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Tommy Recovery Coaching

Why a Supportive Environment Is Key to Successful Addiction Recovery

Those pleasant moments you experience when seeing a loved one or coming home to an affectionate pet are pure neurochemistry at work. Dopamine levels surge when we anticipate or experience something pleasurable—hence the enjoyment we get upon arriving home and being enthusiastically greeted. There are other neurochemicals such as oxytocin and endorphins at play, but dopamine is the one to pay attention to because it’s crucial in the brain reward circuit that ultimately leads to chemical addiction. Dopamine release can be prompted by cues and triggers in various environments. This is crucial for people in Carlsbad addiction recovery to understand.

Dopamine Release & Environmental Cues

There’s more to dopamine than just its release during the activities we enjoy. This neurotransmitter helps us learn, remember, and assimilate environmental cues and triggers. Let’s say a woman with mild alcoholism gets invited to a dive bar frequented by heavy drinkers. If she isn’t fond of dive bars but accepts the invitation and gets extremely drunk anyway, the dopamine release in that instance may create a strong association with the environmental stimuli, thus prompting her to continue visiting the spot and drinking more than she used to.

Place & Setting in the Addiction Context

Many fast-food restaurant chains know what gets us through their doors in terms of place and setting. Think about all the environmental cues we get from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut. Fast-food giants know how to engage our senses with mouth-watering photos on the menu, specific branding colors, and spice combinations that interact with ingredients to create appetizing smells. This engagement results in food cravings, and it’s similar to what happens in addiction when the cues directly impact the dopamine reward pathways.

Modification of Memory Function through Addiction

Most of us oversimplify the interpretation of environmental stimuli and cues in the context of addiction. We accept a sign that designates a smoking area will trigger dopamine release among smokers who are already anticipating the nicotine fix. Neuroscientists, however, know this correlation goes much deeper because the complexity of neurochemistry is never-ending. A 2019 study published in the Learning and Memory scientific journal determined that laboratory rats mildly addicted to nicotine and cocaine hydrochloride had strong long-term memory connections to the chambers where researchers placed the substances. Rats with moderate addiction were then placed in the same chambers without drugs to test their memory recollection skills, which were astonishingly sharp, thus illustrating how strongly dopamine release can influence memory recollection in environments associated with substance abuse.

Fostering Environments Conducive to Addiction Recovery

Long before researchers connected the neurochemistry dots related to dopamine release, environmental stimuli, and substance abuse, addiction recovery counselors knew about the importance of environments. In essence, someone in recovery shouldn’t be faced with constant reminders of his or her addiction. Some patients aren’t aware of the environmental cues that get in the way as they work through 12-step programs or try to live sober lives. 

Some environments can be easily avoided if they’re prejudicial to recovery, but other environments can be fostered so they enable recovery. Sober lifestyle coaches work with clients to determine what they can do to reduce exposure to negative cues, follow structured routines, seek supportive communities or social circles, and focus on healthy habits. 

For strength-based support with addiction recovery or the help of a compassionate interventionist, Carlsbad residents can reach out to the trained recovery coaches at Sober Lifestyle Coaching. Our goal is to offer our clients maximum recovery support, especially in the first fragile days or weeks of early recovery. If you’re looking for extra addiction recovery support so you don’t risk relapse when you head into the danger zones, we’ll work with you to put together a game plan to keep you safe and sober as you accomplish your goals. To learn more about how we can help you or someone you love, call us today.


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