Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and fun, but for many of us, there’s a stressful factor involved in traveling that can dampen the excitement a bit. Long lines at the airport, delays, cramped quarters, lost luggage and accommodations that aren’t exactly what they looked like in the brochure are just a few of the things travelers deal with on vacation.
When you’re also trying to stay sober because you’re in recovery, these things can be overwhelming.
It’s important, therefore, to have a good plan and stick to it. While you can’t prepare for every single contingency, you can still make sure you have the right tools to deal with a layover, or a long, cramped taxi ride to the hotel. Plan well, and you’ll be able to have the fun you so richly deserve.
Here are a few of the best tips on how to plan a sober vacation.
If you’re planning this trip with other people, it’s important to get on the same page as far as activities and destinations are concerned. Obviously you don’t want to be at a resort for a week where the drinks are flowing like water, and you might also not want to be “trapped” on a cruise ship with a fully stocked bar.
You’ll need a place where it’s easy to get healthy meals. You’ll need a room to yourself, where you can go to decompress when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and if there are activities planned, you’ll need to be able to choose some of them so that you’re able to have the kind of fun you want.
Don’t cut yourself off
Many vacationers are eager to turn their phones off and stay away from social media while they’re gone, but it’s important for you to stay connected, at the very least to your sponsor, counselor, or a close friend or family member who knows what you’re going through. Let them know where you are and what you’ll be doing so you can hold yourself accountable for your own actions.
Have the right tools
You may not be able to completely avoid being around substances while on vacation; at many destinations, much of the activities and relaxation are built around drinking.
In the event that you’ll find yourself in a difficult situation, have a script and a plan ready. The script is for anyone who asks if you’d like a drink — be prepared with a firm but polite, “No, thanks” — and the plan involves how you’ll make an escape if you don’t feel comfortable.
Always either drive yourself or have money for a cab, and make sure you have a copy of your room key and directions to the hotel so that you can get yourself there if need be.
Bring your service animal
If you have a service animal, make it a point to bring him along (provided it’s safe for him to travel — check with his vet first) so that he can provide comfort to you during the trip. Just be sure to bring along any necessary paperwork and medical info, and do some research online before the trip to make sure there won’t be any problems, especially if you’re traveling to another country.
Follow your schedule
Having a daily schedule is very important for most people in recovery, as it helps to know what comes next. If you don’t already have one, create one, and stick to it while on vacation. Having that consistency is extremely important when you’re away from home. Don’t be too shy to attend a local meeting, either; look online if you need help finding one near you.
Stay on top of your well-being
It’s imperative to keep a close eye on your well-being during your vacation, because if you’re hungry, tired, or homesick, the chances that you might drink greatly increase. Stay on top of your feelings and be prepared by bringing snacks in your bag if you’re out exploring the city, rest when you need to, and stay in touch with your loved ones back home.
Remember, this vacation is meant to be enjoyed, so relax as much as possible and stick to your plan. You’ll thank yourself when you get home.
Michelle Peterson runs the website RecoveryPride.org providing resources for people in recovery from addiction.