Tips for a safe and sober holiday
The thought of staying sober when you’re away on holiday or over any kind of holiday period can be overwhelming. Doing so for somebody in recovery can be ruinous – sobriety on vacation is a bit of a minefield. However, it needn’t hold you back. You deserve to have a holiday as much as anybody; you deserve to enjoy yourself on holiday, making the most of an often well-needed break and getting to catch up with friends and loved ones.
There is plenty you can do to make this happen. There are things you can put into place to make sure that your sober holiday is enjoyable, fulfilling, and relatively stress free.
We’ve put together a list of these tips. Remember, you are in recovery. Alcohol and drugs are not an option, nor is anything else that may trigger your addiction. These tips respect this fact; they show you how you can protect your recovery and still enjoy your holiday. This is essential to making the most of your new, sober lifestyle.
Six tips for a sober holiday
A sober holiday can be a great thing. It can be as enjoyable and rewarding as anything else (though often perhaps quieter!) These six tips will help you get there and find the joy and relaxation you want.
1. Plan your escape in advance
If you ever feel uncomfortable in any given situation, you need to get out of there. These tips should help you plan a good, safe, comfortable holiday, but if ever you feel uneasy or tempted, know that you need to prioritise your recovery.
Holidays and the parties and nights out that come with them are often heavy on the alcohol, perhaps on the harder stuff, too. Therefore, there is a good chance that you will be offered a drink, joint, or line. However, this may not be too sinister – to most people who don’t know your history, it’s simply a sign of welcome.
Nevertheless, of course, it’s no good for you. You need to get out of there if you are unable to say no without any kind of hesitation.
It’s best to plan ahead for this kind of eventuality if you want to stay sober on holiday. Then you won’t have to worry about it and you won’t be caught out on the spot. There are a few common practices I would suggest.
Invite a sober friend to come along with you. Arrange with your sponsor to be able to phone them if you need to. In short, make sure you have some kind of support with you, someone to have your back and to make you feel less like the odd one out. In turn, try to limit time with difficult or triggering people.
Don’t be surprised if you’re triggered, though. It’s inevitable, unfortunately. You can’t always control it. All you can do is control your reaction and keep yourself safe.
Make your own transportation plans or think up an escape plan for if things go wrong. This way, you will be able to dash at a moment’s notice. You won’t likely need to use this kind of contingency, but simply knowing that it’s there can be a great comfort.
2. Own your narrative
Not every fear during a sober holiday is external. Many are, of course, and I’m not diminishing them. However, we live an experiential life. We place our own experiences on top of everything.
If you’re struggling in the run up to your holidays, therefore, if you’re anxious, consider evaluating your own expectations.
Look at the emotions and expectations you’re placing on the holiday. Consider raising it with your therapist, sponsor, or even just a close friend or family member. Investigate your internal monologue; challenge it where necessary, especially if you find any kind of trauma or resentment attached to it.
Think about what you might be carrying over from addiction. If your holiday involves family, think about the resentments you hold. Do you need to forgive anyone? Do you need to seek forgiveness? And are you ready for either?
Without doing this, stress and resentment can accrue. This can be represent a short path to relapse, though.
Also think about what you expect. If a holiday needs to be the biggest, most exciting thing ever, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Keep your expectations low key. Go along, check things out, be prepared for simply a nice time, nothing too overwhelming.
Doing this may be hard, but it will keep you far calmer and in greater control.
3. Find something you enjoy
This sounds basic as anything, but it’s actually very profound. I used to drink very heavily going out clubbing or dancing or anything like that. The reason? I didn’t really enjoy those things too much. I drank to loosen up and have a good time when actually I just felt a horrible combination of boredom and discomfort.
Find something you enjoy to make the most of a sober holiday. Think about what you like to do. Is it going to see bands? Is it going to museums or art galleries, or simply chilling out with a good movie at home?
Base your holiday activities around these as much as possible. It will limit your need to drink or take drugs whilst also being very rewarding.
4. Try to stay mindful of your consumption
Take note of what you eat and drink. If you’re staying sober and going to a gathering for your holiday, take your alcohol-free drink of choice (or at least make sure there will be plenty of tea on hand wherever you’re going!)
If you’ve got a non-alcoholic drink in hand, people will be less likely to offer you a drink (which, again, they will often be doing unhelpfully but with the best intentions).
Also, if you do take a drink of something alcoholic, accidentally or deliberately through temptation, try not to panic. It’s a sip, a single drink. It doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off the wagon, nor that you will have to fall off it.
If needs be, excuse yourself for a little while, or even go home. Do what you need to do, but just try to make sure that you stay safe. Connect with someone that supports your sobriety over the phone and discuss what has happened. Don't keep it to yourself, this can only cause further feelings of guilt and rumination down the line.
5. Know that staying sober may mean avoiding some situations on holiday
You don’t have to go ahead with anything if you know it might be triggering and unpleasant. You also don’t need to see anyone you know might be triggering or unpleasant.
For example, if you know you have a certain family member who will try to make you drink, cut them out. Avoid them. Don’t go anywhere near them. Or if you know that a certain friend will want to know all the details about rehab or your recovery, and you’re not ready to talk candidly about it all, steer clear of them for a bit. If you know someone like this will be on a holiday, speak to them in advance, or consider going on a different holiday.
If you know that an event really will be all about everyone there getting drunk – maybe it’s a party with a particularly boozy crowd, or a holiday destination like Ibiza that is all about drink and drugs – then simply don’t go. It will be healthier for you to avoid it and enjoy yourself in your own way.
You might consider looking at places that cater specifically for sober holidays. There are plenty of ‘dry cruises’ available to book. Yoga retreats and health spas are often teetotal. Resorts in the Middle East where drinking is often culturally prohibited can be great.
6. Use your holiday to focus on self-care
We’re talking about self-care, here, which can make for a perfect sober holiday theme.
Take some time away from your busy life to get your health and wellbeing on track. Use it as an opportunity to cook yourself healthy, wholesome food, getting your nutrition on point. Lie in every morning, catching up on some much-needed sleep. Head to yoga classes or the gym to build yourself up physically.
Work on your mind and spirit, too. Consider taking a class. Set some time aside to read every day. Meditate, or simply go for some lovely, long walks in nature.
Whatever self-care means for you, set some time and energy aside and make the most of it.
Your sober holiday
For many, going on holiday, or celebrating the holidays, is kind of synonymous with drinking and partying. This needn’t be the case. A sober holiday can be even more rewarding and enjoyable than ever before. Take it as a chance to rejuvenate yourself, build yourself up, and check in with yourself and your loved ones.
If you are struggling for ideas or support, connect with our Recoverlution community. Perhaps you can holiday with others in recovery, or at the very least take advantage of their support. Sober holidays can be a chance to try new things, to really find out what you enjoy and to come back feeling rejuvenated.
How to Have Happy SOBER Holidays - https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-high-functioning-alcoholic/201012/how-have-happy-sober-holidays