Summer Vacations: An Opportunity for Relapse

As summer is coming to a close, many people are taking the opportunity to have a quick getaway to a sunny locale before school starts back and the weather begins to cool. However, vacations, regardless of the location, can be a dangerous prospect for a person in recovery from addiction. Routines are key to a person’s recovery journey, and disrupting that routine can disrupt recovery as well.

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re on a cruise, at the beach, or even simply away from normal mealtime options. What you might think of as just one fun cocktail has the potential to turn into many without you paying much attention. And the people you’re with may not be helping, as they also want to use vacation as an opportunity to let loose a little.

The changes in your environment can trigger unexpected relapse symptoms and catch you off guard. While you shouldn’t waste your entire vacation following a strict protocol, you can’t allow yourself to be careless, either. Relapses can be really tempting, but a few techniques can help you keep your sobriety intact. Here are a few tips to help you steer clear of cravings.

1. Stay Prepared

If you’re heading outside, try to remember to bring a drink with you, such as bottled water or flavored seltzer. Poolside options are usually fun alcoholic beverages that can be really tempting. In order to resist a relapse, make sure you have your favorite non-alcoholic beverages right by your side and avoid the temptation altogether.

2. Have Someone to Look After You

If you’re heading out with friends or any place full of people consuming alcohol, don’t go without having a sober person in your company. You may find it unnecessary and a bit awkward, but you always need someone to remind you of your abstinence oath. Having someone else hold you accountable can be tremendously helpful during recovery.

3. Find Something to Distract You

In case your craving becomes too difficult to ignore, you should have some sort of distraction in mind. Go outside if possible, and breathe in the fresh air. Remind yourself about your progress and record to date. Cravings usually lasts no more than twenty minutes. During this time, there are so many ways you can distract yourself. For instance, you can:

• Use your cellphone. Play a game, watch a video, scroll through social media, call or text someone who is instantly available.

• Take a walk on the beach, or go for a drive and explore the new place that you’re visiting. Just do something that relaxes you and diverts your mind from thinking about the drugs or alcohol that you are craving.

4. Notice the HALT Symptoms

Alcohol relapse in particular is generally an indication of four main triggers. The HALT symptoms include Hunger, Anger, Lonely, and Tired. An alcoholic, especially a recovering one, is the most vulnerable when any of these four conditions are active.

An empty stomach calls for a drink just to stay distracted from the growling hunger.

Anger is a significant catalyst in causing unbridgeable relapses in alcohol recovery. You may be angry at the tiniest thing, or it could be something major. As a result, you might want to drink just to numb thoughts.

Loneliness is also, without a doubt, dangerous for recovering alcoholics.

Being tired can also trigger you to find something that allows you to easily doze off and get a significant hangover later on.

Try your best to respond to these triggers immediately. Never allow yourself to be hungry, especially in the presence of alcohol. If you start getting angry for any reason, check to make sure there’s no alcohol nearby. Also, try to keep your cool and find ways to distract yourself from whatever’s angering you. As for loneliness, you already know how useful a sober and trustworthy friend can be. Lastly, go to a safe, alcohol-free place if you start feeling tired. Eat a healthy meal and sleep on time to keep yourself from relapsing.

The bottom line is that vacations, while relaxing, can also be stressful for someone in recovery. However, if you make a plan and steer clear of things that you know will be opportunities for relapse, you will be able to enjoy a getaway from both everyday life, as well as the temptations that come with your addiction.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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