You’ve fought hard through dual-diagnosis treatment, learned more about your mental health problems like anxiety and depression, mastered coping methods for trauma and PTSD, went through the 12 step program, and are ready to live a healthy and drug-free life. We’re proud of you for going through this challenging process and emerging as a happy and healthy person!
However, you have traveling plans in the near future and are already feeling anxiety about your possibility for relapse. Your abuse of heroin, alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines often occurred while you were on the road and you’re worried about falling back into these patterns of behavior. That’s why we are here to help you beat your addiction for good.
Our recovery experts have carefully researched the following relapse avoidance steps and utilized each in their own addiction treatment. Each provides you with a better understanding of the dangers of relapse while traveling and how you can avoid falling back into addictive behaviors. So please, make sure that you read through each of these steps carefully and don’t hesitate to call or visit us if you feel like you need more information about this process.
Tip 1: Understand Why People Abuse Substances When Traveling
After finishing your rehab and dual-diagnosis treatment, your recovery will be fueled by understanding why you abuse substances and avoiding these activities. This step has been studied by multiple groups and is considered the most effective way to improve short-term recovery success, which triggers improvement in long-term success in many individuals.
Unfortunately, traveling is often a huge trigger for many individuals and may cause them to start abusing substances while on the road. For example, travel while on vacation can seem “fun” and may influence a person’s desire to fall back into addictive behaviors. Just as troubling, some individuals may suffer from anxiety and depression while traveling or issues with mental health that trigger a relapse.
Talk to your rehab center about your triggers before your trip and undergo another bout of outpatient dual-diagnosis to understand your addiction fully. Even if you haven’t felt the urge to use substances since finishing your treatment, a little refresher like this can help you better prepare for the unique challenges inherent in traveling and provide you with a better understanding of why you are addicted.
Tip 2: Research Where You’re Traveling
Before you even start your trip, make sure that you carefully research the travel area. For example, find out if there is a drug abuse problem in the area and where these issues are more likely to occur. Map these spots out and avoid them when you’re on your trip. Just as importantly, map out fun activities and restaurants that you can visit that will improve your chances of increased sobriety.
And, during your research, try to find any sober spots or rehab and treatment centers to utilize during your trip. Places like dry cafes, outpatient care centers, and sober meeting groups (like AA) provide individuals in recovery with the chance to fight their triggers. These spots can also help you meet people going through the same situation and provide you with the support you need to minimize your relapse risk.
Also, knowing where detox and rehab centers are located in the area to which you are traveling can help you if you do relapse and need immediate help to recover. A detox center can help you get through withdrawal without experiencing severe symptoms. And outpatient or even inpatient recovery centers can help you understand why relapse occurred and provide you with a healing guide through this difficult time.
Please remember, too, that relapses are not a sign of weakness or something about which you should be ashamed. Addiction is a disease and, like any disease, relapse is part of the healing process. Instead of beating yourself up about relapse or using it as an excuse to fall back into addiction, work with a recovery center to understand why your relapse happened and what you can do to prevent it in the future. Appropriately approached, a relapse can be a healing – and not destructive – experience.
Tip 3: Make Yourself Comfortable
One of the biggest triggers for addiction is a sense of discomfort, whether physical or mental. And traveling individuals are going to be in unique situations that they may have never experienced before. For example, you’ll be driving or flying to new areas, meeting new people, struggling to find your way around a new city or state, and sleeping in hotel rooms that may not feel like home.
As a result, you may feel compelled to use various substances to “calm” your mind. Unfortunately, drug abuse – even of prescription substances like opioids and Xanax – don’t truly calm the brain when a person is addicted. In many instances, this abuse may trigger an increase in anxiety and depression that may make the situation even worse, which creates a nasty cycle of abuse.
Therefore, you need to do what is necessary to make yourself comfortable while traveling. For example, you can purchase detailed maps of a city or download GPS maps that make traveling much more comfortable. You may also want to bring along a friend who knows the area or hire a guide to get you around. Though this may cost a little more money, it can help make the situation more comfortable to handle.
Just as importantly, you can bring a small dog with you as a support animal. This approach has a multitude of benefits. First of all, your dog can relieve anxiety by providing a loving and caring companion in tough situations. And, cleverly, taking a dog with you will limit potential extracurricular activities, as you’ll need to stay with your pup in the room. As a result, you won’t be as likely to go out to a bar or to search for a place to buy methamphetamine, Xanax, or heroin.
