Is Your Neighborhood Making You Sick?

If you're constantly surrounded by triggers, it endangers your sobriety.

I used to live in a neighborhood blanketed in liquor stores, dive bars, and convenience stores that sold beer until two in the morning – even on Christmas.

My old apartment building smelled so much like pot you’d have thought a herd of skunks lived next door. Drunk people screamed at each other outside my window at all hours of the day and night. All of these elements served as around-the-clock triggers for me.

The urge to walk to the corner deli and buy a 12-pack of cheap beer was often too hard to ignore, so I relapsed a lot.

Home Sweet Home?

I was trying so hard to stay sober, but my neighborhood seemed to keep me stuck repeating the same vicious cycle. All of the noise, the availability of alcohol, and the social atmosphere where every event took place at a bar and everyone drank, was too much of a temptation for me.

I finally chose to put my recovery first and I moved to a new city. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and required careful contemplation. Here are some of the questions I asked myself to figure out: Should I stay or should I go?

  • Is there a way to minimize the triggers in this environment?
    I tried a white noise machine to block out the sound. I walked in weird routes to avoid bars and liquor stores. I avoided anyone who drank or used substances. I stayed away from anything that might cause a relapse and it worked…for awhile. I’d stay sober for months, but something bad would eventually happen, and I’d be back at that deli with a 12-pack.
  • Is there a reason I have to stay here?
    I lived in a cheap part of town which made it easy to pay the rent. I knew finding a place away from the chaos would be more expensive and require a commute back and forth to work. I thought about a million trivial details before I realized achieving lasting recovery was more important than any of those small sacrifices.
  • Will I have access to recovery tools?
    My program of recovery involves therapy, yoga, and meditation. That means I had to find a place with both a near by yoga studio and a meditation center. I also wanted to live close to some support group meetings, like Refuge Recovery. While these additional requirements made it challenging to find an apartment, staying sober made it worth the extra effort.
  • Can I avoid isolating?
    While it’s important to avoid those people, places, and things from the past, isolation can lead to relapse. If I was going to stay sober, I needed the love and support of friends and family. Ultimately, I picked a place close to my family, as it allowed me the privacy to have quiet alone time and the close proximity to help if I’m tempted to use again.

The Work is Worth It

While moving wasn’t an easy choice, it turned out to be the best for my recovery. I reached my conclusion after considering my best friend’s favorite proverb, which said “There are coping skills, and there are things that aren’t worth coping with.”

I’d used all my coping skills in an effort to live in a toxic environment, but then I realized…it wasn’t worth coping with.



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