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 you’re vacationing with drinkers, you can feel left out of social activities that involve drinking. It is oftentimes easy to start sinking 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. With a little planning and a positive attitude, they can be just as enjoyable and relaxing as vacations involving drinking – maybe even more enjoyable and relaxing. Here are seven tips to keep in mind when vacationing sober.
1. Remember you’re not alone.
Take a moment to remember that other people go on vacation without drinking too. You are not alone in this situation and 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 to make it easier. Chances are they will have some advice from 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, you may be able 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 heavily. Though there is nothing wrong with spending time with the second group of people, it will likely help support your sobriety and recovery if you forego spending all your time with partiers.
3. Create your own fun drinks.
You may find that drinking something bright and “fun” can make you more at ease and comfortable being sober. It will probably make you feel less left out, but there is another reason this helps: if you already have something in your hand, especially if it resembles an alcoholic drink, people are less likely to offer you alcohol and you don’t have to face that temptation. While you can certainly say no to a drink, it’s sometimes nice and more comfortable to not have to explain yourself.
4. Have someone you can reach out to in a pinch.
Hopefully, you already 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 video chat a friend who knows about your sobriety and supports it. Sometimes just having a conversation without someone outside the situation can help you find perspective and clear your mind. Your support network will often know the right things to say to 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 think about how much alcohol costs – especially fancy drinks by the pool or on the beach. Even if you do splurge on some mocktails, chances are you’ll be drinking less of them and will come out having spent less than those who drink. Similarly, you can think about the amount of sugar and empty calories in many popular mixed drinks that you’re saving your body by not drinking.
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, using a ride share service (like uber or lyft), walking or taking public transportation. Sometimes it just makes more sense to remove yourself from a situation than it does to suffer through it and either wish you could drink or decide to drink again.
7. Think about how much more present you’ll be.
One pleasant benefit of 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 won’t 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.