One of the foundational elements of many recovery programs is that an individual with a Substance Use Disorder must do honest and thorough internal work if they wish to get well and stay well. This work involves self-reflection, understanding the disease, coming to terms with the past, and acknowledging what kind of person they want to be going forward. It begins at the onset of a person’s recovery journey, and is widely considered a lifelong task.
While in treatment, addiction treatment professionals can help guide you using evidence-based treatments, various types of therapy, and mindfulness habits. This sets up a blueprint for you to live by once you complete your program and rejoin the ‘real’ world, and essentially helps you continue the internal work that encompasses so much of the recovery process.
While the treatment process is designed to help you deal with the internal matters that led to your addiction, it can be trickier to prepare you for external factors you will encounter once leaving your program. Your environment will not always bend to your newfound way of life, and certain elements can be disruptive to your recovery process. For this reason, many programs offer relapse prevention and coping strategies to help you best prepare, and also offer suggestions on things you may want to avoid now that you are free from your substance use.
What kind of environmental factors play a role in your sobriety? Could certain environmental factors have had a part in your substance use?
Addiction: A Combination of Genetics and Environment
Addiction is generally agreed to be a ‘family disease.’ This can have more than one meaning; addiction is thought by some scientific and medical professionals to be genetic, and it is also thought to be impacted by the environment one is brought up in. If you have a substantial amount of addiction in your family history, you’ll likely be predisposed genetically and also be exposed to drug and alcohol use from a young age.
As children, our development is molded by the world around us and the people who interact with us. If a child grows up in a home with a lot of drug use, they may not have the same view of substances that a child growing up in a sheltered environment, with no drug use, may have.
If the environment is turbulent and involves disruption leading to trauma, that too can have influence over an individual’s proclivity to try drugs and alcohol.
Some other factors that could disrupt an individual’s upbringing leading to possible substance abuse include:
- Domestic violence
- Emotional, psychological, verbal or sexual abuse
- Criminal behavior
- Discord between family members
- Mental illness (in particular those left undiagnosed)
Any type of childhood trauma (also known as ACE or ‘adverse childhood experiences’) can lead to delay in emotional development, which can cause unhealthy coping mechanisms to develop. If there is substance or alcohol use in their home, it will be normal to them despite the negative consequences it might lead to.
Negative familial influence can cause more stress to the individual in general, but it does not always cause a person to turn to substances. Individuals who are raised in stable homes can also turn to drug and alcohol use, it just happens less often.
Many addiction treatment programs try to involve families in the treatment process, as the individual’s support network is very important. Family therapy might be encouraged if there is history of trauma, codependency, or enabling of the individual so that these behaviors can be acknowledged and hopefully remedied.
Many individuals begin using substances in their early to mid-teens. This occurs mainly because of social peer pressure, whether it comes from peers at school, neighborhood acquaintances, meeting at parties, etc. Some substances are also used in social settings, such as alcohol, which is usually what leads to the first time of use. If a person is at a party where drugs and alcohol are being used, they will be more inclined to use to fit in. It will seem more acceptable and more okay simply because it might seem like everyone is doing it.
Some ways in which you can avoid social situations that might lead to a relapse include:
- Avoiding bars or large parties where you know substances will be used
- Being open with friends and family about your sobriety so they will be more likely to respect your boundaries
- Removing friends or contact with family who aren’t supportive of your recovery
- Building a new network with other sober individuals
- Taking up new hobbies that are good for you and will keep you away from substances, such as hiking or trying a creative activity such as playing an instrument
While it might be difficult to turn away from old friends and places where you spent a lot of time, try to understand that it’s best to put these things behind you. As comforting as the thought of sitting on a bar stool in your favorite bar might be when you’re having a down day, it’s just not a good place for you anymore. Those external influences will only pull you back down to the substance you have worked so hard to untether yourself from.
School and work are significant in a person’s influential circle. If you are newly sober and reentering one of these environments, seek out those who are supportive and pursue relationships with those in your sober network. Meetings are a great way to meet others in recovery who have the same goals that you do.
How to Prepare for Any Environment in Sobriety
It’s important to assess what type of environment is most supportive to you, especially in early recovery. That way you can have a plan once you leave treatment. Though there are things in life that simply can’t be avoided forever, however, so to have a toolbox of coping strategies is a great way to be prepared for whatever comes your way.
- Communicate: Keep in contact with your loved ones, especially those who will be in your life a significant amount. Address your newfound sobriety, and if your household members are supportive, they will be amenable to providing accountability and stability.
- Counseling and outpatient therapy: Your treatment program will likely provide resources for you to use once you are back in the real world. If not, consult your insurance provider to find a therapist that specializes in substance use disorder to help you stay on the right path.
- Sober network: Try to maintain a circle of contacts that are also in sobriety. This can help with socializing and navigating early recovery. Support meetings (such as AA, NA, HA, etc.) are a good way to meet new people who share the same goals as you do. You can also link up with a sponsor who can provide further guidance, especially if you run into a problem or feel the need to use—it’s good to have someone to call that will talk you through the feeling and hold you accountable.
- Practice mindfulness: Meditation and centering oneself is important. This keeps you mentally balanced and can lower stress levels. Keeping a journal is a great way to record your thoughts and can also be a great coping mechanism.
- Stable routine: Work to have a good routine in place, including a good diet and time set aside for exercise. Get plenty of sleep and make time to do the things you enjoy!
- Keep a tidy home: Making your bed in the morning, keeping up with dishes and laundry, and having natural sunlight can all impact your mood. Having a clean and comfortable space will keep your mind feeling less cluttered.
It’s important to have a positive home environment, especially in the early stages of your recovery. If you don’t feel supported at home and have the means, try to look into a new living situation with others who are in recovery. Developing your new routine is a lot easier when you have a good network that is helping you along the way.
Treatment centers often assist with aftercare planning, and many suggest sober living as a stepping stone between treatment and independent living.
Granite Recovery Centers
While we cannot change our upbringing or the things that brought us to substances in the first place, we can do our best to cultivate a life that supports our new, sober way of living. This is one that promotes positive thinking, accountability, and balance, so we can be our best selves. By continuously strengthening our recovery routine, we can maintain sobriety no matter what environment we are in.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, please know you aren’t alone. Our caring and professional team of specialists can help you or your loved one discuss your treatment options. With therapy, life skills training, a supportive community, and a beautiful and healthy environment, our drug and alcohol abuse programs will help you beat addiction and achieve a better life of sustained recovery.
If you or a loved one is considering getting help for your addiction, please give our admission specialists a call at 855.712.7784. We are available 24/7 and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.