As I prepared for my first Spring get-away since becoming a recovering alcoholic, I accepted that I can’t do the things I did before or stay in the type of places that appealed to me when I was drinking. Regardless of where I was going I had to build my sobriety into my travel plans; I realized that I needed to take steps to ensure a sobriety- and-travel mix.
Fundamentally, I believe it’s possible to vacation and have fun just as I did when drinking. Sure, there will be temptations and cravings that go beyond the normal stress of traveling. But what might those temptations be? What might come up for me along the journey that I’m not expecting? Just like having a travel plan for the trip that includes flights, accommodations, and what to do when I’m there, I wanted to have a vacation sobriety plan. Here are the key ingredients of my travel plan:
Visualize Trip: It started before I left home. My sponsor suggested I take time to imagine every aspect of my trip – from waiting to board my plane, handling the temptations from the bars at the airport, drinks available on the plane and lastly, maintaining my daily routines to stay busy. Then I mentally practiced saying “No Thank You” at each situation I anticipated an encounter with alcohol.
Page ‘friends of Bill W’ for help: I was reminded that there is help available among fellow travelers if I get the urge by having the airport personnel page ‘friends of Bill W’, which informs all AA or NA members within the sound of the announcement that a fellow alcoholic is in need of immediate support. The announcement can ask that people meet at a particular gate or place in the airport that is easy to find.
Stick to daily plan: My sponsor also suggested I have a daily plan to avoid dead time by planning activities and events to attend to stay busy. Obviously, the goal is to minimize the places where alcohol is available. I also carried a copy of the list of AA meetings in the area and packed my Big Book and other reading material for my daily meditations.
Stay connected: Another helpful recommendation was to extend my cell phone call plan for the country I was visiting so I could stay connected with my sponsor. I know it’s not if but when I need to call someone during times of temptations.
Because the hotel I stayed at had a bar I took the initiative to tell the bartender and hotel staff that I didn’t drink, I was a recovering alcoholic, to prevent me from acting on the impulse to experiment. This felt proactive and empowering.
Admittedly, no strategy is fool proof in preventing a relapse but having a plan increased the chances that I would return home from my trip as I left — clean.
By M. Keith Dennis