I would like to thank Pat McGraw from the Prevention Coalition, www.thepreventioncoalition.org for contributing this article to Captivating Hope.
Do You Need a Change of Scenery to Stay on the Sober Track?
The road to overcoming substance abuse is not easy, and staying sober is an ongoing process that takes commitment. Along with commitment, taking charge of your surroundings and daily routines is a key part of staying on the right track. To prevent relapse, you may need to look closely at your support system and whether your living environment helps or hurts your recovery.
The Importance of Community
Who you surround yourself with in recovery plays a major role in your success. If you still spend time with friends who were around when you used drugs or alcohol, the negative impact they have on your life is a huge distraction from your sobriety. Even if you choose not to spend time with people from your past if they live in your neighborhood and you cross paths often, that constant reminder of their involvement in your life causes stress that undercuts your hard work to remain sober.
While removing yourself from encountering people who don’t support your recovery, you also need to make sure you ARE surrounding yourself with a supportive community. Studies have shown a connection between social isolation and addiction, so when you’re in recovery, don’t try to go it alone. Addiction recovery can feel isolating if you’ve lost friends along the way. If that’s the case for you, think about where you live and what you enjoy doing. Relocating to a new neighborhood that has a strong sense of community, especially a neighborhood that is walkable, can help you feel more connected in general and help you meet new people.
Leaving Behind Old Routines
Addiction is an unhealthy routine that is hard to break. Once you’ve broken it, you need to make sure your daily activities don’t tempt your old addiction habit. Your environment is a key part of this. It’s unhealthy for your day to day surroundings to be a constant reminder of the time when you were using. For example, Redfin.com notes that when you’re searching for a new home, you may need to look in a different neighborhood if your daily commute means you pass a bar you used to frequent. Even with the strongest commitment and willpower, you need to surround yourself with as much positivity in your recovery process as possible. Certain people from your past and even the home you were living in when you were using drugs or alcohol can be emotional triggers. Removing yourself from places you associate with your past is a simple but effective way to focus on moving forward.
According to NPR, the environment has such a strong relationship to behavior that we unconsciously carry out certain actions simply because of an association between a habit and our location. As psychologist David Neal explains to NPR, for someone recovering from addiction, the place where they would drink or get high becomes a sort of mental cue that can be hard to resist. If this place was your home or somewhere in your neighborhood, starting over in a new place can be a powerful way to break this strong mental association.
Creating New, Healthy Routines
Moving to a new home and refocusing on a new environment allows you to develop positive associations with a new space. Even in a new place, there will be the regular stress of day to day life, but your goal is to focus your energy on making your new space as calm and relaxing as possible. Along with developing a new daily routine away from triggers, seek out ways to create other healthy routines in your new neighborhood. In your home search, try to find a neighborhood with plenty of opportunities for cultural events and activities. Getting involved in these events will fill you with a positive energy and help you feel more connected to your community too.
Connecting with your community and developing meaningful relationships are critical parts of staying committed to recovery. If your home or neighborhood is lacking that community and is too much of a connection to your past, consider whether a change of location is what you need for a fresh start moving forward.
Photo credit: Pixabay