Many people find that travel can be a difficult time while recovering from addiction. While some people like to use travel as an opportunity to sober up, others who have already sobered up find that the freedoms and adventures of travel make them likely to relapse.
It’s a good idea for you to learn some information about how traveling can be dangerous for recovering addicts, as well as learn some tips and techniques to prevent this from happening.
How can traveling affect addiction recovery?
There are several reasons that traveling could have an adverse effect on somebody who wants to get over an addiction.
- You’re away from your support groups. You may have some facets of your support group traveling with you – say, if you’re traveling with your spouse or with your family – but you are stepping away from a larger support network that you have developed at home.
- Traveling without access to a serious support group can make traveling seem overwhelming. You are going to be in new areas, experiencing new things, and these are stressors that can lead to a relapse. It can be very helpful for someone to have a support group to help guide them through unfamiliar situations.
- You’ll be out of your standard routine. Routine is one of the most important things for somebody hoping to recover from addiction. Since boredom is often cited as one of the most common reasons for somebody falling into a relapse, a well-scheduled routine is one of the most effective things for preventing relapse.
- You’ll be around a lot of other travelers. Many travelers take the exhilaration and adventure of a journey as a good reason to drink or do drugs. This can put you in a very difficult position as far as abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
- A lot of travel destinations and activities place a fairly heavy emphasis on drinking and ‘living it up.’ In some cases, you might even find yourself left in a hotel room with complimentary bottles of alcohol. This can be extremely tempting.
The combination of these things can be a serious hindrance for someone who’s walking the path of sobriety. For that reason, it’s important that you take precautions to help you avoid the possibility of relapse. It’s also a good idea to observe different types of vacations and see how each one could have an impact on your recovery.
Determining the risk factor
Determining the risk factor in different travel itineraries could be what saves you from a relapse. Areas with higher risk factors are often teeming with people who are drinking or using drugs. These areas are often extremely popular tourist destinations, so it’s important that you take this into consideration while planning your vacation.
High risk situations:
Going to a beach in a popular tourist destination is almost a guarantee to find yourself surrounded by drinkers. While it is possible to go to these popular locations without relapsing, it might be worth your time to seek out a more private beach as opposed to having to be on your guard all the time.
Most popular travel destinations have a tourist area. For example, you can go to Cancun and spend days in the resort town without actually setting foot in Cancun proper. These resort towns and tourist areas are often filled with bars, casinos, and other exciting party based facilities. It can be very difficult for a recovering alcoholic or drug addict to function in areas like this, especially at nighttime or during popular tourist times.
It is also a good idea to be careful about what country you’re choosing to visit. Countries like France and Germany are known for their extremely non-restrictive laws surrounding alcohol. If you take a vacation to these areas, you will probably be presented with a lot of situations in which you are offered alcohol.
Moderate risk situations:
The allure of alcohol and drugs is always going to be present to some degree. However, you are much more likely to encounter substance abusers in major urban areas. If you are planning a vacation to a major American city, chances are, there are going to be a lot of bars and clubs around.
As long as you are able to avoid these locations, or you are comfortable enough in your recovery to be able to attend these areas without relapsing, you should be fine. However, if you are traveling with somebody who wishes to frequent bars and clubs, the risk is increased.
Low risk situations
Situations represent the lowest risk typically involve nature. Planning your vacation in a relatively isolated area, such as smaller rural places and beautiful countries, can make it much easier for you to prevent a relapse.
In addition, taking trips to national parks or hiking to get to beautiful destinations is a great opportunity for spiritual growth. Not only will you encounter minimal opportunity to use drugs or drink, but you will probably strengthen your resolve and come out of your vacation a stronger person, more dedicated to being sober.
1. Prepare yourself mentally
You’re going to have to prepare yourself for the worst. Don’t expect it, lest you attract a situation that you would have avoided otherwise – but make sure you’re prepared. This is sort of a prerequisite to the other techniques that we’re going to describe in detail.
While you’re packing your things – or, even during the preliminary phase where you’re just planning your trip – mentally prepare yourself for the things you might encounter on your journey. You will probably encounter situations that could trigger a relapse, so make sure that you go over your relapse prevention techniques.
