For those in recovery, summer vacations can disrupt the routine necessary to support sobriety. Lack of structure is a main cause of relapse in any addiction, so it’s important to take your program with you when you travel.
As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” When packing for your trip, try these tips for taking along resources for all four areas of your recovery – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Meetings – Before leaving for your destination, research local meeting schedules for your 12-step programs and commit to attend as many meetings as you can while away from home. There’s no better way to stay sober than sharing experience, strength and hope in the fellowship of other 12-steppers. Check out New Leaf Center Resources for 12-step fellowship websites that include meeting locators.
Phone Calls – Pack your phone list of support people to call while away to just check in, or to ask for help if and when you’re triggered while on the road. Have the numbers in your cell phone for quick and easy access. Commit to make at least one support call each day to stay connected to other recovering people, and, obviously, be sure to include your sponsor — or sponsors if you are active in more than one 12-step group.
Literature – Also pack literature from any and all 12-step groups to which you belong. Daily readers work well for this purpose and can give you a springboard for a discussion with whichever support person you call that day. Many readers are available electronically, so you can have access to as many as you have downloaded onto your device.
Writing – Journal as much as possible while you’re away. Writing down your thoughts and feelings fosters a better understanding of your behavior and reactions to situations in a way that often isn’t revealed by simply thinking or talking about them. Recording a daily gratitude list is helpful as part of your writing.
Service – Small acts of kindness for fellow travelers or for those living in the destination you visit go a long way in getting outside of yourself. Reaching out with service to a stranger and/or fellow sufferer adds to the quality of your own recovery. You may even choose to do volunteer work in the area you visit.
Spiritual Connection – Whatever your Higher Power may be, take at least five minutes each day of your vacation to spiritually connect in whatever way works for you. For some, spending time in nature does the trick. For others, it’s prayer, meditation, or reading inspirational literature. It’s the act of connecting — not the specific activity of doing so — that matters most.
Exercise – If you’re not planning an active vacation, make time in your schedule to move your body either via participation in some type of sport or in simple activities like walking or swimming. Body movement oftentimes helps release the energy rooted in our emotions. E-motions are energy in motion! Giving that energy an outlet supports sobriety.
Nutrition – Pay attention to what you eat while away. Too often, we stray from healthy eating habits while traveling, which can compromise our sobriety and reduce our tolerance for the stressors that are an inevitable part of travel. Making wise food choices regardless of your location is a simple way to take your recovery on the road.
Sleep – Be mindful of getting enough sleep – generally 7-8 hours each night. While vacations can be fun and exciting, they also can be exhausting and disruptive to our normal sleep routine. In addition to paying attention to your sleep while away, plan a day of down-time upon your return home to unwind and prepare for re-entry into your daily life.
These simple – yet not easy – tasks of taking your recovery on vacation with you can make the difference in returning home solid in your recovering self or rocky from a slip or relapse. Make the commitment to plan your vacation in a way that respects your hard-earned recovery.
Jackie MacKay, M.A., LMHC, NCC, CSAT