The Impact of Environment on Recovery

The Impact of Environment on Recovery - Transcend Texas

Several years ago, scientists observed something interesting. They were testing the addictive nature of illicit substances on some rats in a lab.

The rats were simultaneously offered a drinking bottle with pure water in it, and one with cocaine mixed into it. They found that the rats who were isolated and bored quickly became addicted to the cocaine-laced water.

The rats who were surrounded by friends, family, and interesting activities tended to ignore the drugged water, and consistently chose the pure water when satiating their thirst.

While it might not sound appealing to compare our human behaviors to the behavior of rats, much of what we have discovered from our rodent brothers has consistently applied to our own circumstances.

The behavior of these rats in choosing to abstain from drug use when in a positive environment provided weight for the argument that sociologists have been making for years. The effect of our surroundings on our decision to remain sober is extensive.

The following are four environmental areas of your own to examine while you are crafting your new life of recovery.


Personal Life

Setting up your personal life in a way which fosters your ability to tend to your mental and emotional needs will provide the best foundation for sustained recovery.

When we are in a state of personal chaos, our ability to withstand temptations to escape the discomfort through drug or alcohol abuse is weakened.

For some, setting up a life of recovery means first establishing a routine which includes a steady paycheck and a stable living environment.

According to Maslow’s popular theory, we are not able to focus on higher needs – such as those for self-esteem and achievement – until some of our more basic needs are met.

We must know how our bills are going to be paid, and where the next meal is coming from, before we are able to relax enough to look further down the road.

Make sure that you are taking advantage of the resources available in your community to assist you in meeting these basic needs, and also taking advantage of those which assist you toward building a personal life which does not include fear of facing the next days and months.


Family Life

Family influence can include parents, siblings, and significant others. When we are young, our parental examples can shape our beliefs in the dangers of substance abuse.

Watching mom and dad get high or drunk can lead us to believe that escaping real life through these means is an acceptable behavior.

Similarly, following in the footsteps of an older sibling who is engaging in substance abuse leads some to indulge for the first time. Resisting the temptation to fall into destructive family patterns often requires the outside assistance of a positive support network.

As we get older, our partner or spouse tends to take over that most influential family role. Choosing a mate who supports our determination to remain sober and build a satisfying life can make a pivotal difference in how easily the task is accomplished.

For those who are already in a relationship which is distressed by dysfunction – or one in which the other partner continues to use substances – the road to success can be much harder.

Difficult decisions will likely need to be made, including whether to initiate more effective boundaries, or even whether to separate.

Relationship counseling may be your best approach toward making the tough decisions required of someone who is building a new, sober, life while remaining in a preexisting relationship.



There is an old saying which states that you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. While we are young, we may not have as much ability to select those whom we hang out with on a daily basis.

As we grow older, and become free from the dictates of school and neighborhood, we begin to have more options. Who we choose to spend our time with, as adults, can make a large difference on how we view ourselves.

Most studies of peer influence on substance abuse focus on the role that friends play in influencing us toward using drugs and alcohol in our youth.

While our adolescent behaviors can set the tone for our eventual relationship with substances, the influence of our peers extends beyond these early years.

If we are choosing to surround ourselves with peers who continue to abuse drugs and alcohol, we are placing ourselves in the mouth of the lion. We are always no more than one step away from deciding to join in.



The communities in which we live form the basis for our cultural norms. Cultural norms set the standard for what is considered acceptable behavior, lifestyle, and aspirations for ourselves and the people around us.

America has its own culture, but if you have ever had the opportunity to travel to different states or countries, you are likely very aware of the differences that exist within each, separate, region.

On the other hand, those of us who tend to stay in one place may not be so aware of the difference that a culture of a town can make on our life decisions.

Two of the biggest differences in community cultures lie in the approach toward education and job distribution. Other important areas of cultural difference include the community approach toward mental health and substance abuse.

These factors are often related, indicating that living in areas with lower education and job satisfaction put a person at higher risk for drug and alcohol use. This influence can extend to the whole town in which you live, or can be isolated to the area of town which you are prone to hang out in.

The attitudes of our surrounding culture can create an unconscious idea for us about what our future holds. A community culture which doesn’t foster visions of a future of hope and achievement is not a good place for a person in recovery to stay, for long.

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