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Sober Fun in the Sun

Sober travel is so much more than going on vacation and not drinking. It’s about getting comfortable in your skin and being willing to have a bigger life.

For many people, what comes to mind when they think about traveling and going on vacation is freedom: freedom from their jobs and meetings, the hassles and stresses of daily life, routines and responsibilities.

For people in recovery, especially college students in early recovery, vacations — which used to be full of warm weather and cold drinks — can be everything but freeing. It’s a little hard to embrace that vacation state of mind when airplanes, hotels, restaurants and beaches are rife with temptations and when your recovery support network is a thousand miles away.

Everyone has different vacation styles and thrives in different situations. Some are comfortable with last-minute booking and going with the flow, while others get anxious unless they book ahead and create an itinerary. Some enjoy crashing in a hostel and getting off the beaten path, while others prefer a luxury hotel and visiting iconic landmarks.

Until Raylin Smith found recovery in 2013, the only vacation style she knew was drinking.

“Any activity was paired with drinking, whether it was a float trip with my sorority or a sports game with my friends,” Smith says. “Anywhere I traveled, it was always, ‘Where are the cool bars? Can I day drink? Where’s the booze?’”

The 22-year-old film studies major at Ohio State didn’t even consider going on a trip during spring break, the biggest party week of the year for college students. She’d be fine hanging around Columbus with the friends she’d met through the Ohio State Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC). Maybe they’d go to a concert or hit up Cedar Point.

Then Sarah Nerad, program manager of the CRC and director of recovery for the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery, told the students that the university would provide financial support so they could attend Clean Break, an affordable peer-based recovery event for college students during spring break. The program is sponsored by nonprofit foundations and treatment and recovery-based organizations, and students pay less than $250, which includes a week of accommodation, some free meals and sponsored activities.

©Samuel Zeller

“I had no idea our school would care so much about us — this ragtag group of students in recovery — to sponsor a trip for us,” Smith says. “But I had never traveled sober before. My whole sobriety, I had access to meetings and support groups, so I was definitely nervous and unsure how it would play out traveling.”

The brainchild of certified interventionist Asher Levine, Clean Break provides a solution for the college student in recovery who would have to choose between isolating on an empty campus or tagging along with friends who are not sober and hoping they don’t use drugs or alcohol.

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