Addiction recovery starts with intensive therapy and continues for months, years, or even a lifetime in the form of ongoing counseling, support, and accountability. Individuals in recovery who have jobs that require travel will face extra temptations and challenges to their sobriety, but with the proper strategic preparation, they can maintain their recovery on the road.
The Ongoing Power of Psychological Addiction
Addiction changes the psychological function of the brain in substantial and often permanent ways. In order to recover from their addiction people must find new ways to cope with anxiety, temptations, and other stressors. Then they must repeatedly choose to use these new behaviors and thought patterns instead of those related to addiction.
Part of the brain always remembers addiction. One of the psychological effects of addiction is that the addict may remember only the good times and fun from their substance abuse days and not the pain, loneliness, fear, and shame. Thus another aspect of recovery is never allowing the mind to obsess over faulty or incomplete memories. Strong aftercare programs help recovering addicts stay clean by reminding them of the truth of their disease. It only takes one drink or one hit for that addiction to reappear in force. For some people, this struggle to maintain sobriety lasts the rest of their lives, but their ability to resist the temptations becomes increasingly strong as time goes by.
Addiction Relapse Risks of the Road
The challenges for recovering addicts who must travel include the following:
- Removal from people who will hold them accountable for their time and actions
- Relatively anonymous access to substances
- Loneliness and isolation are strong relapse triggers
- The idea that one drink or one hit won’t hurt and that no one will ever know
Relapse is an unfortunately common part of recovery, but in a home environment, surrounded by friends and loved ones who know about your addiction and recovery, any stumbles can be quickly noticed and corrected. On the road, away from caring eyes, an addict can move from one small error into a full relapse.
Protecting Addiction Recovery While Traveling
The following are strategic and tactical actions a recovering addict can take to prevent relapse on the road:
- Maintain regular contact with your sponsor, sobriety coach, and sober friends back home
- Find 12-step and other group recovery programs in the area in which you are traveling
- Fill the idle time with healthy activities such as exercise, reading, and meaningful conversations
- Practice sobriety skills such as meditation, relaxation, and spiritual exercises
- Avoid triggering locations such as bars, clubs, and lounges