How to Stay Sober on Vacation

09 July 2017

Originally Published:
30 June 2017

Summer is here and the warmth radiating into the office window conjures up dreams of poolside lounge chairs and remote sun-kissed beaches. While you mentally plan your dream getaway and add pins to your vacation planning Pinterest board, guilty and anxious thoughts about drinking can trickle in. You don’t want to throw away your sober lifestyle for two weeks at an all-inclusive resort. If thoughts of getting loaded on vacation are making you uncomfortable, you aren’t alone.

I recently got married at an all-inclusive resort. Not only did I stay sober, but I had the time of my life. It is possible to vacation and stay sober around people who drink, but it requires a bit of forethought and a lot of acceptance.

Traveling while sober can be daunting. The first time I had to travel after getting sober I was only a couple months away from my last drunk. I had to go from Argentina to Uruguay and back again to renew my visa. It’s a trip I had taken half a dozen times before, but on previous journeys I always drank. Relaxing in the tranquility of the Uruguayan pueblo, Colonia del Sacramento, went hand in hand with drinks to unwind and wine with dinner. Realizing that I had to take that trip again, without drinking, gave me immense anxiety–until I asked a sober friend to go with me.

These are some tips that have helped me protect my sobriety while on vacation:

Pre-Trip Organizing

Knowing you aren’t going to return to a dirty home or an unmanageable pile of work can help you relax while on vacation. Do what you can to leave your daily life comfortably organized. Make sure you have an idea of what the environment and different activities will be where you’re going, to relieve and plan around any possible triggers while on vacation.

I am patient with myself on this step. I don’t push myself into the stress zone just to clean my apartment. However, I do make sure I take care of key things before I take off on a trip. I create a list of must-dos like taking out all the garbage, throwing out food that will spoil when I’m gone and doing the dishes. I know the frustration of returning to those things is not a good place for me to be.

Don’t Pack Your Expectations

Your vacation might be a disaster, or it could be the best experience of your life. Either way, you can stay sober and content. If you can keep yourself from being emotionally tied to expectations, you will safeguard yourself from being dragged to dangerous extremes.

I’m such a perfectionist that if I put too much pressure on myself and don’t live up to it, I’m in danger of falling back down the rabbit hole. It isn’t a race, it’s about the journey and it’s about right now. Leaving my expectations behind helps me to focus on what is happening in the moment. My peace and serenity must be found within me. The location or situation does not get to determine my serenity. The outside world can only enhance this center, not diminish or control it.

Expect Surprises

You should be ready to not be ready. Travel always entails an element of surprise. A sense of humor is a great tool for staying tolerant of disruptions. If we want to live peacefully in the present we must acknowledge and correct our problems when they happen. We don’t have any choice about the thoughts that pop into our minds, but we can choose what to do next.

Doing a little planning for the unknown won’t take long and can prove immensely helpful. Planning ahead can include anticipating possible issues that might arise while you are on vacation. You cannot predict every misfire, but you can arm yourself with coping strategies. Some strategies might include: texting a supportive person; downloading guided meditations to your phone and keeping headphones in your pocket; a list of contacts to call in an emergency.

Continue reading the full article on The Fix

Kristance Harlow

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