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Avoid Situations Likely to Trigger Alcohol or Drug Use

Making the choice to avoid situations likely to lead you into trouble with alcohol or drug abuse is an excellent one. But it is also easier said than done. What can you really do to keep away from people and places that are filled with temptations and opportunity to fall back into your old ways? Here are some suggestions.

Make a plan

You wouldn’t begin a road trip or cross-country vacation without a plan mapped out well in advance. Deciding to stay away from alcohol or drug abuse situations is no different in that respect. But it’s so much more important, since alcohol or drug abuse can lead to frightening consequences, even death. Sit down and write out your plan. Specify exactly what your goals are, i.e., to stay away from situations and people likely to lead to drug or alcohol abuse, and then brainstorm as many ways as you can to accomplish this goal.

You don’t need to be concerned with what it looks like or what words you use in your plan. This is YOUR plan. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. The document is your strategy to achieve your goal. Keep it in a safe place, readily accessible to you, and read it often. If you find yourself in a bad situation, take it out and read it again to remind yourself what you need to do. Don’t worry. It will get easier and it will get better. You will learn how to deal with these situations and come out ahead.

Find new friends

Everyone needs friends. Once you’ve transitioned to a state of not drinking or doing drugs, you may find yourself needing friends even more, especially during times of insecurity, when you wonder if you’ll be able to stay sober or straight. But you can’t fall into the habit of hanging out with the same friends you did when you partied all the time, got into trouble, and wound up being an alcoholic or drug abuser. It’s time to find new friends.

Sure, your old friends will call you. They’ll have all the right words to try to con you into getting together for a drink, hanging out, getting high. They’ll say, “It’s not the same without you,” or “Come on, we’re just going to talk,” or “What’s one drink (or a joint, or whatever) going to do?” Don’t fall for it. You know what one will do. It will lead to another and another and you’ll be back where you started – and feeling more defeated because of it.

How you find new friends depends on what your interests are. Join a group that engages in hiking, skiing, adventure trips, reading, going to stage plays, carpentry or hobbies. The possibilities are endless. Find people who are enthusiastic about the activity, and definitely veer toward those who are non-drinkers and don’t do drugs. You may find some great friends in your support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or your church, neighborhood, or local community. Be proactive. Seek out new friends. This will add an exciting new dimension to your life.

Stay away from old haunts

It goes without saying that you can’t frequent the bars, clubs and hangouts where you used to get drunk or stoned. It just won’t help you with your goal to stay sober and straight. Don’t even think about stepping through the door, not even to say, “Hi.”

If your former hangout was on your way home from work, or near your house, and you go right by it every day, map out an alternate way home. Better yet, map out several. By not seeing the place, you’re one step closer to your goal.

Engage in new activities

When you’re physically active, or engaged in a strenuous activity, your body is positively reinforced with endorphins – naturally occurring chemicals your body creates that make you feel good. This is a natural high, much better than the poisons you previously ingested. New activities lead to new friends and more positive reinforcement in your quest to achieve your goal.

Do a Google search for the types of activities that interest you. Make contact and get involved. Maybe you want to learn how to ski, hang glide, parachute, or deep sea dive – find out where you can get professional instruction and go for it. Check out activities in your local community. Ask your support group for recommendations. Maybe someone there is already involved in a great activity that you’d like to join.

Don’t limit yourself to only strenuous physical activity when you’re looking for new groups and things to do. Maybe you’ve always wanted to act. Join the local community playhouse, enroll in an acting class, help put on plays or work as a volunteer in set decoration. Think you might want to write? Start writing! Go to the local library, Starbucks, or other quiet location and put your thoughts on paper. There are also terrific classes on writing at your community college or the local university. Many local communities have adult education classes offering education in many different fields and activities. Be bold. Learn something new!

Other tips

Beyond the broad basics – avoid the old places, people and temptations, what else can you do? Some of these tips may be helpful:

  • Change your phone number – This is easy to do. If your phone number no longer works (and don’t leave a forwarding number), your old friends will have a harder time reaching you. Don’t worry that you’ll be offending them. You need to keep distance between you and them, so breaking contact is a key first step.
  • Move – This may not be practical, but in some instances it may be the only solution. If your apartment lease is up, or if you have been renting your space with another (roommate situation), consider moving to a different location. You don’t have to change cities, although you may wish to – especially if you find another job. Do not leave a forwarding address for your mail. You can always notify any magazine or other entities of your new address.
  • Reread your plan – Keep your plan handy (and private) and read through it often. This will reinforce your goals and your method of achieving them.
  • Keep busy – Don’t allow yourself time to mope, to feel sorry for yourself. This only fosters the temptation to return to your former friends and pastimes – the same ones that led you astray to begin with. Of course, it was your choice – make it your choice now to steer clear. When you stay busy with new activities, new friends, you’ll be less tempted to fall back into negative situations.
  • Remain positive – A cheerful, positive outlook on life and its possibilities is one of your best strategies to achieve your goals. Look at things as the “glass half-full” instead of the “glass half-empty.” This takes some doing to master, but remember that positive and negative are just the opposites of each other. A storm brings needed moisture to sustain crops, trees, flowers and life. Signs of illness, such as a cough or runny nose, are symptoms that allow you to take action to heal. Even setbacks such as losing your job or getting fired – while a definite blow to the ego (and your bank account) – may mean you’ve now got an opportunity to try something new.
  • Have faith – Believe in something higher, beyond you and your own bubble of existence. It doesn’t have to be an organized faith. You don’t have to go to church – although if you do have a religious organization, by all means embrace your faith. Faith, in all its forms, is a powerful healer. Ask your higher power for help in achieving and maintaining your goals. Take it one step at a time. Repeat your request every day and be thankful every night. Your quest will get easier.

Posted on May 4, 2009 and modified on April 28, 2019

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