Benefits of Sober Traveling
For many of us, a long-overdue vacation is sorely needed. We all need a time of rest and relaxation away from everyday stresses and pressures.
But for those recovering from addiction or substance abuse, it may feel daunting to try to balance the dynamics of vacation while still maintaining your sobriety. But when you feel prepared and have a plan, a vacation can be a positive part on your recovery.
Traveling can help you discover new passions and explore places that can give you a refreshing perspective. Moreover, a vacation can broaden your horizons and provide novel experiences.
For example, a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment describes how novel approaches to physical exercise can be beneficial for someone in recovery, and that new experiences help motivate a person to continue with the protocol.
To help you prepare for sober traveling, the practical guidelines below will assist you in making sure that your vacation time does not disturb your sobriety.
6 “Do’s” for Sober Traveling:
Choose a Location:
Choosing the right place to vacation can refresh and reenergize you, and can also support your recovery. If you’re aware that certain places are triggers for your sobriety, stay away from them. But you can still venture out of your comfort zone and engage in new, healthy experiences, all the better! Outdoor activities like scuba diving, rock climbing, hiking, biking, parasailing, and other adventures can offer these types of experiences. And since they usually don’t involve alcohol consumption for safety reasons, these activities make it easy to focus on the fun and avoid something that might tempt you.
Make a Plan, and a Plan B:
Make sure to fill out your travel days with plenty of sober activities. If you avoid too much downtime, you can also avoid many tempting circumstances. When you plan activities ahead of time, they’ll get you motivated, keep you interested, and ultimately encourage your recovery. Make sure to have a plan B, too, in case something falls through due to weather, availability, or other hindrances. Rather than having to resort to typical tourist activities like bar-hopping, research ahead of time some of the lesser-known sites.
Be Clear on Your Boundaries:
When you’re clear that your recovery is your priority, it’s much easier to travel with others. Don’t hesitate to let your travel companions know if you are uncomfortable, feel triggered, or want to change a situation. Instead of stopping for a beer or undefined drink, make sure you know the local coffee houses, smoothie shops, or juice bars in the area. With a little boundary setting, it’ll be much easier to stay on track while you’re traveling—and everyone will appreciate your honesty and straightforwardness.
Don’t Be Afraid to Treat Yourself:
Don’t hesitate to take time to reward and pamper yourself while on vacation. Instead of spending money on alcohol, put those funds toward a spa treatment, seeing a show, or checking out a new restaurant. By continually acknowledging the progress you’ve made, you reinforce better habits and sustainable recovery. Even if you’re on a budget, enjoying a special appetizer or dessert can feel like a splurge even if it doesn’t break the bank. Dress up, take yourself out, and honor how far you’ve come.
Stay Connected with Your Support Network:
When you’re in recovery, it’s best to stay connected to your sober friends, therapist, sponsor, group leaders, and supportive family members to keep you accountable. This is especially true if you’re traveling on your own. According to the Journal of Preventive Medicine, peer providers can be a helpful resource, too, because of their past personal experience with addiction and substance abuse. And if you’re traveling with companions, find people who will hold you accountable and discover new, alcohol-free ways to enjoy vacationing together.
Be Prepared for Temptation:
It’s true that no vacation goes perfectly according to plan. Sometimes social, environmental, or emotional challenges can be addiction triggers for us and throw us off-guard. But if you’re prepared beforehand with constructive ways to work through the triggers, you’ll feel much more confident in removing yourself from the situation or reaching out to someone you trust.
4 “Don’ts” for Sober Traveling:
Just as important as the “do’s” are, so are the “don’ts” of sober traveling. But if you’re aware of the possible weak points, you’ll be in a much better position to stay on track with your recovery while on the road.
Don’t Ignore Self-Care:
With all the activities you’ve enjoyed on your vacation, you’ll probably feel a combination of exhilaration and exhaustion. It’s key to pay attention to your self-care during this time so you don’t fall into a vulnerable spot. Eating right, getting quality sleep, and carving out quiet time to recharge will help you avoid possible relapse-scenarios.
Don’t Forget Your Feeling of Safety:
How we cope is often how we feel comfort and safety; this is essential to your recovery. Your coping essentials will come in handy when you encounter a tempting situation or potential setbacks. If you have a certain pillow, night-shirt, or item from home that makes you feel safe and secure, don’t hesitate to bring it with you.
Don’t Write-Off Warning Signs:
Pay attention to when you begin to feel triggered, and don’t write it off just because you’re on vacation. Take note of your emotions: Are you feeling anxious? Over-tired? Are you feeling isolated? Don’t ignore these feelings and reach to someone who’s familiar with you and your recovery journey.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say ‘No’:
Especially when it comes to boundaries, use your voice. There’s nothing wrong with politely declining an invitation to drink or attend activities that include drinking or other substance use. There is nothing to be ashamed of when you’re putting your recovery and well-being first.
These simple do’s and don’ts will help you feel ready for the challenge of traveling while in recovery—the journey can open up exciting new possibilities! If you’re early in your recovery journey from substance abuse or addiction, the team at Impact Recovery Center is here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out today!