Struggling with addiction? Here’s something important: you’re not alone. In fact, millions of other Americans are locked in their own battle against drugs, alcohol, or maladaptive behaviors, too. The recovery community is vast enough that you can effectively connect with people who “get” you nearly everywhere you go.
For most people, inpatient treatment is the first place they begin to forge sober connections – and that’s a very good thing. By developing a support network full of people in recovery, you greatly increase your chances of remaining sober yourself.
But what happens after treatment? Should you return to the same environment where you were tempted to use…or is it best to relocate? It’s a big decision, but this info should help you find your best path forward.
The Number One Reason to Relocate
Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s talk a little bit about why so many people in the recovery community push the idea of moving. In fact, it’s so common, many would call it a “tenet” of recovery rather than just an option. Why is it such a popular tool, and could it be right for you?
The reason moving works for some people is fairly simple: addiction never happens in a vacuum. It’s a complex disease influenced by a great many factors – variables that often include who you know, who you spend time with, what your loved ones are like, and the kind of lifestyle you lead.
To simplify, your environment makes a big difference in whether or not you achieve long-term sobriety. Think about an alcoholic who works at a nightclub, yet enters rehab for treatment because they’re drinking too much. If they go back to that environment immediately after discharge, they are highly likely to use again just because they have easy access and plenty of encouragement right around them.
On the other hand, someone who leaves treatment, only to relocate and cut ties with old toxic connections, is far more likely to avoid the temptation to use. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?
Is Relocation Right for Me (and My Recovery Journey)?
So – you know WHY moving is so highly recommended…but does that still make it the right decision for you?
Truthfully, there’s no “right answer” here. Every patient is different and every patient’s recovery journey is their own. What we can do is break down the advantages and disadvantages to empower you with information.
Let’s start with good reasons to relocate, first.
Other Reasons Relocation Makes Sense
As mentioned, the best reason to relocate for rehab is to start fresh. By breaking old connections with toxic influences, problematic friends, and ties to non-sober living, you improve your chances of staying sober yourself.
But that’s only the beginning – there are other reasons relocation makes sense, too, and some of them might even surprise you.
- You have a reputation: For better or worse, many addicts have alienated their local community by the time they agree to enter rehab. It takes time and effort to repair those connections, and sadly, some may never recover. If your reputation is so severe that you’re likely to encounter significant negativity day after day, it may be best to move on and start a new life.
- You can’t get work: This often aligns with a negative reputation. If no one in your local town will ever trust you enough to give you a job, you may be left with no choice but to relocate. There’s a difference between people holding you responsible for your actions and ostracizing you from the community.
- You can’t access support services locally: Even though addiction touches nearly every state and city in America, some locations still don’t provide good access to support services. If you’re somewhere where treatment is an afterthought or just plain unavailable, relocation may allow you to settle down somewhere with better access.
- You have a criminal record: Having a criminal record for drugs, DUI, or any other substance-oriented crime can severely limit your access to work. If your work relies on state or local criminal record checks, relocation may help you find work that won’t turn you down due to your past.
- Your living conditions are problematic: Homeless? Living with an abusive partner? Stuck in a dysfunctional home where you’re often triggered to use? In this case, relocation is a must for many reasons. Living environment greatly contributes to relapse risk, but you also deserve to feel safe, supported, and “at home” without fear of harm. Part of getting well is getting stable, too.
When You Shouldn’t Relocate
Are there ever times when you shouldn’t relocate? Absolutely. In fact, there are even situations where relocation may cause more hardship than the improvements it stands to provide. It is reasonable to admit that people who fall under any of these scenarios should proceed with caution.
- You struggle with depression: Or other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or OCD, especially if you have a history of self-medicating to soothe negative feelings. Early recovery is hard, and your risk for depression, loneliness, and even suicidal thoughts can be very high. The stress of moving away from substances and all of your positive support influences could leave you feeling out of control or even helpless.
- You already have solid support: You already live in a healthy, supportive home – and your friends are all sober, too. You even have connections to a local therapist, several recovery groups, and sober events around your city, as well as care providers who can help you. If you already have great support at home, relocation may be unnecessary or even excessive.
- You might lose your family or career: Not everyone can just pick up and move. If you’ve already built a life for yourself in your city, with a family or a great career, quitting and moving may not be a choice. After all, you can’t exactly leave a wife and children behind or just quit if you happen to own a business! If moving away would lead to divorce, custody loss, career loss, or permanent negative effects on your life, staying might be better.
- Your destination lacks services: If you do move, you need to ensure wherever you’re going has solid support for addicts. If you don’t, you could potentially put your sobriety at risk, even if you’ve been sober locally for some time. Think carefully about whether you can access medical and mental health care before you relocate. Moving from a city to Montana’s backcountry, for example, may be unwise, at least until you’re stable again.
Relocation can be a powerful tool in recovery, but it isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering a move, ask your care continuum team or therapist what they think. Talk to loved ones, your doctor, your pastor, and anyone else you feel you can trust. Ask them what they think about your decision to relocate and whether it would help or hinder your recovery efforts. The main goal is to ensure you feel supported, cared for, and connected to the recovery community wherever you go.