21 November 2018

Changing People, Places and Things: How Important is this for Recovery?

Addiction affects all areas of your life, and in order to break the cycle, changes in each of those areas are also necessary. People, places and things absolutely matter when it comes to getting sober and can actually play a lead role in the sustainability of long-term recovery. Early recovery is difficult; it is within the first six months of sobriety that most relapses happen. So, it’s recommended that you stay away from anything that may lead you to return to drinking or using.

If you have been through drug and alcohol addiction treatment already, you have likely heard that changing the people, places, and things in your life are often necessary to maintain sobriety. Balancing what you hope to keep in your old life with your new life in recovery isn’t an easy endeavour. Change is hard – you have to take it day by day. The following are a few thoughts to help you along your way.

CHANGING PLACES
If you’re new to recovery, it’s extremely important to be mindful about visiting places you previously used to use. Whether it is bars, parties, concerts, or other using settings, they are especially slippery in early recovery. You won’t necessarily have to avoid these places forever, but they can certainly put brand new sobriety at risk. It’s normal to not be in a completely healthy emotional place when you have just gotten sober, so there is no reason to go back to the places that you used drugs or drank alcohol – you have no business being there. Slippery places will only serve to make you feel like an outsider as you watch others drink. It can be tortuous and a relapse waiting to happen.

If there are specific drinking events that you feel you must attend in early sobriety, like weddings or family gatherings, consider whether or not you really have to. There is no shame in bowing out of situations that might challenge your sobriety. If you must go, talk with your sponsor or therapist to come up with coping strategies and to have support ready for you if you need it.

Don’t allow the fact that you can’t go to your old hangouts make you think that you will never have fun again. Get involved with other sober people, and you will quickly realise that there are a lot of activities and events that they attend that are exciting and interesting. Try new things – take a class, spend time outdoors, find a new hobby. Your life isn’t over it’s just changing.

CHANGING PEOPLE
Most of the individuals you would have associated with during your addiction were other addicts, and this was because these were the people who provided access to our drug of choice or, who we engaged in the act of drinking or using drugs. Individuals in recovery might have a hard time separating from those they were involved with during the addiction; however, it is absolutely necessary to do so in order make a clean break from those who are considered harmful to our recovery.

In recovery, you will want to establish new relationships with others who support your recovery efforts. Negative relationships can jeopardise your recovery and could lead to relapse. Unless someone you knew wants to engage in recovery themselves, they do not have your best interests at heart. If you find that it is difficult to remove these people from your life, find someone to support you. Often you will not need to have a conversation with them, as you can just walk away. If you think you may want to connect with others who you used with, consider your motivation for doing so. It is best to walk away from those who do not support your recovery.

CHANGING THINGS
Your routine is something that you follow without much thought, which might need changing in recovery. You will need to manage emotions to avoid boredom or complacency, both of which can lead to relapse. Learning to engage in other activities and keeping busy are ways to break out of your old routines and patterns of behaviour during recovery.

The key to avoiding risky behaviours and situations is to learn what your triggers are and then stay away from them until you are better equipped to handle them. Staying away from things that are going to cause you to romanticise your alcohol or drug using is a good rule of thumb in early recovery. Be mindful of how you are feeling and talk to someone supportive when you feel triggered. Those feelings won’t last forever, but hopefully, your sobriety will.

RECOVERY REQUIRES CHANGE
The idea behind changing people, places, and things in recovery is to break your old patterns of behaviour that led you to drink or use. People who are new in recovery often fall victim to “euphoric recall,” romanticising or glamourising their past using, only recalling the pleasurable feelings and positive times they had. This is a dangerous way of thinking, and putting yourself in situations (or around people) in which you used to drink or use can easily lead you to those types of thoughts. It’s always a good idea to break up the old pattern of the romanticised fantasy to its complete end.

Recovery is possible, and while change is hard, breaking old patterns will ultimately be worth it. Consider times in the past when you made positive changes that were difficult. It’s likely that those changes quickly became your new normal. Recovery is like that too. It will feel natural and normal to you given some time.

Making positive changes and finding the right addiction treatment and support for your recovery will make the process less overwhelming and reduce your stress as you embark on your new lifestyle.

To learn more about how change can help during addiction treatment and recovery read, get in touch with us as soon as possible.

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