Traveling in recovery is difficult but not impossible. The fear of being lured by luscious temptations of delectable alcoholic treats is a real fear. Europe is the Willy Wonka factory of alcohol. As a person in recovery, you should be aware of the fact that alcohol is everywhere in Europe- even in shakes and coffee (so be aware). Temptation lies around every corner in the shape of nana’s homemade lemon cello or a quaint local vineyard off the beaten path. It comes in pretty colors, bottles, and flavors- but awareness and following these tips tips may help you in your sober travels.
1) Don’t travel alone. Bring a buddy who can help you avoid the temptations of drinking. Two or more sober people are better than one.
2) Have a plan. When traveling nothing is ever 100% planned all the time unless you’re the Griswolds- and that’s ok! Make sure though that you have a basic idea of what your day is going to look like so there are limited opportunities to get pulled into temptation. If there are points of the day where you take a break then make your hotel room a homebase so you can rest.
3) Be prepared. Europeans are not as familiar with substance abuse. Alcohol is just a part of everyday life here. So be prepared for people to not understand or believe you when you tell them you don’t drink. It’s best to say you have an allergy or have a friend take it away (immediately). Don’t be afraid to offend anyone. This is your sobriety so make yourself heard.
4) Journal. Journaling is a great way to work on your steps and getting out your everyday feelings and thoughts. Bring a backpack with your journal and a pen. Sit down where you can enjoy a nice view and write for a few minutes a day.
5) Skype into AA meetings. Every country has AA meetings but they may be hard to get to. Sometimes the meetings are hours away. So its understandable if you cannot make local face-to-face groups. However, that is no excuse not to log on to a computer and join in on that wonderful thing we call the world wide web. For most of the online meetings all you need to do is RSVP in advance via email. Easy. Tune into a few meetings a week.
6) Carry around a (nonalcoholic) drink. Have something to sip on in your hand while cruising the streets. I recommend sparkling water. The carbonation tends to take give it a little more pizzazz (hell throw a piece of fruit in there and call it a party!). I sometimes opt for a red bull to give me that extra burst of energy (and false sense of excitement). Holding something is important and helps you keep your hands from wandering.
7) Don’t beat yourself up. We get sweet cravings! It’s the nature of the beast. Did you really think you could cut out those sugary drinks and not have it come back ten-fold? If you want that chocolate soufflé- just order it. Remember all the calories you are saving by not consuming alcohol. If you start picking on yourself over these small indulgences you’ll drive yourself crazy.
8) Talk about it. There are more people out there than you realize that are in recovery themselves or know someone who is. Don’t be afraid to expose that detail of your life because it’s really nothing to be ashamed of. It also might help when the waiter comes by for a drink order to have people in the know.
9) Check in. Make sure that you are in consistent communication with your sponsor. Just because you can’t meet in-person doesn’t mean you can’t go over your progress. Make a goal to read a chapter every couple days and talk about it together. Having someone to report to keeps you accountable.
10) Stop feeling guilty about not drinking! Let go of any anxiety you have over the fear of being inconvenient or a drag to be around. That fear is purely in your head. The reality is your friends and family enjoy your company and will make small sacrifices in order to make you more comfortable.
We need to remember- we decided to get sober so that we can actually enjoy life. So do it already!