How to Have a Relaxing Vacation While Sober
Whether you have been sober for a week or 10 years, taking a vacation can be a nerve wracking moment. A vacation is an escape but unfortunately alcohol will follow. If you are taking a vacation with family, friends, or alone, know that it is possible to have a sober vacation with the right plan in place.
It is both normal and common to have urges for alcohol. With time and by learning new responses, you’ll find that your urges diminish and you’ll feel confident in your ability to successfully handle future urges. However, it is important that you are able to recognize triggers that might strengthen the urge. While on vacation, you’ll run into external triggers such as locations that serve alcohol or people drinking around you. These are considered high-risk situations, and the best strategy is to avoid them.
The purpose of a vacation is to relax and enjoy yourself, so you’ll likely experience external triggers. If this happens, remind yourself why you chose the sobriety path via a saved email or a written note stashed in your wallet. Make sure others around you aware of your intention to not drink, and have a friend or sponsor nearby should you need to talk. Implement coping strategies that can be performed on the spot such as deep breathing or taking a walk. In fact, research shows that taking a brisk walk activates soothing neurons in your brain, reducing stress and leaving you with a clear mind to focus on your mission – a sober vacation.
Stay Busy and Connected
Although vacations are a time to rest and relax, having extra time on your hands could make it difficult to ignore triggers and cravings. Part of recovery involves creating structure or routine so that there is less room for temptation. While you can most certainly plan a fun itinerary, part of staying busy could be bringing your self-care routine with you. While on your sober vacation, continue exercising, eating regularly, and getting enough sleep. Bring along portable stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga.
One of the most difficult parts of a sober vacation is having to do it without your support group. The same way you would research the best hotels or restaurants, look for local support groups in case you need to regroup and refocus. Have your sponsor on speed dial, along with trusted friends and family members. Ultimately, you are your biggest advocate, so take the steps necessary to ensure you don’t relapse. Ask the bartender not to serve you any drinks or have the hotel remove the alcohol from the mini-bar. Prepare yourself to say no to uncomfortable situations and never hesitate to leave.
Bring Your Furry Companion
Your bags are packed and you are set to leave, but have you considered bringing along your pet or service dog? Whether or not your dog is a service animal, he can help you emotionally, lift your mood, improve your mental health, and offer support in areas of life when humans aren’t emotionally available. In addition, should you find yourself in an uncomfortable spot, leaving to check on the dog is a great excuse to remove yourself from the situation and get in some much needed snuggles. Should you decide to bring along your companion, make sure he stays safe and happy on the trek with a seat belt, food, water, toys, and plenty of attention.
Regardless of whether the trip is already booked or you are still contemplating it, do what makes you feel uncomfortable. If the timing doesn’t feel right, do yourself a favor and postpone. Your sobriety is worth so much more than a vacation.