For anyone in recovery, some of the most perilous times are when you’re on the road and away from your usual routine. It may be tempting to forego meetings, especially since you don’t know anyone at this new location and rationalize that it’s OK to skip it just this time. But that’s not the best approach, according to recovery experts. How can you keep your cool and remain steadfast on the road? Here are five ways to stay sober while traveling that may just prove to be a lifeline:
1. Plan Ahead and Locate a Meeting
Since self-help and support group meetings are so integral to an effective recovery plan, when you know you’re going to be traveling, take a few moments and search for meeting locations where you’ll be. This is really painless and easy enough to do. One way is to download a free recovery app and use it to find meetings anywhere you are.
2. Be Kind to Your Body
Long hours confined in a plane, car or other mode of transportation, irregular sleep, grabbing meals on the run, and trying to get accustomed to a different time zone and overcome the effects of jet lag all take their toll on your body and your mind. In recovery, such disruptions to your normal routine can spell disaster, inviting relapse — which is definitely something you don’t want to have to deal with. Help ward off impending trouble by taking sensible precautions. Be kind to your body with these tips:
- Get good sleep. The average person needs an estimated 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Go for 8 hours, if at all possible. You may need to play catch-up as a result of getting up early to catch a plane or drive a long distance to get to your destination. Sleep is a natural restorative, helping your body and mind reconnect in a healthy balance. When you’re well-rested, the challenges and stresses of travel — especially those that can wreak havoc on your ability to remain sober — will be easier to face and overcome. You won’t be as tempted to reach for your drug of choice when the times are tough. Instead, you’ll be better able to think clearly and make the right decisions about how to cope most effectively.
- Eat right. No indulging in junk food, no matter how much your mind tries to trick you that that greasy burger and fries will satisfy your hunger. It’s empty calories and not conducive to helping you cope with cravings and triggers you may experience on the road. No skipping meals, either. Even if it’s a little less than a full meal, make sure to eat three meals a day. Concentrate on getting the right mix of proteins, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, essential fatty acids and more, and avoid excess sugar consumption in food or beverage. Also, hydrate often by drinking lots of water, the body’s natural purifier.
- Take an exercise break. It may be just a walk in the parking lot or walking to the restaurant for lunch or coffee. Get your body moving at a brisk pace. This keeps your energy level from stagnating and your thoughts from drifting to stuffing or indulging in something you shouldn’t.
3. Take Time to Have Fun
The old adage that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” (and this equally applies to Jill) is even more apropos when you’re working or away from home. Even if it’s only for a few days, such a disconnect from your normal routine can allow room for idle thoughts of having a drink at the hotel bar or finding a contact to score weed, anything to help you cope and forget about whatever’s bothering you. An excellent way to keep these temptations at bay and stay sober in the process is to carve out some time to have fun. Granted, fun may not be at the top of your list on this trip, but that doesn’t mean it should be off the table. Whether it involves taking in the local sights, checking out a new restaurant, or just going for a short drive to explore your travel destination, if it’s something that you think you’d like to do and you can make some time for it, go for it.
While going to meetings, getting sufficient sleep, eating regular, healthy meals, getting some exercise and taking time to have fun are all proactive ways to stay sober on the road, it’s also vitally important to wind down, allow stress to dissipate, and find that inner quiet that can help restore peace and balance. Many people in recovery find that allocating time for yoga or meditation helps them do just that. This is especially true for those who regularly practice these types of relaxation, but it can even do you good if you’ve never before gotten into it. How? Shut off all distractions, including TV, cell phones, computers and tablets. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the hotel doorknob. Darken the room by pulling the curtains. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Allow your thoughts to come and go — and they’ll certainly scream to begin with, each clamoring for attention. Acknowledge them and consciously let them go. Eventually, your mind will start to calm. There may be a recurring thought that seeks to entice you, but you don’t have to succumb. Just let it be. Feel the peace as you unwind and the tension and stress leave your body. This feels good. It is good. And it’s an excellent way to help you stay sober while traveling.
5. Stay in Touch With Loved Ones
Yearning to hear the voice of loved ones and family members? Remedy this by scheduling a call so you can reconnect with them while you’re away. This could be first thing in the morning as everyone back home is getting ready for their day or at the end of the day just prior to normal bedtime. Staying as close to normal schedules for family and loved ones will help you stay attuned to what’s going on back home and feel part of the environment. Most of all, they’ll appreciate that you’ve made the effort to stay connected. Remember that isolation and loneliness are huge triggers to relapse. When you’re on the road, cut off from your normal, safe, and effective routine, you need all the help you can get. Staying in touch with loved ones and family members is another proactive step you can take to stay sober while traveling.