Some will say 90 days, others will give you a number closer to half a year. The truth is that there is no good answer. Any answer would be accurate for some, and wildly inaccurate for others – but understanding what sober living homes are for, and how they can help you in recovery, will likely give you a better idea of what kind of timeline you’re looking at.
Ultimately, sober living homes are homes and communities where recovering addicts go to live in a drug-free environment. Many of these sober living homes utilize mandatory drug testing to ensure that their residents are clean, while utilizing a simple ruleset for all to follow, including shared chores, mandatory school/job searching, and a curfew. Sober living homes enforce the basics, but the point is to help addicts become self-sustaining and work on their self-discipline. Coming off on an addiction and into sobriety can be a very harsh transition, and with it comes a long list of mandatory changes. Sober living helps people work their way through this list at their own pace.
When to Leave
When you’re ready, you leave. Unlike rehab facilities, sober living homes don’t have a time limit or a set program. There are no curriculums – every week is like the last in principle, in the name of consistency and routine. You may choose to seek therapy outside of the facility/home, join in group therapy, or find other group meetings as needed. Sober living homes are not halfway houses, and they’re not residential treatment.
One of the reasons people go and visit sober living homes is to find a place to stay drug-free after a major relapse. It takes some time to recover from a relapse, especially because the body is usually much more susceptible to drugs after a period of recovery than right in the middle of your addiction. Mentally as well as physically, relapses take a serious toll on you. They also eat into your morale, leaving you fearing another relapse. Some time spent in a sober living home can help remind you that relapses can be used as a learning experience, to improve your sobriety.
Another way in which sober living homes can help you on the road to recovery is in the transition phase between rehab and going back to regular living. Sober living homes give you a community of recovering addicts to get to know and potentially befriend, making connections with others who have had similar challenges in life, and have overcome similar obstacles.
It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready to leave. However, staying longer is often better.
Longer Is Better
Generally speaking, relapses are very common. Over half of everyone who goes through a recovery program relapses within the first year, and there is no data on how many relapse whenever they try to go clean without help. Relapses are not a mark of shame or a sign of weakness, but a part of the disease. It just takes time to get past them, and some people make progress faster than others – healing is individual.
That being said, there are ways to reduce the risk and increase your chances of not relapsing. The most effective method? Stay far away from drugs. Living in a sober living community easily achieves this – but that’s only a part of the equation.
Sober living homes live and breathe recovery. They encourage residents to seek therapy and go to group sessions. They help residents communicate with one another, learn to be part of a group, belong to something bigger, and work on their own individual goals. They actively work to minimize and prevent relapses in the long-term, emphasizing peer support and cooperation.
The longer you say completely abstinent, the lower your chances of relapsing. Staying in a sober living home longer is one solution – but what makes it all work is the constant and consistent emphasis on recovery tools and continued progress towards drug recovery. By continuing to work on your recovery through therapy and group meetings long after rehab and sober living, you will have a much better chance at avoiding relapses, minimizing cravings, and leading a smoother, better sober life.
More Than Sober Living
Ultimately, recovery is more than sober living. Getting and staying sober is the backbone of drug addiction recovery, but the real point of recovery is to find ways to live with your history of addiction firmly in the past, and progress to becoming a part of society again.
Realistically, it’s important to mention that cravings are individual, and many continue to experience the urge to drink or use after many years. However, it’s a much weaker urge than before – and one you can consciously ignore and learn to live without. But, because the temptation is there, it’s also important to keep in mind that support is crucial. We’re not alone in this world – and if you’re going to be staying sober, having friends and family around to help you is important.
Your brain remembers what it was like to be high, and as dangerous as drug use is, it’s addictive because it produces pleasure like few other things in life. Recovery isn’t about finding a form of pleasure to surpass drug use. But it also isn’t about living the life of a monk. Sober living isn’t locking yourself in a small home with a dozen other addicts, waiting for the moment when things get better. It’s an opportunity to pursue things in life that bring you fulfillment – finding a career path you truly enjoy, providing for others, being an inspiration, making headway in your own personal goals and aspirations, and working past difficult challenges despite setbacks and stumbles along the way.
A sober living home can help put you on the right path towards a life you can be happy with. Not one you have to run away from. But no one can say how long that is going to take.