For me, it has been much easier to stay clean + sober than it was for me to stop boozing + using drugs. My recovery is important to me and I would like to hold onto it. I still want to explore the world, but. now it is with a clear head. Instead of staying out of bars and locking myself away from people who drink, I join the party. I know that I can travel anywhere and experience life, if I practice what I have learned from others in recovery programs. This includes bicycling adventures. Even in the "420" state, I didn't have a problem hanging on to my recovery.
Recovery meetings have been an important part of my recovery since I sobered up in 2004. Although I attend much fewer than I did in the beginning, I still attend at least one meeting a week. When I travel, I try to do the same thing and make at least one meeting a week, wherever I am. I don't always love going to meetings but they are good for me for many reasons including keeping me from becoming complacent. I hit up a few excellent meetings while cycling through the state of California.
I have published a few pieces on how I stay sober in places that seem to be living off the booze. On Traveling Sober was published in the Huffington Post. Your life is not over once you stop partying and put down the booze and drugs. I thought thats's what happened - I worried that I wouldn't "have a life" once I stopped drinking and using drugs. The complete opposite happened: after several years in recovery, I have a busy and full life and opportunities I would not have had before, plus relationships with family and friends that I did not previously have.
Aside from meetings, what can you do to keep sober? For me, it has been vital to have a network of folx that I trust and love- people I can be completely honest with when I am having a difficult day or month. Community and relationships are important for humans to thrive and going through difficult times should not be done alone. People need people.
Put down the social media and connect with a real live person, today.
Recovery programs get a lot of flack for various reasons, one being the "god thing". And I totally get that. But you do not have to believe in god to do recovery or to get recovery. I found this great pamphlet on Spirituality at a meeting in San Francisco. When I first attended certain recovery meetings, I was completely turned off by all the god talk. But I learned to take what I needed from the meeting and leave the rest. I don't have to have the same beliefs that others have.
Journaling daily or at least on the road helps to sort out thoughts and feelings. I try to employ this whilst traveling but sometimes I do not accomplish it. You can look back on your thoughts from two days ago when you were really upset about...? You don't even recall what got you so mad. Funny thing about feelings- they pass. Sadly, the highs pass as easily as the lows.
Mediation has been helpful for me when I travel. Even if it just means I spend a few minutes centering my mind and thoughts before I go galloping off into a stream of activities, it is something. At home I read two different inspirational type books, each with daily quotes and a message for the day. I bring at least one of these with me when I travel, so that I can keep up my routine and take time in my morning before life starts happening.
If I am feeling shaky and I am alone, I avoid bars if there isn't any other reason for me to be there, (food, music, bands, show). To add to that- if I am feeling weird or off-kilter, I avoid places that might trigger me. I had to watch my thoughts in California, because it is 420 legal, Maryjane's lovely aroma seemed to waft though the air every single place I visited.
If I am staying at a hostel or I make new friends on the road, it is important for me to let them know I do not drink. It is almost like "outting" myself, so that I will be less likely to even think about ordering a drink.
As I already mentioned, human connection is important, and for me, my sister or friends at home are a lifeline that keeps me cognizant of who I am. It is easier to be complacent on the road and forget all that you do at home, so staying in touch with folx via email, text or "whats app" keeps me on the up and up.
Getting clean and sober does not mean life is over. On the contrary, life is just beginning, we can go anywhere and do anything.
In real life, I try to keep my diet clean eating as little processed goods as possible. However, I do have a heckuva sweet tooth. In the summer, I tend to overindulge in ice cream, so that basically I am working out just to eat ice cream. My workouts are usually 45 minutes of strength-training, three times a week. This means I hit the gym and lift weights but I eschew cardio specific exercise- just because I hate it. Getting on bike or walking or the only ways I work cardio into my life. (I have been trying to refigure this, but I simply hate cardio exercise.) Well, on this bike tour, I rewarded myself plenty and just ate a lot of calories each day because I knew I was burning them. My bike weighed in at 35.6 lbs and my gear weighed somewhere in the ballpark of 30-50 lbs at different times. Daily sweets helped motivate me when I lacked enthusiasm, but after my return I needed a sugar detox to get myself off the addicting white stuff. This by the way lets me know I am an addict through and through- I could be addicted to anything that makes me feel good, including sugar. I have a real problem with portion control when it comes to sweetened foods.
Ain't All Guts and Glory
If we are being honest here, I wanted to cry the first three days of my cycling trip. I'd glance at my cycling computer, the remaining miles taunting me with impossibility. My quads burned, the space between my shoulders blades pinched, every part of me ached and I sure as hell did not feel I was capable of forging on the next 10, 15 or 20 miles. At times I caffeine sweet treats literally kept me motivated. (See the many pictures of ice cream + donuts.) Pushing passed the mental blocks proved more difficult than physical pains. But slow and steady I kept on, until we rolled into the day's planned destination.
Travel = Freedom
True freedom is found outside of our comfort zones. Traveling in general usually puts a person outside their comfort zone because of unpredictability. Even if you are one to travel extravagantly, you cannot predict an airline losing your baggage, canceling your flight, hotels making mistakes, becoming ill, missing connections, or misunderstandings. Travel has always been a way for me to shake things up, change my perspective, and a way to realize all the small and big comforts I have at home. It's okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. In fact, sitting in discomfort it is freeing. I try to ask myself why I am uncomfortable, what's making me anxious. Many times it is because the current situation is not how I perceived things would go.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.