You are going to hear a lot of phrases and a lot of little quotes that get thrown around the rooms of 12 step meetings when you get sober. Chances are, you will probably hear a lot of them in rehab too if you choose to go to treatment. One of the most common, but possibly confusing phrases you will hear is “People, places, and things”.
They talk about them in the Big Book, they talk about them in therapy, and they talk about them in the rooms. So let’s talk about them now, so that you can get familiar with the different variations of the phrase, how you might relate to them in your own life, and how you can utilize them in your sober life to strengthen your recovery.
What Does It All Mean?!
Okay, so whether you are getting sober for the first time, or just coming back, “People, places, and things” correlates to both our lives in addiction and our lives in sobriety.
Long story short, “People, places, and things” refers to what many people would call “triggers” for our sobriety. You will probably hear from your therapist, from your sponsor, and from other people in the rooms that going back to your hometown, if you get sober somewhere else, can often be dangerous because the same old “people, places, and things” will be there waiting for you.
“The People” In Our Addiction
In our addiction, we tend to surround ourselves with people who use the way we do, or who enable us to use how we want to. For example, these people could be:
- Our significant others
- Our friends
- Our parents
- Our drug dealers
- Our favorite bartender
In other words, these are the people that may be either unaware that we are trying to get sober, or who might not know how to best support us on our journey towards getting sober. In this respect, going back to the “people” that we surround ourselves within our addiction can often lead us back into a state of getting comfortable enough to relapse.
This is one of the main reasons why people recommend when we get sober in a different area, that we don’t return back home for some time. This way, we are able to work a program in order to protect ourselves with enough sobriety so that when the time DOES come for us to return home, whether for a visit or for good, we have a sturdy framework of recovery, as well as enough trust in the network of the fellowship that we won’t feel as obligated to reconnect with our old friends who might still be using.
“The People” In Our Recovery
Speaking of the fellowship, for many of us, coming into the rooms as newcomers are often filled with anxiety, shame, isolation, and mistrust of others. Many of us had been hurt by those we loved in the past, or we had successfully burned our bridges and now felt unworthy of love and acceptance from others.
When we do finally allow ourselves to open up with the people and the rooms and make connections and relationships, we find that the rest of the program comes pretty easily for us. This is why it is important, if not vital, to continue to surround ourselves with “the people” that help us feel safe, connected, and valued in our sobriety.
“The Places” In Addiction
You know those old hangouts you would always go to, that same bar, or that same trap house, or that same liquor store you would stop by during your addiction. When we get sober, those things don’t just go away, and a lot of people make the mistake that just because they have a few weeks of sobriety under their belts, that they can still hang out at their old haunts, and not pick up.
Whatever that looked like for you, and you know exactly what each place is that you should avoid, even if it means the whole town, you just know that these places will bring you back to who you don’t want to be.
This is why so many people move to new locations to get clean and sober, but not everyone has that opportunity available to them at first. That doesn’t mean you can’t get sober exactly where you are, it just means that you will pretty much have to avoid those “people, PLACES, and things” where you used to use. Maybe not forever, but at least until you get a solid bearing on your recovery.
“The Places” In Sobriety
For most people in recovery, the safe place is the rooms. It can also be your sponsor’s house, coffee shops that you attend with sober supports, the gym, school, wherever you feel safe. It’s funny how, when we get sober, we find comfort in the places that we never really had time for in our addiction. For example, we are usually much more inclined to go for a hike or go to a dog park, or the beach, or wherever, and that we can completely relax and unwind.
Whereas before, these places would be out of the question for us unless we were good and inebriated first. These places that we find in our recovery become somewhat of a haven for us, whether it be the rooms, nature, or whatever else you find. The point is that they fuel our recovery and our spiritual connection.
“The Things” In Addiction
This one can mean a whole variety of stuff. Those “things” that might have consumed one person’s life could mean nothing to another person, but in our addiction, our things most likely revolved around:
- A person to sleep with (maybe that was just me?)
- More drugs
These “things” consumed us, but when we get sober, we can look back and realize just how meaningless they all were. Everything that we threw away in order to chase these things, our whole lives, were tossed to the side in order to feed our addiction.
“The Things” In Sobriety
This can be a double-edged sword in sobriety. Here’s the deal, when you get sober, good things start to happen in your life again. You start to feel healthy, you are able to hold down a job, you are making money and feeling confident again. This is where people can either take the ball and run or fumble and end up with a face full of dirt.
When “Things” can be dangerous to recovery:
- When money, clothes, shoes, and appearances become paramount
- When the job takes over your life
- When the relationship pulls you away from your program
- When the car is too expensive but you buy it anyway
- When “succeeding” becomes more important than your loved ones and your program
It happens all the time, and people usually don’t even see it coming. They get the gifts of sobriety; financial independence, health, confidence, and stability, and they end up losing it all because they placed its importance before their program.
Instead, the “things” that should be valued in a life of recovery are the things that money can’t buy, and are the REAL gifts of the program:
- A Family
I know, I know, cheesy, right? But isn’t it so true? The gifts we get from simply working the steps and showing up for life continue to come for us as long as we stay. Now I’m not saying that the program needs to be your ENTIRE life, but it does need to be a part of it if you want to stay sober, and stay away from those same old “people, places, and things” that kept you down in the first place.