While there hasn’t been much traveling going on due to the pandemic, things are likely to change as soon as more people get immunized against the coronavirus. When this happens, we can expect to see a resurgence of a trend that we saw before 2020: traveling after rehab. Recovering individuals with a means to travel should, at the very least, consider doing so after completing residential rehab.
Travel and substance rehab has long been considered to be somewhat interconnected activities. After all, not all communities have rehab facilities appropriate for all the types of substance use disorder cases, which necessitates treatment in a different part of the country, or the world.
Rehabilitation centers in Dallas, for example, will often be able to connect and refer patients to treatment programs throughout the country, should the clinician or other stakeholders find it necessary. A few centers may even be connected to treatment programs and facilities outside of the United States.
While the virtues of travel have been extolled for thousands of years, traveling after completing rehab is a relatively new trend that came with the reduction of plane ticket prices, following the deregulation of air travel in the late 1970s. Today, it’s relatively common for people who could afford it to take some time off after rehab and travel.
Here are just a few of the reasons why individuals may want to travel the country — or the world — right after completing rehab.
1.) Traveling can effectively remove negative triggers
Triggers are objects, experiences, people, and places that elicit an emotional response. In the context of substance recovery, triggers are what cause a person to act on their desire to drink or take drugs.
Because the brain takes such a long time to heal itself from the trauma and cravings that come from regular substance use, any relapse can set back a recovering individual’s progress significantly.
Staying in one’s hometown can expose one to more triggers, as it’s unlikely their environment would have changed. Moving out, at least temporarily, can effectively reduce the number of substance use triggers the individual is exposed to, giving their brain time to heal.
2.) It can prevent impulsive behavior
Being in an unfamiliar place can do a lot to prevent destructive impulses that often come during the critical early stage of recovery. Individuals who just recently completed detox or a short-term residential rehab program may still feel strong urges to engage in all kinds of self-destructive behavior. If they’re far from home, many individuals just might think twice before they do something they regret.
Given all the spring break and tourist horror stories we’ve all heard, this touted benefit certainly doesn’t apply to all individuals. However, for many other people just out of rehab, leaving their hometown for a couple of months might be the right decision.
3.) It may give a new sense of perspective
Being in one place and repeating the same daily patterns has a way of locking in one’s way of thinking, which can hurt attempts at recovery. Traveling can provide a much-needed change of scenery that can, in a way, restart someone’s perspective. This may help the recovering individual learn more about themselves and help them find the motivation to continue with recovery.
4.) There may be more affordable long-term care options abroad
Unfortunately, the cost of long-term care is out of reach for many Americans with substance use issues. Traveling to a country with a lower cost of living and healthcare quality similar to what one could expect in the States can be a good option for individuals who want to stretch their budget.
5.) Better privacy and confidentiality
Continuing one’s aftercare in a different state or country gives the recovering individual the option to claim that they were traveling for a change of scenery, which would be completely true.
This can be crucial for those who are uncomfortable with divulging their substance use disorder to other people, such as potential employers. Additionally, some people may even feel more comfortable sharing intimate details with clinicians who have no direct connection to their home, which can greatly aid in their therapy and recovery.
6.) It may give loved ones some breathing space
In most cases, the recovering individual is not the only person negatively affected by substance misuse. Family and close friends may find it difficult to see their loved one become a completely different person because of drugs and alcohol, and Gaining Trust After Rehab can be difficult for friends and family members with whom a person’s relationship has become strained as a result of the addiction. A lot of time, they may also need some time by themselves to process everything that has happened, especially if they had been supportive of their loved one in rehab.
If the recovering individual is away, that gives everyone else some time and space to reflect on what happened. They can focus on their own recovery from trauma and make plans about how life should be like when their loved one comes back home.
While certainly not the cure-all some people might make it out to be, travel after residential rehab can be beneficial for some recovering individuals, as well as the people around them.
Travel can offer time and space to the recovering individual, which can aid conventional approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and trigger management. So long as travel is understood to be supplemental to treatment rather than a substitute for it, recovering individuals with a means to travel should, at the very least, consider doing so after completing residential rehab.