I used to dread vacations. Being away from my support system and out of my routine, I become so very vulnerable to relapse. It was so stressful, I felt like I needed another vacation to recover from my vacation. Especially since most of my traveling companions saw it as a chance to let their hair down, which meant they were going to drink alcohol while I sat, somewhat miserable, with a soda.
Over the years, however, I have learned that with a little pre-planning, I, too, can have a real vacation, one without the temptation that leads to stressful situations.
How to Enjoy your Vacation
A vacation is supposed to be a break from the daily grind, but if that daily grind is what comforts you and keeps you sober, you must have coping strategies in place.
1. Select the Right Location – Think ahead to the environment you will be walking into. For example, you don’t want to go to Germany during Oktoberfest or to Daytona Beach at spring break. Going camping in a national park that doesn’t allow alcohol would be a better choice. Another alternative is something called Sober Tours. These tours connect you with other like-minded individuals who want to remain sober, and there are numerous themes to choose from. They include clubs, cruises, sports, retreats and even safaris.
2. Don’t Leave your Support Network Behind – Allow your smartphone to connect you with sober support. There are many free apps that can be downloaded that will provide you with inspiration and strength. There is even an app that will connect you with all the support group meetings in your vacation area. Use it!
3. Use Advanced Planning – While you don’t have to micromanage every minute, making some advance plans can give your vacation schedule some structure, which will help you feel at ease and stay sober.
4. Have Coping Strategies in Place – For example, I get nervous when I fly. I used to calm my nerves by accepting a drink from the drink cart that always comes down the aisle at just the right moment. I had to find a replacement for that, so I started doing deep breathing exercises at take-off. I concentrate on my breathing and calming myself while letting the drink cart pass by.
5. Remind Yourself what You are Really Missing – It can be easy to feel sorry for yourself when it seems like everyone around you is drinking and having a good time. This is when you need to remember what the outcome will be for you if you go along with the crowd. Those people aren’t walking in your shoes, and they are not going to be there in the morning when you wake up hungover and guilt-ridden.
6. Keep Your Traveling Companions in the Loop – Open up to your family and friends about your concerns and challenges you will face. These are the people who love and care about you and should have your best interests at heart. At the same time, they are not going to know what your triggers are or when you may need extra support unless you tell them.
7. Be Sure to Pack your Sense of Humor – Every trip, no matter how well planned, usually has things go wrong. Instead of letting it stress you out, find the humor in it. You’ll have some great vacation stories to tell when you get back home.
In most countries you will be able to find resources that will help you to find a 12 step meeting. For instance, if you are traveling in the United Kingdom, you can contact the UK Alcoholics Anonymous office to locate an AA meeting.
You can also usually find treatment providers in most countries even if you relapse. Let’s face it, it does happen! It’s best to plan ahead, so have a number or website available like this resource for high quality addiction treatment providers in the UK.
You can only enjoy everything your vacation has to offer by being present in every moment. Do the work, stay sober, and your vacation will be worth remembering.
The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about treatment options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, call (844) 494-4939.