Tip 4: Practice Healthy Coping Methods
People who suffer from addiction often fell into negative patterns of abuse due to depression, anxiety, trauma, or even PTSD in their lives. The use of alcohol, opiates, opioids, or even heroin calmed their mind and negated the severity of these symptoms. Some individuals may have also abused substances like methamphetamine or Xanax to provide themselves with more focus and energy to fight through these difficult issues with mental health.
If you’re going through recovery after finishing rehab, you likely already know what emotional and psychological problems trigger your substance abuse. Detox paired with dual-diagnosis helps individuals to better prepare for these issues and creates improved coping mechanisms to minimize relapse risk. However, travel – even for vacation – may put excessive pressure on a person and push their coping methods to the limit.
Instead of relapsing and falling into addictive patterns of behavior, practice simple relaxation methods to calm the mind and body. For example, yoga can relieve muscle pain and minimize some symptoms of depression. Meditation also helps to clear the mind and eliminate the anxiety that triggers addictive behaviors. Healthy eating habits, such as drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables, may also help.
Tip 5: Limit How Often You Eat Out
While traveling, you’re likely going to hit up a lot of restaurants. This possibility can be fun because you’ll get the chance to see local restaurants you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. However, the problem with going out to eat is how triggering it may be for individuals with an addiction to alcohol. For example, many restaurants serve various alcoholic drinks at reasonable prices.
Even worse, many types of food – especially fried food – create a feeling that is much like an addiction. The additives in these meals trigger cravings that can be hard to fight and which may mirror an individual’s struggle with substance abuse cravings. Unfortunately, this situation could impact a person’s self-control and make managing their addictive triggers nearly impossible.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t go out at all while traveling. However, you should also bring along a cooler filled with healthy foods – such as vegetables, bread, lunch meat, fruits, fruit juice, and cheese – to provide yourself with simple meals. And if you’re staying at a vacation destination, make sure that your hotel or condo has a kitchen where you can cook meals.
Tip 6: Understand Your Limitations
While you should be having fun while you’re on vacation or traveling, don’t do anything on the road that you couldn’t do at home. For example, people with an addiction to opioids shouldn’t buy a bottle of prescription painkillers simply to “cut loose” while on the road. Successful rehab is all about understanding your limitations and staying on your best behavior.
Before you leave your house, brainstorm what you can and cannot do at home and write down a list. Sometimes, a physical list makes it easier for someone to focus on positive, rather than negative, activities. Just as importantly, a list reinforces this information in your mind and helps to keep you focused on sobriety while you are on the road.
Tip 7: Have Some Sober Fun
Individuals with an addiction may turn to substances while traveling because they think drinking alcohol or taking opiates is “fun” or something that has to be done while on vacation. Just think of the “weekend warrior” mentality common with many heavy drinkers. These individuals take the “everybody’s working for the weekend” philosophy to heart and spend their time off from work getting drunk, smoking marijuana, or zoning out on a heroin high.
If thoughts like this start to come up in your mind while traveling, brainstorm some sober fun activities you can perform instead. For example, you could visit a nearby water park and spend the day swimming, riding down water slides, or just relaxing in a wave pool. You could also sit outside of a neighborhood coffee shop and potentially meet some interesting travel friends.
Or if you have a little money to spend, go to a book, record, clothes, or tourist shop and buy some fun items that remind you of your trip. In a sense, you are distracting yourself from your addiction triggers while also having fun without substances. And, just as importantly, stay away from any places that could trigger a relapse, such as bars, restaurants that serve alcohol, or baseball stadiums with alcohol.
Tip 8: Stay in Touch With Your Rehab Center
Though the tips above can help provide you with the best chance to avoid relapse while on vacation or traveling, situations exist in which they may not work. For example, the stress of traveling may trigger high levels of anxiety that you once managed with the use of Xanax, heroin, or even alcohol. This reaction may also cause PTSD or depression which makes travel very difficult to handle.
As a result, you may find your mind drifting to addictive substances like benzos and thinking “I can just take one to take the edge off. After all, I finished rehab, and I’m cured. I know that I can control my use of my benzodiazepines this time.” Unfortunately, people who suffer from addiction can never go back to their addictive substances again, or else they risk a full relapse.
Therefore, you should make sure to keep your former treatment center on speed dial while you’re traveling and be willing to call them up when you feel the urge to use. For example, you could always call our many excellent recovery specialists to go through on-the-phone dual-diagnosis treatment methods. In this way, you can remind yourself of the underlying concerns that trigger your addictive behavior.
Just as importantly, our professionals can help you understand the trauma, anxiety, and issues with mental health that made substances like opioids addictive to you in the first place. So please don’t hesitate to reach out to us while you’re traveling and feel the urge to abuse drugs again. We can help you get through this challenging situation and maintain your hard-fought sobriety.