If only life could be like it was in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. If you are too young to remember Mr. Rogers, it’s worth a look on YouTube. Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood was a beautiful, idyllic, albeit imagined place. Unfortunately. If the world ran as an episode of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we would all be happier, healthier and content.

His show was a great lesson for children in how to treat others but—as we know—life can be far different than its portrayal on TV. Bad things happen, bad people happen, addiction happens.

Once you have entered into recovery it is crucial to do ANYTHING to protect that sobriety.

That almost always means changing the people that you hang around with.

It’s a very difficult thing to do.

It may be family, friends, coworkers--anyone that is still carrying out the behaviors you are changing, using any substances that you need to avoid, or causing triggers that create anxiety, thoughts, memories or cravings for your substance of choice.

The first order of business is identifying who these problematic people may be. Realize that they may have helped you in the past, you may love them, you may love being with them, and you are afraid of losing their love and support. They may even be your parent, child or significant other. You may live under the same roof as them.

Although not having contact with these people seems impossible, anything is possible if you put your sobriety first. You may need help identifying these people or knowing how to handle a break from them.

That help is available.

People in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction need to take steps to protect their sobriety every single day. This often involves severing ties with people who drink or use drugs—even if they're longtime friends. Staying friends with active substance users could put you in difficult situations that trigger cravings and lead to relapse.

How important is your recovery and sobriety?

I would hope that the answer would be “it’s the most important thing in my life.” And if it’s not, please think about it and speak with someone about why that is the case. Without recovery and sobriety, you will never be the parent, spouse, coworker or friend that you want to be. You need to give yourself the oxygen first on the airplane in order to help anyone else. It may sound cliché, but it is true.

Deborah Reich, M.D.