August 9, 2016
It should never be said that keeping up your sobriety is easy, but doing it in the comfort and familiarity of your own home certainly takes away many outside pressures. You have complete control of your environment and the people around you, so it’s easy to execute your daily routine and focus on maintaining your sobriety. When you’re away from home, however, it can be even more difficult to battle your demons.
That doesn’t mean your disease has to win!
This guide will teach you how to go on vacations, business trips, and family functions without compromising your recovery. With the right preparation, tools, and state of mind, you can have even better trips away and keep your sobriety intact.
The advantage you have with vacations is that for the most part, you’ll get to plan everything. Start by choosing your destination wisely and consider trying something new. If you normally visit big cities to explore the hot spots, try something more low-key like a secluded bed and breakfast with your partner or a cabin in the mountains where you and your family can hike, make campfires, and unplug.
Similarly, you’ll need to be selective about the company you keep while traveling. If you’re going away with friends or extended family, communicate clearly with them ahead of time that you’ll need to take measures to keep your sobriety on track. It doesn’t necessarily mean planning completely separate activities or that your friends can’t drink around you at all, but you do need to be sure they won’t attempt to talk you into situations that could put your recovery at risk. If you’re going away with a partner, discuss boundaries and expectations ahead of time, especially if it’s your first trip together or your first trip sober.
Plan out your days as much as you can to keep your mind occupied. Try local cuisine, visit a museum, or get back to nature by checking out a local national park. Again, consider breaking out of your comfort zone to try something new; you might initially feel a void from not being able to “let loose” on vacation the way you did before sobriety, but don’t let yourself be bogged down by the idea that drinking or using drugs is the only way to fully enjoy a vacation. Embrace the opportunity to not only try new things, but to do so knowing you’ll have a clear memory of it later.
An excellent way to find sober-friendly activities in your destination is to reach out within your sober network. Ask around at meetings if anyone has been where you’re going and has insight, or ask your sponsor if he or she has any contacts in the area. Not only is it a great way to find out about local meetings and programs, it could help to have a personal ally to reach out to if needed. Even if you don’t end up needing to seek outside support while you’re away, it doesn’t hurt to have the knowledge on-hand. And if you do end up needing to stop by a meeting, don’t kick yourself for it or let it ruin your day. Do what you need to in order to keep your sobriety on track, then devote the rest of your day to enjoying your vacation. Never feel guilty about taking care of your new, clean life; you worked incredibly hard to attain it, so don’t let it slip away!
It’s important to plan for situations that could put your recovery at risk. Talk to your partner about exit strategies for things like dinners that evolve into late-night drinking. You could even be strategic with your planning and arrange activities for each morning of your trip. You’ll get more out of your visit, be less tempted to stay out late partying, and you can give any loved ones you meet with the heads-up that you have an early day ahead of you. Just be sure you don’t overload yourself or your family with too much to do — sometimes the best vacation days are the lazy ones, so give yourselves time for plenty of R ’n’ R.
Finally, make sure you have easy access to supportive resources — it could be as simple as bookmarking your favorite sobriety blog and keeping your phone handy on the trip. If you’re particularly worried about the trip, make these mini resources part of your daily plan. Start each morning by reading inspirational quotes or commit to reading a chapter from a book on recovery each night before sleeping. With easy resources at your fingertips and information about nearby meetings already prepared, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation knowing you’ve got what you need to keep your sobriety intact.
Business trips can be especially tricky because you may not get a lot of say in the planning. The key is to keep it as focused on business as possible and make good use of your free time.
If you get to choose your own hotel, try to find a quieter part of town away from local nightlife and temptation. A quiet hotel will make it easy to settle in, get some rest, and get prepared for a productive day at work. If your room includes a mini bar, call ahead and ask for all alcohol to be removed before your arrival. Keep in mind that these colleagues don’t see you on a day-to-day basis, so making a positive impression is important. If you show up still tired (or worse — hungover) from the night before, it could have a major impact on your professional reputation. Remembering that fact can help keep you on your toes!
