Q. How can you stay away from people, places and things when they are family or significant others?
Q. If my boyfriend drinks and does coke occasionally, what should I do about it?
These really translate into the same question: How much do I value my sobriety?
Let’s first ask ourselves, why did we get sober? Why did we go to AA, NA, treatment, detox or whatever? Was it because we were having fun while we were using? Was it because our lives were completely under control? Was it because we could pick up a drink or a drug and then stop whenever we wanted to? Could we go into a bar, or to a party, hang with our friends, and choose whether or not we were going to get high?
If any of those answers were yes, then there’s no need to worry about it. Why should we? Everything’s great!
But if we got clean because our life was in the toilet; if we were afraid we were going to die, or hurt someone else; if we got clean and sober because we couldn’t stand the idea of continuing in the direction we were going, then if we want to remain clean we have to put that idea ahead of everything else in our life. That doesn’t mean we have to live in meetings forever, or that we can’t ever have fun again, but it does mean that we may have to change the ways we deal with others, in order to protect our sobriety.
Those people who are able to do so will normally take pains to avoid things that might cause us problems. If they are unable to do that, or won’t, the reasons don’t matter. We can’t change them; we can only make changes in ourselves, and the only sensible thing for us to do is to put our welfare first, and stay away from them.
There are family situations that are so uncomfortable for us, even if alcohol or other drugs are not involved, that we are emotionally unprepared to handle them in early sobriety. If our family drinks or uses drugs, if our friends hang out in bars or hit the restroom five times an evening, if our significant other drinks (and does coke occasionally), it’s no business of ours. Our business is taking care of us, and if we believe there’s a danger in those people, places and things, then we need to distance ourselves until the conditions change. We can’t take the chance unless we’re willing to do the detox and treatment thing all over again — if we survive.
Even if we have children, we may need to stay away for a while. Those kids may need us, but if we can’t remain clean they may never have us. Let’s face it, we were absent even when we were with them. Isn’t it worth a bit more time to help insure that we won’t be leaving them again?
Stress is a primary cause of relapse. We need to avoid stressful situations until we are able to handle them. We also know that just the sight of (or merely thinking about) drugs or alcohol can cause changes in our brain chemistry that cause cravings. The sight of a guy standing on the corner where we used to cop, a bar where we used to drink — even the recliner where we used to collapse — can do the same thing.
The very fact of wondering about it is a pretty good indication that we aren’t ready yet. As much treatment as we can afford, a stay in a halfway house or sober living facility, working at a low-stress job for a while — along with a lot of support from our peers — can better prepare us to go back to the “real world.”
If going home right now worries you — or even if it doesn’t — it probably should.