care for ourselves. Without a schedule or plan, we can forget to do what helps us most. Make a plan for time to meditate, pray, journal, or partake in whatever self-growth tactics you find useful. When we block out time for these things, we can have the stability of knowing they're there in our day. Without a schedule, these activities may fall by the wayside.
You don't have to do anything too dramatic, and it's important to remember that traveling and vacation brings new unknowns. Your self-care routine may not be exactly the same as it is at home, and you may not be able to follow through with each and every goal. Just make the effort, plan ahead of time, and do your best! Go for a run, take a nap, or engage yourself with other healthy activities.
5. Prepare Coping Strategies
As much as we may try to avoid it, we may come into contact with difficult situations or new unknowns. When we feel like reaching for the alcohol or Xanax, we need a plan for bringing ourselves back. Ideally, we can stop this process before it even gets this far. What are you going to do if something is difficult while traveling? What about the partying that goes on that you cannot control? Finding a way to cope with these moments of pain will make a huge difference in our health and happiness on vacation. Although traveling is often fun, it can sometimes be stressful with all of these unpleasant moments.
Make a plan for yourself. If things get heated, what will you do? Try stepping outside or away from the situation, calling somebody in your support network, or talking to somebody else present. In recovery, we begin to learn what does and doesnt not work for us. Isolation can be bad for many of us, as can keeping it in. Try to find a way to actually address the difficulties rather than just stuffing them down until you're ready to pop!
6. Be Open
Finally, be open about what's going on for you when it is possible. If you are traveling with somebody else sober or a trusted member of your support network, talk to them about your experience and difficulties. If not, talk to a mentor, sponsor, or therapist. By talking about what's going on, we give ourselves the opportunity to process our experience and be vulnerable. Not everyone will understand, and some won't respect it. But those who do will show up and support you.