When we do not have practice and tools to support our recovery, our environment can dictate our behavior. A chaotic environment is likely to make us feel chaotic. And that feeling can lead to self-medicating in unhealthy ways.
Your surroundings have a way of pushing your buttons. When the world feels out of control, it’s easy to turn to substances to make the noise go away.
Difficult family members, friends, and loved ones can set you on edge. Exposure to bullies and violence can play into your reasons to cope by using drugs or alcohol. Scary people and harmful environments push us to stress out and numb ourselves to reality.
Your environment can influence what coping strategies you turn to when facing problems and issues in your life. For example, if your environment is a drinking culture, it could be hard to quit without distancing yourself from that space. People might pressure you to continue drinking. Supportive family and friends are not going to do that. Creating healthy boundaries and finding ways to cope are necessary parts of recovery.
What if I’m stuck in my environment?
Build yourself up
One route is your individual journey to look back at where you came from and develop a new individualized relationship with your substance.
You have an identity that has nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. Substances isolate you not only from others, but also from yourself. Reconnecting with yourself helps you get back to who you are and where you want to be.
Here are some strategies to help you reconnect with yourself:
- Practice self-compassion: Reframing your thoughts, changing your self-talk, and creating affirmations for yourself can help build yourself up and feel better.
- Grounding techniques: Grounding techniques such as meditation and many others help you feel more aware and present in the moment. These strategies help you manage your emotions especially when you want to use.
- Journaling: Journaling can help you process your feelings and become more aware of your triggers. It’s hard to sit in your feelings, but necessary. You can journal in a notebook or in the notes app of your phone. Journaling is just one way to help you work through your emotions, so you don’t turn to substances.
- Find a new coping skill: If you want to stop using or drinking, then you have to replace the habit with something else. Try to think of something that interests you, like dancing, physical activity, art, writing, etc.
Even if nothing around you changes, you can relearn how to regulate your thoughts, feelings and actions. You have the power to free yourself from your circumstances by getting a grip on your emotions. There’s freedom in knowing you can master your reactions to situations.
Find safe spaces and people
You can’t heal in the same environment that made you sick.
The world might be frightening if you feel you can’t quit. You also may fear that your friendships and relationships will change without substances. Addiction keeps you isolated. But seeking out friends and others who are there for you or have been through what you’re going through will make your recovery work.
- Talk to someone: It’s hard to stop using alone. And you are not alone in your feelings or this experience. Tell someone you trust about what you’re going through. Or you can talk to someone outside of your loved ones like a therapist, counselor, online group, or peer recovery specialist. It might help talking to someone who has been through this before.
- Find support groups: When your environment doesn’t feel safe, then attending meetings is one way that can make you feel safe. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or others are spaces where you can be supported by others who know what you are going through.
Think about those people and things that make you feel safe. Putting yourself straight into places of hope will allow you to learn more about yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to be with people who show you that working this works!
Focus on what you can control
We spend so much time thinking about what we don’t have control over. Can you think of where you can have control?
Accept that you can’t control every part of your life. We’d all love to control our circumstances, but life gets in the way! As the saying goes. “Accept the things you cannot change, and have the courage to change the things you can.” Empower yourself to make good choices- that’s real power.
You have the tools to overcome the triggers in your environment and focus on what you can control. Remember that acceptance means you can’t control everything. Here are some ways to help you feel empowered:
- Be aware of triggers. People and places in your environment may bring up bad feelings that lead you to use. Knowing what things affect you arms you with knowledge so you think about when and why you use substances.
- Think about your emotions. Notice your thoughts and feelings that lead to behaviors you want to avoid.
- Access your authentic self. Remember that using isolates you from family, friends and your purpose in life. Connect with your highest self.
- Seek healthy environments. Gravitate toward things that are good for your recovery. Place yourself where there is hope and learning opportunities.