How to Enjoy Your Vacation While Prioritizing Sobriety
Everyone needs the opportunity to get away from the stresses of daily life. After going through your initial addiction treatment, you’ll likely feel ready to start living out your dreams. Whether your dream is to set sail in a beautiful tropical paradise or don a pair of skis and conquer a mountain, you’ve got the physical and mental well-being you need to fully enjoy each second of your vacation.
Yet, you might still be hesitant to purchase your travel tickets if you’re worried about undoing all your hard work in sobriety. Unfortunately, 40% to 60% of recovering addicts experience at least one relapse, so you’ll want to make your sobriety a priority during your travels.
Going on vacation does pose a few risks for your sobriety. You might feel overwhelmed by stress even when you should be relaxing. Or, you might encounter temptations that make it harder to avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs. You might already have learned that temptation can lurk around every corner. You will have gained all the tools you need to resist it while you were in rehab. Now, all you have to do is use those strategies along with these tips to stay sober on your vacation.
Be Strategic When Choosing Your Destination
Certain places are known for having drug- and alcohol-fueled scenes that are hazardous to your recovery. For now, you might need to skip going to a popular beach if your vacation falls during spring break. Or, you might want to opt out of a trip that puts you in proximity to people who supplied you with drugs in the past. While you may need to avoid certain places, try to look at all of the options that still open up. This might be the perfect time to try someplace new. Take a look at your options for destinations to see if you can plan a new type of adventure that helps expand your horizons.
Avoid Traveling Too Far From Home Too Soon
You are most at risk for a relapse during your first year or two years of recovery when you will be focusing on putting all of your strategies for sobriety into place. It is also common to be emotionally vulnerable during this time since you’ll be working through issues that led up to developing an addiction. Although it might be hard to postpone your travel plans, it might be best to wait for at least a few months after you leave rehab. This is because you’ll likely be going through an aftercare program that includes frequent contact with your counselors and other members of your support team. You may also still be attending in-person meetings and group therapy sessions that you won’t want to skip.
Choose Your Traveling Partners Carefully
By the time you leave rehab, you should already have a list of people you know who are supportive of your sobriety. These are the people you can feel safe choosing as your traveling companions. However, you might need them to be extra vigilant while you are on vacation. For instance, you need to be sure that they won’t bring alcohol or drugs to your hotel room, where you’ll be tempted to use them.
If you are planning a vacation that includes people from your past, then think carefully about whether they could pose a risk to your sobriety. While you may love your old college buddies, this might not be the time to meet up if you’ve always had a relationship that centered on partying too hard. The same can also be said for former coworkers you used to join for happy hours or even relatives that tend to leave you feeling emotionally drained.
Maintain Your Support Network Connections
Staying sober can be easier when you use the tools that technology provides for staying connected to people who provide you with support. For instance, you might be able to call your sober coach or counselor at the first sign that you are thinking about having a relapse. Or, you may be able to call a trusted friend to talk you through a moment of temptation.
You can also use your smartphone or computer to attend virtual support sessions that allow you to stay strong even when you are away from your usual social circle. While people typically encourage you to unplug and unwind while you are on vacation, this might not be a good idea this early in your recovery. You can definitely leave your phone on the charger while you soak up the sun or curl up by the fire in your cabin, but keep it near enough that you can reach out for help if a problem arises.
Take Care of Your Other Mental Health Needs
Many people seek dual diagnosis treatment, which includes learning how to manage common conditions such as depression or anxiety along with a substance use disorder. Depending upon your treatment plan, you may take medication to manage your condition or use additional strategies such as grounding exercises to keep your symptoms under control. Continue to follow each part of your plan for managing your mental health so that the additional condition doesn’t make it harder to stay sober.
Continue to Practice Self-Care
Traveling often leaves people feeling fatigued, and trying to get to places on time can leave you feeling rushed. Make sure that your busy days don’t interfere with routines that you’ve used to maintain your sobriety. For example, you might use the HALT method to prevent and manage cravings. Don’t let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired because any of these can increase your risk of relapse. Noticing if you are hungry or tired can make a difference in meeting your needs so that you have greater control over your emotions.
While you are away, try to carve out time to do those little things that help you feel better. Meditating or writing in your journal can help you to stay on track. You’ll also find it easier to get back into your routine when you get home if you include elements of it in your travel plans.
Create a Travel Itinerary
Depending upon your personality, you might have once preferred to fly by the seat of your pants on your vacations. Spontaneity is often a good thing for helping you to take advantage of those exciting moments of opportunity that somehow arrive when you venture out of your comfort zone. You can still leave room for those unexpected moments of fun in your travel plans. However, it does help to have some structure in place when you are determined to stay sober.
Creating a fairly well-rounded itinerary gives you a roadmap that makes it harder to veer off into a relapse. For instance, you can make reservations to visit local entertainment venues so that you feel the need to stay sober in order to attend and enjoy the experience. If you know that you need to be at a show at a certain time, then you’ll be less likely to want to wander off to the bar. Your itinerary can also include a schedule to make sure that you eat regular meals and go to bed on time so that you don’t start skimping on self-care.
Make Sure to Follow Your Aftercare Plan
Once you complete the primary portion of your addiction treatment, you’ll work with your counselors to develop an aftercare plan that prevents relapse. This often includes a combination of things that you’ll do at home along with other people during in-person meetings. If you are unable to complete a portion of your aftercare plan, such as attending a 12-step meeting, then talk to your support team before you leave on vacation to figure out what you can do in its place.
For instance, you might be able to attend a virtual meeting or watch sobriety videos online to get you through that brief period. You’ll also want to make sure to bring whatever you need to use your sober strategies on your vacation. Taking along your laptop, journal, or yoga mat can help you to maintain your aftercare plan to the best of your ability until you get back home.
Remember to Put Your Recovery First
When you are on vacation, you may be tempted to go with the flow to avoid disrupting the fun. While you might feel you’re bringing the party down by refusing a drink at the bar, the truth is that your sobriety matters more than anything else. In addition to having plans in place to help you avoid temptation, you may need to develop a strategy for ending your vacation quickly if things get out of hand. Learning about the warning signs of relapse, such as feeling lonely, homesick, or bored, can help you to take action if they arrive. If possible, try to reserve flights and accommodations with terms that allow you to easily change your plans if necessary. That way, you can shorten your stay and get back home if you need to end your vacation early to save your sobriety.
The Bottom Line
After all the challenges you’ve faced with getting sober, you deserve the chance to enjoy the benefits of being able to wake up each day with a clear mind. Taking a vacation is a wonderful chance to soak up the beauty of the world while bonding with people that you love. You alsos may make new friends as you embrace this new stage in your life. Now, all you have to do is decide where to go and put your support systems in place so that you can look forward to traveling! For more information on aftercare to maintain your sobriety, contact us at Granite Recovery Centers.