For many people with substance abuse disorders, vacations may bring back memories of being bombarded with temptation. Since everyone needs a break now and then, it is often best to plan your vacation once you have learned to manage your recovery for a significant period of time, and when you feel mentally and physically up to the stresses of travel.
If it is time for you to get away for a while, having a plan is the key to staying sober on vacation. Here are seven ways you can make a sober and enjoyable vacation happen.
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1. Choose Your Destination Carefully
You do not have to vacation at the most boring place on earth, but you should use discretion when choosing your destination. New Orleans during Mardi Gras, any of the popular US beaches during spring break, or Las Vegas if you have a gambling addiction would greatly increase the challenges you would face, for example. Fortunately, there are countless destinations both in the US and abroad where you can indulge your passions without facing excessive temptation.
2. Talk to Your Co-Travelers Beforehand
If you are traveling with a spouse, friend, or family member, talk beforehand about your concerns. Your traveling companions are probably concerned about your continued recovery during vacation too, but are not sure how to broach the subject. Do not let it be the “elephant in the room.” Talk about your hopes, your fears, and the practicalities of having an enjoyable break while maintaining your recovery.
3. Ensure Your Most Basic Needs Are Met
If this is your first vacation while in long term recovery, it is probably best to go somewhere you know your basic needs for good sleep, good food, and regular physical activity can be addressed easily. When you address your most basic needs, it is easier to monitor your energy, maintain a balance of activities, and avoid potentially over-stressing or triggering situations.
4. Look Up Group Meetings at Your Destination
With the internet, you can find out ahead of time where support meetings for your particular substance abuse disorder are held in your destination. Make sure you have your sponsor’s or a sober friend’s number in your phone as well. You may not need these coping tools, and attending a meeting far from home can be intimidating, but often the people there can be exactly what you need to avoid relapse.
5. Develop a Plan for Dealing with Triggers
Know what your triggers for substance abuse are and develop plans accordingly. For example, if delayed flights used to send you straight to the airport bar, develop a new plan. It could be anything from a phone call to a sober friend, to a portable gaming system, to a walk through the airport terminal since you know you will be sitting for a while once you board. Earplugs and a great playlist, audiobooks, or eBooks are other ways you might plan to deal with potential triggers.
6. Do Not Overdo It
While it is good to have a list of things you want to do on vacation, do not feel like you must check off everything on your list. Overdoing it on vacation is needlessly stressful, and while you want to be active and engaged, you do not want to burn yourself (and your traveling companions) out. Before you leave, make a tentative plan for what you want to do. Once your list is prioritized, you can cut activities if need be and still ensure that you do the most important ones.
7. Plan to Remain in Contact with Your Support Network
Have you downloaded your most-liked recovery apps on your phone? Do you have a playlist of music or podcasts that motivate you to continue your recovery? Do you have a fresh notebook in which you can write or draw while you are away? These can be great tools, as can planning to check in with people in your support network. They will be happy to hear from you and can be a tremendous source of support, especially if the temptation of substance abuse arises. Getting away is often healthy, but so is staying connected to your support network when you are anxious.
Vacations can be just what you need to relax and enjoy much-needed recreation. They can also be extra stressful for those in recovery from a substance abuse disorder. Planning ahead and staying connected are keys to staying sober on vacation and coming home with nothing but good memories. If you have any questions or concerns about substance abuse treatment and recovery, we encourage you to contact us at any time.
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