• How to Navigate Family Vacations Sober

    How to Navigate Family Vacations Sober

    Spring has turned into summer. As we near the onset of vacation time, some newly recovering addicts might wonder what to do with their time away from work and school. Those with families may be looking at vacation plans to make, which can be challenging for anyone who is not familiar with life without substance abuse. Some addicts have never taken vacations with their families because it took them too far from their source of drugs. Others have never taken vacations that did not include drinking and drugging, so they do not know what to do without getting high or drunk. Here are a host of sober vacation ideas that you and your family can enjoy.

    What vacation activities can I do sober?

    Life without drugs and alcohol can be more fun than you can imagine. There are even cruise ships that provide entire cruises without alcohol. Look online for cruises at SoberCruises.com. There are both family and single cruises designed for those in recovery and are alcohol and drug free.

    Conventions are also great ways to travel to other cities and meet sober people from other communities. There are International Alcoholics Anonymous Conventions every 5 years, which are sober conventions that attract up to 40,000 to 60,000 people from all over the world. Most 12-Step fellowships offer smaller versions that have about 200 to 2000 people in attendance. Some conventions cater to entire families, hosting Al-Anon and Alateen meetings and gatherings for other non-recovering members of the family.

    Other campouts and recreational activities abound in most areas of the US and Canada as well. It is a good idea to look into events that are located in an area where you would like to travel, or to seek the information for a specific type of activity that you and your family would like to get involved in.

    There are sober surfing, skiing and boating enthusiasts listed online for these kinds of tours or activities. Destinations are also included for specific types of vacations. You can take a vacation with a group of people who are interested in learning to dive in the Caribbean, golf in Florida, surf in Malibu or mountain climbing in the Himalayas. Almost any activity that can be done is being done in sober groups. Some will be appropriate for family and some for singles.

    What do I do if other family members still drink?

    If the family vacation includes drinking or drugging for other members, family vacations become more difficult. If you are newly recovering and a parent or spouse is still drinking, you might consider separate vacation plans. If this is not feasible, perhaps you can take another recovering friend with you.

    By all means, if you must go on the vacation and are uncomfortable with the drinking or drugging behavior of a family member, take with you means of communication that will keep you in touch with support group members back home. Be sure to use email and telephone service to contact sponsors and friends in the recovery community. Look for others who have remained abstinent under similar circumstances and ask for their advice.

    Also, be aware of the recovery community in the area into which you are travelling. You should look up meetings of support groups and other resources before you leave for vacation and then set aside time each day to devote to your recovery. Take along reading materials that assist you in your dedication to abstinence and call 3 to 5 people each day and talk about the issues that are causing you discomfort. If you are having strong feelings about anything, talk about them.

    If you are in an isolated place with easy access to alcohol and drugs, plan to attend 12-step meetings or other types of support group meetings while in that location. Even planes and cruise ships have bulletin boards where you can post a request for meeting up with others who are “friends of Bill W.,” which is the code for AA members to gather to give each other support. You will be surprised that they are gathering all around you.

    What about family gatherings?

    Dangerous situations for those in early recovery are family gatherings that are held quite often during summer months, when weather is most suitable for travel. Some of these are:

    • Weddings
    • Graduations
    • Funerals
    • Family reunions
    • Baptisms/birth
    • Engagements
    • Baby and/or wedding showers
    • Retirements
    • Birthday parties
    • Anniversary celebrations

    Most family celebrations include liquor and even drugs. Be aware, before you leave home, of what options you have in the community where the event is being held. Look for gatherings of other recovering people that may exist there. Get phone numbers and email addresses to contact support group members at home and use them.

    Find someone in your immediate family who can take you away from the gathering if you need to leave and do not have your own vehicle. Make sure you have a plan for escape if you need it. Most of these gatherings have a great deal of emotional involvement; be aware of your feelings and make some arrangements to vent, if necessary.

    Family gatherings can also be fraught with difficulty when a newly recovering person is present, because they may have done some damage to relationships with family members who are not always around. These may be brought to the surface or openly addressed when you meet up with these members. They may not be supportive or understanding about your addiction and behaviors that may have impacted them in some way. Be ready to deal with these emotional situations by talking to a supportive recovery member on the phone or in person at a meeting.

    Families do not always understand the nature of addiction and/or recovery. They may insist that you can have a drink if you were primarily a drug addict. This is not true. They may push you to have “only one” for the sake of a toast being made or for other reasons. Resist the urge to join in. Take along a non-alcoholic beverage for use at just this time. A glass of sparkling cider can easily and appropriately be substituted for champagne during toasts.

    Finally, do not attempt to explain to your personal story of addiction and recovery to your entire family. Most of them are there to celebrate or mourn, depending on the situation. If you are pressed to talk about your personal information, have a short version ready to tell. Practice this on several people well in advance. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed with emotional reaction during the event. The stress of intense emotions is a huge trigger for relapse. Hence the insistence upon using your telephone and escape plan for support, from those who truly understand what you are going through.


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