“Geographic Cures”

The idea of “geographic cures” is roundly ridiculed in traditional treatment and 12-Step circles. The usual rhetoric goes along the lines of, “you’re the problem and where you go, you’re still there.”

That distain, however, usually comes from those who wish to continue to be a part of “your problem,” be that a family member, AA group, or other entity with a vested interest in you never recovering.

That noted, let’s look at varying degrees of geographic cures and how they might hasten and support your recovery from whatever circumstances you are self-medicating.

First let’s look at a big move, say one that takes you from your current location to one hundreds or thousands of miles away. First, you will be disrupting all of your “usual” associations. Yes, you can find a new bar, liquor store, and/or winery – but you don’t have to, nor do you need to be tempted by your current favorite watering holes or shops, stores, or even just the patterns that find you buying that bottle or those drinks that only yesterday you said you weren’t going to ever purchase again.

Next, you will no longer be associating with the same people with whom you associate drinking whether it’s family, friends or activities. Yes, you can replace them with a new crop of drinking buddies or girls who wine together, but you don’t have to resist them and old habit patterns. Instead, you could find new friends who know nothing about your drinking difficulties – nor do they care – and activities which aren’t compatible with drinking.

Realistically, when you are no longer associating with people who have an active interest in keeping you drinking, it’s a lot easier to adjust when you aren’t always being coerced.

In summary, new community, job, friends, activities and life make new choices easier to develop and maintain. Really, when you have your own self-interest to consider, and an opportunity to leave a lot of the bad old associations, rituals, and people behind, – and no embarrassing questions to answer – why not take advantage of a relatively clean slate?

Moving along from the macro scale to the micro, even changes as small as taking a different route to and from work can make it easier not to automatically turn into your usual bar or liquor store. Rearranging your house so your “normal” drinking spot is no longer available can help. Finding new places to dine out, avoiding old associates, cultivating new routines and friends all make transcending the self-medication easier.

Perhaps a few of you are like me and had a long period of your life when you didn’t have any problems with alcohol. Then tragedy struck in one form or another, you too anesthetized the pain, but now the time has come to fix the problem. In my case, I’d had 10 good years in Alaska then a respite move and job offer took me to Minnesota where disaster struck from a number of different directions.

Healing was drawn out, mostly because no help was available and I had to figure out on my own, but eventually I knew it was time to go home to Alaska where I’d never had an alcohol problem. Yes, I recognize the irony – Alaska where everyone seems to have a drinking problem but I didn’t. But that is one among many of my quirks.

What are your quirks which might prove helpful? Who and what could you better insulate with distance than with alcohol? What circumstance would free you to be more yourself, and lead your own life, rather than escaping into bottle?

Geographic cures do in fact work, if you are smart enough to work them instead of letting circumstances work you.

As an adjunct, You might want to review “Rat Park” as a starting point and thought provoking alternative to the cynical pontifications of the “what everyone knows” crowd.