5 Reasons Why Moving to a More Sober Area of Town Is Worth the Stress
Addiction is a neurobiological disease with genetic and environmental risk factors, and individuals need to pursue healthier environments when pursuing addiction recovery. Professional rehabilitation is the most effective way to treat the disease, but recovery involves lifestyle and health changes designed to produce the most positive outcome possible. For some, this might entail moving to a community or area of town with higher sobriety rates. Reasons for the increased sobriety can differ. Certain areas have fewer bars, liquor stores and places to buy or consume substances, which can be helpful for a recovering addict. The reason certain neighborhoods have lower instances of substance abuse might stem from religious influence, a tragic substance-related incident or tough local regulations regarding alcohol-related advertising, zoning laws and business standards. Whatever the case, moving to a neighborhood with less drug and alcohol saturation is worth the hassle for many recovering addicts. Below are five reasons why.
- Fewer Cues that Trigger Cravings
In 2012, the Chicago Tribune estimated that the alcohol industry is a $60 billion annual business, and the barrage of advertising, marketing and promotion has the potential to trigger memory cues and cravings. Reasons likely exist for a neighborhood’s high sobriety rate, and these reasons often make alcohol companies less interested in marketing its products to that particular area. The same underlying factors might also discourage local drug dealing. In any case, recovering addicts will have less exposure to alcohol-consumption marketing and similar relapse-risk factors. Keep in mind, even if the primary substance of abuse was a drug, renewed alcohol consumption engages the same dopaminergic pathways and typically leads to a rapid relapse. Likewise, drinking establishments often provide opportunities to acquire drugs and connect socially with people who regularly get intoxicated. A change of location also creates distance from bars, liquor stores, pharmacies, street corners and other potential memory cues associated with the neighborhood where the substance abuse primarily took place.
- Less Social Peer Pressure
The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reports that social support is a primary and necessary mechanism for recovery change, and more abstinent areas of town often provide higher levels of sober support. The move helps recovering addicts create distance from casual relationships developed around substance use, while the new community presents opportunities to make friends who ideally will not apply negative social pressure. While the Norman Rockwell portrayal of wholesome neighborhoods lives only on the painted canvas, peer pressure in a largely sober community will likely be a positive influence on sustained abstinence.
- Healthier Lifestyle Opportunities
The majority of adult Americans actively drink, and if a particular area of town reflects the minority, the neighborhood might well claim more community activities and events. Boredom and social disconnect are risk factors for relapse, and local activities provide opportunities for non-intoxicated entertainment, enjoyment and social interaction. Furthermore, local events that promote physical health like sports, yoga, walking groups and runs can expedite neurobiological healing related to the addiction.
- Positive Community Culture
The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in 2007 defined recovery as a voluntary lifestyle characterized by sobriety, health and positive citizenship. If a neighborhood emphasizes or prefers abstinence, it probably has positive levels of health and citizenship that can also aid in recovery. This type of environment can be especially helpful for recovering addicts with co-occurring issues like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The latter disorder, PTSD, involves unresolved trauma that can produce extreme anxiety and a sense that the trauma is suddenly reoccurring. A positive community culture provides an ideal setting for recovery and healing as it can help elevate moods, encourage support and improve both physical and mental health.
- Healthier Work Opportunities
The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in 1991 stressed that co-workers who support recoveries are a major positive influence, especially if they take specific steps to show support such as refraining from use in the person’s presence. If the new neighborhood corresponds with new local employment, the location might provide healthier workplace environments. Job opportunities in this new neighborhood are less likely to involve alcohol consumption, and co-workers are hopefully less likely to encourage it. Certain professions (e.g., flight attendants and construction workers) and work place environments (negative, stressful, high pressure) increase the risk of substance use and relapse. The higher sobriety rates might suggest a community with more positive professions and environments. Furthermore, it suggests a naturally higher level of accountability among co-workers and friends since unhealthy substance use will be more noticeable.
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