For most Americans, vacation time is associated with cutting loose and having fun. It’s no different for addiction survivors, but it can be a challenge to maintain your sobriety in an atmosphere of indulgence. Fortunately, fun comes in a variety of flavors. Whether you’re arranging your own vacation or relying on the help of professionals, here are some handy hints and tips on making the most of your downtime.
Prep Your Home
First things first: take care of everything on the home front. You won’t be able to truly relax if your home won’t be well taken care of in your absence. Take a few basic home safety measures, starting on the outside. For instance, put your car in the garage, turn on the porch light, and pause your mail delivery so you won’t alert intruders that no one’s home. You should also unplug your appliances and turn down your thermostat to keep fire hazards and electric bills at bay, and if possible, ask a neighbor to check in a few times if you’ll be gone for more than a few days.
Ask The Pros
There are many companies that specialize in sober vacations. You can book a cruise or a resort stay with likeminded people focused on maintaining their health in recovery. Some of these even offer access to regular support meetings while on vacation. The presence of other survivors can be beneficial, allowing for immersion in traditional vacation activities away from the presence of temptations. Some communities and local organizations set up sober day trips. These can involve weekend camping excursions, kayaking, whitewater rafting, or just visiting local museums and tourist destinations for an afternoon getaway. Most of these sober vacations are open to anyone, whether they’ve been sober for years or are new in recovery.
Go Your Own Way
You don’t have to rely on the professionals to arrange a fun vacation. A less expensive option is to be your own travel agent. You can have a great time without drugs and alcohol anywhere you go; the trick is to be accountable. Tell the people around you about your experiences and rely on them to help you stay on the straight and narrow. It may be wise to avoid travelling alone to an all-inclusive resort, but if you choose to, you can still enjoy free drinks, just of the non-alcoholic variety. Order smoothies and fun, fruity, non-alcoholic drinks. Remind yourself that you can actually get more out of this trip if you’re not desensitizing your brain to your experiences by pickling it with drugs and alcohol. Look into your local community resources for organized outings. Try the web to locate fun excursions that don’t involve alcohol. Even the big travel websites now offer special sober group vacation plans.
The key to staying on the right track on vacation is remembering what you’ve accomplished and staying mindful in the moment. Maintain your self-care routine, and make sure you’re getting enough rest and eating well. Try new things, and think about checking out a few excursions or activities. You’ll develop new skills and maybe find a new hobby to pursue back home. Focus on keeping stress levels low, and have an escape plan. It’s possible you’ll find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Be prepared to remove yourself from them, and do what you can to head them off in the first place. Tell the hotel to remove the minibar in your room and advise the waiter that you don’t drink alcohol.
Family vacations can be particularly stressful, especially if you’ll be visiting relatives with whom you don’t have a great history. Plan ahead and prepare some coping strategies. Take extra care to maintain your normal routine and give yourself plenty of opportunities to de-stress and unwind. If there are tensions, consider staying in a hotel rather than in a family residence. Limit time spent with the family to scheduled, planned events to lessen the possibility of turmoil. Above all, be prepared to cut things short if the visit is not going well.
Your vacation doesn’t have to challenge your recovery; it can support it. Use this time as an opportunity to engage in self-reflection and discovery, to relax and rejuvenate. Make new memories, learn new skills, and learn and grow as a person. Just as you are the architect of your recovery, you are the master of your fate, both at home and away.