“The average American moves once every five years.” – Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday
This statistic has great implications for recovery and relapse. A big part of recovery involves building a network of trusted, sober, and responsible people.
After a geographical move, it takes between one and three years for most people to become comfortable in their new communities. Little things that were routine and habitual become stressful. Such simple things as finding a new doctor or dentist, finding a new cleaner, barber, or beauty shop, and simply getting in the habit of finding your way around the new community without getting lost all add additional stress. Recovering people, unless they are skillful in managing the stress of change, are at an increased risk of relapse when they move to a new community.
An even bigger problem is that the general society is focused around the use of alcohol and other drugs. The most visible recreational activities focus around bars, sports activities where alcohol is sold, and socializing with people who are likely to have someone in their family who is addicted or abusing alcohol or other drugs, especially marijuana. Even in many Church Groups, the regular and heavy use of alcohol and other drugs is more common than most of us would like to believe.
With the exception of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-Step Programs, most recovery resources and sobriety-based social activities are not readily visible. Even so, finding a 12-Step Group that meets individual needs and preferences, and building a trusting relationship with members of the group takes time.
Most professional services for addiction and related mental health disorders are highly stigmatized. With the centralizing of medical data it can be dangerous for career options to have a diagnosis of alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, or addiction to illicit drugs. This stigma and risk of exposure through centralized computerized medical records is one obstacle even to the office-based treatment of prescription narcotic addiction by getting Suboxone treatment from a doctor’s office.
Many “healthy” people become anxious and tend to isolate to avoid the stress of adapting to a new community and new social networks. Recovering people experience that stress in a much higher degree.
As a result, times of change puts many recovering people at a higher risk of relapse due to the lack of a well-established and comfortable recovery program, trusted relationships with sober and responsible people, the invisibility of most recovery resources and sober social opportunities, and the relative invisibility and social stigma attached to recovery-oriented treatment services.