Traveling at any time of the year is stressful, but traveling during a summer vacation with your family in a cramped car can make you feel like you’re living in a movie where one thing after another goes wrong. Traveling can be triggering for people in recovery from addiction, but if you pack some coping tools in your suitcase, you can reduce the chances of triggers causing a setback.

First, it’s important that you identify your triggers. Traveling can trigger unhappy memories of childhood and you may start dwelling on what you missed out on when you were a child or what you consider to have been wrong about how you grew up. Another potential trigger can be a toxic relative who may cause you to feel like you need to engage in addictive behaviors. Other triggers that may occur while traveling include highlighting the differences between your life and someone else’s like a relationship change, divorce, job loss or a setback.

Identifying Triggers and Risk Factors

When traveling for summer vacation, you may experience an unfamiliar environment which can be a trigger if you’re in recovery. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and boredom are common triggers during traveling, but anticipating the potential for these feelings can help you protect yourself from setbacks.

Learning how to protect yourself against risk factors is often taught during addiction treatment, whether it’s inpatient or outpatient. Some ways to combat triggers are to consider traveling to a sober gathering. While traveling, it’s important to stay in touch with a sobriety partner or sponsor during your trip. If you’re traveling with your family, discuss your concerns with them so they can be your support system. When you travel with supportive people they can help manage your triggers. You can also use healthy coping tools like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. These practices can help keep your stress levels down while traveling.

It’s important to maintain self-care like proper eating habits, exercise and getting enough sleep. This will help immensely with lowering stress levels and reduce the possibilities of engaging in unhealthy behaviors.

The Role of Protective Factors 

Protective factors can shelter someone from risk factors and are generally conditions that help people deal effectively with stressful incidents and mitigate or eliminate risk factors of developing a substance use disorder. Risk factors and protective factors can occur at the same time and should be addressed simultaneously. Both of these types of factors can have roles in an individual’s relationship, community and in society.

Traveling and family vacations can increase triggers for you, but by keeping protective factors in place can help reduce the risk of a setback in your recovery.

Coping Tips to Deal with Triggers

In addition to utilizing sober-living tools during your vacation, there are several other tips that can prepare you to deal with triggers. These coping tips include:

  • Planning ahead

Before you leave home, you can look up schedules of support group meetings in your destination city and try to work some meetings into your schedule. This can be beneficial to help you deal with the stresses and triggers of traveling.

  • Making local contacts

In your search for support groups, you may also want to find an individual who is in recovery as well. You can call the local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offices for names and phone numbers. Having someone to talk to or share struggles with can help you feel less lonely.  

  • Staying in contact with your home support network

Even if you develop contacts in your destination city, it’s still important to maintain close contact with the people in your support network at home, especially your sponsor.

  • Sticking to your routine

Maintain your typical eating habits, your exercise routines, or meditations practices. Even though you’re on vacation, you don’t want to take a vacation from your recovery.

  • Preparing for family issues

On a family vacation, there’s bound to be some issues or problems among family members. It’s important to remember that even though you’ve changed in recovery, your family members may not have. If things get too heated between family members, even if you’re not directly involved, it may be a potential trigger for you. Politely excusing yourself and coming back to the situation later can help deflect potential issues. You can call someone in your support network or your sponsor. By making contact with someone who’s likely to be calmer, you help restore emotional equilibrium.

  • Using technology if you have to

Because family vacations can be stressful, you may feel like you need to go to an AA or NA meeting but can’t attend one because of scheduling conflicts or other reasons. Instead, you can use your phone, tablet or computer. There are 12-step support group meetings that you can call into or join online in chat rooms.

The biggest thing to remember when traveling is to be aware of what triggers you and know how to deal with those triggers. It’s also important to remember that recovery is a day-by-day process. Even though you’ve been to treatment for your addiction, recovery can still be difficult. Your substance use disorder is manageable with the sober-living tools you learned in treatment.

If you or someone you know struggles with a substance use disorder, recovery is possible. Call and speak to a representative today to learn more about treatment options. The call is free, confidential and there is no obligation to enroll.

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