When you think of relaxing on vacation, what comes to mind? Fresh air? Cool water? Sandy toes? For a recovering alcoholic, a vacation can quickly turn into one huge temptation and possibly a relapse. It is possible to take a sober vacation, but it just requires a little extra planning.
Planning a vacation and simply stating that you aren’t going to drink is one thing, but why not go on a trip with other recovering alcoholics where serving alcohol isn’t even an option? The 30-year-old travel company Sober Vacations International (SVI) does just that, offering vacation packages with recovery meetings scheduled daily. In its 30 years, SVI has organized over 100 sober trips and almost 84 percent of its clients are returning participants. According to owner Steve Abrams, these trips give individuals the support to do things that scared them without alcohol.
So what is a typical trip like? For their most popular trip, the company buys out Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico, a hacienda-style family resort. During the week, Club Med puts the alcohol away and serves sodas, mocktails, and coffee. Support meetings are held every day for those who need a little extra encouragement. SVI already has trips planned to Thailand, Hawaii, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Cuba. Sober Celebrations and Clean Getaway Travel are great sober travel options too, with trips scheduled for Sicily, South Africa, and the British Isles.
Support will be one of your strongest allies in maintaining your sobriety. Bring along a trusted friend or family member to hold you accountable and help you to remove yourself from a situation that becomes uncomfortable. If traveling alone, stay connected. Designate an accountability partner and ask them to check in with you daily via phone calls and texts. Ask them to have their phone available at all times should you need them. If you are involved in recovery meetings, find a meeting in the area to keep the routine going.
Be prepared to have to say no to invitations that will tempt you to drink. If you find yourself in a location where alcohol is served, alert the bartender to your sobriety and ask that they don’t serve you any alcohol. It is important that you explain to those you are traveling with that you may have to leave suddenly in order to stay sober. Have an escape route planned by ensuring that you have access to a car or a phone to call a cab. If you feel uneasy about having to come up with a reason to leave, bring along your service dog or non-service pet. They are attuned to changes in your emotions, and can recognize the signs of a panic attack or uneasy situation. In addition, taking the dog outside to use the bathroom is an excellent way to get some fresh air and leave if needed. Just don’t forget to pack a travel bag for Fido, and keep him safe while traveling.
As much as you want to take that vacation, sometimes you just aren’t ready and that’s okay. No one knows how you are feeling better than you do, and if something about the trip gives you pause or makes you uneasy, go with your gut. There will be other trips, and in the meantime, you can focus on building up your toolkit and continue down the sober road. A large part of recovery is learning when to say no, and as crazy as it sounds, saying no to a vacation or other fun activity may be necessary at this stage in your journey.
Vacations are an escape from the stresses of everyday life, but if you are trying to stay sober, a vacation may not offer the escape you need. Look into sober travel options and plan ahead to get the most out of your vacation. Take a vacation only when you are ready.
What tips do you have for others traveling sober?