After starting your recovery journey, possibly following a stay in a rehab centre or addiction treatment clinic, the next big step is getting back to reality. Learning to live life without using a substance as a crutch. Going to work, paying the bills, looking after the kids, being an active member of the family. All the simple pressures of day-to-day life will have obstacles and hurdles that need to be worked through and overcome.
Whilst these can all seem daunting at first, with a good programme and a healthy support network, they are all not only manageable but there to be enjoyed. Often something we look forward to – a wedding, a family get-together, a holiday – can also feel a little stressful, especially in early recovery or if it is the first time you have had the experience clean and sober.
At this time of year, thoughts and plans for a summer vacation sound great; but can also be fraught with worry and fear. Unfortunately, travelling can be a trigger for some people. Causing a lapse into old and addictive behaviours, leading to a relapse, or provoking a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.
As with anything you do in addiction recovery, there are always measures that can be taken to minimise any dangers, to make your vacation a positive experience. A chance to create new memories, time to relax, unwind and see some of the world from a clean and sober perspective.
Here are some of our favourite dos and don’ts….
You want to pick a destination which isn’t alcohol-heavy, and somewhere there is plenty to entertain you, avoiding boredom and restlessness. Going to sit on a beach in an all-inclusive resort might seem like a relaxing idea, but after a few days of watching those around you making the most of the free booze – craving and compulsion may rear its ugly head.
It is also probably a good idea to steer clear of places where you drank or used in the past. Use the opportunity to visit new locations, maybe try out some healthy activities you would have scoffed at before.
Just as important as the destination is your choice of travelling companions. If in the past, you have always holidayed with a big group of friends who like to drink and party – then it might be time to change things up. Being surrounded by people constantly drinking alcohol and taking drugs is going to test your resolve – why put yourself under that stress.
Many travel companies now offer alcohol-free vacations. There are sober music festivals, yoga and meditation retreats, camping, and luxury spa breaks. Not only will you enjoy a sober holiday, but you will get to meet some new people.
It is always good to be prepared for a trip, even more so when too much free time could be risky for your sobriety. Recovery teaches the importance of structure, having a plan and keeping to a schedule. It’s a holiday so you probably want to take some time to relax and chill, there is no need to cram every day from morning until night, in fact that can be just as stressful.
Before you leave home, research what is happening in the area, and plan to do things that are fun and safe. There is plenty of stuff you can book to do online before you even leave (museums, art galleries, trips to water parks or historic sites), that way you have an idea of what you will be doing, and you won’t be left hanging out somewhere bored and restless.
Where possible remove temptation from your path. If you are staying in a hotel with a mini bar in the bedroom, ask for it to be removed. Don’t plan evenings out in a nightclub where there will be lots of people drinking heavily.
Whether you started your journey of recovery at a rehab centre, in an institution, or through attending peer group fellowship meetings, one of the first and most important lessons learnt is to stay in touch with other like-minded individuals. Reaching out keeps you connected and accountable.
No matter where you are in the world, technology makes it easy to text, talk or email. Make sure you have regular check-ins with your sponsor, close friends, or support network. Take time to make it a part of your daily travel schedule to speak to at least one other person in recovery, this will keep you grounded, and gives you a chance to get niggling worries and concerns off your chest.
It is a good idea to keep busy, but don’t pack every day so full that you don’t have time to take care of yourself. Make sure you eat properly, get plenty of sleep and have some quiet time to recharge those batteries.
It is also a good idea to do some exercise. You don’t have to be in the gym every day pumping iron but leaving sometime in your schedule to take a walk or go for a swim will have a positive effect on your mental health. Practising mindfulness or meditation is another great way to centre yourself and keep triggers at bay.
Have something close by to read or listen to. It is always good to have something to distract you from your own thoughts and take you out of yourself. Reading about other people’s recovery stories or listening to another fellow is a great way to stop the head from taking over. There are loads of apps available on smartphones, so you don’t even have to carry any heavy books.
If you are early in recovery; if you are currently going through a tough time; if you don’t feel that you are ready to take a vacation yet; or if for any reason it doesn’t feel right for you, then speak up, and just don’t do it. Travel, airports, and being away from regular meetings and familiar routines, can all be triggering and if you are not comfortable then it is best to put holidays on pause until such a time when you can enjoy them without risking your recovery.
With all aspects of your holiday, where you are going, what you are going to do, who you are seeing – remember if you don’t feel secure don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t go to places that are dangerous or full of temptation – don’t hang around in the hotel bar. Don’t undertake activities that are risky (vineyard tours for instance). And don’t arrange to meet people in places that are renowned for drinking. If friends or family members are putting pressure on you then remind them, that your sobriety needs to come first.
Don’t go without meetings, especially if you are in early recovery! Missing a week or fortnight’s worth of fellowship meetings can really play havoc with your head – even if you have been sober a while. In the long run you’ll probably end up spoiling your break because your head will be playing tricks on you.
Look online for fellowship meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, AA, Narcotics Anonymous, NA) or other support networks close to where you are staying, find out when and where the nearest meetings are held. You could even get in touch with the telephone contact for local groups. They will be able to give you up-to-date details about changes to meetings and let you know if there are any sober activities happening in the vicinity during your stay.
Stick with familiar routines, if you like to have ten minutes of quiet time first thing in the morning, or last thing before bed-maybe to read, meditate or write in your journal-stick to this, it will help you feel settled and at ease.
You will be able to tell if something isn’t right, don’t ignore those gut feelings. If you are feeling anxious, irritated, or restless; if you are feeling disconnected or lonely – try and find ways to calm yourself, get to a meeting (you can always log onto a zoom one), contact someone you know well in recovery to have a chat. If you are tired or hungry, take a nap or get a snack – don’t ignore any of these warning signs. It is your body telling you that you need something – and it won’t be a drink or a drug. It will be connection, or a rest, or sustenance.
Armed with these simple tips your vacation can be the perfect time for you to kick back, relax and have some fun.
Here at the luxury residential rehab centre in Ibiza, we have a team of highly qualified staff that are experienced in the treatment of alcohol misuse disorder, drug addiction, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and other illnesses and disorders including process addiction’s, PTSD, trauma, and codependency.
For information on admissions contact firstname.lastname@example.org