Beach!!! Just the word brings a smile to my face! But in early recovery, going on a beach vacation, and remaining sober was yet another challenge, because in my mind beach = drinking. Every year, before our vacation I prepared myself for the worst, as I imagined being sober and bored, while all the other people, all around me, were having a blast and drinking to their heart’s content!!
I have come to the stark realization that this was not the reality! It was only in my mind, because back when I was drinking that’s what days at the beach were all about for me!
I had always romanticized my drinking at the beach. I had often fantasized about how glamorous and sophisticated I was, and how I drank like a lady while sitting at a fancy bar overlooking the ocean. Yeah, right! I have to remember the reality; there was nothing glamorous about my drinking. I might have started with a glass of wine and paired it with a nice cheese and fruit plate, but most of the time I ended up drinking many glasses of wine, while the cheese slowly melted on the plate, and I was falling down drunk. Good times, not!
Another fantasy that I often had, was that I went to the beach for the amazing views, and the great accommodation, and of course, I was going for the much-needed rest. Nope! None of the above! I just went to drink somewhere else other than my couch! In my mind this was a good way to convince myself that I did not have a problem with drinking because according to my perception, everyone else at the beach was drinking just like me. Ummm. No, they actually were not!
Today, I am continuously learning to break these associations and fantasies, and create new memories for my beach vacations. I am learning with every trip and every sober event that I don’t need to drink to have fun at all! In fact what used to appear like fun, now seems quite boring. Did I even swim in the ocean? Did I build any sand castles? Did I collect seashells? Did I roam the boardwalk and stuff myself with ice cream and cotton candy? Did I ride the Ferris wheel? Did I learn how to jet ski or snorkel!? No, instead I either sat at the bar all day long, or on the balcony of my hotel room, and drank while watching people go by. Fun!? I think not!
What I do now to prepare myself for our beach trip is to make sure that I have a good recovery plan! When I feel connected and strong in my recovery I am able to focus on enjoying my vacation, instead of worrying about missing out on the drinking. Here are a few key points that help me stay sober and have fun!
Tell Everyone! This adds an additional layer of accountability, if I need to talk to someone while I am away, they will know where I am and what I am dealing with. I also reach out to sober friends and ask them for advice on how they stayed sober on vacation. I also try to find someone who went to the place that I am visiting and ask them about 12-step meetings in the area that they enjoyed. Sometimes they might even know a sober person or two who lives there and I can connect with.
Research Local Resources. One of the greatest challenges of sober travel is doing without my usual support network. I research local support groups in case I am in need of re-balancing while away. Some groups even have bonfire meetings right at the beach. I also look up family friendly events which most of the time do not include drinking.
Keep Up My Sober Routine. Almost everyone who stays sober develops a recovery routine. I try to continue with my routine as much as possible and I check in with my recovery network often. This is especially important if I find myself thinking about drinking; a quick message to someone in my network might be just enough to deter me from drinking!
Try to Minimize Stress. Vacations can easily get stressful and can put hefty demands on anyone’s coping skills. To minimize stress, I try to adopt a “go with the flow” attitude that helps me take any unexpected frustrations in stride. If I need a few minutes to calm down, I go for a quick walk, and remove myself from the situation.
Continue Basic Self-Care. Vacations can be exhausting! It’s really important to get enough sleep and keep a watch for the basic signs of H.A.L.T – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. It’s also really easy to fill the days with lots of activities because I want to do and see as much as possible, but I have to also be thoughtful of others needs and not overload anyone with too many activities.
Make a Contingency Plan. As a person in recovery, sometimes I have to be my own strongest advocate. When I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, I have a few responses prepared in the event that I feel pressured to drink. I am also prepared to remove myself from any situation that makes me feel vulnerable or uneasy. I can also take precautions such as asking the hotel to remove alcohol from the mini-bar, and let the waiter know up front, that I don’t drink alcoholic beverages.
And lastly and most importantly!
Have Fun! And Lots of It! Staying sober on a vacation doesn’t preclude having a really good time. In fact it makes it even more possible to have all kinds of great adventures! I strongly believe that it is all about my attitude and perception. Instead of focusing on not being able to drink, I focus on all the things that I can do, because I am not drinking! There are no limits!
Staying sober on vacation isn’t easy at first. But it does get easier as you build quality sobriety time and fill your sober tool box! I hope some of these suggestions may help you have a wonderfully sober vacation too!
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