Sober Travel: How Not to Get High in the Skies

Sober Travel: How Not to Get High in the Skies

We are approaching the time of Winter when people often travel to warm destinations, or even cold locations to engage in Winter sports. This is also the season for school vacations and Spring Break. Many people look forward to as well as save money and work vacation time to enjoy. However, for those in early recovery, these trips can elicit fear as well as excitement for several reasons. In the past, vacations may have been a time of heavy drinking and drug usage. Traveling to a location that was a place of heavy use in the past, can bring up fears about relapse and feeling vulnerable. Going to new locations on a trip is a change in schedule and routine that for some, can cause feelings of anxiety or restlessness. If work was a distraction from thinking about substance usage, vacations can also be a time when you are more mindful of your emotions and it can be harder to avoid thoughts and feelings. Additionally, vacations can become synonymous with “celebrations” and closely tied to alcohol and/or drug use.  

Does being sober mean that you shouldn’t travel? Absolutely not. It means that there are strategies that can be implemented to ensure success while in different environments. The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) Institute teaches healthcare professionals various techniques for supporting clients when they do leave home for a business or pleasure trip. Given the flexibility of having a mobile treatment team, there are many ways that treaters can help their clients that extend beyond traditional clinical care. The IHAT Institute can also prepare addiction professionals for supporting clients in implementing, but not limited to, the following travel relapse prevention strategies:

  • Set limits in terms of the amount of time spent in heavy drinking environments
  • Travel with a friend or other loved one who is supportive of sobriety
  • Choose not to attend events that would increase chances you may drink
  • Be sure to have transportation options that will allow you to leave the event early if necessary (Uber, cab, bike, friend, etc.)
  • Schedule check in calls and texts throughout the trip with IHAT treatment team members
  • Avoid traveling with “toxic” relationships
  • Be open to using SoberLink remote breathalyzer and drug testing on or after the trip for increased accountability
  • Practice stress reduction techniques during this time of year (ie, exercise, yoga, swimming, meditation, massage, etc.)
  • Schedule activities that will not involve alcohol or drugs
  • Attend self-help meetings (A.A., N.A., SMART Recovery, etc.)
  • Listen to and download 12-Step meeting speakers for free on xa-speakers.org
  • Bring along recovery related reading material
  • Be honest about your emotions with travel companions
  • Avoid “people pleasing”, as this involves trying to keep other people happy while neglecting your own needs
  • Let go of other’s expectations and opinions-If you have a healthy relationship, then they will respect your personal choices
  • Have “down time” on the trip 
  • Find new ways to enjoy traveling and different rewards than were used in the past

By: Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC

 

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