Is Change Good For Addiction Recovery?

We’re moving offices. I am sitting with stacked boxes, furniture with yellow dots and Halloween decorations  too big to package (don’t ask) waiting for the movers to arrive. It’s early, and I’ve been thinking about the positive aspects of change. Especially for those of us in recovery.

Cha cha cha changes…

Moving brings out the unique personality traits in people. There are those who hate change and the stoics who shrug, because they have done this before. In the past fifteen years, I have moved houses five times and coincidentally, work offices five times. I have downsized, stored, given away, lost and found a lifetime of possessions.

I love change, but as we began the office move, I thought about what I always think about – how does this thing I am doing impact my (and everybody else’s) recovery?

Curtail Change in Early Recovery?

Often we are told to curtail change in early recovery. “Don’t make any unnecessary decisions,” we are warned. And the ever popular, “Don’t even think about a new romance for a year.”

I understand it’s not wise to rescue a puppy in the wake of quitting your substance of choice. Because, learning and relearning self-care is most important to a person’s long term well-being. But, what about changing things up when the environment you have been in is toxic? Or filled with triggers? Or crowded with people who still use? I sold a house in The Bahamas immediately after getting sober and have not been back to the island in almost five years, because it felt dangerous to me then… It still does.

And as we tick off the months and years of our sobriety, we also gain knowledge of ourselves – what works to strengthen our recovery and what does not. We begin to feel confident in our choices. And we might even embrace change. I’ve come up with my list of those changes that are prudent to avoid and those to embrace in early recovery and beyond. Change it up!

Change to Avoid:

  • Other than a goldfish (and even they require continuous care and die a lot) don’t be fooled into getting a new pet. Nuff said.
  • Be careful of big relationship changes – don’t accept a marriage proposal smack out of treatment. Do not “fall in love” in rehab…
  • Start small – job promotions that add to stress might be something to avoid. At least for a few months. Better to go back to a job part time than to create a situation where you are prone to unnecessary stressors.
  • Temper social media outbursts (says the woman who started writing a blog six months into her sobriety) – announcing milestone sober dates on Twitter are okay as long as you stay sober – n’est-ce pas?
  • Families push buttons. So, don’t volunteer to “do Thanksgiving” for the first time, when you are newly sober. In fact, have an exit strategy for any family get together.
  • Avoid, when at all possible, the top twenty life stressors. The problem is, that things like substance use disorders and divorce (a sometimes unavoidable result of substance use) are on the list of stressors. My rule of thumb is – don’t court any big stressors. Also, be prepared for life’s foibles. They happen whether you are sober or not!


Change to Embrace…

  • Recovery is the time to embrace any new-found passions you might have learned in treatment, AA meetings, group therapy or the school of hard knocks… Hike, sing in a choir, read to children at the library, write a book or a blog, and embrace the good change recovery brings.
  • Change your way of looking at the world. There is great power in positive thinking!
  • Move away from those situations that squeeze your emotional triggers. Moving is stressful, but a college student going back to an off-campus party house after treatment is a BAD idea. Better to pack up your things and MOVE if your environment is toxic to your recovery.
  • You might not want to jump into a new romantic relationship, but one of the joys of newfound sobriety is forming lasting friendships.
  • Change how you eat and how you take care of yourself.
  • Change how you respond to your cravings or emotional triggers and rewire your brain! The best way to beat a “bad habit” is to respond differently to the cue, until it becomes second nature.
  • And when it’s necessary, or outside of your control, try to take a deep breath and be open to change.

Change is Fun…

When you are open to change, the world gets bigger and life is more interesting. You experience more, meet new people and set the stage for a life full of, well, LIFE. After the long, rough road of addiction that sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

Real life, desensitized, in all its glory.

Today I’m not drinking because I am moving (changing it up again)

How come you’re not drinking?

E2E – is this a change you can live with?