If you’re recently sober, you’re probably unsure of what to do when on vacation. After all, the image most of us conjure when thinking about travel is sandy beaches, booze in the sun, and likely hitting up the local nightlife for more drinking after. But, what if you’re sober? Can you still have fun?
The good news is, yes you can. However, if you’re asking this question, you probably have to do some significant work in helping yourself to figure out what you enjoy, what fun is, and how you can have fun without alcohol.
If you’re traveling, you’re putting yourself at risk of a relapse. That’s because positive events, including traveling for business, put us in a good mood. We remember how much fun we used to have when drinking. Then, we start craving alcohol. And, if you’re at a vacation destination with bars on every corner, you’re significantly more likely to have that available, with little or even no oversight or accountability. Your friends and family are likely not there, your sober buddies are somewhere else, and you can’t even go to group and share whether you were or were not true to your recovery.
The bad news is that the only way to stop that cycle is to acknowledge that it comes from a place of glorifying substance abuse. You remember the good times and ignore the bad ones, and then you find yourself craving alcohol. The thing is, being drunk probably ruined more than a few vacations for you. You spend more than planned, you wake up with a hangover, you take risks, you might end up in jail, and you hurt yourself and the people who care about you. There’s nothing fun about that.
Coming out of addiction can be extremely difficult, often because you’ve lost touch with the things that you used to enjoy. Unhealthy coping mechanisms and substance abuse can also limit your ability to enjoy things that aren’t’ drugs and alcohol. You might not even know what you like to do that isn’t drinking. That can be extremely difficult to plan around. However, you likely have some idea of what you enjoyed before and why.
Here, leaning into activities that allow you to move and get blood flowing can help. Exercise boosts your mood, triggers neurotransmitter, hormone, and endorphin production, and therefore allows you to feel good. So, activities like hiking, dancing, sports, skiing, and surfing are great ways to boost your mood and feel good. Exercise is almost always fun on at least some level. If you went to rehab, you probably already have a pretty good idea of that. After all, most inpatient treatment centers are built around using exercise and physical wellbeing to feel better.
Most people enjoy food, culture, socializing, workshops, music, and art. Unfortunately, a lot of these options involve alcohol. If you can’t be around alcohol, you’ll have to carefully choose venues and look for sober options. Or, have someone with you who can hold you accountable while you’re there.
It’s understandable you want to go somewhere and see everything there is to see, do everything there is to do, but that’s bad for you. Exhaustion and stress are primary contributors to relapse. In addition, if you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to feel cravings. That means you want to make time to relax and to do nothing. That might mean spending a few hours on the beach relaxing, it might mean getting a massage, it might mean making sure you plan in several hours of relaxation at a spa or a restaurant at several points throughout the day. It also means avoiding creating a schedule that is too hectic or rushed. If you feel tired, you should be able to go back to your hotel and relax without disrupting your plans.
Gong on a vacation can be self-sabotage if you go somewhere where all there is to do is drink. For example, it’s usually a bad idea to go on a cruise or somewhere like Ibiza. Weekend trips to Daytona are probably out. Why? Most of the activities are about nightlife, drinking, and usually food. If you’re staying sober, you’ll be surrounded by drunk people who are really just there to let go for the weekend. That can be terrible as well as tempting.
If you’re trying to have fun while staying sober, you want to choose destinations that have more to do than drink. That might mean hiking, seeing the sights, going on a city tour, taking part in local culture, seeing museums, going to festivals, etc.
In addition, you might want to avoid trips that involve long periods of boredom when there is alcohol. E.g., you might be fine going on a fishing trip if there’s no alcohol on board, but if there is, you might find yourself waiting with nothing to do but drink.
You can always go on a city trip or a hiking trip alone. But, you might end up feeling lonely and you might resort to drinking. With no one to hold you accountable, going places on your own may be a risk. Of course, it might not be. Having the opportunity to prove to yourself that you’re in control, to get in touch with yourself, and to be accountable to yourself can be extremely important as well. Here, it might depend on how far you are into recovery. E.g., a hiking trip on your own can be a great way to have some time to yourself while limiting exposure to alcohol.
But, if you’re going on a city trip, it’s a great idea to make sure you have someone with you. Choose someone who knows you don’t want to and can’t drink. You also want to pick someone who can hold you accountable. If not, you might want to ask your sober buddy to call and check up on you or if you can give them daily updates.
Finally, if you’re going with a group, they have to be respectful of your needs. Planning in trips to bars or festivals might be a bad call for you. That might mean refusing to go on vacation with family members who aren’t willing to give up that aspect of their vacation. For example, even being left alone in a hotel by yourself while friends and family can be significantly bad for your mental health. So, your best option is to travel with other sober or mostly sober people.
Traveling for the first time while sober can be daunting. However, if you pick your destination well, decide on things you want to do, and go looking for fun that isn’t alcohol, there’s no reason why you can’t have fun. Whether that works out to hiking, going to museums, or seeing architecture doesn’t matter, so long as you can do things that are fun at the same time. Finally, it’s also a good idea to check into local sobriety groups if you feel like you need accountability. Many will allow guest visitors to step into meetings. You can also message them upfront and explain your situation and ask to be included in regular meetings.
Otherwise, you should always try to make sure you’re invested in doing fun things, in taking part in local culture, and in experiencing your destination. That, plus physical activity and there’s no reason why you can’t have a lot of fun on your sober vacation.
Asana Recovery provides a full continuum of highly effective drug rehab and alcohol rehab programs. If you have questions for yourself, or your loved one, contact us today to speak in complete confidence with one of our experienced and caring addiction treatment team.