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Why Moving To A New City Will Not Solve Your Problems

I’ve done a lot of moving in my adult life: Indiana, to Atlanta, back up to Indiana. down to Miami, back up to Brooklyn, and way over to Abu Dhabi. 

Was it a nomadic spirit and desire for adventure that led me to these places?

Of course not!

I was an escape artist. Every move was an attempt to escape mental health issues, broken relationships, jobs I hated, and (eventually) an ever-worsening drinking problem. 

So in an effort to help other people save themselves (and their wallets) from leading such a messy life, here’s my take on running from problems. 

How Moving Tricks You Into Thinking You’re Okay

Every time I moved to a new place or met a new group of people, my whole vibe changed. I was a new person, someone I liked, and others liked. 

You know the feeling I’m talking about. You meet a new person (or people), and there’s an attraction. The energy is there, and you are ON FIRE, honey! 

Everybody loves you. 

Instantly, you have a date lined up or some new friends to hang out with. When was life ever this delicious?

This new city is exploding with possibilities.

Every bar, every restaurant, and every event feels like exactly what you’ve wanted your entire life. You are excited all the time. You feel high.

It’s possible that you’re walking on air. 

Those nightly bottles of wine you were downing earlier? A thing of the past! The cigs you wouldn’t be caught dead without? You haven’t even bought a pack yet.

It’s a whole new you, world! Just watch out.

Be careful!

The fantasy you have of starting over is literally making you high. Our brains love novelty, and what greater novelty is there than new people and new places?

Don’t be fooled.

It can (and does) wear off. If you’re not prepared to deal with your “stuff” when the illusion drops, you will find yourself right back where you started.

What Should You Do When All You Want To Do Is Move?

Before you pack up your entire life and head for a new city or town, do some major soul-searching. Why do you REALLY want to move?

Are you running away or towards something?

There ARE good reasons to move.

Some examples of these might include a lack of job opportunities, cost of living, or poor schooling choices (if you have children).

Maybe you live in a small town and the social circle there is not good for you. Perhaps the literal environment is impacting your health negatively. If your safety is at risk, definitely seek ways to get out.

But what if none of those are the case for you?

Think twice if your move is being fueled by any of the following:

  1. A breakup
  2. An effort to beat an addiction without any other work
  3. A major falling out with friends
  4. Depression or other mental health issues
  5. Loneliness

Moving After a Break-Up

I get it.

After a breakup, especially a difficult one, your fight or flight instincts are sure to kick in. Before you do something drastic, ask yourself if it had ever occurred to you to move before this happened.

What motivated it?

If this break up puts your safety at risk, of course, do what you must. But if a broken heart is driving you to pack your bags, reconsider your choice carefully.

What You Can Do Instead

Take a vacation.

If you can manage it, get thee to a beach or cabin far away, turn off your phone, and let yourself breathe in some different air. Reset.

Maybe a trip home (whatever that means for you) is what the doctor ordered. Change your scene temporarily to see if that quiets the urge to book a moving van. Let a family member or close friend love on you for a bit. 

Break ups are emotionally draining experiences. You can’t bury that or run from it. 

And if you find that part of what is driving your desire to move is the fact that you’ve wrapped too much of your identity in this relationship, there’s a lesson to be learned. 

You are your own person. If you haven’t been behaving that way, then it’s time to start. Focus on your needs, not new places. 

Moving to Beat an Addiction

If you think the cure for your almost daily alcohol binge (or whatever your poison) is a new city, think again. Unless you live in a town where there is literally nothing to do except go to the bar, this is not going to work.

Trust me. I’ve done it three times.

It’s the same reason, so many New Year’s resolutions fail. The initial high of something new might get you by for a few weeks, but eventually, that old familiar urge will come back for you.

Something will go wrong, because that’s life. The rose-colored glasses with which you view a new place will inevitably break. Your resolve will weaken. 

How do you plan to manage that? Because it’s coming with you, my friend. Whether you like it or not.

What You Can Do Instead

Seek treatment. Find an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous group. Show up to a meeting. If you’re able to, book an appointment with a therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction.

Not into AA or NA? Cool. There are a ton of alternative programs that will gladly welcome you with open arms. 

It may very well be that a change of scene is what your sobriety needs, but if you haven’t even tried to get help where you are, slow down a little.

Let’s be honest, the reason you drink has more to do with you than your zip code. Unless you start to unpack that, you’re not going to do better in a new place.

There is one caveat…

Sometimes our environment DOES contribute to our addiction. If you’re surrounded by people and situations that are not good for your recovery, of course moving might be the best thing. 

That’s not what I’m talking about. 

I’m referring to people who think that they drink exclusively because of external factors and if they can just get a fresh start somewhere, their drinking problem will magically disappear. 

Moving to Escape a Falling Out With Friends

A lot of reasons for wanting to escape can be interconnected. It certainly was for me. I’ve lost a lot of friends because I was such a drag on them.


Instead of getting help or taking ownership of my life, I buried myself in alcohol. 

Nothing was my fault. Poor, poor me. Always the victim.

Hopping around from one city to the next, and “starting over” with new people doesn’t work in the long run. Eventually, the old you will show up and Godzilla-stomp what you’ve built.

So if your social circle has completely collapsed, take some time to examine why that happened.

If you’ve done something disastrous and find yourself alone on the periphery, nothing is really going to be resolved until you fix what you’ve done. Take responsibility. Be an adult. 

What You Can Do Instead

Give everyone space, including yourself.

If you’ve been wronged, look for new social opportunities. Take time for yourself.

