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How Your Environment Impacts Recovery

Learning how your environment impacts recovery is an important lesson to learn.

In 2010, I made the terrible decision to get behind the wheel after drinking too many glasses of wine. A couple of miles away from my apartment, I crashed into another car. I seriously injured two of its passengers.

I was later sentenced to prison time.

After nearly four years behind bars, I was released. I went to live with my boyfriend, who stuck by me the entire time I was incarcerated. But shortly after I moved in, I realized he was not the same guy I’d known since college.

While I’d been away, he developed quite a drinking problem. Every night, he poured himself drink after drink, sipping out of his 24 oz. Tervis Tumbler while watching a show or finishing up some work.

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I remember being pretty shocked at the amount of liquor that went into each cocktail he made himself. Soon I was discovering empty handles of liquor hidden in the closet, the garage, the attic – one of the telltale signs of a drinking problem.

He constantly drank in front of me, and that was clearly a problem. I never actually craved alcohol when I was in prison. It was truly “out of sight, out of mind” for me.

But now my live-in boyfriend was constantly downing drinks in front of me as I stood by…

Yes, this was definitely impacting my recovery.

Maintaining Abstinence in a Bad Environment

a stressful environment impacts your recoveryEven on those really tough days where I had previously turned to a glass of wine to help me cope, the thought of drinking had never even crossed my mind. After all, my sober lifestyle had become so ingrained in me after four long years.

But with my then-boyfriend constantly downing drinks and the constant aroma of his liquor wafting around the apartment, the temptation that I hadn’t felt in so long was slowly starting to creep back in.

Plus, there was the fact that I was now on probation, with very strict terms pertaining to alcohol. I wasn’t allowed to drink it or be around places that primarily served it.

In fact, my probation officer would regularly arrive at our place. He would look around to make sure he didn’t find any signs that I was in violation of those terms.

A Healthy Environment Impacts Recovery

It’s no surprise, then, that after a few months, I knew it was time for me to leave. My living environment had become too much of an obstacle to my sustained abstinence from alcohol. And looking back now, it’s no wonder why.

Living in an environment that has a constant flow of alcohol can derail the recovery efforts of even the most highly motivated of individuals. In fact, experts have learned that our living and working environment impacts recovery by greatly influencing our attitudes and behaviors around drinking.

Experts have learned that our living and working environment impacts recovery by greatly influencing our attitudes and behaviors around drinking.

A recent study analyzed just how effective a substance-free living environment would be for individuals attempting to stay sober. Researchers looked specifically at sober living houses. These are alcohol and drug-free living environments that offer peer support for recovery outside the context of treatment.

In this type of living situation, residents typically are required to:

  • Abide by a curfew and other house rules.
  • Be active in 12-step recovery programs.
  • Abstain from drugs and alcohol.

In evaluating 300 individuals who lived in such an environment, researchers found that the majority had positive outcomes in abstaining from substance use while they were residents. In addition, they were able to maintain these improvements after leaving the sober living home.

The researchers credited an abstinent social network, along with a sober living environment, as being strong predictors of such an outcome.

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Creating the Right Environment for Recovery

a healthy environment impacts recovery positivelyResearch proves the effectiveness of physically removing yourself from environments where drugs and alcohol are easily accessible. And choosing an environment where you don’t have connections or the ability to acquire drugs can go a long way in maintaining long-term sobriety.

It’s important for those of us who are working hard in our recovery to limit environmental temptations as best we can. And that should start with ensuring we have a drug- and alcohol-free household.

Adjusting your environment impacts recovery—and that’s important to remember.

For information about treatment options for you or a loved one, call 866-470-3561 (Who Answers?) today.


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