Tips for Staying Sober while Traveling for Work
Work related stress combined with drinking related social engagements can, for someone in addiction recovery, be difficult to manage – especially while travelling. Here are some helpful tips that can ensure you do not undo the hard work you have done to get this far in your recovery.
Recovering from any addiction is difficult enough. Add the stress related to work, family, maintaining friendships, hobbies and other responsibilities, and staying sober can be even more challenging, especially for newly recovering alcoholics.
Most people who are in addiction recovery diligently follow a structured routine in order to maintain their sobriety; perhaps you do as well. However, what do you do if you are undergoing an outpatient treatment programme, or are very new to recovery, and must go on a business trip – away from your recovery support network?
Remaining Sober while on Business Trips
Travelling on business trips for those in (and especially those who are new to) recovery can be a stressful time. However, if you pre-plan as much of the trip as possible, arrange for extra support while away (either from your counsellor, sponsor or local recovery groups), and prepare a set of good excuses for not attending after-meeting drinking excursions, then your trip is more likely to be successful in avoiding a relapse.
The Cabin has some golden rules that we recommend to our clients that can help you remain sober while travelling.
Plan, plan and plan some more.
Especially for newly recovering addicts, advance planning is probably the most significant factor in determining your sobriety while on a business trip. Obviously, there will always be aspects of your trip that you cannot control, but making sure that you know who to call in addiction related emergencies, that the minibar is emptied in your hotel room prior to your arrival, and that you have excuses ready for the after-meeting social gatherings will help.
Just knowing that there is a bar in the hotel in advance can help you avoid it by being mentally prepared. Bringing a few bottles of soda with you that you can drink if you get an urge to consume alcohol can also help.
In addition to planning independently, pre-plan your trip with your counsellor. He or she might be able to foresee things you did not or provide you with proven and tested tips that will support you while traveling.
Do not stop going to your meetings; go to more.
It is important that during the trip you feel connected to your regular (or another temporary) support network and not left alone with temptations. We absolutely recommend that you attend some sort of daily recovery meeting while away.
Do some research and find a support group in the city that you will be visiting and go to it daily if possible.
For example, see if there are any AA meetings available at your destination that you could attend. Since these meetings are similar worldwide, they can offer essential support while you are away from home. Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings in many countries; check their worldwide website to find meetings where you are going. If there are none available, then try to find online support groups that you can sign into.
Up the level of care.
Since business trips are usually stressful and full of temptations, it is a good idea to up your usual level of care rather than lower it during the time that you will be travelling.
If you usually see your counsellor once a week, we recommend that you increase these individual sessions to twice per week during your trip and participate in them via Skype. You should also arrange to call and check in with your sponsor daily during the trip for added support – pre-arrange a set time, such as every afternoon..
Make sure you have phone numbers.
While on your business trip, you might experience a craving to break your sobriety and have a drink in the hotel or a bar after a stressful day.
It is important that you know that there is someone whom you can call and talk to (and through) this temptation. Create a contact list of people to call and add them to your phone’s address book.
Your counsellor may not often be readily available, but your sponsor may be willing to let you call him or her more frequently. This is why it is important to plan ahead of time and let your sponsor know when you are leaving, how long the trip will last, and the time zone difference. Request him or her to please take your call were it to come at an odd hour during this time – they will usually agree if they are aware of the situation.
It is also good to have a backup person to talk with – your wife, a close friend, or even another support group member who is at a similar stage in recovery and can talk with you about your progress. Having someone to call might make the difference between a relapse and a successfully sober trip.
Prepare your excuses in advance.
While in the middle of a business dinner, when everyone is getting ready to toast to a successful deal, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to conjure a good excuse for why you cannot join in the festivity. If you prepare some excuses in advance for why you cannot drink with them, then the situation will be easier and your reasons will sound more realistic.
The best excuses are simple ones, such as that you are on a strict diet that doesn’t allow for alcohol, or you are taking prescription medicine. Citing medical reasons for not drinking usually stops people from asking further questions or from trying to entice you to have just one drink.
Common drugs that alcohol interferes with include drugs for stomach ulcers, high blood pressure (Lotensin) high cholesterol or blood thinning drugs (Advicor), drugs reducing blood clots (Coumadin) sleep inducing drugs (Valium), or antibiotics such as metronidazole or tinidazole.
Some people in recovery put paracetemol or aspirin in an unmarked container to reinforce the excuse.
Find a confidant at work.
If possible, find someone at work whom you trust and tell him or her that you are in recovery from an addiction and that you need support during tough work moments like business trips.
This person can be a secretary or the person in charge of scheduling at your destination who can ensure you are already busy when somebody suggests after-work drinks. Another idea is coming out to a colleague who is travelling with you, then they can back you up when you decline to partake in events that involve alcohol.
While it may seem difficult to travel while going through the initial recovery phases, it is possible, and with the support of your counsellor at The Cabin Singapore and others you can make your trip, and your long-term recovery, a success.