If you’ve completed an alcohol rehab program, you’re probably fully aware of just how challenging staying sober in the real world is. Given that alcohol is a legal substance that is readily available throughout most of the country, the first few months after rehab could be especially difficult.
If you’re traveling, you might find it even more difficult to stay sober. Alcohol is widely available at most major airports and virtually all of the most popular business and tourist spots in the world. Chances are you’ll even have access to alcohol on the plane taking you to your destination. Traveling can also be a stressful ordeal, which can further drive you into a relapse.
Fortunately, traveling during early recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD) is something that many individuals have experienced, overcome, and grown from. Below are some tried and tested tips that should help you stay sober during your travels. If you’re in Greater Boston and you feel that you’re in danger of relapsing, our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help.
1.) Look up local support groups ahead of time, if you need themSupport groups offer a sense of grounding and camaraderie that can be vital during the early part of AUD recovery. If it’s only been a few months since you’ve finished rehab, you may want to look up support groups at your destination. If you’re sure you can get a good internet connection at your hotel or other accommodations, you can also try to find virtual support groups that meet your recovery needs.
2.) Tell your travel companions you plan to stay sober
If your companions are expecting to party at your destination, it’s important to set expectations ahead of time. There is usually an expectation that traveling companions will enjoy the destination together. If you don’t tell them ahead of time it could lead to them not being able to enjoy themselves as much, which might mean they may intentionally or unintentionally pressure you to drink.
By setting boundaries early on, you give them time to make other plans or to set their expectations. This means they will be less likely to pressure you to drink and more likely to help you maintain your sobriety.
3.) Plan out an alcohol-free itinerary
If you’re the type of person who drinks when they’re anxious or bored, you can try to pack in more activities to keep yourself busy. Take the time to visit local museums, art galleries, and other attractions so that you aren’t stuck without anything to do. Catch up with friends who might be living there or try to meet new ones. In any case, there’s also nothing wrong with just staying in your hotel room and ordering room service.
4.) Enjoy yourself in ways that don’t involve alcohol
Sample the cuisine, try out popular pastimes, and take time to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents of your destination. Chances are, there’s always going to be a few things that you’ll find interesting about your destination that will help keep you occupied and sober.
5.) Take lots of pictures
Apart from being an engaging activity that gives you something to do while you’re away from home, photography can help you document your newfound sobriety. For some people, photography may help give them a better sense of life at different points in recovery. The pictures we take can offer surprising insights into our moods and interests, which can allow us to put our recovery in context later on.
6.) Write short journal entries each day
Journal writing can give us insights into our emotional state. Having this insight may allow you to make better decisions for your sobriety and mental health. Journaling can be even more important when you’re traveling as you might not have access to your therapist and regular support group.
7.) Hit the gym
Traveling during the early stages of recovery can be a tense time. Because tension is a major substance use trigger, it may help to get some exercise in to burn off some of that anxious energy.
If there are no gyms near your accommodations, you can check in advance if there are safe trails nearby where you can jog or bike safely. Getting some exercise in will also help regulate your sleep patterns, which may be disrupted by jet lag or by the rigors of traveling. This may further prevent you from ordering a nightcap and relapsing.
8.) Consider choosing destinations that aren’t known for parties
If you’re not traveling for business, you should consider choosing a “sober” destination where alcohol isn’t readily available. Nature trails, national parks, and other alcohol-free, family-friendly attractions are to be found all over North America.
In the United States, there are still dozens of “dry counties” where the sale of alcohol is not permitted. Though most of these places are not exactly cultural centers, several of them are home to spectacular nature trails and other interesting features.
If you’re willing to cast the net wider and travel internationally, there are dozens of interesting countries where alcohol is either banned or restricted. The Islamic world is an extremely diverse set of mostly non-drinking cultures that can keep you engaged for several lifetimes. A few other countries such as Sweden and Japan also have restrained drinking cultures that tend to be conducive for recovering individuals.
Though traveling can expose recovering individuals to relapse triggers, that does not necessarily mean that they should avoid it at all costs. When planned correctly, most of the potential pitfalls can be avoided. For some individuals, these trips can even be an opportunity to build confidence in their own sobriety. Good luck in your travels, and be well!