Take Your Recovery With You: Travel Tips
We’ve Been Given A New Lease on Life; Enjoy It!
Many people refer to addiction as the ‘lonely disease’, or the ‘isolating disease’. It is also a common saying that, “connection is the best means of recovery”. I believe this statement to be true, and in my opinion, it is because a common attribute of addicts is selfishness. This attribute also appears when we are physically clean and sober. The selfishness does not disappear until we recovery mentally, and spiritually. And, this underlying selfishness is what separates us from other, non addicts. Personally, when I was in active addiction my world became smaller and smaller. After I left treatment I found myself in one of the largest cities in the world with new and exciting goals. I couldn’t believe life had given me this new opportunity. There was large fellowships of people in recovery and plenty of opportunities to grow my personal recovery. I was able to explore and go on adventures with like-minded people and have new experiences.
I also witnessed people traveling abroad or moving cities. At the time, this idea frightened me. I couldn’t imagine leaving my support network to start over somewhere else. I used to say “I can get away with the bare minimum amount of recovery here and in a new place that wouldn’t cut it, so I will stay here”. There are a few layers as to why that is a terrible mindset but let’s focus on the traveling. This self-limiting mindset kept my world small, manageable and comfortable. This approach was OK in early recovery, but if I wanted to travel, I needed work on the fear first.
Connection: The Best Carry-On
Finally, you have decided to travel! GO YOU! Often, we have to travel for work or for family obligations, but other times we get to explore on our own. Regardless the reason we travel, it is always best to have a plan. The disconnection from support is a pitfall for many addicts. When we are alone or disconnected, we are left with only our thoughts. As most addicts know, our thought process is not always in our best interest. No matter how much sobriety ‘time’ we have. So what should be in our plan?
Check-in with people regularly – Ask recovery friends if you can check-in with them while you are away. Ask people that know you well or people who are also in recovery. We don’t want to seek help from those who don’t understand us and will: a) give jeopardizing advice, b) co-sign our behaviors, or, c) won’t be honest with us. Good friends tell the truth and the truth saves lives!
Make a meeting schedule AHEAD OF TIME – Look at the online meeting directories for recovery meetings in the area you will be traveling to. Create a plan for how you can get to and from the meeting location. Do it BEFORE YOU LEAVE. Often we tell ourselves, “I’ll do it when I get there.” However if we run into a any problems, this approach will make it more difficult in the moment. If we already have a plan, we can just refer to the plan.
Traveling for work or family – Work trips can be very triggering for a variety of issues. For example, I worked at a company that loved to celebrate. Whenever I traveled for work there were often dinners with alcohol and night caps. My attendance was expected at these events and I felt like I needed to be there, or my career would suffer. I always kept a mental checklist of what was necessary at these events, so when I had finished what was required, I was free to leave. I always travel to and from my accommodation alone, so that I can leave on my own schedule and not be trapped by a coworker’s schedule.
Traveling to visit family can also be extremely triggering. The same guidelines apply: know what’s expected of you, have an escape plan, and leave when you feel uncomfortable. One issue with family that is different from work is that it often comes with much heavier expectations on both sides. We expect family to love and support us, and they expect us to stay the whole time despite what might be going on, etc. We must be able to hit the ‘eject’ button no matter what pressures we perceive. Remember to always prioritize recovery, because if we don’t have recovery, we can lose everything.
Wherever We Go, There We Are
One other important issue that we need to be conscious of is the idea that “traveling” or “moving” will fix an internal issue. “I just need to get there, then everything will be OK”. This concept applies to anything such as relationships, savings, accommodation, social or professional standing, etc. If we are not OK without it, we will not be OK with it. We can’t expect our lives to suddenly and vastly improve just because our surroundings have changed. I am not trying to discourage you from taking a trip or moving. We just have to be honest with ourselves about what our expectations are, and ask ourselves if we are doing the work necessary work to be at peace, regardless of our physical location.