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Forecast is dry for first holiday package aimed at recovering alcoholics

A recovering alcoholic has unveiled Europe's first package holiday for those trying to stay clean after kicking their addiction.

Sober Holidays is the brainchild of Andrew O'Loughlin, who identified a gap in the market when he went into recovery four years ago.

He has developed a Portuguese villa, Renovatio, to provide a relaxing holiday environment without a drink in sight.

Billed as a unique holiday destination for people in recovery, Renovatio is designed for guests with a minimum of 60 days abstinence behind them.

Visitors can avoid the "pressures associated with holidays and drinking".

There is a zero-tolerance policy to alcohol or drugs and all visitors to the hilltop villa, including partners of those in recovery, are expected to adhere to this.

"Holidays have long been identified as a key trigger to relapse for people in recovery, particularly during the first two years", Andrew said.

"For some, even arriving at the airport can be a daunting experience. In early recovery, one of the hardest obstacles I had to face was going on holidays.

"After several horrible, stressful experiences, I realised that my home in Portugal was the place where I felt the most relaxed and happy. So many of my friends who are in recovery who came to visit also commented on the spiritual atmosphere of the house and the serene views, so I decided that it was something I really wanted to share with others."

Relapsing

Sober Holidays is a first in Europe -- several similar companies operate in the US.

"We feel this is very unique," said Andrew. "If we can help prevent one person from relapsing on holidays, we are sending a great message out there to others in recovery."

Renovatio -- meaning rebirth -- is a private villa on the western end of the Algarve near Monchique.

The company is not tied to any organisation or recovery philosophy, but does offer access to 12-step meetings.

AA meetings in English are held nearby, with one GA and one NA meeting a week also available.

A fully qualified doctor is on call at all times. There are 14 golf courses in the area, and other sporting and cultural activities available.

The company will also be adding breaks for golfers, recovering gamblers, foodie weeks, single weeks and gay-only weeks.

aphelan@herald.ie