Crafting and altering your environment can help you create a solid foundation for your life away from substances and into recovery.
Try This Simple Exercise
For 1 minute, stop everything you are doing, put your phone down or turn your screen off and look around you, what do you see? Does your environment include any of the following:
- Is your environment clean or cluttered?
- Are your surroundings bright and airy or are your walls, ceilings, floors or windows dirty, dark, damaged or depressing?
- How does your environment smell? Are there any odours or are they fresh/clean smelling?
- Are your windows clean, functioning and allow plenty of light through?
- Do you have too much/too little furniture? Is your furniture clean, functional and useful?
- What images, posters or framed art/pictures are in your environment? Are they positive or negative?
- How is your kitchen/bathroom? Are they clean, functional and working?
- What lighting is in your environment? Is it bright and welcoming or dark and depressing?
- Are your outdoor spaces (garden, driveway and front/back door) functional, clean and welcoming?
- Do you have pets or animals? How does that affect your environment? Are there smells, pet hairs or animal waste everywhere?
- How is your digital environment? Are your social media platforms positive and useful or depressing?
- Do you have outbuildings, sheds or other structures? Are they clean, functional and useful?
- Is there drug or alcohol paraphernalia around? Empty bottles, needles, foil, empty deal bags ect?
So… What’s your environment like? When you were living with substance addiction your environment might have been filled with people coming and going, so-called friends that you couldn’t actually trust. It might have been loud or unpredictable, become cluttered, dirty or damaged? All of the above considerations can have an impact on your recovery and whether your environment is helping or hindering you.
Just like a negative environment can contribute or remind you of the chaos of addiction, a healthy environment can have the opposite effect and help you thrive in recovery. If you’re involved in some form of treatment and recovery, you will start learning about the benefits of a positive and healthy environment, but once your time in rehab or through with your drug and alcohol service, you might need to create a new environment or amend your old one.
Here are 10 steps toward creating an environment that will make staying clean and sober just a little bit easier and slightly more manageable.
- Find a safe and stable place to live. Knowing that you have a safe, warm and stable place to live removes untold amounts of stress. Think about where you will live when you leave rehab or continue through your treatment. Do you have a place that you can truly call home? Would you benefit from the accountability of a sober/clean living house? Do you have a friend or sober family member who would welcome you for a few months or would moving to a completely new area to get a totally fresh start be more beneficial to you?
- Cut ties with the people who enable your addiction, those who still use/drink and any dealers, bars or alcohol outlets. Now that you’re creating a new healthy environment, you need to protect it from people who could encourage you to use drugs or alcohol or cause you to receive more temptations or cravings. Old friends from your addiction days might undermine your sobriety or abstinence, intentionally or unintentionally. Changing your phone number or purging your social media is a great way to start distancing yourself from people who are unhealthy and likely to drag you back into active addiction again.
- Establish your boundaries. On that note, there will be people in your life who might trigger you, but who you still choose to have an ongoing relationship with. Think about what boundaries you want to have with these people. For example, you might ask a family member to not contact you, but promise you will call them once a month. Or, you might be willing to meet someone in public and not involve alcohol or places that sell alcohol. Once you’ve decided what your boundaries will be, tell the person clearly and firmly. Then, be prepared to stand firm if that person doesn’t respect your boundaries. Only those who actively want to help you succeed are the people you want to have these conversations with.
- Keep things clean & tidy. Having an environment that is clean and tidy can help you feel that you deserve order and stability in your life (which you do!). Take time to organise your space — whether that is a bunk in a clean/sober living house, room in a hostel or a whole house. Then, each night before bed take 5-15 minutes to tidy everything and reset it for the next day. This simple habit will make your mornings much more streamlined and help eliminate unnecessary stress when you wake up and start your day.
- Focus on calm and peace. Once you have a clean and tidy space, you can fill it with tools and items to help you calm yourself. You might want to buy some noise-canceling headphones, for when you need a moment way from the world. A candle, scented spritzer, yoga mat, meditation area or soft blanket can all engage your senses and help you feel at peace when you have a tough day or want to relax before you start a busy and possibly stressful and tiring day.
- Evaluate your digital environment. These days, social media is everywhere. While scrolling can be a great way to zone out, spending too much time online can take a toll on your mental and physical health. If you find that reading the news is contributing to your anxiety, or that looking at Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself, limit your time online or even don’t use social media for an hour, day or week and have a “digital detox”. Or, instead of checking in constantly, limit your media use to ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the afternoon.
- Find a recovery community. When it comes to abstinence and sobriety, there’s safety, experience and healing in numbers. Having clean and sober friends who you can hang out with or who you can call when you’re having a tough day will help you navigate recovery more positively and will add greater benefit to you and your recovery. Check out a meeting in person or online, keep in touch with your treatment program’s alumni network or join clean/sober social media groups to find like-minded people in your area. Working together, there is a benefit to both you and others.
- Establish a routine. In early recovery, you’re trying to do a lot: go to meetings, rebuilding your relationships and start/continue a career and starting healthy habits. A routine is very important for making sure you accomplish all you’re trying to do and want to achieve. You don’t have to adhere to a strict schedule, but having a loose routine will provide your days with structure and predictability. You can visit our article on planning and implementing a daily schedule here.
- Take your time. At first, creating your sober environment can be daunting. Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once. Over time, you can create a clean/sober environment that makes you feel calm, safe and centered in order to meet the challenges of recovery whilst also having fun and enjoyment in your new lease of life!
- Pets & animals. Animals and pets in recovery can be a great way to heal past traumas, provide company at home and provide an opportunity for responsibility. It’s crucially important that you provide an environment that is appropriate for the type of animal you have, that their needs are met, that you can enjoy spending time with them and that you maintain an environment free from animal waste, free from danger and an environment that is welcoming and it be a place that you want to spend time in!