“People, places, and things” is a great expression used in 12-step recovery. It’s a phrase that all recovering addicts—especially those who are new to recovery—need to keep in the forefront of their conscious minds at all times. The phrase is a reminder that people, places, and things that are associated with a person’s addiction must be avoided: They must be avoided because they can become triggers that lead a recovering addict toward relapsing.
If you’re recovering from addiction, you must discontinue spending time with people with whom you participated in using drugs or alcohol. Needing to separate from people one is close to in order to stay clean and sober can be a harsh reality, but it must be done. In connection with this, it’s important to make a list of people to avoid. Separation from people who might tempt you to relapse is necessary in the beginning of recovery, and at least for enough time for you to achieve a certain degree of mental and emotional stability.
You must avoid certain places if you are determined to quit an addiction and stay free of it. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you should not eat lunch at what was your favorite bar when you used to drink. Perhaps you had a drug problem and used to go to certain places to get high or to purchase whatever you were addicted to. You must absolutely not go to such places any more for any reason, as doing so will tempt you to relapse when you’re experiencing moments of weakness.
If you’re serious about quitting an addiction, you will have to get rid of many things. If you quit smoking cigarettes, you can no longer keep cigarette lighters, ashtrays, and other such items. If you quit smoking marijuana, you can’t keep paraphernalia such as pipes. If you were a compulsive gambler, you have to throw away your “lucky dice.” You must also consider thought patterns and ideas you held that kept you in a frame of mind that led you toward participating in addiction as being “things.” If thought in such ways, you must learn to think differently.
Again, ridding yourself of people, places and things that are roadblocks to recovery may be difficult and painful. But the good news—the great news—is that we can replace them with far better things. New positive thought patterns, people who are encouraging and life affirming, and activities that help us and those around us are infinitely better than the entities associated with our former addictions.
Fear not! When we become clear thinking people and the old addictive patterns are far removed from our behaviors, then the people, places and things that held us back will no longer have power over us!