Basics of Recovery: Creating a Positive Environment

As the old saying goes, we are creatures of our environment. Psychological and developmental factors that shape our lives are heavily influenced by where we live, the people we’re surrounded by, and the activities we pursue.

This is never truer than for someone in recovery. Sure, addiction is about the body’s chemicals and brain changes, but it’s also about an addict’s environment, although this wasn’t always conventional wisdom. Addiction, and the role environment plays in supporting that addiction, is a long and winding journey.

The Importance of Your Environment

One of the basics of addiction recovery is staying within an environment that supports your recovery. What we know about human behavior is when our actions routinely occur in the same environment, our minds go on autopilot.

As you drive to work or walk to school every day, think about how much your mind wanders. You perform the same behaviors so much that you become able to do them without actively thinking about them.

The same mentality applies to addiction. Your environment can be a powerful cue in determining how well you’re able to maintain commitment to your goals. If you’re trying to quit drinking, avoid going to the bar.

If you are trying to cut down on your sugar intake, avoiding ice cream stores and pie shops is a good idea. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, the environment you put yourself in has direct correlation to the chances of success.

Those who’ve struggled with addiction know that when you put yourself into a situation where you might feel a craving, the chances of relapse are very high. Ensuring you’re in a sober, positive environment is crucial to maintaining sobriety.

Positive Thinking Addiction Recovery

How you think impacts everything about your life, from how you experience the world to how you interact with others. The thing that matters most, however, is how your thinking impacts your feelings.

It’s no surprise that people who are prone to negativity often feel bad. Do you have one of those friends who is always upset, always complaining and negative, but also always ill? A lot of evidence suggests your mental and physical well-being is directly related to how you think.

This is what makes positive thinking so important. As people recover, their coping mechanisms are still fragile. Their ability to handle adverse situations without relapsing is directly related to how they are thinking.

Here’s how positive thinking can benefit anyone, not just those in recovery:

Your emotions

Those who focus on positive things are far less likely to suffer from depression and other mood disorders. The mechanism behind this lies in the chemicals your brain produces when you are happy and thinking positively. Many of the same chemicals artificially stimulated by drugs can be naturally stimulated simply by being excited about life.

Your immune system

Some research shows thinking positively can actually benefit your immune response. A stronger immune system means it’s easier for your body to fight off infections. Early in recovery when you feel ill and you want to feel better, your brain might equate feeling better with using drugs. So staying physically fit and healthy also makes recovery easier.

Your cardiovascular system

While this may be a surprise to some, a positive attitude might help stave off cardiovascular diseases. When one is feeling negative and stressed out, the body produces chemicals and hormones that elevate blood pressure and raise inflammation. Keeping these responses at a minimum decreases the chance of cardiovascular problems down the road.

Positive thinking has tangible health benefits. Notice, however, that emotions are listed first. This is because they are the most important. Without a stable emotional base, slipping back into using is a real possibility.

Being able to regulate your emotional state and handle stress without breaking down is made easier with positive thinking. When something bad happens, rather than getting upset and telling yourself something depressing and negative, see the opportunity in the situation. Learn from it and be satisfied in your learning. Strive to be better, always.

Staying positive helps you realize the potential of your own self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to the act of believing you can reach your goals. The more self-efficacy you have, the more likely it is you will achieve your goals. It’s a matter of having faith in yourself.

Generally, if someone is able to accomplish something once, their self-efficacy towards that goal goes up the next time it’s time to accomplish it. Every time you have an urge to use, but don’t, you are increasing your mental fortitude.

The same applies to when you see peers accomplishing tasks. Even though you aren’t doing it, seeing it done improves your belief in your own abilities. Acknowledging this is the first step in controlling your coping mechanisms, belief systems, and self-efficacy. Once you recognize negative thought patterns and make conscious efforts to overcome them, it’s time to take a second look at how your environment shapes your outlook.

The Positive Environment Checklist

Recovery is difficult without structure. Being in a positive environment nurtures good life skills and increases self-confidence. Utilizing what you’ve learned about positivity increases your quality of life.

Remember, positivity is not some abstract concept. Healthy, positive environments provide the foundation for people to build healthy relationships.

Any addiction recovery specialist will tell you the first three months out of treatment are the most critical. During this time, even the strongest, most well-intentioned people give in to the pressure of triggers and cravings. Avoiding drugs is a lot easier when they aren’t presented to you in your environment.

Consider how you can avoid potential triggers and create a positive environment:


It’s no surprise that many addiction stories start at home. No family is perfect. A healthy family environment means those around you are behaving in ways that are conducive to your recovery.


Develop healthy social connections with like-minded, sober people. Remember, seeing others succeed increases your own self-efficacy.


Who do you spend the most time with in your life? Yourself. Keeping yourself positive and upbeat is the most important thing you can do, no matter what is going on. You are always in full control of your own success.
When you are figuring out how to structure your positive environment, focus on your routine. Earlier we talked about driving or walking to work and how your brain becomes trained to behave in certain ways as you go about your daily routine.

Making sure you are following a healthy routine helps you develop and lock in good habits. Train your brain to follow a healthy path, and you will worry less and less about triggers and cravings. As you carry on throughout your day, positive feelings reinforce themselves.

Here at 12 Keys, we understand how important it is to maintain a positive outlook and live in a healthy environment, whether you’re an addict in recovery or not. If you or a loved one needs help discovering the right environment to support a healthy life, give us a call today!

The Addiction Blog