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How to Keep Sober While Traveling

by Bill Wilson Nov 13, 2008
For various reasons, I avoid drinking on the road. Perhaps this is why I am frequently asked if I am a friend of Bill Wilson.

“WELL,” I TELL them, “I am Bill Wilson.”

Here are 11 suggestions for travelers trying to stay sober while traveling.

1. Find and attend local meetings.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide organization with local chapters in cities across the world.

Before traveling, check to see which of your destinations have chapters and then contact the chapter for information about locations and meeting times.

Meetings provide a space to discover locals who can open the doors to other social events that do not include alcohol. Your new friends will help strengthen your commitment to sobriety while far away from home.

2. Travel with a confidant.

Friends and family are invaluable in the battle against addiction. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to travel with loved ones. Solo travelers should keep an eye out for other members and travelers sympathetic and understanding of their cause.

3. Ready contact information.

Keep the phone numbers of your sponsor and other helpful friends close at hand. If you are traveling to a country where your mobile device doesn’t work, consider purchasing a local phone with enough minutes to get in touch with your support network back home.

4. Choose friendly hotels.

In places with an established tourist infrastructure, keep a lookout for hostels or hotels that do not have bars and are not keen on alcohol. If you know you will be staying in a room with a mini-bar, ask the hotel in advance to remove the alcoholic beverages from your fridge.

5. Stick to schedule.

Try to maintain the same meal schedule and exercise routine from home while on the road and keep busy.

The more activities you have planned throughout the day, the less time you will have to think about where to get a drink.

6. Learn a couple of key phrases.

There are many potential situations where custom will dictate that locals or fellow travelers offer you a drink. A few simple phrases in the local tongue are sure to come in handy.

Learn how to say, “No thank you, I am an alcoholic.” Or even, “I am allergic to alcohol.” This should satisfy a friendly stranger.

7. Pack self-help books.

Living Sober is a classic from AA filled with helpful advice for maintaining a sober and healthy lifestyle. Any number of self help books for recovering alcoholics may suffice, provided they have reasonable suggestions presented in a readable fashion.

8. Pack sweets.

Many recovering alcoholics suggest traveling with a pocket full of candy. When the urge for a drink arises, reach for a shot of sugar instead.

9. Imagine the pitfalls.

Before you travel, visualize the scenarios where you may be tempted when offered a drink. Imagine, for example, the clinking of all those little bottles in the beverage cart as it creeps up the aisle on the airplane.

Practice how you might respond to your server when offered a drink with dinner. Conquer temptation by keeping one step ahead of potential surprises.

10. Make a reminder list.

Write down a list of all the positive things that have happened in your life because you have stopped drinking. In a time of temptation you’ll be able to review your positive reinforcements for sobriety.

11. Turn off the television.

The last thing a person in recovery needs to see is his drug of choice glamorized by a product placement or advertisement right before bedtime. If you must watch the tube, keep your thumb on the mute button. Advertisements are much less engaging without the sound.

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