For those in early recovery, the thought of going on vacation may induce more anxiety than excitement, but there is no reason that being sober should spoil your trip. Here are some hints to avoid relapsing or feeling like the odd one out.
Don’t Pick a Party Zone
There are some destinations that are famous for attracting people who want to take drugs, drink large amounts of alcohol or gamble. If you’re newly sober you’ll want to avoid these particular spots, not only to limit temptation, but because you may feel uncomfortable around inebriated people. Some cities to cross off your vacation wish list for this reason include Las Vegas, New Orleans and Amsterdam.
Spring break hot spots in Florida and regions of Spain and Greece are also known for drawing in people who just want to get drunk, but there are also beautiful parts of these areas which aren’t party zones. Do your research using travel review websites to check that a particular area won’t be packed with drunken tourists. If you really yearn to visit one of these beach towns, go during the winter or fall when these destinations are quieter and less crowded and choose your resort carefully. Going a few miles away from known party zones may mean you can still enjoy the other things these areas have to offer without being bombarded by party-goers.
Choose Somewhere Cultural or Family-Friendly
Some cities and countries are more famous for their culture than for cheap drinks and happy hours. Perhaps you could plan a road trip across the US, taking in the beautiful cultural spots like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite or other National Parks. Or enjoy the historical sites and museums of Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. In Europe, cities like Prague, Rome, Budapest and Vienna all have plenty of culture to offer and many World Heritage sites.
You could choose a particular activity that you want to do – vacations focused on safaris or hiking are not as likely to attract heavy drinkers. Child-friendly places like Disney’s theme parks are fun, and you are unlikely to encounter excessive alcohol consumption there.
Pick Your Vacation Package Carefully
Avoid all-inclusive vacations, where all food and drink is included in the cost of the package. These types of trips can attract people who want to get drunk cheaply. All-inclusive packages are priced to include alcohol, so you may feel like your money is being wasted because you don’t drink. Instead, opt for hotels or other accommodations where you can choose to just include breakfast in your booking.
Services like Airbnb mean you needn’t be around partying vacationers or hotel bars at all, as you will be hosted in someone else’s home. Using a website like Airbnb even allows you to ask hosts about the area before booking to check that it is suitable and you can choose from a range of lodgings and price points. Airbnb rentals are often cheaper than hotels and your room won’t include a minibar. You can specifically tell your host when you book that you are in recovery and ask that they don’t leave alcohol within reach.
Indulge in Local Food and Drink
Many countries and cities have culinary specialties with unusual and tasty options you’ve not tried before — including drinks, such as Latte dimandorla in Italy and Kinnie in Malta. Ask whether foreign drinks on a restaurant menu contain alcohol if you’re not sure. Choosing a local specialty coffee or tea or a drink from a vending machine is usually safe and good eateries should offer a range of non-alcoholic beverages for you to enjoy.
Fill up on hearty local delicacies so you feel satisfied and energized. Check that none of the dishes contain alcohol. For example, stay away from desserts like tiramisu. Many main courses are cooked in wine or liquor, but the alcohol content should be cooked off as the dish is heated. You probably wouldn’t be ingesting any alcohol content with such a dish, but many sober people prefer to avoid these meals as the smell or taste of an old poison can induce cravings.
Take a Responsible Companion
It’s a good idea to go on vacation with someone who is either in recovery themselves or somebody who understands the importance of your sobriety. If someone respects your recovery, you won’t be dragged into bars, and they’ll be happy to do other sober activities, such as sight-seeing.
You could choose to travel solo, but you risk your old alcoholic thoughts creeping up on you if you’re newly sober. Being somewhere foreign alone also means you may feel alienated and be prey to intrusive thoughts such as “no-one will know if I have a drink.” So most people new to recovery find it better to travel with a sober or considerate friend.
It is also perfectly possible to go on holiday with a sensible drinker, as long as they respect your sobriety. But you are much more likely to be offered a complementary after-dinner drink in a restaurant if your friend has ordered an alcoholic drink with their meal. Be prepared for that by rehearsing how you would politely refuse. The restaurant may offer a free soft drink or sweet as a substitute.
Take Reminders of Your Sobriety
Carry something that reminds you of why you’re staying sober in your purse or pocket, like an AA chip or a sobriety gift. If you are struggling, there are fellowship meetings all over the world. If you can’t find one, you can download AA speaker audio recordings or join an online meeting.
If you like to read on vacation, take fellowship literature or a book which is positive and helpful to your recovery. Above all, enjoy yourself. Being sober, you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to enjoy the fun, new experiences, beautiful sights and interesting activities that vacations can offer.