Being in recovery doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on spring break.

It’s never too early to start thinking about spring break. And for college students everywhere, that means midterms followed by beach vacations — better known as Spring Break.

This is typically a time when students can let loose and recharge. But it can also be a time of partying, binge drinking and questionable choices.

For students in recovery, this can be a particularly tricky time for staying sober. The good news is you can avoid relapse and still enjoy your Spring Break.

Keep Your Goals Front and Center

Most people work hard for their sobriety. At some point, drugs or alcohol took over their life and they fought a tough battle to take back control.

Deciding to become sober is a long-term decision — a commitment to yourself. Relapse provides a short-term payoff. But it is likely to end with feelings of shame or guilt.

Partying with drugs and alcohol can have serious consequences beyond a setback in recovery. Spring Break drinking and drug use are often done in excess, which can be dangerous and even deadly.

Continually visualizing your recovery can help you focus on your past efforts and goals moving forward. When you are clear about where you are going, you are less likely to give in to momentary temptation.

Reasons to stay sober during spring break and beyond include:

  • Personal freedom
  • Better relationships
  • Self-awareness
  • Financial security
  • Improved mental and physical health
  • Lasting memories
  • More competent decision-making skills
  • Setting a good example
  • No regrets about recovery efforts
  • Self-respect

Surround Yourself With Support

It’s important to surround yourself with positive people who support your recovery. Whether on vacation or not, the company you keep has the power to help or hinder you.

Friends and family that understand and accept your sobriety will encourage you through your continued recovery. They can even get involved in alternative Spring Break activities alongside you.

Having someone to share in your recovery can keep you from feeling as though you are missing out on seemingly more desirable but less healthy experiences. The “fear of missing out” is the main reason why some people relapse.

But instead of feeling as though you are missing out on the life you left behind, the right people can help remind you about the life you now have to look forward to. And when temptation hits, they can be there to help guide you back to your recovery goals.

Attending group sessions or psychotherapy more often during this time can be helpful if you have not yet established that needed network of support.

Seek Alternatives

Part of recovery is creating a new environment for yourself — one in which you are not tempted to misuse drugs or alcohol. A person in recovery needs to be intentional about avoiding high-risk situations to prevent relapse.

While many Spring Breakers take to beaches and clubs to partake in Spring Break revelry, this isn’t the hard rule for enjoying your vacation. There are many alternatives to Spring Break drinking, drug use and partying.

One well-known Florida beach, Panama City Beach, participates in a yearly “Sober Spring Break.” This Spring Break program got its start in 2012. It encourages alcohol-free fun by offering sober Spring Breakers discounts at local businesses, including restaurants and amusement parks, in the beach town.

One resort in the area also offers students ways to stay active and sober by having them partake in various competitive sports.

But Spring Break doesn’t have to be all about soaking up the sun in the sand. You could also opt to go somewhere other than the beach. This is a great time to get creative, reconnect with family or friends, or work on your mind and your body.

Some alternative Spring Break options include:

  • Booking a trip to a yoga or wellness retreat
  • Relaxing at a spa
  • Volunteering
  • Taking up a sport, dance class or other physical activity
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Spending quality time with family and friends
  • Experiencing new places — cities, restaurants, etc.
  • Spending time outdoors — hiking, fishing or backpacking
  • Working on your spirituality or daily meditation

Be Responsible for You

Ultimately, you are the only one in charge of you. It is important that you take personal responsibility for your recovery.

Expect to feel some negative feelings about not drinking or using drugs when all your peers seem to be engaged in typical Spring Break festivities. But also resolve to accept things as they are — including your need for sobriety.

Try to avoid falling into the trap of believing you can regulate your drinking. Remind yourself of all the reasons you chose sobriety and how recovery is working for you.

And don’t buy into unrealistic expectations. Alcohol or other “numbing” agents may have been your coping mechanisms for some time. Eliminating these substances will not eliminate your problems.

If you are having difficulty avoiding temptation because you still haven’t dealt with past mistakes or acquired tools to help you manage your recovery, be proactive in seeking the appropriate help. And avoid places or people that could potentially cause you to slip.

Recovery is a lifelong commitment. Pace yourself. Take your recovery one day at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

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Editor – Renee Deveney
As a contributor for Advanced Recovery Systems, Renee Deveney is passionate about helping people struggling with substance use disorder. With a family history of addiction, Renee is committed to opening up a proactive dialogue about substance use and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

Spencer, PhD, Ezzie. How To Stay Sober When All Your Friends Drink. MindBodyGreen, n.d. Accessed February 21, 2019.

Viets, LCP, CEDS, Angie. Surviving Spring Break While in Recovery. HuffPost, March 14, 2016. Accessed February 21, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.