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Planning a Sober Vacation? First, 7 Essential Tips

After weeks of unstructured, long summer days, the kids are in school and there is comfort as the night falls. Crisp autumn days breathe life into your fragile sobriety. Battle weary, you survived backyard barbeques, pool parties and even a family reunion with your perpetually drunk aunt asking you over and over, “why-o-why did you even give up wine?”

But summer is over and you feel better. As the kids have fallen into their routine, you’ve fallen into yours, redeploying recovery ammunition to build up strength:

  • Thirty minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night are devoted to journaling, reading recovery blogs and infusing your psyche with positive stories of successful sobriety.
  • Recovery meetings are back on the calendar, as is yoga, coffee and meet-ups with other sober friends. And, you have re-connected with your therapist.
  • You’ve stocked up on your favorite soft drinks and snacks, and have plenty of light reading, online games and brainless T.V. shows, that allow for indulgent relaxation.
  • Exercise is again part of your daily mix.

All is so much better this fall until your well-meaning husband drops this bomb, “Honey, where are we going for Christmas vacation this year?”

Vacation? Terror strikes at your very core and you immediately begin to worry about how you will survive your first vacation as a sober woman. To be out of your comfort zone at a beach, on a ski slope, at your in-laws makes you feel shaky. The worst place of all is being stuck in an airport where concourses are lined with bars, duty-free liquor and stress.

A vacation is supposed to be a retreat from the daily grind but that grind is what comforts you and helps you stay structured, through temptation.

The Buddha said, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.”

What are the tools needed to help you travel well?

    • Remind family and close friends that your sobriety is critical to your well-being and probably theirs. If going to a beach or on a ski trip is difficult this year, speak up. Firsts of any sort are hard in recovery so save the places that may cause a trigger for the time when you have more long-term sobriety. Consider a brand new location and/or someplace that is more focused on the outdoors and less on the drinking scene.


In contrast to past vacations, stay connected. Do NOT cut yourself off… stay in touch with your sober friends.-Polly E. Drew

    • In contrast to past vacations, stay connected. Do NOT cut yourself off from your daily life. Unlike your drinking days when you’d turn off your phone the minute you knocked back your first drink, stay in touch with your sober friends. Let them know that you are traveling and ask them to help keep you in touch through phone calls, text messages and email. One woman treated her daily Facebook posting through France’s wine country as her daily newsletter back home.


    • Once you’ve chosen a holiday, research activities that will interest you so you can get excited about something new and different. If finances allow — or, use your drinking money — treat yourself, every day, to an indulgence that will make you feel special.


    • If recovery meetings are a part of your real life, it’s adventurous and comforting to know that meetings are pretty much the same no matter where you are. Fellow attendees who are local to the area will often have information on great restaurants and attractions off the beaten path.


    • Just as you do in daily life, watch out for symptoms of H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, Tired). Just one of these can set you up for a trigger, or worse, a relapse.


    • Take your daily recovery toolbox on the road. Pack your pillow by compressing it with a Ziploc Space Bag to insure a good night’s sleep. Load your tablet with books, games, podcasts, music and bring a good set of earphones to escape, even in a room filled with people. Before you leave, pop for a roaming data package to keep in touch with your sober support group. Pack protein-rich snacks, chocolate and your favorite teas. Pack a journal to document your adventure and feelings about your first sober vacation.


  • Prepare to say “no thank you” to invitations that may invite temptation to drink. Explain to those you are traveling with that you may need to leave the group to stay sober.

If all goes as planned, you’ll rewrite your vacation history with new memories, and joys you did not expect.

Photo Source: istock

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