2. Arrange meetings
If you have already attended A.A. or N.A. meetings, then you are probably aware of how helpful they can be in helping a recovering addict stay away from drugs and alcohol. If you haven’t been to meetings before, now might be a good time to try attending one.
Try to look into the schedules for meetings in the areas you’re going to be traveling. Make time for them and look at them as something positive instead of a chore. If you’ve never been to a meeting before, then it’s not a bad idea to go to a local meeting before you go out on your travels. This can help you get accustomed to the group dynamic and to learn firsthand how these meetings can impact you and have a lasting effect.
3. Inform your support group
It’s a good idea or you to give your support group some fair warning that you’re going traveling and to get contact information for anyone involved. Tell them that you might need some support if you encounter a triggering situation while you’re abroad.
Sometimes, just knowing that you’re a phone call or an email away from a willing support group is enough to keep you away from temptation. It’s not a bad idea for you to ask them to do regular check-ins with you by sending an email, a text, or giving you a call if they don’t hear from you for a few days.
4. Choose a destination that supports sobriety
No matter which way you look at it, a lot of travel destinations support drinking. This may not be as much of a problem for people who are just hoping to avoid using drugs, but for recovering alcoholics, this can be a cause for concern.
For example, you won’t want to attend somewhere during the spring break weeks that is frequented by partygoers. You might not want to go to a country like France that often fills wine glasses like they do water jugs. There are many places that could simply be too tempting for a recovering addict to stay safe and sober in.
Can be worth your time to try and schedule a vacation in an area that is completely dry. There are many national parks and public venues that are exclusively non-alcoholic. While drugs tend to be illegal everywhere, these sorts of venues are likely to attract people who do not use drugs, and will thus be less tempting to you.
5. Arrange for sober tours
One of the newest trends that is taking the traveling world by storm is that of sober tours. Sober tours accommodate people who are dedicated to maintaining their abstinence from drugs or alcohol. These are great for recovering addicts because they allow you to be surrounded by people who are in a similar situation. You could think of these sober tours as something like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that goes sightseeing in exotic locations.
Sober tours can take you on more than just sightseeing expeditions though. You can arrange for all sorts of sober activities, including sober sports, sober hikes, sober cruises, sober paragliding – you name it.
There are websites dedicated to providing information and planning for people who want to have a sober vacation. These websites take all the trouble and trial out of trying to find a sober tour guide once you are already at your destination.
6. Get your devices to help you
Thanks to the convenience of modern technology, you can keep what is essentially a relapse prevention kit in your pocket. Making good use of your smartphone can be one of the most important things for helping to keep you sober.
Aside from the obvious fact that your cell phone can connect you with your support group, it can help you in a number of unique ways. There are many apps that can be downloaded onto iPhones and Androids that are dedicated to helping recovering addicts stay on the right path. These apps could include any combination of inspirational messages, encouraging reminders, tips and tricks for staying sober, and other generally positive reminders about the benefits of sobriety.
There is also an app that allows you to easily find all of the local Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in whatever city you’re in. The app also includes secular meetings that do not use the 12-step program and other sorts of groups support.
7. Make a solid plan
While you don’t need to plan every detail of your trip down to the minute, making a solid plan can be a huge factor in keeping you away from drugs and alcohol. This will help to give your traveling time some structure, which will help keep you away from the temptation to use.
Boredom often strikes during long periods of having nothing to do. Even if you only plan one activity for each day, you will probably notice that the excitement and anticipation of whatever activities you have planned is enough to keep you occupied.
You could also step outside of your comfort zone and plan some activities that you have never tried before. Never gone skydiving? Maybe now is the time to do so. Have you ever snorkeled near a coral reef? Why not try it now? Filling your time with new activities and experiences is one of the best ways to keep yourself away from using drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, you may find that you enjoy one of these activities that it will fill the spot that you used to try to fill with drugs and alcohol.
This brings us into our next tip.
8. Follow a routine
Routine is often the last thing on any traveler’s mind. Most travelers go traveling as an excuse to get away from routine, right? Why would you want to have a routine during your time away from work or school?
We have already mentioned that boredom is one of the key factors that leads to relapse. You might think, at first, that you would never get bored while you were traveling. However, if you have several hours to wait before you can attend a planned activity, you may find yourself with nothing to do.
