How to Make a Vacation Work Towards Your RecoveryAnna Ciulla
Not every vacation is good for your recovery. Learn what you can do to ensure your next vacation is.
Recovery takes work, no question about it. Yet this doesn’t preclude taking a vacation. In fact, establishing balance in life is a huge part of an overall effective recovery plan. For those in recovery who can take time off work, a vacation provides ample benefits.
Still, the question remains how do you tailor a vacation to make it work towards your recovery? Here are some suggestions. Some you do before you leave, others while you’re away, and some you tend to on your return.
Destination Bound: Go Somewhere Restful
When thoughts of getting away appear, instead of dismissing them, consider that what’s going on is a strong need for a break. Work, home and school will still be there on your return. Those duties and responsibilities aren’t going away. Yet, you and your loved ones and family members deserve time to rest and reconnect, to strengthen bonds, and to build upon your recovery foundation. Why not select a travel destination that provides a relaxing ambience, a stress-free environment and numerous activities to enjoy alone and with others in your party?
Plan a Buffer Travel Day Each Way So You’re Not Overly Stressed
Instead of cramming what should be a restful getaway with a departure and return that compresses the amount of time you do have for your vacation, do yourself and your recovery a huge favor and add in a day at each end. This buffer will dramatically reduce your stress levels and allow a smoother transition into your time off and preparing for your return home.
Map Out Meeting Locations Before You Depart
Being in an unfamiliar place can be both exciting and fearful with respect to the location and accessibility of 12-step group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meeting locations. This isn’t a detail you want to leave to chance, as going to meetings on a regular basis is a key part of your recovery. Frantically trying to find a meeting location when you’re feeling anxious or the pull of cravings threatens your sobriety can be avoided with careful planning before you leave home. Do an Internet search for 12-step meetings near your destination. Print out a list with map instructions, address and phone number and bring it with you.
Maintain Your Recovery Routine
You have a well-established routine at home for tending to your recovery. Just because you’re going on vacation doesn’t mean that you take a hiatus from this routine. In fact, it’s vitally important to do all you can to keep to your recovery schedule while you’re away. The location may be different, yet what you do to take good self-care remains the same. In addition to going to meetings, make sure you eat well-balanced meals on a regular basis, get adequate sleep each night, engage in vigorous physical exercise daily (walk on the beach, anyone?), and take any prescribed medications as directed. Sticking to your recovery routine helps you quell anxiety and feel more comfortable and confident in your ability to maintain your sobriety. With your stress level ratcheted down several notches because of taking this much-needed time away, you’re less likely to relapse.
Leave Work Behind
Go on a legitimate vacation. That means leaving work-related items behind. Granted, you may need to check in while you’re away, especially if you’re the boss or leader of a team working on a critical project. To the extent you can, delegate to someone you trust to carry out your duties in your absence. You need the time away from deadlines and meetings to continue to build upon your recovery foundation. This vacation isn’t a luxury, it’s a key aspect of work-life balance that helps you live a healthy lifestyle in sobriety.
Factor in Free Time
Going some place new or a familiar family vacation spot generally means lots of places to visit and activities to participate in while you’re there. Yet, this can prove to be stress-producing if you feel the need to do everything in a limited amount of time. Not only will everyone be disappointed when conflicts arise, there’s also going to be an assault on your sense of stability and feeling of having your recovery under control. Sometimes it’s the seemingly trivial things that jeopardize sobriety, like not having enough time to do what you want, not what others expect or demand of you. Be sure to allocate free time to do what you choose. Your recovery will be stronger for it.
Make it a Point to Reflect on Your Blessings
Call it gratitude or counting your blessings. What’s important isn’t the term but that you take the time to do it. If you’re having an exciting time, thank your Higher Power for the opportunity to experience this respite from daily responsibilities. If things have gone awry in your plans, reservations mixed up, flight or other travel delays, a flat tire in the rental car and so on, reflecting on your blessings in recovery should allay some of the unpleasantness. Expressing gratitude should be part of your normal routine, whether you are home or away. How you do this is your choice. Prayer, meditation, walking in nature, reading inspirational literature or viewing an uplifting quote each day all work well for many in recovery.
Reconnect with Family
Vacation is an excellent time to re-establish family connections. Since addiction is a disease that affects the entire family, you all need this time away to reconnect, to enjoy each other’s company and have fun doing things together. Talk one-on-one and as a unit about things that matter, as well as trivial conversations where you laugh and have no predetermined outcome in mind. Walking the beach, shopping for souvenirs, trying out new cuisine, working a puzzle or playing a board game with loved ones and family members can create lasting memories and strengthen relationships that are an integral part of your recovery network.
Ease Back into Your Work Schedule
On your return home, knowing that you’re heading back to work and all the projects, tasks, duties and responsibilities, give yourself time to ease back into the schedule. If possible, arrange meetings or meeting attendance for a day or two after you come back to work. The residual glow from your vacation should help in this endeavor. Remember that you deserved time away and recognize that you are a valued employee, supervisor, co-worker and friend. Rather than detract from your recovery, now that you’ve taken a well-earned rest you’re better able to augment your ongoing recovery plans in conjunction with whatever comes up at work.
CAMH, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, “5.5 Building a self-care plan.” Retrieved May 17, 2017
MHA, Mental Health America, “Meditation.” Retrieved May 17, 2017
Psychology Today, “An Attitude of Gratitude: How to cultivate thanks-giving throughout the year.” Retrieved May 17, 2017
SMART Recovery, “Lifestyle Balance Pie.” Retrieved May 17, 2017