Create a Positive Recovery Environment

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“Environment is of supreme importance. It is greater than will power.”
Paramhansa Yogananda

Recovery requires a positive environment. If you have a hip fracture, you first need surgery in a hospital, followed by a stay in a rehabilitation facility, followed by ambulation aids in your home. If you have asthma, you may need to have air purifiers in your home.

The same is true with addiction. Without the proper environment, you are doomed to fail. Many people enter recovery from toxic environments. Your family may be riddled with addiction. You may experience crime and poverty. There may be domestic violence. You may suffer severe job or parental stress. At the extreme, victims of addiction may be homeless, virtually shutting off any hope of recovery.

To enter recovery, first attend to your environment. Create an “8-S” environment.

An 8-S environment is:

1. Safe: Remove any immediate or potential threats to your safety. Make sure you safely attend recovery meetings, get to work, and go elsewhere. Develop strategies and supports to address threats.
2. Supportive: If you suffer from addiction, you have an illness. Just as someone might need a cane to stay upright, you need the support of others to stay on track with your recovery. No one does recovery alone.
3. Stable: Recovery requires stability, as instability can lead to relapse. You need a stable living situation and work environment. You need stable relationships, especially with recovery supports. You need stable life routines. You can’t work your recovery with your life up in the air. A transient life disrupts crucial connections and recovery rituals. It will distract you from your recovery.
4. Sober: Recovery requires a change in lifestyle. You change what you do, where you go, and your relationships. You avoid the objects of your addiction. If you don’t want to slip, stay away from the slippery places.
5. Low Stress: Lowering the stress in your life requires action on two fronts: internal and external. Internally, accept things as they are. On the external front, manage stress through skillful action. Act with integrity. Learn to say “No” when saying “Yes” will create too much stress. Take good care of yourself and protect yourself.
6. Structured: We drift without structured, daily routines. Living life skillfully involves balancing discipline with flexibility. You benefit from a daily schedule. This helps give a sense of purpose and meaning. You need reasons to get up in the morning. This creates momentum. Positive routines promote recovery. Examples include a structured recovery program, an exercise program, time with friends and family, and time for spiritual practice.
7. Supervised: Your mind is a dangerous place; you should never go in there alone. Share your thoughts, feelings, and actions with others. Allow others to supervise you. This provides support and creates accountability. You need to be accountable to recover.
8. Has therapeutic Sequellae (consequences): Sequellae are traditionally defined as negative, pathological consequences of a disease. I use the term to refer to any consequence of your behavior. This includes positive consequences because of positive actions and negative consequences because of unskillful actions. The optimal environment for recovery includes both positive and negative consequences that propel growth. Don’t run from “accountable environments” where you experience both positive and negative sequellae of your behavior. Instead, seek out these “tough love” settings. We live in a tough love world. That is good. Work your recovery to the best of your ability with the help of others, with humility, integrity, and accountability for your actions. Don’t allow others to either abuse or enable you. “Tough” without “love” and “love” without “tough” don’t work.

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