from Michelle Peterson @RecoveryPride.org
Most people love to take vacations at various times of the year, but vacationing can be overwhelming when you are in the midst of addiction recovery.
There are plenty of reasons why taking a vacation may be a great way to start a fresh, new life, but there are some tips that are helpful in terms of what to avoid and how to keep from getting overwhelmed.
Be realistic about what you can handle on a trip
As Dr. Howard Samuels shared via Huffington Post, it can be easy to romanticize the past and people in recovery may feel that they want to prove that they can handle people, places, or experiences from their prior life. If there are specific vacation locations that are tied to memories of one’s days of drinking or taking drugs, it likely is a bad idea to plan a sober vacation to those spots while in addiction recovery.
Being around others who are drinking or using drugs while in recovery is a big risk and that means that quite a few types of vacations that are common are now off-limits, at least at first, and you will want to carefully consider who you travel with as well. That doesn’t mean that you can never visit the beach or a city jam-packed with bustling activity again, but it is important to avoid doing those vacations in a way that emphasizes alcohol or drug use.
Anticipate potential challenges and have solutions prepared
Remember that once you head off on a vacation, you are going to be stuck to a degree as the blog Sober Julie notes. The types of places that may have appealed to you for vacations before, like certain types of cruises or all-inclusive resorts, may be a recipe for disaster when you are in addiction recovery. Consider alternative types of locations or events and be sure to do plenty of research before booking a trip and avoid locales that are alcohol-centric.
As you begin to settle on a sober vacation plan, look for opportunities to attend local meetings as you are on your trip so that you have access to support in case you need it.
Plan ahead to avoid getting overwhelmed and consider putting together a fairly structured itinerary. Boredom can be dangerous for those in recovery, so a structured slate of activities can keep the temptation to slip into old habits at bay.
You will also want to do your best to avoid any H.A.L.T. issues, those of being hungry, anxious, lonely, or tired. Sober Nation notes that these can all be triggers for many people and if you are in an unfamiliar place on vacation and face any of these triggers, you could find yourself backsliding and being drawn to making poor choices if you are not prepared.
Plan ahead and be prepared for hiccups
While it is important to stay busy and structured during a sober vacation, you also want to avoid a trip that leaves you frazzled and overwhelmed. Psych Central emphasizes the importance of planning ahead and it is wise to embrace a “go with the flow” approach once things get going, even if hiccups arise.
Planning ahead to ensure that your sober vacation goes smoothly includes more than just a solid flight schedule and hotel accommodations. Sunny Sanguinity suggests stocking up on snacks, getting plenty of sleep, and planning to experience some weak moments where you may struggle with some cravings. The more you can anticipate any potential issues, the better equipped you will be to overcome them without risking your sobriety.
No matter how much you focus on planning a trip that avoids prior triggers or troublesome memories, things will likely pop up along the way. However, if you’re prepared for these moments, you’ll have the willpower and strength to stay the course and push through them. Avoid vacation locations that are focused on alcohol or drug use and work to set up an itinerary that keeps you structured and busy. Plan ahead as much as possible, but don’t forget to allow yourself to have fun and be flexible as your sober vacation progresses.
Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery.