“We are the average of the five people we are closest to.” —Jim Rohn
As humans, we glean from one another. We are viral. We are infectious. Some of our outside influences occur on a subconscious level, like when you catch yourself laughing just like your best friend or notice that you’ve picked up the inflections or mannerisms of your roommate.
But some of it is a matter of “choice through opportunity.” This can be either positive or negative, but it definitely is true, and definitely important for relapse prevention.
We are affected by those we surround ourselves with.
In social epidemiology, Christakis and Fowler’s report, entitled “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network Over 32 Years” New England Journal of Medicine (page 357) proved the increased risk rates for obesity in up to three degrees of separation from a target individual. According to the study, a person’s odds of becoming obese increased by 57% if they had a friend who became obese, with a lower risk rate for friends of friends, lower again at three degrees of separation, and with no discernible effect at further levels of remove.
Moreover, if the friend is perceived to be a close friend then the risk rate is increased. Repeating this social network analysis for smoking, Christakis and Fowler found that smoking cessation by a spouse decreased a person’s chances of smoking by 67%, while smoking cessation by a friend decreased the chances by 36%. The average risk of smoking at one degree of separation
(i.e. smoking by a friend) was 61% higher, 29% higher at two degrees of separation and 11% higher at three degrees of separation.
So, what do these tidy statistics mean for those of us recovering from drug and alcohol addiction?
Stick with the winners. Keep them close.
We’ve heard it in recovery meetings. We’ve heard it from our sponsors, mentors, even our pastors. It is most definitely sound advice.
Increase Your Odds of Successful Long-Term Recovery
If you remember, we went to a lot of trouble to be successful in active addiction. There was a constant weighing out of priorities, with escape from reality as the ultimate goal. In many of our stories, we were willing to trade comfort, food, friends, and material possessions to continue on our destructive path.
It’s going to take the same kind of dedication to become successful in our recovery.
Let’s create an example:
Let’s say you make the decision to stop the cycle of drug or alcohol addiction in your own life. You make some phone calls, hit a few recovery meetings, and even start exploring a spiritual journey (since addiction IS a spiritual malady, after all).
But you still feel like something is missing.
The more you talk to the people you’re around, the more you see roadblocks popping up everywhere. You just can’t seem to get a grip on your feelings.
You’re in an emotional funk, and you think it’s a sign that you’re headed for relapse. It’s easier to sink back into something familiar than to press forward.
Before you decide to listen to the “voices in your head” and release yourself to the idea that recovery just doesn’t work for you, let’s get a few more facts straight.
Relapse Prevention 101
First of all…Feelings are fleeting and should never be used as your guidepost for what to do next.
Early recovery is full of emotional wreckage. We’re waking up. We’re beginning to experience life on life’s terms, and it’s often coming at us at full speed. There’s a mix that involves the things we’ve been afraid to look at (past hurt and trauma) as well as the things we’ve exposed ourselves to (or trouble we’ve caused ourselves) during active addiction.
Instead of recoiling at the thought of all of the things we need to face, let’s try to use the same resolve we had during active addiction, except the goal is now a clean, sober, successful life.
Armed with the information and statistics we have about our influences and how they can subconsciously increase or decrease our chances for success, here’s a checklist that will help you make some important decisions:
Whose Voice Are You Listening To?
- Who do you spend the most time with? What does their life look like? If the people in your life don’t have the life you want for yourself, it may be time to make their influence smaller. Sometimes our worst influencers are family members that we can’t easily avoid, especially if they reside in the same household. You can still stack the odds in your favor by seeking out positive, healthy connections in your friendships and personal life.
- What do you do in your spare time? Television shows, Netflix, and time spent online is just as strong of an influencer as friendships. If you’re filling your time with violent movies, pornography, or negativity online, you are still leaning into negative behavior. It’s time to cut those ties and tighten up.
- What’s coming out of your mouth? Are your conversations marked by gossip? Any type of conversations that cause division or highlight failure or the negative aspects of another human being will affect you negatively. It is not possible to constantly talk about junk without living a life filled with junk yourself. It may be completely foreign to recognize and bring to light the positive behavior and qualities of another person, but in order to become healthy yourself, you need to squash that negative talk.
- Reaching out to others. Reaching out and helping others is a great form of accountability for ourselves. If we’re actively engaged in encouraging and positively influencing another person, we are much less likely to fall back into unhealthy patterns. Feeling responsible and influential to another human being is a vital component of our own recovery.
Living a clean and sober life is one of the best, most exciting, and rewarding things you can do for yourself. Will it take some work and intentional decisions? Absolutely. But you will never regret this new way of life!
If you are ready to make a change in your own life and stop the cycle of drug or alcohol addiction, give us a call at The Shores Treatment and Recovery today. We are here for you.