In our previous blog about Packing a Sobriety Kit in your Overhead Luggage, we identified how airline travel can test even the most seasoned person in recovery. Traveling for whatever reason can push us over the edge. Here are a few tips to help identify the stress triggers and ways to go about managing them. We’ve used the acronym HALT as a tool to assist along the way.
What is H.A.L.T.?
These four words – (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) are often taught in addiction recovery. A big part of staying sober is taking care of yourself and being aware of certain signs and stressors. You probably didn’t consider how certain feelings would lead to drinking and using drugs at the time, but using this acronym now is an easy way to recognize your emotions and to help you stay clean and sober, especially when traveling.
Hunger comes in many shapes and forms. With early morning departures or late arrivals, getting a healthy nutrient rich meal in can be a challenge and sometimes a bag of pretzels just doesn’t cut it. Let’s face it, you would be lucky to even get that on some flights. Planning the night before is key. Try to get up early and eat a light balanced breakfast. Limit the coffee and drink plenty of water. Pack a healthy snack in your carry on, a bag of almonds and a fruit goes a long way. Maintaining a balanced blood sugar level is key to optimal brain function.
As we all know airline travel can be a maddening experience. When you add to this anger a lifetime of dealing with emotions with substances, the chances of relapse or lapses are incredibly high. Again, knowing this ahead of time and preparing for how to deal with it is key. Cut yourself some slack and know that perfect is the enemy of good. Always ask yourself, what is the worst thing that will happen? Missing a flight or losing a bag is not the end of the world. Yes, it may feel like it but a relapse or binge can be the end of the world for you. Having this in your head ahead of time will set your mind in the right place to deal with whatever situation arises. Remember nothing is more important than maintaining your sobriety, absolutely nothing!
Travelling can bring about feelings of loneliness. Whether travelling for business or pleasure, loneliness can rear its ugly head. We can even become lonely when surrounded by people who don’t quite get where you are coming from. During travel, you are often cut off from that face-to-face relationship with like-minded folks, you are away from your home group and meetings. It is essential to establish a portable support group when traveling especially during early recovery. Social networking and online meetings can help immensely. Before you travel, set up a network of people you can call on or text for support. You may not need them but it is always best to be prepared. Urges often pop up when you least expect them. A community of people who understands can offer support and tips for helping ride out the urge waves. It’s easy to straddle up to a bar and fill that void with a drink and most likely the company of like minded folks are sitting next to you at the next bar stool. At all costs, avoid this situation. Plan your layovers ahead of time. Know where you will be going and what services will be there for you. Have a your sponsor or mentors number or email close by. Check in with them. If possible, attend a meeting of choice the night before to get your head in the right place. Prior proper planning is key to maintaining your sobriety.
Traveling can bring about fatigue both physically and mentally. With early morning flights, uncomfortable seats and the mental fatigue of navigating gates and security lines fatigue is bound to take its toll if you’re not prepared. Try to get a good night’s rest before travel. Have your bags packed and all necessary information at your fingertips. Set your alarm 20 minutes early to make sure you have plenty of time to commute to the airport. Check in the night before if possible and have your boarding pass on your phone. If possible, select seating in bulkhead or an aisle to provide for extra legroom. If traveling internationally be mindful of time changes and plan your day accordingly.
These are just a few ways to make a traveling in recovery a success. Remember, you’re not the first person to take a travel in sobriety. Ask around at meetings for suggestions on locations, meetings in that area or even a sober contact to call when you land! Like anything in sobriety, a vacation can be a sometimes-frightening journey, but if you utilize the tools you’ve been given, it could be your best vacation yet.