If you set up a routine to follow during your travel, you can avoid some of this empty time. Don’t worry – a travel routine is a lot more flexible than a work or school routine. You may begin your routine by getting breakfast. Quite standard, but you have the freedom to choose where you would like to get breakfast. You will probably be able to try exotic food – make it part of your routine to try some new food everyday.
Your routine should also involve trying to get to bed every night at the same time and waking up at the same time every morning. Travel might seem like the perfect time for you to pull all-nighters and stay up all weekend, but these things are often very difficult to do without using drugs or alcohol. Chances are, if you are spending time with a group of people who want to do these things, they are probably using drugs and alcohol too. Furthermore, having a sleep schedule helps you plan your days in advance without leaving large gaps of open time for you to get bored.
9. Don’t forget the life you’ve left
Just because you are sober doesn’t mean that you cannot hang out with people who are drinking. It just means that you need to be extra diligent and making sure that you do not return to the bottle.
Spending time with a group of people who are drinking, laughing, and conversing can be a very easy way for you to feel nostalgic about alcohol. However, during these situations, it’s important that you remember all the things about alcohol that did not work for you. Remember that you are sober for a reason, and that reason is because drinking does not work with your lifestyle.
While it might seem a bit cynical, you can also heed the fact that many of the people that are drinking around you will eventually reach the same point that you did. They will have to go through the struggles of abstaining from alcohol, where they will have to continue facing the problematic things that occur as a result of their drinking.
You have already beaten this demon, and you should be proud of it. You will be able to remember your vacation better, and you won’t have to spend hours or days trying to piece together what you did during a blackout one night.
10. Choose your travel companions wisely
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to overlook the problems that could arise as a result of choosing the wrong travel partner. Your ideal travel buddy might be somebody that you have traveled with before, but who has not taken the same steps towards abstinence as you have. As much as it may hurt, this person is not the best person for you to be traveling with.
It’s one thing to prepare yourself to turn down alcohol as you spend a night at a bar or a festival. It’s another thing entirely to be traveling with somebody who drinks or does drugs. You will be around this person 24 hours a day, and whether or not you like it, their choice to use will have some sort of impact on you.
Choose travel partners who have your best interests at heart. Ideally, you would want a partner who is already part of your support group. This way, you can receive constant encouragement while you are traveling.
11. Minimize stress
Stress is one of the leading causes of relapse and one of the main reasons that people begin drinking or using drugs to begin with. Minimizing stress is a key factor for preventing a relapse.
If applied properly, a lot of the previous techniques will be very good for preventing stress. One of the most common reasons that people get stressed during vacation is because their plans are not going as they had hoped. Making solid plans involves double-checking, making phone calls, sometimes triple checking, and making sure you have your itinerary set out for you.
One of the best ways to minimize stress is to look at traveling as an open activity. Regardless of how many plans you have made, there is always the chance that some will fall through. Instead of getting upset and stressed out because you can’t go to a schedule the tour, make the best of the moment. Take the opportunity to do something new and cool that you had not planned to do.
Going with the flow allows you to be happy with whatever comes your way. You can also use de-stressing activities like meditation and yoga to help realign your focus and mood.
12. Keep up with your recovery plan
A lot of recovering addicts have some sort of recovery routine to prevent them from falling into the same patterns of behavior that leads to substance use. This might include regular exercise, yoga, meditational practices, and eating well. Even though traveling might be seen as an opportunity to get away from your regular life, it’s important that you maintain this recovery plan.
Fortunately, you can still adhere to your plan in fun and exciting ways while you are traveling. You can keep up your diet by trying fresh grown local fruits and vegetables. Instead of hitting the gym, you can go on hikes, go surfing, go swimming, etc. There will be tons of opportunity for you to meditate and practice yoga on your trip. Just to make sure that you make time for it.
13. Take time to HALT
HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, tired – is one of the most important things that is taught to recovering addicts during rehab. This is a list of symptoms that are commonly known to cause relapse. It’s important that you take care of yourself and don’t let yourself succumb to any of these problems.
Make sure that you take time out of your day to take care of your basic functions. Make sure you eat healthy meals, observe your stress levels and energy levels, and keep your health in good condition.
It might not be easy to remain sober on a vacation, but staying sober while you travel can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever experience. As long as you manage to follow these techniques, as well as implementing your own personal recovery methods, you will probably have a fantastic vacation.