Top 10 Ways to Stay Sober on Vacation
Getting away from everyday routine can be the perfect tool for reducing relapse dangers by reducing stress—or it can be a minefield of temptations with drinks on every corner, the temptation to cut loose while nobody’s looking, and old stresses in new disguises. Here are our ten best tips for ensuring you’ll return to work as sober as the day you left.
1. DON’T BE OVERCONFIDENT
Even if you’ve been sober for months, changes in routine can mean unanticipated stresses and temptations. Vacations don’t always run smoothly. Reduced daily responsibility doesn’t mean you can do anything you want. When you accept in advance that you’ll still have to avoid drug-use triggers and that circumstances won’t always make that easy, you have a head start on resisting any temptations that come along.
2. TRY NOT TO GO IT ALONE
Sharing your vacation with family or friends—especially those who have been supportive throughout your sobriety journey—is good protection from “no one will know” rationalizations and from getting caught off guard. And if you need a cup of coffee at that gas-station convenience store, someone else can go inside and spare you the sight of a beer display by the checkout counter.
3. MAKE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS
If you aren’t already familiar with your destination town, their Chamber of Commerce website is a good place to find information on motels and restaurants that don’t have prominent bars. Pulling into the first place with a vacancy can be a dangerous step into unknown territory, especially when you’re tired and stressed.
4. SET A BUDGET
Allocating vacation funds for specific uses will not only reduce temptations to buy drinks on impulse, it’ll keep you from running up debt that could lead to new stresses and temptations down the road.
5. MAKE UP YOUR MIND IN ADVANCE TO SAY “NO”
Unlike most drugs, alcohol is considered a perfectly natural feature of many public events and friendly gatherings. If you’re in a new place, it’s hard to be 100 percent certain the waiter won’t hand you a wine list or that beer isn’t a standard feature at the town festival—even if you follow all the above tips judiciously. Have a plan in place for how you’ll say “no” to a drink if caught off guard.
6. DON’T TRY TO SEE EVERYTHING AND DO EVERYTHING
The stress of rushing about can ruin your vacation. And if you treat the full roster of local attractions as an achievement contest with prizes for finishing everything, you’ll not only drive yourself to distraction and possibly to drink, you’ll miss more than you would if you devoted more attention to fewer things. Pick the options you’d really like, and show them the respect of your full attention.
7. APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE
Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you can’t afford as expensive a vacation as you’d like, because it rains too many days or because you get a mid-vacation email from a friend who seems to be having more fun somewhere else. Concentrate on enjoying yourself right where you are.
8. IF YOU’RE SEEING OLD FRIENDS, DON’T LET THEM REACTIVATE OLD HABITS
Of course, you’ll think twice before accepting invitations from anyone who remembers you only as a drinking buddy. But even sober and responsible people can be a problem if “social drinking” was always taken for granted at your gatherings. If you expect someone will automatically provide your favorite cocktail, do tell them in advance you don’t drink anymore. You don’t have to give them—or anyone who exclaims “You not having wine?!?”—all the details on your drinking problem.
9. MAKE NEW FRIENDS
Seeing old friends is great, but making new ones means there are no “old you” memories clouding the impression made by the current you. Whether you’re on a cruise, at a resort or in a motel breakfast nook, make time to get acquainted with fellow vacationers.
10. ARRANGE TO KEEP UP SUPPORT-GROUP PARTICIPATION
Especially if your vacation schedule will keep you out of town for more than one regular support-group meeting, arrange to have your closest supporters send you updates. If you’ll be away for some time, it’s a good idea to also attend meetings sponsored by your support organization (or its nearest equivalent) in your vacation town. Even during a welcome break from routine, consistency is important to sobriety!