There are many factors involved in the development and recovery from addiction, with one’s environment playing an integral role throughout both. Understanding the impact of one’s environment, how it introduces or shapes ideas surrounding addictive substances, and how to utilize one’s environment to their advantage are all essential skills. Just as one’s environment can inform the development of addiction, it can also be a tool to take one’s recovery into their own hands throughout detox and future treatment programs.
How Environment Informs Addiction
Environments consist of more than just a few walls and objects. Rather, they can house entire cultures, expectations, and attitudes, with ideas surrounding the use of addictive substances making up only a part of its influence.
Addictive Substances in the Environment
For some, environments create direct exposure to addictive substances. Having bottles of alcohol on display, beer in the refrigerator, or prescription drugs left on the counter can influence one’s perspective regarding their use. Friends and family regularly engaging with these substances can further normalize their use, creating unhealthy expectations surrounding the use of drugs or alcohol and making them seem either less dangerous, less addictive, or more acceptable than they may really be.
Likewise, being around others who regularly use drugs or alcohol can make it difficult to differentiate one’s use from addiction. An individual may not be able to accurately judge their own relationship to these substances when compared to others, with environments creating a warped perspective on the dangers and signs of addiction therein. Even iconography of addictive substances, such as signs sporting logos of alcoholic beverages or photos of friends on vacation with a drink can all further skew these ideas.
Gauging the Emotional Impact
Environments can also beget the use of addictive substances in more indirect ways. Stressful home atmospheres — such as fragile relationships with family members, being surrounded by work stresses at home, or any other sources of anxiety, depression, or compromised self-care strategies — can all leave an individual at a higher chance of looking to substances as a stress relief outlet.
In even more extreme situations, the prevalence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or even living with divorced parents or moving from home to home can all impact one’s emotional health. Traumatic experiences can be intimately tied to one’s environment, further informing the use of addictive substances.
Lastly, digital media is a large part of the lives of many. However, this space can be filled with its own stresses and influences. From positive imagery around the use of addictive substances to the stresses of social media, common digital mediums create their own potent environment. Exposure to negative, distressing, or fear-inducing news all carry an emotional weight that can influence one’s decisions and attitudes surrounding drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Using Environment to Your Advantage
Just as one’s environment can influence the development of addiction, it can also be a tool to facilitate the beginning of one’s healing journey. While one’s environment may host stressful connotations to the use of drugs or alcohol, changing one’s environment can be a great way to begin one’s healing by developing new perspectives and attitudes surrounding one’s space.
Rearranging furniture or repurposing certain rooms where one used to engage with drugs or alcohol can give these spaces a new feel and meaning. Creating a game room or using this space to set up new hobbies such as art, music, or a theatre to explore cinema are all powerful ways to embrace new elements of one’s sober identity while distancing oneself from previous stresses of one’s environment. Others may utilize this space for other therapeutic opportunities, such as yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices.
Changing one’s environment can also mean simply eliminating unnecessary stressors or reminders of one’s use. Taking down anything that may have a logo or photos of one’s time using can all prevent an individual from romanticizing their past use. Replacing these things with new photos taken in sobriety can help reinforce one’s sober decisions.
However, the human element of one’s environment is commonly the most complicated. Dedicated family programs and establishing new communication strategies can all help create a new atmosphere based on one’s sobriety. Learning to communicate needs, set effective boundaries, and even make cultural adjustments to the expectations around drugs and alcohol are all core skills that need professional guidance to develop. Additionally, dedicated detox and treatment facilities are instrumental in opening these dialogues in a safe and supportive way.
Lastly, understanding the impact of digital media can also help an individual impose new strategies regarding the use of their phone or computer. Having a set amount of time to spend on media devices, removing social media apps from one’s home screen to prevent compulsory engagement, or even making sure one has a reason to open these devices in the first place to prevent doom-scrolling are critical. These best practices can all help improve one’s emotional state and mitigate the influences these digital environments have over one’s mental and emotional health.
The environment is an integral part of any journey with addiction, both in how you or a loved one may have been exposed to drugs or alcohol and how one can reshape their sober future. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we embrace the truly transformative effects of the natural environment. We utilize our beautiful and curated iconography of the natural elements of the Pacific Ocean. From your first step into detox, we are committed to helping you shape your own healthy, sober environment inside and outside of our walls to create a sustained, transformed lifestyle. We also employ individual and group therapies to help you establish a new social environment filled with understanding and supportive peers to push you toward your sober goals. For more information on how we can create a program that is right for you, call to speak to a caring professional today at (949) 426-7962.