So much of recovery is about creating a healthy routine and surrounding yourself with healthy people. It’s nice to have a break from regular life when you travel, but if you are recovering from addiction, taking time away from your routine and your social support may be risky. However, overcoming addiction is about having more freedom, not less. Whether you are traveling for work or fun, here are some ways to keep travel from jeopardizing your recovery.
Try to minimize stress.
Stress is a major trigger for most people, and travel is often stressful. Some problems are unavoidable, but whenever you can, make decisions that will reduce your stress. For example, you might want to pick a direct flight, even if it costs a little more. That way, you don’t risk missing a connection or having to run from one end of O’Hare to the other dragging 30 pounds of luggage. Or consider upgrading so you can actually sleep on the flight. There are many ways airlines and hotels will make life easier for you if you don’t mind spending a little extra. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to be so you’ll have some breathing room for when things go wrong.
If you’re going on vacation, think about how you are going to spend your time when you get there. Try to pick a destination that will be fun but won’t tempt you to relapse. Avoid party destinations like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, at least until you’ll feeling pretty solid in recovery. You may also want to avoid leisure-heavy destinations such as the beach. You may be tempted to drink to help you relax and pass the time. Instead, consider places that have historical interest, natural beauty, or otherwise have plenty of things for sober people to do. Consider a big city or a national park. Plan a few activities in advance so there’s some structure to your trip. Try to keep your schedule relatively full so you don’t find yourself bored and killing time, but not so full that you feel stressed and worn out trying to get to everything. After all, a vacation is supposed to be something more than a checklist. It’s also important to think about how you are going to deal with the challenges you are likely to encounter along the way. How will you keep out of airport bars? Does your hotel room have a minibar? Can you get a room without one? When are you most likely to be tempted? Keep your particular needs in mind and don’t feel bad about asking questions. Have a strategy ready in case you run into unexpected trouble. It may be a friends you can call or some ritual you use to get through a craving.
Even if you’re out of the country, there’s no need to be out of touch. There are now more ways to communicate than ever. Arrange to check in with someone during your trip. It could be a friend, a relative, or a sponsor. Text or chat every day to let them know things are going well, or just get in touch when you feel like you need some support. Make an international call if you have to. Saving a few bucks is not worth a relapse.
Take care of yourself.
Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep, eat reasonably well, and get some exercise. Depending on your destination, exercise may not be a problem. If you’re hiking in the mountains, you’ll probably have more trouble getting rest than exercise. However, if you’re traveling for work to some unfamiliar place and spending most of your time in a car, an office, or a conference center, you may have to be more proactive. You may have to find a park to exercise or walk in, or you may have to pack for the hotel gym. The more you can stick to a healthy routine, the less stress you will experience and the easier it will be to stay on track. Getting enough sleep is especially important. We typically don’t sleep as deeply in unfamiliar surroundings, so you may want to give yourself a little more time than you normally need. This is especially true if you change time zones and you have to adjust to a new schedule. People with bipolar disorder are especially sensitive to this kind of disruption, so if you have bipolar you might want to stay closer to home or talk to your therapist about dealing with the time change.
Find a meeting.
Most cities have 12-step meetings and there’s a good chance you can find an English-speaking meeting even if you’re not in an English-speaking country. Continuing your meeting schedule is another way you can keep up your regular routine and find some accountability, even when traveling alone. If you are part of another mutual aid group, such as SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery, you may not have as much success finding a meeting, but you can always participate online. Let people know you’re traveling and bring up any concerns you’re dealing with. You might even find someone near you who will meet you for coffee or show you around.
Focus on the positives.
For some people, having a good time is a trigger because they feel like they might be having an even better time if they were using drugs or alcohol. Typically, that’s not actually true. If you feel a bit wistful whenever you pass the hotel bar, play the tape and imagine where that would get you. Think about how disappointed you would be if you wasted your whole trip in the hotel bar or passed out in your room. Then think about all the great things you could be doing instead and feel good about deciding to do them.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.