With pandemic restrictions slowly abating, the travel industry is forecasting that 2022 could be one of its busiest years ever. A long-overdue vacation will be welcomed by many as a time of rest and relaxation away from everyday stresses.
But for those in addiction recovery, balancing the carefree escape of time away with maintaining your hard-earned sobriety can be a challenge. Handled properly, a vacation can have a positive impact on your recovery: finding new passions and exploring novel places can give you a unique perspective, broaden your horizons, help you discover new things about yourself and unleash untapped potential.
The following list of do’s and don’ts offers practical guidelines to help ensure that your plans are in line with your substance use recovery, and that your vacation time does not interfere with your sobriety.
Do The Following
- Consider Location: Pick a place to refresh and reenergize that also supports your recovery. Avoid a vacation scene that centers around drinking and the nightlife. If you know certain places might trigger you, avoid them. If you are up to it, consider venturing out of your comfort zone a bit and indulge in new, healthy experiences.
- Have a Plan: Fill your vacation days with lots of sober activities. Make it a point to avoid too much downtime, which can lead to temptation. Create a daily to-do list and check off items as you go. Pre-plan activities that will encourage and inspire you, and ultimately promote your recovery.
- Set Boundaries: Make it very clear that your recovery is a priority, especially if you are traveling with others. Maintaining your sobriety is paramount to your well-being and the success of the trip overall. Do not be afraid to let others know if you are uncomfortable or feeling relapse triggers.
- Find a Way to Treat Yourself: You have come a long way, so take some time to reward and pamper yourself. Get a spa treatment, see a show, or check out a trendy new restaurant. Learn to celebrate yourself in healthy ways. Continually acknowledge the strides you are making—it’s a terrific way to reinforce better habits.
- Stay Connected: People often take a vacation to “get away from it all,” which typically includes shutting off their phones and shutting out distractions. But when you’re in recovery, the better rule of thumb is to stay connected to your sober friends, therapist, sponsor, group leaders, and supportive family members.
- Expect Temptation: No vacation is perfect. Any number of social, environmental, or emotional challenges can act as addiction triggers. Be prepared with constructive ways to work through them, such as removing yourself from the situation, speaking with someone you trust, or practicing breathing exercises.
Avoiding Recovery Pitfalls
Equally important to the steps above is knowing things you should not do with your planned vacation. Avoid these missteps to stay on track with your recovery while on the road.
- Don’t Neglect Self-Care: An action-packed vacation may leave you feeling both exhilarated and exhausted. It is important to make sure that you don’t skimp on your self-care. Be sure to eat right, get adequate sleep and find some quiet time to check out and recharge.
- Don’t Forget the Essentials for Coping: Comfort is essential to recovery. Make sure you have coping essentials on hand to counter potential setbacks. If a certain pillow, for example, makes you feel a heightened sense of security, bring it with you. Don’t nitpick or be overly concerned with packing light. If you think you might need it, bring it.
- Don’t Ignore Warning Signs: You know yourself best. If you start to feel triggered, don’t brush it off just because you’re on vacation. Are you feeling anxious? Find ways to calm yourself. Are you feeling over-tired? Take a nap. Are you feeling isolated? Speak with someone who is familiar with you and your recovery. Do not neglect your intuition.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Say ‘No’: Use your voice. You have the right to politely decline invitations to drink or attend festivities that include drinking or other substance use. You should never feel ashamed to put your recovery first.
Remember—timing is everything. If you are relatively new to sobriety, “getting away” might simply not be wise. Vacations are meant to be relaxing but can also be taxing. If you are still experiencing a fair amount of anxiety and uneasiness, a vacation might slow your recovery efforts or lead to a setback.
But if you feel ready for the challenge, recovery can open up exciting new possibilities, especially while traveling. Let your newfound recovery enhance your experiences and travel plans and relish this opportunity to celebrate your continued success.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.