How to Minimize the Risk of Relapse When You Travel

How to Minimize the Risk of Relapse When You Travel

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Whether you’re traveling for the holidays, for work, or just for fun, traveling can be challenging if you’re recovering from addiction, especially early on. Travel can be stressful, it can take you away from your sober support system, it can take you out of your regular routine, and provide many temptations along the way. If you’re preparing for your first sober trip, here are some tips for minimizing your risk of cravings and relapse.

Resolve to stay sober.

Before you leave, resolve to stay sober on the trip. People sometimes feel that if they’re away from home, a little slip up doesn’t count. It definitely does count and it can come home with you. Even if no one knows about it, you’ll know and then you’ll be faced with the decision to be honest about it or to lie by omission. What’s more, people often let their guard down on happy occasions like vacations or holidays. They are used to relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with negative emotions but they may feel like it’s safe when they’re in a good mood. When imagining what scenarios you might encounter during your travels, don’t forget to make a plan for how to handle the good times too.

Choose your destination wisely.

You don’t always get to choose your destination when you travel, but if you do, pick some place where drugs and alcohol won’t be too much of a temptation. For example, you should probably skip Las Vegas or Napa Valley and choose some place that offers more sober options. It could be a big city with cultural and historical attractions, a place with a lot of natural beauty, or a theme park. 

Travel with a sober companion.

As with destinations, we don’t always get to choose our travel companions and sometimes you just have to travel alone. If you can, try to travel with a sober friend or at least someone who supports your sobriety. For one thing, it’s just more fun. You also are less likely to get bored and lonely, which is a big problem for some people in recovery. Traveling with a friend makes problems less stressful. Perhaps most importantly, traveling with a friend makes you more accountable. Someone else will know if you decide to take a little break from recovery. Just knowing that might be enough to keep you on track. If you are new to recovery and there is no one who can travel with you, consider hiring a personal recovery assistant, or PRA. A PRA can discreetly accompany you on business trips, to work parties, or family occasions and help you deal with the stresses and temptations of travel.

Minimize travel stress.

Travel can be incredibly stressful and stress is the biggest trigger for many people recovering from addiction. There are delayed flights, missed connections, lost bags, lost reservations, wrong turns, and the inevitable friction that comes with trying to get around an unfamiliar place. Try to think ahead and minimize travel stress. Carry on your luggage if you can. Book a direct flight if it’s available. Give yourself plenty of extra time to get where you need to go. Bring a book so you have something to do while sitting on the runway for an hour, waiting to take off. The fewer moving parts in your travel plans, the less likely you are to experience major headaches.

Call ahead about the minibar.

The last thing you want is to have a fridge full of alcohol in your hotel room, especially if you’re staying alone. Call the hotel and ask if there’s a minibar. If so, ask them to take out all the alcohol. Hotels are usually happy to oblige. Do the same if you are staying in an AirBnB. AirBnB proprietors typically won’t complain about saving their alcohol. 

Keep in touch with people at home.

When you’re on the road, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with the people at home. One reason is that traveling to a new place is often disorienting and talking to familiar people can help ground you. Talking to family or sober friends reminds you of your commitment to stay sober on your trip. It can also be a valuable source of support when you feel stress or cravings. You might want to arrange to check in every day with a sponsor or sober friend and chat about any problems you’re having. There are more ways to keep in touch now than ever, so there’s no excuse for not checking in, even if it’s only by text or Facebook message.

Stick to your recovery plan as much as you can.

Travel will inevitably disrupt your normal routine in some ways, but there are often elements of your recovery plan that you can preserve on the road. Journaling, inspirational reading, meditation, prayer, relaxation, reasonably healthy eating, are all things that you can typically do, even while traveling. If you attend 12-step meetings, you can probably find a meeting in the place you’re visiting. Find it ahead of time and schedule it so you’ll be more likely to attend. Some people like to attend a meeting as soon as they arrive to orient themselves and set the tone for the trip.

Beware of jet lag.

Jet lag can be a serious problem for some people. For example, it can trigger an episode of bipolar disorder, since people with bipolar are often sensitive to disruptions of their circadian rhythm. Jet lag can also disrupt sleep, leading to symptoms of depression and anxiety. When you’re recovering from addiction, it’s best to keep those to a minimum, especially since so many people start using drugs or alcohol to begin with as a way of coping with depression or anxiety.

Structure your time.

Whether you’re traveling for work or for fun, it’s not a good idea to have too much unstructured time in an unfamiliar place, especially if you’re alone. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so busy that you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Try to keep your schedule full enough to prevent boredom but leave enough margin for error that you don’t get too stressed when something goes wrong. 

If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, Hired Power and our team of dynamic, experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. We offer many services, including helping you choose the best treatment program and transitional services, including interventions, sober monitoring, and personal recovery assistants. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919.