Whether you’re headed out on a much-needed vacation or you have a work-related trip coming up, trying to stay sober while traveling has its own unique set of challenges. You’re far from your support system, you’re likely to be under more stress, and the unfamiliar can trigger cravings as you work to establish your equilibrium in a new setting.
Staying in recovery while traveling requires mindfulness and planning ahead. These tips will help you successfully and soberly navigate a holiday excursion or business trip while ensuring you have a good time.
Choose Your Destination Carefully
If you’re planning a vacation getaway, choose a destination that lends itself to sobriety. Going to Germany in October or Myrtle Beach during spring break may make it difficult to stay sober and still have a great time.
Instead, choose a destination with a range of activities that aren’t conducive to drug or alcohol use, such as backpacking and other outdoor activities, going on a sightseeing tour or heading out for some museum hopping.
Check in Daily with Your Support System
If you’re going on your trip solo and won’t have a supportive friend or family member with you, plan to check in with your support system daily. Check in online or via phone or text to give you a little boost of support and the resolve you need to abstain during your trip.
If you’re going to be away for some time, find a support group meeting in your destination city, and make a point to attend each day.
Plan Activities in Advance
When planning your trip, schedule some activities in advance to help structure your time and ensure you’re not left with too much idle time. You can arrange for tickets to a play or concert, schedule a tour or plan a sightseeing route with places you want to check out. If you’re going on a business trip, find out when you’ll have down time, and arrange to fill that time with enjoyable activities that will help keep your mind off of using.
Reduce Your Stress
Traveling can be stressful, and stress is a major trigger for relapse.1 Identify in advance the things that could cause stress, and make plans to mitigate that stress. For example, if you’re afraid of flying, plan to listen to a podcast or read a good book during the flight, or practice meditation or deep breathing to reduce your stress hormone levels and restore a sense of calm.
Anticipate High-Risk Situations and Plan Accordingly
Part of successful recovery is knowing what your triggers are. Identifying triggers is an important part of treatment, and planning ahead for high-risk situations will help prepare you to remain sober.
For instance, if you’re attending a convention and you know that the planned cocktail hour will be difficult, decide ahead of time how you’re going to handle it. Perhaps you’ll keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand to prevent others from offering to buy you a drink, or maybe you’ll keep a text conversation going with a supportive loved one during the event. Maybe you’ll skip the gathering altogether and hit the gym instead. The important thing is to plan ahead and visualize yourself successfully navigating the situation.
Take care of yourself.
A high level of self-care is absolutely essential for successful recovery.2 It can be easy to neglect your physical and mental health while on vacation, but getting adequate sleep, eating healthy food, getting a little exercise and taking time to relax and rejuvenate during your travels are crucial for maintaining a positive mood and staying focused on recovery.
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