Navigating the Challenges of International Travel While in Recovery

Navigating the Challenges of International Travel While in Recovery

Although international travel can be fun and enriching, it comes with its own unique set of stressors

Stress damages a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. The amount of stress someone experiences on a daily basis is not as much an issue as how she handles the stress, although both aspects are important. In other words, learn how to handle stressful situations when they come to protect both your body and mind from damage. Along with proper rest and a healthy diet, stress management is a key component to overall wellness.

When someone struggles with substance abuse, stress often plays a key role in how much or how often he abuses drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following statistics related to stress and drug addiction:

  • Addicts who endure stress are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, and recovering addicts with great stress are much more likely to relapse
  • In studies regarding factors leading to continued drug use among opiate addicts, high stress was found to be a key component in all drug abuse situations
  • Animals that previously avoided illicit substances become more vulnerable to self-administering drugs when they endure stress
  • Acute stress often improves memory, while chronic stress impairs both memory and cognitive function
  • An overlap exists between neurocircuits that respond to drugs and those that respond to stress
  • Among drug-free cocaine abusers in treatment, exposure to stress leads to consistent and significant increases in cocaine cravings, along with activation of emotional stress and a physiological stress response
  • A follow-up study of smokers who completed a national rehab program show a strong relationship between coping with stress and the ability to sustain abstinence
  • Animal studies show that stress induces relapse to heroin, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine self-administration

Understanding the relationship between stress and substance abuse can help recovering addicts learn to deal with stress in healthy ways. However, not all stressful situations are easily managed, especially for those who travel regularly for business or pleasure. If you are a recovering addict who must travel internationally, then learn how to stay sober while you are far from home.

Stress and International Travel

Although international travel can be fun and enriching, it comes with its own unique set of stressors. Transit time is long and tiring; arrivals and departures may not match perfectly, which makes layovers lengthy and catching flights difficult. For some people, changing times zones multiple times can cause significant jet lag, and language barriers along the way complicate communication. Combine these travel issues with a lack of sleep and improper eating habits while in transit and you have a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, many people turn to alcohol and sedatives to ease the discomfort of international travel. A variety of alcoholic beverages are available in flight as well as throughout airports, so avoiding alcohol altogether is almost impossible. Airport gift and sundry shops carry anti-nausea medications, motion sickness pills and over-the-counter sleep aids, all of which can tempt someone who struggles with addiction. To stay drug and alcohol free during international travel, prepare a plan in advance to deal with drug cravings.

International Travel Tips

Planning ahead to manage times of stress can take the edge off of international travel. Furthermore, you can begin planning ahead as soon as you pack your carry-on bag. When checking most of your luggage, pack your carry-on with the following goods:

  • Granola, protein or other types of ready-to-eat meal bars for a quick snack during transit. You never know when hunger will strike, but being prepared will help you resist poor choices.
  • Chewing gum or mints
  • Ear buds or headphones to drown out cabin noise and make it easier to sleep
  • Two changes of underclothes, socks and an extra pair of shoes in case you arrive before your luggage
  • Your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and other toiletries (in approved travel sizes)
  • Eye mask for sleeping
  • A light sweater or jacket
  • Favorite books and music downloaded to your phone or tablet
  • A wash cloth and hand towel for use in airport restrooms in case of a long layover

These items can prevent travel stress by helping you know your immediate needs are taken care of. In the event of travel delays or lost luggage, you are prepared for a least a few days.

Staying Connected During Travel

One of the most important things to do when traveling internationally, especially if you are alone, is staying connected to an accountability partner. Your accountability partner(s) or the members of your support group are available 24 hours a day to talk you through cravings and to bring down your stress level. If you begin to feel overwhelmed with challenging situations, then call or text your accountability partner right away. It is also a good idea to identify AA or other support group meetings in the areas where you are traveling in case you need to attend a session to get through a crisis. In other words, traveling internationally does not have to derail your recovery. Being prepared and dealing with stressors in healthy ways can keep you on the drug-free path.

Find Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, then know that we are here for you. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.