How to Travel While Recovering from Substance Abuse Disorder

Jan 23, 2024 | Addiction, Alcohol, Anxiety, Blog, Fear, Stress, Substance Abuse

Today, travel and alcohol are often perceived as going hand in hand. Social media has made drinking at the airport, regardless of the time of day, feel normal and acceptable. As such, many people find themselves overindulging on alcohol both before, during, and after a trip. For those recovering from substance abuse, this can make traveling incredibly difficult. Especially for those traveling alone, the temptation can be all too much. Fortunately, traveling without drinking alcohol does not have to be a hurdle that you can’t overcome. With careful planning and a proactive mindset, it is entirely possible to navigate the world while staying true to your commitment to recovery.

Travel as a Potential Trigger

Traveling often involves a break from routine, exposure to new environments, and encounters with various stressors. For someone in recovery, these changes can act as triggers, tempting them to resort to old coping mechanisms, such as substance use, to alleviate anxiety or stress. It’s helpful to acknowledge and understand these triggers to develop effective strategies for managing them.

Possible Causes of Travel Anxiety
  1. Fear of Flying
  2. Uncertainty and Unpredictability
  3. Packing and Preparation
  4. Social Anxiety
  5. Health Concerns
  6. Crowds and Public Spaces
  7. Financial Concerns
  8. Language Barriers
  9. Fear of the Unknown
  10. Security Concerns
Coping with Travel Anxiety

Plan Ahead:

Start by meticulously planning your trip ahead of time. Knowing your itinerary, accommodations, and transportation details in advance will help to reduce uncertainty and anxiety. Plan activities that promote relaxation and enjoyment, steering clear of potential triggers.

Build a Support System:

Inform your travel companions about your commitment to sobriety. Speaking it out loud helps solidify it in your mind and helps keep you accountable. It is far easier to stick to your word when others are informed. Having a support system in place can provide reassurance during challenging moments. Consider connecting with local recovery groups or finding online meetings at your destination to maintain a sense of community.

Stay Physically Active:

Regular physical activity is a natural stress reliever and can take the place of a “relaxing” alcoholic beverage. Whether it’s a morning jog, a swim, or a simple walk, staying active will help regulate your mood and reduce anxiety associated with travel. If or when you feel the urge to drink, get your body moving and the feeling will pass.

Use Medication if Necessary:

Some people rely on alcohol because of the travel anxiety that they have. Specifically, flight anxiety is a large trigger for some. Alcohol is readily available at the airport and on the plane, making it extremely accessible. If you usually rely on drinking alcohol to ease your anxiety, ask your doctor for a medication alternative. Anti-anxiety medications are highly effective and can ease your discomfort without sacrificing your sobriety.

Resisting the Urge to Drink

Mindful Decision-Making:

  • When faced with the temptation to drink, pause and reflect on your commitment to recovery. Consider the consequences and remind yourself of the progress you’ve made. Make a conscious decision to stay sober every day.

Alternative Beverages:

  • Keep non-alcoholic beverages readily available so that you can grab them quickly. Whether it’s a refreshing mocktail or a simple glass of water, having an alternative will help satisfy the desire for a drink without compromising your recovery.

Positive Distractions:

  • Occupy your mind with positive distractions whenever possible. Bring a book, listen to music or a podcast. Redirecting your focus is important for helping you overcome the desire to use substances.
Being Fully Present on the Trip

Enjoy Where You’re At:

  • Instead of fixating on potential challenges, focus on the opportunities for growth and self-discovery that travel provides. View it as a chance to create positive memories and experiences, without fuzzy memories or a hangover.

Be Grateful for the Travel:

  • Take moments to appreciate the beauty around you, the people you’re with, and the experiences you’re having. Gratitude can shift your perspective and take your mind off whatever is bothering you.

Document Your Journey:

  • Keep a travel journal to document your experiences and reflections. This not only serves as a creative outlet but also encourages mindfulness and self-awareness, helping you stay connected to the present moment.
Final Thoughts

Navigating travel while recovering from substance abuse requires a combination of self-awareness, planning, and healthy coping mechanisms. Drinking non-alcoholic alternatives is a great way to enjoy the flavors you love without the negative effects. Though it may be hard at first, traveling without alcohol will allow you to be more present and enjoy your travel more. 

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you are struggling with substance abuse issues or want help to navigate your recovery, New Dimensions can help.  We offer treatment for mental health issues and addictions.  To learn more about our treatment programs, visit our website at or contact us at 800-685-9796.


Keywords: Recovery, Substance abuse, Traveling in recovery, Sobriety



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