Travel can be difficult when you’re trying to stay sober. You disrupt your regular routine and you don’t have your sober network to rely on. Perhaps most dangerous is the celebration effect. This is when you’re having a really good time and voice in the back of your head says, ‘This would be even better with alcohol’. While negative stress gets all the attention for causing cravings, happy events can cause cravings too and they’re dangerous because you don’t expect them. Despite the challenges, you can make it through a holiday abroad and have a great time if you do a little planning.
Choose your destination carefully.
Make sobriety easier on yourself by front loading the hard choices. Avoid those destinations that will make sobriety much harder. Maybe it’s not a great idea to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or Germany for Oktoberfest. You don’t want to whiteknuckle your way through a holiday full of temptation. It’s usually better to stay away from beaches and resorts, since those kinds of trips typically involve doing as little as possible with plenty of drinks nearby. Similarly, stay away from casinos.
Instead, think about destinations where you can be more active. That might mean something like a wilderness trip where you can do some hiking and outdoor activities. If you prefer cities, choose a city with rich history and many attractions. Alcohol will be more available in the cities, but it won’t usually be the main draw.
Make a schedule.
It’s a holiday, so you don’t want your schedule to be packed, but you don’t want to be bored either. Even a tentative schedule will keep things moving. Make a list of things you want to do and pencil them in somewhere on your calendar. Just like at home, staying busy will help you stay sober.
Find a meeting in advance.
There are 12-step meetings all over the world. With more than 100,000 groups, you can probably find one where you’re going. You can probably even find one in English. If you can’t, a meeting might be good place to practice speaking, or at least listening, in the local language.
Stay in touch with your sober network.
Figure out how you are going to stay in contact with your sponsor and others. If you’re traveling abroad and don’t want to pay for international calls, you can text or chat. Whatever you decide, check in every day. If you are hit with a serious craving, don’t worry about the cost of an international call.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig provides consulting psychiatrists who diagnose associated mental illnesses like anxiety states, depression, ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, and compulsive relationships. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020