If you are responsible, then own it and figure out a way to mend what’s been broken. Either way, there will be a time in the not-so-distant future when this won’t matter anymore.

Moving to Beat Mental Health Issues

Depression and anxiety are exhausting to manage.

It is understandable to think that starting over is a way to be done with it. You feel depressed and think a new city will help, and it might for a little bit. But unless you actively work on strategies to handle your depression, it will continue to plague you.  

There is no quick fix.

Although there is some evidence that new scenes can help improve a person’s quality of life, it is generally because of extrinsic factors like lower cost of living, proximity to nature, etc. Escaping depression can’t be the only reason you’re moving.

What You Can Do Instead

Much like with addiction, before you make any big life changes, give yourself a chance to work on what is actually wrong.

Find a counselor or therapist. Join a support group. Start going to the gym. Exercise alone can help manage your mental health issues. Why not give it a go?

Try to get yourself in a better place emotionally and then revisit whether or not a move is right for you when you can think more clearly.

You don’t have to figure this out on your own.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a qualified therapist who gets you, try BetterHelp. Get 10% off your first month when you click the link below.

Moving to Escape Loneliness

This is another one I understand all too well.

You’re tired.

If you go on one more awful Tinder date, your head will explode. No matter how hard you try, you aren’t clicking with anyone these days.

Or maybe your best friend moved last year and nothing has been the same.

Ask yourself why moving will solve this problem for you. Does the reason you give sound practical? If a loved one came to you with this solution, would you support it?

Much like moving to avoid addiction or mental health issues, or a breakup, this desire to escape and start over is rooted in something much deeper.

If you don’t address it, it will follow you.


What You Can Do Instead

Before you give in to the little voice that says, “Woe is me. There aren’t any good guys/girls to date here. Everybody sucks,” ask yourself a better question.

Are YOU the problem?

If dating is your issue, have you tried not trying?

This seems counterintuitive, but it is the best advice I refused to take in my single days. Stop focusing on dating and focus on yourself and what you like to do. This is significantly more fulfilling than looking for “the one.”

He or she will show up eventually. Or you’ll stop caring one way or the other and be perfectly content with the fulfilling life you’ve built for yourself. 

Either way, you win.  

If friends are the problem, are you going out to social events that appeal to you? Have you joined groups that center around your interests? Maybe you’re not casting a wide enough net and choosing to hang around with people for superficial reasons.

Are you even a good friend to have?

I certainly wasn’t.

There was a time when all my friendships seemed to center around people talking me through my problems or listening to my drama. I rarely reciprocated. That’s not friendship; that’s therapy.

Evaluate what is really holding you back from connecting with others. Chances are there is work to be done there. Make it a priority.

Looking Ahead

I know it’s hard and that you might be dealing with some heavy issues right now. But avoiding your problems will never make them go away.

Believe me. I’ve tried.

If you’re interested in finding a community who understands what you’re going through, send a request to join the Soberish Facebook Group. Don’t worry. It’s a closed group and we respect everyone’s privacy.

Hope to see you there.

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  1. I’ve lived in southern Missouri for 18 years and still can’t stand it here. My husband and I would have left within 6 months of being here, but we had care of elderly parents and health issues with both of our sons. All of my longtime friends are in Iowa. I miss them, and the little family I have left. Some days I feel so lonely and depressed here. I never had problems meeting people and having friends until moving to southern Missouri. Also, this area is all about fishing, hunting and lake life which is NOT our life style. Iowa has so many activities we’re interested in. Are these legitimate reasons to move to Iowa? My husband just retired, so a move has to be done as economically as possible.

    1. I think moving somewhere that better suits your interests, lifestyle, and economic prospects is perfectly fine! I know what it’s like to move somewhere you feel you don’t belong. I hope you’re able to make it to Iowa!

  2. I have moved 14 times in 8 years since my divorce from an abusive spouse.. I do not have any addictions and have been in counseling. I moved the last time to where I thought was a place that met my needs as far as just a place with all the things on my wish list of activities and environment that bring me happiness, like gardens, trees, hiking , etc.
    But on one night I was sexually assaulted and again my my moving started over. I left my comfortable townhouse on the edge of the woods and my perfect job and ran back to Florida where I had some friends. But inside I am not content here . It is not my happy place and again feeling the desire to move. I even chose a rent month to month anticipating the idea that I may not stay.. but each time I move the costs are heavy and I have to restart my life again and look for work. I am older now and jobs are more difficult to attain.
    This article is good and I will think hard. Make a list of pros and cons and weigh it heavily.
    But my moving days are definitely coming to an end. Thank you for writing and helping us see the need to evaluate the risks of our behavior.

  3. Great article thanks for sharing – I come back to wanting to move quite often like it’s the magic pill!

  4. Thank you Alicia!

    I guess you saved me a lot of money and time preparing to move to the wonderland where my mental illness and loneliness will be solved! Now I have mixed feelings: sadness and a little bit of relief. Sadness because I think I will be still stuck with..ME again! There’s no way out of my problems except by facing them here! Relief when I knew that I don’t need to have something (i.e. move to a new place to be happier) in order to feel enough or complete. I always thought by the time I arrive my destination country: I will be able to have more dates/a wife/better master degree/better job/peace of mind/ better culture/better people and…better ME!

  5. Thanks so much for this. I’m always teetering on the edge of moving. I hate St. Louis (always have – nothing new) and want to move to where I wish to retire. But I guess you always bring yourself!

    1. It’s true! I’m all for a change of scene, so long as it for the right reasons 🙂