The easy answer is yes! And yes! Sobriety doesn’t interfere with your ability to enjoy yourself. In fact, if you’re accustomed to going on vacation and spending the whole time drunk, you’re probably accustomed to wasting a vacation. How can you appreciate a beautiful view, a local culture, art, or new people if you’re drunk? You might as well stay home.
The harder answer is that you are probably accustomed to going somewhere and drinking. Acclimation means you’re not sure what to do without alcohol, you might not know how to look for fun in a new place, and there’s a real risk that if you don’t do something, you’ll end up feeling bored, lonely, and left out. In fact, positive events like vacations are one of the easiest places to relapse, often because you feel like you deserve a celebration and alcohol is something you’ve always turned to as a celebration.
The good news is, you don’t need to anymore. Instead, you can actively take the time to seek out fun, good people, and things you want to do that don’t involve alcohol. You can choose to have a good time and you can plan things to do, so you won’t ever have to feel like you need booze to fall in love with life. Because honestly, you don’t.
Planning Your Destinations
The first rule of a sober vacation is quite simply, don’t go anywhere where drinking is the primary activity. While it’s true that weekend trips to Cancun and Daytona are probably out, there are thousands of sober-friendly vacation spots you can visit. Many of them are just as beautiful and offer just as many beaches. Instead, look for locations that offer activities, things you want to see, things you want to do, or other forms of entertainment. Think hikes, think achievements, think surfing, think camel rides, art museums, city tours, etc. The possibilities are endless.
- Party destinations
- City trips
- Art museums
- Exploration (explore the Grand Canyon)
- Fishing trips
What’s your goal? Look for a destination that offers activities. If it doesn’t have activities, you will get bored and you will likely experience more cravings than if you had something to do that wasn’t eating and drinking.
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Considering Your Company
Chances are that you’re accustomed to going on vacation with people who drink. You can’t go out with them anymore unless they’ve made equally life-altering decisions to recover. This can be extremely difficult if that group is your family. If you cannot trust your group not to start drinking around you or to try to get you to drink with them, you should not go with them.
It’s also important that everyone you travel with understands your position. Discussing your needs for sobriety, your commitment to your recovery, and the long process that got you there will help. Chances are, your friends and family are already aware of your recovery, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them and to discuss your needs while on vacation. This might include “Please don’t offer me a drink”, “Please don’t drink around me”, “Please don’t take us to any bars”, “Please don’t let me have a drink”, “please be my sober buddy”, etc.
It’s always a good idea to have someone along who can help you stay accountable during your trip. Even better if they understand where you’re coming from and won’t judge you for cravings.
Checking Coping Mechanisms and Local Sobriety Groups
Most vacation locations will eventually offer you alcohol. You might be alone in your hotel room and suddenly wistfully remember good times you had before and spot the mini bar. You might be out at a restaurant watching other people party. You might just be reminiscing about the good (not) old days. Chances are, you will experience cravings during your trip, and they might hit hard. Plan coping mechanisms and responses. Plan how to respond if someone offers you alcohol. Plan what to do about the mini bar.
It’s also a good idea to seek out local sobriety groups at your destination. While you won’t always find them, groups like AA are everywhere and they very often welcome guests. Most will often make a space for you, even on membership nights, if you write them in advance to explain your position. If you can’t, consider setting up a check-in or call with your sponsor or sobriety group at home. You can also stay tuned into recovery by listening to a good audiobook or recovery podcast.
It’s easy to go on vacation and decide you no longer have to take care of yourself. After all, you earned it, go wild. Unfortunately, skipping routines, exercise, and healthy meals might actually do more harm than good. 30+ minutes of light to moderate exercise per day will help you fight cravings, will boost your mood, and will give you more energy. You can take part in any exercise you already do or take part in active holiday outings like hiking, horseback riding, surfing, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Importantly, you probably don’t want to overdo it too much. Over-exhausting yourself can result in a crash, and you might have a harder time resisting cravings when very tired. Use your best judgement and take part in activities to your condition and have fun.
Seeking Out Things You Enjoy
Here’s the important bit. Look for things you enjoy. If you don’t know what you enjoy or like, you can probably try some of everything. Most people enjoy social events, experiencing new cultures, food, seeing things, participating in workshops, music, art, and much more. While the range of possibilities will vary a great deal depending on your destination, you can likely simply google the location, look at items to do, and select whatever looks fun. You can also pick up brochures from local tour guides, actually go on tours, or, if you’re traveling alone, consider couch surfing to experience more local culture.
It’s also important not to overdo it. You want to have fun, and that often means taking life at an easy pace, not rushing plans too much, and not stressing. Stress is one of the primary contributors to relapse. You’re here to enjoy yourself, not see all of Paris in 2 days.
Traveling for the first time after recovery can be daunting. While you may have a few hang-ups, it’s easy to plan what to do, keep good company, and make sure you have fun anyway. Most importantly, you’ll wake up every morning without the hangover and with a clear memory of everything you’ve done, so your trip will be that much more enjoyable, for the day, and for all the years you have those memories.
Recovering from a substance use disorder is difficult and you don’t have to do it alone. If you haven’t already been to a rehabilitation clinic, the visit will help you to stay sober. Modern alcohol addiction treatment involves taking a holistic approach, uncovering the root problems behind addiction, and helping individuals to solve their own problems, develop new behaviors that don’t involve alcohol, and to develop the skills to live a happy and healthy life without drinking. And, that does include traveling and enjoying yourself without drinking. Good luck on your