Vacations are known as a time to unwind, to relax and let go of the stressors of everyday life. For many people, this may mean kicking back on the beach with a cocktail or sitting around the fire with a beer in hand.
But for those who are sober and in recovery, vacations can be challenging. If on vacation with normal drinkers, it can be difficult to not feel as if you are being left out of social activities that involve drinking. It is oftentimes too easy to begin to sink into a place of self-pity and wonder why you can’t simply drink the way others can. For some people, vacations may even lead to a relapse.
But sober vacations don’t have to be a challenge. If approached correctly, they can be just as enjoyable and relaxing as vacations involving drinking – maybe even more enjoyable and relaxing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when vacationing as a person in recovery.
1. Remember you’re not alone.
First and foremost, it’s vital to realize that other people go on vacation without drinking, too. You are not the only person in the history of the world to attempt doing so. It is plenty doable with the right mindset and tools. Before setting out for your destination, touch base with a sober friend and ask how sober vacations have gone for them and what they wish they had known ahead of time to make it easier. Chances are they will have some advice due to their own experiences.
2. While on vacation, seek out others who do not drink or do not drink excessively.
If you’re on vacation in a large group, it should be easy enough to find someone else who doesn’t drink or drinks very lightly. Spending time with these types of people will likely be easier than spending time with people who like to drink and go hard. Though there is nothing wrong with spending time with the second group of people, it will likely be easier on your sobriety and recovery if you forego spending all your time with partiers.
3. Create your own fun drinks.
I’ve found that sometimes I am more at ease and comfortable with my sobriety if I can drink something bright and fun like those around me are doing. It will probably make you feel less left out, but there is another reason, too. If you already have something in your hand that resembles an alcoholic drink, people are less likely to offer you actual alcohol and you don’t have to face that temptation. While you can certainly say no to a drink, it’s sometimes just nice to not have to explain yourself.
4. Have someone you can reach out to in a pinch.
Chances are you have someone in your life you can reach out to if you need support, even if they aren’t with you in person. Remember, you can utilize technology in instances like this. Call, text or FaceTime a friend who knows about your sobriety and supports it. Sometimes just having a conversation without someone outside the situation can put it in perspective and clear your mind. People often know the right things to say and that may help you return to your vacation with a new outlook about refraining from drinking.
5. Think about all the money and calories you are saving.
Seriously, just stop a second and thinking about how much alcohol costs – especially fancy drinks by the pool or on the beach. By not drinking, you are saving a boatload financially. Even if you splurge and get some mocktails, chances are you’ll be drinking less of them and still come out having spent much less than those who drink. Similarly, think about the amount of sugar and calories you are saving your body by not putting alcohol into it. One shot of vodka averages about 100 calories. Think about how many drinks you’d have in an average night, and add up the calories. You’ll probably come away feeling relieved that you are not putting alcohol in your body any longer.
6. Have an escape plan.
Sometimes, no matter how prepared you may feel, you just need to get out of a situation. There are some days when people drinking around you may just rub you the wrong way — and that’s completely fine. Just make sure you don’t trap yourself in a situation you can’t get out of while on vacation. Before setting out for activities, know how you can return to your home base if need be, whether that be driving, walking or public transportation. Sometimes it just makes more sense to remove yourself from a situation than it does to suffer through it and wish you could drink or decide to drink again.
7. Think about how much more present you’ll be.
One of my favorite things about being sober is that you get to be present for every moment of your life, including when you’re experiencing new places on vacation. There will never be nights you can’t remember due to blackouts, or injuries you don’t recall getting, or words you don’t remember saying. You’ll return home from your trip with every single one of your memories completely intact, which is a freeing feeling.
It’s true that setting out on vacation while sober is intimidating, especially if you’re new to recovery. But with the right tools and preparation, it’s completely doable and enjoyable. And, like everything in life, it becomes more normal with time.