During your first year of sobriety, should you consider moving to a different city for a job? The idea of a “fresh start” might be appealing, but is that really best for your recovery?
In Twelve Step meetings, you’ll often hear old-timers warn about the perils of “doing a geographic.” The first time I heard that phrase I was utterly confused. I considered for a moment that it might be a local term for a given amount of cocaine, perhaps something that L.A. people said instead of “eight ball.”
What they meant, I quickly learned, was the foolishness of moving in hopes of escaping your addiction. It doesn’t work that way, the old-timers said; if you were an alcoholic in Dallas, you’ll be an alcoholic in Seattle. If you were an addict in London, you’ll still be an addict in Los Angeles.
Is it the same thing when you’re sober? That depends. As their lives improve, many recovering addicts and alcoholics will find new opportunities in new places, often far from where they started to get sober. Are they at risk of losing that recovery if they do a “sober geographic?”
On one hand, a significant move means reestablishing ties to a whole new sober community. If your early sobriety was heavily tied to your relationships with sober friends, it may be a real test to be away from them. Most addicts are shy; it isn’t always easy for us to connect quickly with new people.
During the initial stage of a move, it may be wise to stay in close contact with sober friends by phone, text or Skype. Make sure that you’re also meeting people at meetings in your new city as well.
On the other hand, a sober geographic means a genuinely fresh start away from the places that remind you of your addiction. When I was newly sober, one of the hardest things was driving by the street corner where I used to score. I hated passing my favorite bar on my way to work. I always had an acute sense of how far away I was from relief. Moving to another city in early sobriety, as many of my friends did successfully, would have meant an escape from triggering memories.
There are pros and cons to a move in your first year of sobriety. The key to making it work is to stay connected to the support system you had in your old home while you build a new community in your new city. If all goes well, the move may end up strengthening and accelerating your recovery program.