For people recovering from mild alcohol use disorder (AUD), traveling after rehab can be a great way to signal a new chapter in one’s life. Traveling allows the brain to experience new things, which promotes the creation of new connections and the healing of old traumas, which are often responsible for AUD. When properly planned, it could also be a good way to apply learnings one had in rehab, which may help recovering individuals be more confident in their sobriety.
We have a few tried-and-tested ideas for enjoying an alcohol-free vacation below. If you suspect that you or someone close to you has an alcohol use disorder, please get in touch with our expert team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers for a comprehensive listing of treatment programs in North Texas.
1.) Choose a “sober” destinationIf you can choose where to go, avoid places where alcohol is readily available. Party destinations and places known for cheap, readily available booze should have less priority over natural wonders and cultural sites. There are also plenty of countries all over the world that regulate or outright ban alcohol sales, so these may be worth considering. Muslim countries are an obvious choice, but Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, and Singapore also have drinking cultures that make it easy for people who are trying to recover from AUD.
2.) Be open about your problem with your traveling companions
People who travel usually want to enjoy themselves, especially if it’s a vacation. For a lot of people, this usually means they want to drink or sample some of the famous beverages in other places.
If you keep your desire to be sober secret, it may lead to a few awkward situations, depending on your relationship with your companions. First, your they may unintentionally pressure you to drink with them. Second, they may feel a bit deprived if their idea of a good time is to share drinks with close friends.
Of course, disclosing your AUD is always going to be your choice. However, by setting expectations even before the trip, you can avoid some last-minute awkwardness that could compromise your sobriety and friendship. By being frank about your recovery, you give your friends or family members time to readjust, which puts them in a better position to help you reach your sobriety goals.
3.) Let yourself indulge in other things a little
Just because you’ve committed to staying sober, there’s nothing that should stop you from sampling the local cuisines, doing a little shopping, and taking in a few unique local activities and attractions. You can still let loose without drinking, and doing so is probably going to be good for you at this point in recovery.
4.) Plan to be busy
If you have time to plan things, try to line up and book a lot of different activities in advance. Boredom and anxiety are major substance use triggers for many people with AUD. Traveling can be especially challenging, given that it often involves a fair amount of downtime. Having something to do or look forward to can reduce the amount of downtime, and hopefully the odds of encountering strong drinking triggers.
5.) Take a good camera and a journal with you
Thankfully most phones today have decent cameras and microphones, so you can make quick vlog journals and take pictures of things that interest you during your trip. Not only will these activities keep you busy, documenting your recovery can help you make better sense of it. However, you may still want to keep a regular paper journal so that you’re better able to quickly look through your entries and review your progress.
6.) Continue important parts of your recovery routine
While it’s good to let loose after the arduous initial recovery period, some structure is still important for maintaining the foundations of your healing. If you’re still in the early part of recovery, it’s important to continue most or all of the routines that you found helpful. For instance, if exercise and meditation were especially beneficial to your unique recovery journey, you will want to make time for these activities whenever you can.
7.) Look up therapists and AUD support groups in advance
For many people, their regular therapist and support group meetings are the most vital part of their routine. These days, there are few reasons to skip these when traveling. In most places in the US, you can find local therapists and AUD support groups who could help you maintain your mental health hygiene while you’re out on the road. If these aren’t available, you can always book online sessions with groups and therapists you trust.
Though not for everyone, taking a vacation after the stressful initial recovery period is something well worth considering. When planned well, vacations can be an excellent way for people with mild AUD to heal and move on from alcohol-related trauma. They can provide a way to put the learnings one had in rehab or counseling into better context and help the recovering individual build the confidence they need to address AUD even when stepping out of a routine.
In any case, please see your therapist or counselor and ask them if going on vacation is safe for you at your stage of recovery. Good luck, and stay sober!