I'm Trying to Quit Drinking and Using Cocaine. Should I Move?
I am trying (and mostly failing) to control my drinking and cocaine. I have a great apartment that is in a very vibrant part of downtown. I can walk to a dozen really great coffee shops and art galleries and great stores and restaurants within 10 minutes from my front door and I can walk to work in 15 minutes. I also share the apartment with a friend who rents it from his Aunt at a very reduced rate, so it is a much nicer place than I could otherwise afford.
The problem is that when I walk out at night it’s not a dozen coffee shops that are in my immediate vicinity, it’s 50 great clubs and pubs and bars that line the streets. I love the nightlife so this has always been great, but now that I am trying to quit drinking and drugs I find the constant temptation very difficult to deal with.
Should I move out to the suburbs? I am worried that I will move to somewhere boring and terrible and I’ll feel the same temptations I do now…but I’ll be living somewhere I hate. Will moving make it easier for me? Or am I blaming my neighborhood for an addiction that is really just inside me and so wherever I live doesn’t really matter?
William Anderson Says ...
We often hear the "Geographic Cure" scorned. People point out that you can't run away from the problems that are inside you. It's true that moving will not cure everything if you don't work on the problems inside, but if you are working hard to change inside, moving away from the environment you describe can really help, even save your life.
Get out of there ASAP and find a place to live that will encourage a healthier lifestyle. At the same time, get to work on the problems inside.
In Behavioral Medicine, we recognize the power of environmental cues or stimulus control, and in 12-step groups we talk about the power of people, places and things. So, it is widely recognized that changing your place of living or work and relationships is sometimes absolutely required in order for things to get better. If you don't, things get worse, they don't stay the same. You say you are mostly failing at trying to control your drinking and using, that you are frequently out of control. You are describing alcoholism and cocaine addiction. These things don't stay as they are. They either get better or they get worse. Which will it be for you?
You have a choice to make. Addiction to alcohol and cocaine is a downhill spiral that often gets worse, perhaps losing it all, or you change things now, and you get better. Life gets better.
You say that you you'd have to give up a great place at a great deal, and you're afraid a new place will be boring, not so appealing. That's what addiction is about. You get attached to things that are killing you and it's hard to let go. Lots of people don't ever let go, and they die in their addiction, never having broken free of it.
If you haven't started going to meetings, connect up with some people who go to AA meetings. You'll find people everywhere, near you now and at your new place, who have been where you are and gotten out and they will help you. You need friends to make life work, but the friends you have now, in the clubs and nightlife, are more likely to drag you down than lift you up. If it is not already a life and death decision, it may soon be. Which way do you want to go?
Get moving on this, and write back if you want.