Traveling in recovery is one of the perks that comes with being free from the shackles of addiction. Not only do you have a little extra cash in your pocket to spend on your adventure, but you have the attention span and energy to be present in the experience and really enjoy every minute.
There are, however, some risks to traveling in recovery. Without solid preparation and planning, it can mean exposure to triggers for relapse – an issue that, when it occurs while on vacation, can mean added complications beyond what would occur if a relapse happened at home where you are surrounded by a support network.
The good news is that there are ways to make travel a vibrant part of recovery and a reward for your hard work without putting your sobriety in jeopardy.
Though you may one day work up to that month-long trek across Asia that you dream about or the three-month cross country driving tour that you have been mentally planning for years, it may be best to start with a few daytrips or weekend adventures, especially early in recovery. By keeping it short the first few times around, you give yourself an opportunity to practice being away from home and your support system. You’ll also have the knowledge that you can be home within a few hours and go to a meeting you are familiar with to help you get back on track.
- Head to another part of town and plan to spend the day at the park, a museum, or an all-day show.
- Bring what you will need for the whole day – food, a water bottle, charger for your phone, cash, a jacket, sunscreen, etc.
- Have someone you can call if you begin to feel uncomfortable.
- Know where the 12-Step meetings are in the part of town you are headed to.
If you have someone with you who is also staying sober and who won’t urge you to drink and/or get high, you will have an easier time managing cravings should they arise. The right person will help you to keep your stress levels low and hold you accountable for your choices, keeping you focused on having fun and staying sober.
- Choose a friend who is sober or who feels comfortable staying sober with you.
- Make sure your friend is committed to staying sober the whole trip.
- Have someone you can call to talk to as well.
- Make sure you have a safe way to get home if your friend relapses or otherwise does not make it through the whole trip.
Talk to your therapist, your sponsor, and others who have traveled in early sobriety and get a clear idea of what you may experience. It is good to have a therapeutic plan to proactively address any challenges you perceive may be an issue and to have people you can process through the trip with on an emotional level when you return.
- Plan an extra session with your therapist before you go to talk about the trip.
- Ask your therapist or sponsor if you may call them while you are away if you have any issues.
- Get yourself in a good mindset before you leave.
- Consider canceling if you are not feeling strong in your recovery.
One of the biggest threats to recovery while traveling is unexpected stress. Though you cannot prevent all unseen events, you can do your best to make sure you have as much as possible set up for yourself in advance so you are not left stranded.
- Buy all tickets and organize all travel in advance. Make sure you have paper tickets and receipts in hand.
- Secure hotel or hostel rooms in advance. Keep copies of all your reservations and receipts.
- Call your credit card company and/or bank to let them know you will be using your card out of town or out of state as you travel.
- Have cash on hand just in case.
- Keep a full water bottle and easily transportable snacks with you at all times, as well as an extra layer of clothing and sunscreen.
Seek out ways you can stay in touch with your recovery while traveling. Even though you cannot meet with your therapist, sponsor, or home group while you are away, you can still take the time to acknowledge and reconnect with your recovery.
- Find local 12-Step meetings if you are in a town or city.
- Do yoga, tai chi, or meditate before heading out for the day and/or before turning in at night.
- Eat healthfully to keep your energy levels up.
- Bring an inspirational and positive book with you.
Is traveling an important part of your recovery? How do you stay on track when you hit the road? What are your favorite trips to help you reconnect with your sobriety?