Active Recovery During the Holidays

The wreathes, the lights, the carols, the gifts—the holidays are officially upon us. But while Christmas and the New Year can bring a great deal of joy to our lives, the season can also bring a great deal of stress, particularly for those who are new to addiction recovery. Staying sober should be at the top of your wish list, but doing so calmly and happily should be up there as well.

Many people in the early stages of recovery—whether that means they’re just out of opiate detox or have recently completed an outpatient rehab program—struggle to maintain abstinence while traveling to see loved ones during this emotionally complex season. Airports, bus terminals, even the roadways have an extra-intense feeling about them as people rush about to shop, celebrate, and reconvene with their friends and family. With that in mind, here are four tips for sober travel over the holidays:

1. Limit Idle Time at the Airport

Airports are triggering for those who have dealt with or are still struggling with alcohol or drug abuse.

Why? Nostalgia, for one. Some of us may recall arriving at the airport early before a big vacation, solely to have a few early-morning Bloody Marys before hopping on a flight to our dream destination. Others may recall the elation in jetting off to see a loved one, and that rush of emotion can set off some individuals. There’s also a sense of anonymity at airports. “There’s no chance I’ll run into my sponsor,” some might think. “I might as well have one.” It’s that sort of thing that compromises sober travel.

To make yourself less susceptible to pulling up a seat at the bar outside your terminal, plan wisely. Arrive in time for your flight but, unless advised (or you’re on an international flight), there’s no real reason to arrive more than two hours before your departure. Once there, have a book, magazine, or game handy to keep you occupied, or use the time to get some physical exercise—airports are a great place to squeeze in some movement (and people watch). As Recovery from Addiction suggests, “Being active will decrease pronounced thoughts about using during these idle periods and gives you a chance to engage in alternative activities that can reduce the boredom, loneliness, and other feelings that often lead to resumed use.”

The Holidays Are The Best Time To Be Sober. Call Our 24 Hour Addiction Hotline: 877-630-8282

2. Manage Your Fear of Flying

Claustrophobia, turbulence, engine failure—there are countless ways to freak yourself out when it comes to flying. And a common response to that fear? Finding liquid courage at the bar before boarding.

Put timeworn fear-of-flying tactics to use instead. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests, acknowledge that you will experience fear before and during your flight: “Anticipatory anxiety is what we experience in anticipation of fear. It is often the most intense anxiety you will experience during your flight, but it is not an accurate predictor of how you will feel on the flight. It is frequently far greater than what you actually experience.” In addition, stay mindful of triggers that might set off old habits (the sound of the beverage cart coming down the aisle, for example) and learn about the safety features of planes before the day of your departure. As with addiction, the more knowledgeable you are on the subject, the more in control over it you’ll feel.

3. Call Upon Smart Coping Strategies

The National Institutes of Health reports stress is one of the top factors contributing to both addiction and relapse. The holidays—with its mix of amplified emotions, high expectations, extra costs and lengthy travel—can magnify our stress levels considerably, rendering many even more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse and relapse.

You may be busy this holiday season, particularly if you’re flying cross country to see loved ones, but you’re never too busy to practice stress management. Consistent physical exercise and a steady, sensible diet will help you feel strong and empowered, while indulging in a form of relaxation—a massage, a pedicure, or a soak in a hot tub—will fortify the bond you have with your body, rendering you less inclined to harm it. And calling upon a sober friend, whether that’s your sponsor or your flat-mate, can mitigate the urge to use during the holiday rush (on and off the road).

4. Find a Meeting

One of the beauties of 12-step programs is that meetings are widely available—not only in the U.S. but also across the planet.

If you’re traveling this holiday season and feel compelled to use (perhaps because of the shift in your routine and the distance from your support network), make a point to step away from your friends and family to attend a meeting. A single hour of support from people who share in your struggles might be a lifesaver.

Don’t let the holidays detract you from your desire to get sober—or prompt a relapse. Find out more by calling our 24-hour hotline.

Are You Struggling With Recovery? Call Our 24 Hour Addiction Hotline: 877-630-8282

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