If you’ve got some vacation time coming up, maybe you’ve considered sneaking out of town for some much needed rest and relaxation. Or perhaps there are business matters that have you trekking cross-country. Either way, traveling to new destinations can be an exciting opportunity to ease some tension and refuel your mind.
For some, it’s not all that difficult to simply arrange for a dog-walker to check in on Fido and skip town without a second thought. But if you’re a recovering (or current) addicted person, you’ll need to take extra care when considering who and what is left behind.
When you hit the road, you’ll be disrupting the healthy routine and lifestyle you’ve adapted to throughout your recovery and you’ll also be leaving your support network behind you. You’ll be risking your sobriety in a unfamiliar and less predictable environment.
The constant worry of compromising your sobriety is a hefty load to tote around, especially when you’re trying to enjoy your trip. But if you plan ahead, there are ways to manage your addiction while you’re away, without the extra baggage.
Consider Your Destination
One advantage for those traveling for recreational purposes is the ability to choose your location. When you’re planning your trip, take into consideration the time of year and what you may be exposed to throughout the course of your trip. For example, if you’ve previously struggled with alcohol dependency, it may not be a smart move to vacation in Cancun over spring break. You should choose an overall environment that you will feel comfortable in and reduces your risk of being triggered.
If you’re traveling for business or heading out of town to visit family, you may not have much say in your destination, but there are still a few precautions you can take to protect your sobriety.
Find Local Support
One best practice is to research the local support groups in the city you’ll be visiting and plan to attend meetings while you’re away. If possible, try to attend a meeting early in your trip. This is a great way to make some contacts and learn more about the resources available in the area. You’ll also get some valuable insight from the locals about the places you should avoid.
Regardless of your travel purpose, schedule your trip and activities to minimize your down time. Keeping yourself occupied will prevent you from getting bored and prevent your mind from wandering off to unhealthy places. It’s generally best to choose activities that will keep both your body and mind active, like visiting a museum or sight-seeing.
Prepare To Cope
Stress is inevitable no matter where you go, so it’s important to prepare in advance how you can healthily manage those moments of weakness and temptation. If you can, take a few minutes to call someone from your support network to talk you through it. If you’re stuck in a meeting or at a family function, you can also try some deep breathing or mindfulness exercises. Sometimes pulling out your trusty smartphone and scrolling through your news feed or playing a puzzle game can be a great distraction, too.
Write it on a notecard, make it a reminder on your phone, do whatever you can to remind yourself that you should never allow yourself to be:
Hungry – If you’re unsure of when you’ll be able to eat, pack some snacks to get you through until meal time.
Angry – Manage your stress and anxiety through healthy mechanisms. A brief morning workout could be enough to keep a positive attitude throughout the day.
Lonely – Check in frequently with loved ones or your support network to remind yourself that they’re rooting for you.
Tired – Don’t stay up too late or wake up too early. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep to give your body time to recover energy.
If you are ever in doubt, and you’ve tried everything in the book but nothing seems to be working, close your eyes and remind yourself why you have fought so hard to get to this point. Those reasons are the fuel to drive you through this moment and get you back on your feet.
Traveling somewhere new or unfamiliar can be scary, especially when there is so much at risk. But getting through this journey will build your strength and confidence to tackle the next big adventure. Who knows? One day, it may even be Everest.