No matter what anyone says, alcohol is not a prerequisite to having fun; not at any kind of party and definitely not while on vacation. But for many alcoholics, whether in recovery or not, there are many social situations that they cannot imagine going through without a drink in their hand.
This becomes more painfully obvious while on vacation, especially when you’re traveling with people who are not trying to get sober. It’s difficult, and sometimes impossible, to avoid being near alcohol while you’re on the go as the temptation is almost everywhere, be it from the airport bar or the mini-bar at your hotel.
Perhaps you’re a recovering alcoholic who has just gone through alcoholism treatment and rehabilitation. Or perhaps you have been sober for quite some time now but are going on a major trip where alcohol will surely be present. Whatever the case may be, here’s how you can help yourself stay sober while traveling.
1. Make a commitment before you leave
If you want the trip to be a hundred percent alcohol-free, make that commitment to yourself before you even book your flight. Picture what the trip is going to be like, and focus on what you want to happen instead of worrying about what could go wrong. Setting expectations for yourself early on will help you avoid wavering when you pass the airport bar or are offered a drink on the flight. And when you have clear intentions of what you want the trip to be like without alcohol involved, it can be easier to ignore FOMO or the fear of missing out.
2. Bring recovery-related books or recordings
One of the biggest challenges of traveling is dealing with boredom, whether you’re traveling by bus, car, or plane. Why not make unoccupied periods productive by listening or reading materials on recovery? Bring a recovery-related book with you or download recordings of talks or seminars of people in recovery. Aside from helping combat boredom while in transit, consuming recovery material can make you more motivated to stay sober when you finally arrive at your destination.
3. Stay fed and hydrated
Hunger and thirst can make your body crave and mimic wanting a drink, which is why it is crucial for recovering alcoholics to stay fed and hydrated wherever they may be. To avoid going hungry or thirsty, always pack snacks and a reusable water bottle while on the go.
5. Don’t look at the drinks menu
When going on flights or restaurants that serve alcohol, ask the attendant or server to withhold the drinks menu so that you won’t need to go through unnecessary temptation. If the drink menu does not come separate, try not to look at that page entirely and just have the server enumerate the available drinks to you verbally.
6. Remove alcohol from your hotel room
Call your hotel ahead of time and ask to have the mini-bar cleared out before you arrive or have the alcohol replaced with extra bottles of water or soda instead.
7. Talk to your travel companions
If you’re traveling with people that plan to drink during the trip, it’s best to talk to them before you leave and let them know about your plans to abstain from alcohol. It may be necessary for you to skip out on certain parts of the trip (e.g. going to the bar, attending a party, etc.) to reduce your chances of drinking impulsively, and your travel companions should be aware of this. More importantly, you should not travel with people who will pressure you to drink, even if it just one teeny-tiny sip.
8. Stay in touch with your support system
When you are being exposed to more triggers than usual and are operating outside your normal routine, it’s extremely helpful to have a support system that can offer you guidance wherever you might be. This could be your addiction counselor, a trusted friend, your parents, or perhaps your support group at rehab. Stay connected with them while you are traveling to help you stay on track. Even if you are not experiencing urges or stress because of your addiction, having people one call away will provide comfort in unfamiliar situations and make you feel more in control.
Being a recovering alcoholic doesn’t mean you should hide away from every temptation in the world because let’s face it; temptation is and will always be present around you. This is especially true while traveling where alcohol seems to be present every step of the way. To keep yourself on the right track to recovery, use these strategies to avoid an unexpected relapse during your vacation.