One major positive point of a business trip is that while some of your coworkers may be tempted to cut loose, they probably won’t judge you for lying low and will respect your desire to keep the trip business-oriented. Let them know this early on, but don’t let it deter you from socializing with them if you don’t think it will threaten your recovery. Business trips can be an excellent way to strengthen relationships with coworkers and build your professional network, so don’t skip any valuable opportunities. If you don’t think you’re ready to be around that kind of situation just yet, you can always let your colleagues know that you require a significant amount of downtime to be effective for your presentation or meeting. Few will object to guaranteeing success at work!
If you’re staying for an extended period and will have significant downtime, find a good balance of activities to stay busy and rested enough to keep you sharp. Although you want to keep your mind engaged, it’s also important to not overload yourself. Continue going to meetings as you would at home, and keep in close touch with your sponsor. You can even have a video call on your laptop or smartphone if you prefer more personalized counseling. Download a few recovery podcasts or add a few books on addiction to your tablet to listen to any time you’re feeling a little overwhelmed; starting your day with positive words reaffirming your commitment to sobriety is always a good way to start a business day!
If your agenda includes business lunches, dinners, or drinks, decide in advance how to handle it. Talk to your sponsor and recovery allies about strategies to make the best impression on clients without putting them off by not drinking. If your boss is aware of your status or you’re comfortable confiding, consult him or her on how to handle it. You may even be able to arrange it so you meet with clients who are also sober — you don’t have to disclose your recovery, but it could make the client more comfortable to be with someone who also isn’t drinking.
Although there are many jobs where it may seem like drinking is all but a requirement, don’t let yourself fall victim to this false thinking. In fact, some have found great business success after finding sobriety, so don’t give up on your recovery!
Family gatherings are a wonderful way to reconnect with your kin, but they often come with excessive drinking. Whether it’s a wedding, birthday party, reunion, or holiday, you’ll need to take steps to prepare yourself for a fun, but alcohol-free, time.
If your family is aware of your recovery, talk to them ahead of time about your priorities. Let them know you’re still planning to socialize and participate in planned activities, but alcohol simply can’t be a part of the equation for you personally. Don’t be afraid to skip events or parts of events in the interest of avoiding temptation. For example, if you’re going to a football game and everyone is planning on tailgating beforehand, you may want to skip the tailgate and meet everyone inside at game time. Giving the heads-up ahead of time will let your family know what to expect so they aren’t caught off-guard later; it will make them less likely to pressure you into risky situations, and it could even inspire a few to take the sober route with you.
If much of your family isn’t aware of your recovery, create a sobriety game plan with your partner. If you’re traveling alone, consider confiding in a sibling or cousin you trust. Though you’ll certainly want to continue going to meetings during your time away, it can really help to have someone by your side who knows your situation and can be a continual support system. Stick with your confidante as much as possible, and limit time around any family members that tend to create drama or conflict. Rehearse responses for why you aren’t drinking so you sound more confident in the moment, and have your confidante back you up when possible. If you do find yourself in a heated or frustrating situation, separate yourself from it and go for a relaxing walk or take a little time to listen to music away from the fuss.
Disappointed you’ll be missing out on your aunt’s famous (spiked) eggnog this year? Look up recipes and buy supplies to make your own non-alcoholic cocktails. Sometimes just having a fun drink in your hand can ease the sting of not drinking, especially when it’s a drink everyone can enjoy. You may even earn some brownie points with the kids — they’ll be able to drink your mocktail, too!
You’ll also want to consider any overnight arrangements. If you usually stayed with your younger cousin during your party days, opt for a hotel or an older family member’s home instead. If you can swing it, staying in a home with children can be an excellent way to keep you on the straight and narrow path since you won’t want to be a negative influence. Plus, alcohol will be kept more out of sight and reach, so the temptation will be reduced considerably.
The great news is that while it may take some adjustment, ultimately, your vacations, business trips, and family functions will be much more enjoyable now that you’re sober. When the thoughts that you’re “missing out” creep in, remind yourself of what you’re actually missing out on: questionable decisions you may or may not remember, physical damage to your body, and killer hangovers. In the light of recovery, you’re now equipped to build lifelong memories, start your days earlier to make the most of your time (instead of staying in bed miserable over the previous night), and make valuable business contacts with a clear head. There’s no downside to sober travel!