If this is your first spring being clean, it’s understandable that you would have some concerns over how you’re going to handle the next few weeks. No matter how hard you try to avoid talking about extended time off work or school, vacations, parties and nights out at the bar, it’s a topic that everyone is chattering about. You may even hear perfect strangers in the grocery store or restaurant asking, “Got any big plans for break?”
It’s natural to get excited for spring vacation since this is the first official break since the winter holidays. But when you’re trying to find yourself and where you fit into things, it’s easy to feel left out and even a bit resentful. It probably doesn’t feel fair that you had to give so much up to get clean and sober, and everyone else gets to have fun.
Another hurdle that newly recovering addicts face during this time is stronger triggers. The melting snow, the warmer temperatures, having the windows open, hearing certain songs, etc. can bring you back to last year at this time when you were still using drugs and alcohol and hanging out with old friends. These feelings coupled with the desire to be out having fun can make spring break not so inviting.
Though this may be one of the first major bumps in your recovery, remember that it’s exactly that. You will get through the temptation that surrounds spring break and emerge stronger, which is good news considering that the changing seasons (summer, early fall and the winter holidays) can often be triggers. The key is finding activities that you enjoy doing and spending your free time with people in support of your recovery. This will prevent boredom, avoid the feelings of being left out and curb any resentment you may have.
Here are a few ideas for creating your own spring break paradise.
Sober Vacations, Retreats and Cruises
A quick search on Google for sober getaways will turn up many results. If you can afford a trip and you feel the need to get out of your current environment, a sober vacation is a perfect solution. These getaways are held all over the place and include international vacations, tour packages, retreats and cruise lines. Ask friends, family or AA members if they would be interested. If not, most sober retreats allow for individuals only, and you’re bound to meet a new group of sober friends to be with.
Retreats with 12-Step Members
If you can’t afford a vacation but want to get away, consider a retreat with some of your fellow 12-step members. There are retreats specifically designed for recovering addicts and alcoholics, and the price is typically cheaper than if you were going on vacation, especially if it’s only for a day or weekend. You can also check out retreats that focus on meditative skills, yoga and health and wellness, all tools that will help in your recovery.
Mini Getaway with Close Friends or Family
Another option you have (if a formal vacation is out of the question) is to arrange a mini getaway with close friends or family. Does anyone have a lake house or cabin? You could also rent one for a reasonable cost and reap the benefits of getting away and clearing your thoughts. When you choose a cabin in a secluded, wooded area, you are forced to get outdoors and enjoy things like boating, fishing, horseshoes, bonfires, etc. Just be sure that the people you invite won’t be bringing along drugs or alcohol.
Spring Break Volunteer Programs
Donating your time to others is very important and will allow you to advance your recovery. Volunteering releases you from the bubble you live in and helps you see the bigger picture in life. If you’ve been struggling to find volunteer opportunities in your area, try a spring break volunteer program. Programs may be held in the U.S. or internationally and include working at orphanages, community centers, women’s shelters and after school programs.
Habitat for Humanity
If you want to volunteer your time but prefer to stay local, consider working for Habitat for Humanity. It involves more hands-on work compared to other volunteer opportunities, which may fit your interests. There are programs in many areas, with the goal of building decent homes for everyone to live in. Visit habitat.org for more information about the program and how you can help.
If you’re longing to be on the water or outdoors this spring break but aren’t sure how to do that without a drink in your hand, consider taking lessons for something fun like scuba diving, surfing or horseback riding. Each morning when you wake up, you’ll have something to look forward to, and you’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors just like your friends are. Being on the water or learning a new sport is invigorating and releases all types of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
If there's one thing you should not do, it's isolate yourself. Your life may be different now, but you have every right to enjoy what spring break has to offer. If you look hard enough, you'll find that there are many ways to enjoy this break time without the need for drugs or alcohol.