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Ryan Ross
Ryan Ross

How To Avoid Relapse While On Vacation

On top of that, you can't attend your home group meeting, and you haven't heard from your sponsor in two days. How does anyone stay sober during the holidays? Here are seven tried-and-true tips and strategies that will prepare you for the holidays, help you avoid relapse and protect you from any uncomfortable situations.

How to Avoid Relapse While on Vacation

If you know Cousin Sadie is going to grill you about rehab, avoid her. If Uncle Brian is going to mix you a stiff drink, stay away from him. If the office New Year's party is really all about drinking or other drug use, make a brief appearance or don't attend. It's unrealistic in all of these scenarios to say, "I can soldier through it." That's what Step One of the Twelve Steps teaches us, right? That we don't have the power. So why put yourself in the position of having to "power through" an obstacle course of relapse triggers? Staying sober and safeguarding your recovery must always come first.

Safeguarding your sobriety is of paramount importance. From travel-related stress to being far from your support network, keep these factors and tips in mind to help you avoid relapse while on vacation.

Relapse during the holidays is a real hurdle that you can overcome, but it takes preparation and knowledge of your triggers to confront. The best way to avoid relapse is to know your holiday relapse triggers, problem-solve to avoid or manage them and use professional guidance to do so.

Holidays can be a difficult time for people in recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD). A person with alcohol addiction issues may suffer a relapse and return to drinking while on vacation from school or work.1 Learn more about how holidays and vacations can affect people who have a history of alcohol misuse.

In the United States, celebrations are often an opportunity for social drinking.2 Holidays and vacations frequently include traditions around alcohol. During celebrations, people may drink far more than usual. As a result, most states experience a sharp rise in alcohol-related accidents around major holidays. Thousands of revelers face arrest or injury due to drunk driving.3 Others slip, fall, or cut themselves while intoxicated. 3

Holidays and vacations can involve a lot of downtime. If you have nothing planned, you might find yourself more vulnerable to relapse. Staying busy during holidays can provide a distraction. A busy schedule also provides a convenient excuse for abstaining from alcohol.

For others, the taste of alcohol may trigger them to want more. Speaking with you sponsor as soon as possible can help you navigate the feelings that arise and put a plan in place to avoid further relapse.

Treatment centers like Riverside Recovery of Tampa can also help you or your loved one determine if treatment is necessary and what the best options are to get back on track. Some people are able to recover from a relapse with the help of their support systems while others might benefit from a day/night program or outpatient treatment.

Developing a relapse plan is helpful in preventing future relapses. With the help of a professional addiction clinical team, therapist, or sponsor, work through why you relapsed and create a prevention plan that outlines how to avoid those scenarios in the future.

Having a thought-out plan before diving into holiday activities is perhaps the best way to avoid relapse. Keep in mind that recovery does not mean you have to miss out on festivities altogether. If you are invited to a party, just be sure to make a plan first, so that you will know exactly what to do if something goes wrong. This will keep you from getting caught off guard. Ask yourself things like:

You can get reasonable accommodations that you need because of a disability that you had in the past.[8] You might be able to get an altered schedule, for example, if you need it to attend a support group meeting or therapy session that will help you avoid relapse.

While you should always be aware of your triggers to drink, it is especially important to be proactive in managing your triggers during the holidays. The most common triggers fall under the HALT acronym; when you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. To avoid a relapse on alcohol during the holidays, make sure you take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

It is extremely common for individuals in recovery from alcoholism to relapse due to stress and anxiety. However, this is completely avoidable with a little bit of education, effort, and the use of self-regulation strategies.[2] When you begin to feel stressed during the holidays, take a few minutes to decompress by yourself and consider meditating or completing a short, anxiety-relieving activity. While doing this, push away the alcohol cravings.

For many, a vacation means staying in a tropical getaway and drinking cocktails. For others, it means stressful situations that can lead to relapse. While traveling sober can be a great opportunity to find new passions and bring new meaning to your life in recovery, it should not be used as a way to avoid your problems.

Your trip should be filled with happiness and excitement, not anxiety and fears of relapse. Using a vacation to escape obstacles during early recovery can slow your progress and prevent you from enjoying your time away from home. In early recovery, you need to focus on sobriety.

And, if you already have plans to travel or attend gatherings this summer, check out these tips for protecting yourself outdoors, improving indoor airflow and what to do if you get sick while on vacation.

Other smokers. When friends, family, and co-workers smoke around you, it can be doubly difficult to give up or avoid relapse. Talk about your decision to quit so people know they won't be able to smoke when you're in the car with them or taking a coffee break together. In your workplace, find non-smokers to have your breaks with or find other things to do, such as taking a walk.

People can relapse when things are going well if they become overconfident in their ability to manage every kind of situation that can trigger even a momentary desire to use. Or they may be caught by surprise in a situation where others around them are using and not have immediate recourse to recovery support. Or they may believe that they can partake in a controlled way or somehow avoid the negative consequences. Sometimes people relapse because, in their eagerness to leave addiction behind, they cease engaging in measures that contribute to recovery. They may focus less on self-care.

Having daily structures in place is essential to staying sober, and that strategy also applies to the time spent on vacation. Planning and scheduling activities in advance can help those in recovery avoid boredom and situations where drugs and alcohol may be easily accessible.

Sober traveling companions can often hold those in recovery accountable for staying sober and avoiding risky situations that could lead to drug and alcohol use. Choosing to vacation with friends and relatives who can commit to staying sober is often far safer than bringing those who intend on spending their time drinking and partying.

Relapse can be tempting while on vacation, which is why those in recovery need to have access to people in their support system at any given time. That may include friends, relatives, addiction treatment professionals, and sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

When going on vacation, people in recovery should bring the contact information for those in their support systems, along with smartphones, tablets, or computers that allow them to stay connected via phone calls, text messages, email, social media, and video chat. Another great way to stay connected to the recovery community while vacationing is to find and attend at least one local AA or NA meeting.

Bringing a stack of magazines or books to read can be a fun way to engage in these common vacation activities, which generally require a sharp, sober mind. Books and magazines can also help pass the time while traveling for hours by car, boat, train, or airplane.

Physical relapse is the final stage in which drug use occurs, but also includes the active steps made to acquire them. These can look like contacting a dealer or driving to a liquor store. In this stage, the individual has begun taking active steps to acquire their substance of choice. While it is difficult to stop while this stage of relapse is in motion, it is not impossible to interrupt. The best means of doing so is to preemptively imagine these types of scenarios and prepare exit strategies.

Coping mechanisms for eating disorders range from practicing mindfulness to avoiding the triggering situation altogether. Some individuals may choose to engage in more therapy sessions around the holidays or join a support group while others may choose to only engage in positive conversation and avoid being around certain types of food. Practicing self-care and recognizing what works for you can help prevent fear of relapse during a holiday party of a holiday vacation.

Most people spend days, weeks or even months planning their vacation. There are so many decisions to make, such as what to wear, which activities to do, which restaurants to visit and how much money to spend. Individuals in eating disorder recovery need to be even more vigilant about vacation planning because they are at an increased risk of relapse if they encounter unexpected triggers on their vacation.


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