Vacations should be fun and relaxing but lets be honest, they can be stressful too, and even more so if it happens to be your very first sober vacation. The good news is that with a little preparation, this can be a great opportunity to experience real fun, and make new memories that you will cherish for a lifetime.
With every vacation, I continue learning that I really do not 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? 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 a vacation 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 the drinking.
Here are the 7 tools that help me stay sober, and have fun:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
5. Continue Basic Self-Care. Vacations can be exhausting too! It is important to get enough sleep and keep a watch for the basic signs of H.A.L.T – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. It is 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.
6. 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 do not drink alcoholic beverages.
7. Have Fun and Lots of It! Staying sober on a vacation does not preclude having a 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!
Being sober on vacation is not easy at first. However, it does get easier as you build quality sobriety time and fill your sober toolbox! I hope some of these suggestions may help you have a wonderfully sober vacation too!
For a great list of online support sites that may be of help to you while your vacationing, please click the Find Support link for an extensive list of support groups. Also please check out the links to many useful resources in the sidebar, and always feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also find some great inspiration and support from all the awesome sober bloggers listed in the side bar under POSTS I LIKE and RECOVERY BLOGGERS, as well as Sober Courage page on Facebook and Sober Courage on Twitter.