A vacation is meant to be refreshing and relaxing. However, if you are going through the recovery process, vacation time can become a breeding ground for triggering a relapse. We have done our research and have compiled a few tips to help you travel safely while in recovery.
- Start small: One alum stated that his first trips were no longer than weekend escapes. He didn’t start taking longer trips until he felt more comfortable with travelling.
- Seek healthy settings: You may not be able to choose where you’re going if you are travelling with a group. But when you can make the choice, select places that focus on relaxation and self-care. For example, try booking hotels with spas that use aromatherapeutic relaxation techniques. Also, try an app that offers vacation homes you can rent because these tend to be safer areas than most all-inclusive resorts.
- Seek local support: Check out if there are meetings you can attend before planning your trip. One alum established another homegroup while on vacation. Another alum reported how refreshing and encouraging it was to interact with others in recovery while travelling. Try calling ahead if there’s a meeting available. That way, you can have a point person to make your experience more comfortable.
- Remove obstacles in advance: If your hotel room has a minibar, you can call and ask them to remove it before you arrive. Also, find out from a concierge about events that don’t involve using alcohol.
- Have a coping strategy list: Trying to figure out a coping strategy while in the middle of an uncomfortable situation may lead to disaster. So, before you leave for your trip, jot down all coping strategies you can use while on your trip and take this list with you while on vacation. That way, you will have the strategies with you and you won’t have to stress over trying to think up one.
- Take the safe route: There’s no law that says you can’t say no to certain events that you are not emotionally comfortable with. Nothing is that important that’s worth compromising your recovery.
- Have a plan in place for handling dinners and events: When you’re participating in events like weddings, bar-mitzvahs or dinner parties, you can let drink servers know you are not drinking by turning your wine glass over. Have your own sparkling water on hand so people won’t have a need to give you something to drink. Always have a plan B (like another event you can go to afterward or someone you can call).
- Delegate caregiving and other responsibilities: It defeats the purpose of having a vacation if you’re the one who is always cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids or other loved ones. If you are travelling with others, come up with a plan to delegate chores. Also, take advantage of caregiver services that may be available at the vacation site, so you can have time to take care of yourself and relax.
Self-care while traveling
- Take care of your physical and emotional needs like hunger, anger, fatigue and loneliness: These factors can become triggers for relapse if they are not addressed. To prevent actions that may trigger a relapse, make sure you have enough snacks on hand, keep track of how you’re feeling and get enough sleep. For example, if you feel agitated, you may have to remove yourself from the crowd and go somewhere to rest, walk around or phone a trusted friend or family member.
- Use distractions to your advantage: Have your own books and videos on hand. Having material that interests you on hand will keep you from hanging out in areas that would trigger a relapse (Unfortunately, there are always locations in the airport or on a plane that have bars.)
- Seek help. If you find yourself being tempted to relapse, find a concierge or ticket counter and ask for a friend of Bill W. There will always be someone around in recovery at a vacation site that will be able to offer support.
- The benefit of technology: Have a collection of downloaded meditation apps, podcasts, music and inspirational books to keep you motivated and relaxed during times when you feel triggered.
- Maintain accountability: If you’re travelling without a fellow addict in recovery, tell your sponsor or whoever else you have for support where you’re going, and verify when that person will be able to check in on you while on the trip and after you come back home.
A variety of recovery support tools are available to ensure your recovery keeps moving forward. Fortunately, you have many recovering addicts who have positive feedback about travelling. Many have enjoyed the fruitfulness of being able to travel while in recovery because it felt like they were experiencing life all over again.