Going on Vacation While in Recovery: Best Practices for Staying Sober

Tips for staying sober on vacation

Most people look forward to taking time off their busy life and work schedules to kick back and relax at an exciting destination. Vacations let you explore new places, indulge in your favorite hobbies and get some much-needed pampering. However, many people view vacations as an opportunity to be intoxicated around the clock. It’s common for hotels and restaurants in most destinations to serve alcohol at every meal. Vacationers may also feel free from scrutiny during vacations and try drugs such as cocaine, benzos, morphine, fentanyl and heroin.

If you’re in recovery, vacations can be a big threat to your sobriety. Even your best efforts to avoid relapsing may be thwarted if you’re in a place where alcohol and other drugs flow freely. Additionally, if you’ve always been intoxicated during previous holidays, you may feel it’s impossible to relax or have fun without being drunk or high.

However, being in recovery doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy well-earned vacations at your desired destination. Following these tips can help you get the most out of your time off without jeopardizing your addiction-recovery progress.

Common Addiction Triggers During Vacations

Triggers are conditions or situations that increase the chances of relapse. Going to certain places or participating in some activities can remind you of how it feels to be intoxicated and encourage you to partake in your previous addictions. Triggers can also occur unexpectedly, making you more vulnerable to a relapse.

Thinking about likely sources of triggers during these four situations can help you create strategies to reduce the chances of a relapse.

1. Planning and Traveling

The stress of planning a vacation sober can be overwhelming and tempt you to use drugs to take the edge off.

One of the big stressors when planning vacations is finances. Even if you’ve set aside money for the occasion, you may feel worried and stressed when searching and paying for flights, booking accommodation and making reservations for restaurants and activities at your destination.

Traveling is also a highly stressful situation. The rush of getting to the airport, long check-in lines, delays and long layovers can strain the nerves of even the most patient people and trigger a relapse.

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2. Vacation Mode

Relaxing in a calm, beautiful environment can lure you into a false sense of security. As a result, you may tell yourself that drinking a glass of wine with dinner or popping some pills in a club can be a vacation-only activity that will stop once you get back home.

3. Social Anxiety

Being away from home or in an environment where you’re surrounded by people who don’t speak your language can be intimidating. Some drugs lower inhibitions, giving you the courage to ask strangers for recommendations, make requests to improve your trip and make friends.

If you usually feel more confident and outgoing when drunk or high, you may be tempted to use drugs in anticipation of social interactions.

4. Peer Pressure

Travel companions who aren’t on a recovery journey or those who opt to overindulge and experiment with drugs during vacations can make it hard for you to remain sober.

Additionally, people who don’t understand addiction or support your commitment to sobriety can pressure you to use drugs while on holiday. The pressure to not be a wet blanket when your friends or family participate in recreational drug use can raise the chances of relapse.

Best Practices for Staying Sober on Vacations

These six tips can help you remain sober when on holiday, whether you’re traveling alone or with loved ones.

1. Commit to Sobriety

Restating your commitment to sobriety before and during your trip reminds you of the reason why you started the recovery process in the first place and helps you do everything not to jeopardize your journey.

Envision what your trip can be like without drugs or alcohol. Imagine the joy you’ll feel when you experience new places and activities with full clarity of mind and bodily control. Focus on this joy when cravings hit or the temptation to use increases.

You can use rewards to motivate yourself to remain sober. Set aside money and buy yourself a gift when you come back home without using alcohol or drugs.

2. Know Your Triggers

Understanding situations that can cause or increase your addiction cravings help you develop ways to mitigate the risk of relapse.

If you often fall victim to peer pressure, pick travel companions who can keep you accountable. Going on vacation with a romantic partner, parents or friends who understand the importance of your recovery can help you remain sober during your trip.

Packing and arriving at the airport hours in advance can reduce anxiety over lateness that may derail your recovery. Since you can’t control delayed departures, long flights or lengthy layovers, find useful ways to pass the time, including reading, listening to music or podcasts, watching movies or playing video games.

Knowing the atmosphere of the place you’re going to is also key to anticipating potential triggers. For example, what crowd usually frequents the hotel you’ve booked? What kind of nightlife should you expect within the hotel and nearby town? Research happy hours, open bars and clubs in your destination so you know the areas to avoid during your trip.

3. Plan Ahead

During your trip, you’ll likely encounter many situations where alcohol and other drugs are used freely. Planning ahead will help you craft ways to avoid places and situations where you have to battle with yourself to remain sober.

For example, you can call different hotels before booking to see if they have accommodations for people who don’t drink alcohol, such as alcohol-free drinks in the minibar. You can also ask the reception desk to suggest activities and spots you can tour without coming into contact with alcohol and other drugs.

Creating a full schedule of fun activities to do during vacation can also help you remain sober. Pay for early morning activities such as hiking, sailing or scuba diving to motivate you to get to sleep early — and sober. Tiring yourself out early in the day leaves time to take a long nap or lounge lazily by the pool in the afternoon instead of using drugs to relax.

If you have a drinking problem, making restaurant reservations lowers the chances of waiting at a bar before getting a table. Don’t ask for the drink menu at the restaurant and seek out places where you can enjoy the scenery or live entertainment after your meal while drinking juice or mocktails.

4. Leave Room for Uncertainty

While planning ahead can help you avoid pitfalls to your sobriety, preparing for disappointments such as bad weather, delayed trips or canceled expeditions can help you deal with disappointment without alcohol and other drugs.

Arrange activities that can quickly replace canceled plans so you don’t have time to stew or feel sorry for yourself. For example, don’t stay in your room if a sightseeing trip is canceled due to bad weather. Relax in the hotel’s spa, visit an art gallery or go to a museum to enjoy local history.

5. Emphasize Wellness

Scheduling exercises and pampering sessions during your vacation allows you to maintain good physical and mental health. You can start your days with a relaxing yoga session, swim after breakfast and get a massage after lunch.

If you get overwhelmed or triggered, find a place where you can quietly meditate, take a nap or enjoy a book or a movie until you’re ready to rejoin activities.

6. Keep in Touch With Your Support System

Bringing things that remind you of the importance of your sobriety journey is a good way of staying sober while having fun. Having a journal, sober counter and other mementos of your journey can keep you grounded.

Moreover, staying in touch with people who’ve supported you during addiction treatment can help you deal with triggers during your trip. Call your loved ones and talk to your sponsor or therapist when having a hard time getting reminders of the reasons you’re on the recovery journey.

Mayflower Recovery is a new, state-of-the-art residential drug and alcohol recovery center in greater Boston. We provide acute detox services to help people who are starting their sober journey remove traces of drugs from their system. Once you complete detox, you can join our long-term inpatient care to get help from nurses, counselors and other addiction care specialists. Our professional team will help you beat your addiction and remain sober even during vacations.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how to enroll in our recovery center.

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