Addiction treatment is patient-centric, tackling each case individually to address every person’s individual circumstances and personal challenges. This means that there is no single most effective path – treatment methods might work for some and won’t work for others. While rehab is often a good first step for many people struggling with addiction, it might not be enough to ‘complete’ the recovery process, insofar as helping someone achieve lasting sobriety. Other programs exist to help people deal with the challenges of addiction, including sober living homes. These are ideal for many transitioning from rehab to regular life, or for those looking for a more long-form treatment process. Sober living is distinct from many other addiction treatment programs in a number of different ways.
What is Sober Living?
Sober living programs purportedly originated in California at a time when addiction treatment was booming, and the two major forms of treatment available to most were inpatient or residential programs (rehab) and outpatient programs. While outpatient programs adequately helped recovering addicts who needed to maintain their presence at home and in their career, or those who simply could not afford residential treatment, the need for an alternative soon increased as some found either lacking.
Sober living homes very simply offer a drug-free environment to recovering addicts looking to continue pursuing career goals or going to school, who simply need a place to stay away from the temptations of drug use while not at work or in class. These homes are typically built on a number of set rules that differ from community to community. He general ruleset most obey include rules such as:
- Daily curfews (to avoid late-night excursions)
- Mandatory schooltime/job searching/employment
- Mandatory or encouraged attendance at local recovery meetings or group therapy
- Recommended or mandatory treatment sessions with on-site professionals or nearby doctors
- Mandatory shared chores and set responsibilities
- Monthly rent
- Unlimited tenancy (residents are allowed to stay for as long as they need to)
Rules vary from sober living home to sober living home, but the general theme is one of self-discipline, helping recovering addicts get their bearings, helping them consistently maintain certain responsibilities, and helping them function outside of the sober living environment by giving them the tools and the space to work on their sobriety.
Sober living homes also live and breathe an air of recovery. Every day is meant to help you get more comfortable in sobriety than the last, and in a living environment with several other experienced recovering addicts, you gain valuable insights into the lives of others who have dealt with similar challenges, experienced life through entirely different perspectives, and have ended up in the same place as you, ultimately working to regain control and turn their life around for the better.
Why Switch to Sober Living?
Sober living homes are very different from other recovery programs in that there is no set program to begin with. They’re ideal for recovering addicts in all stages of recovery, especially those looking to transition into normal living, with no real idea on how to do so. The pressures of life can be very hard for someone fresh out of rehab – they include having to find ways to balance work and familial or social responsibilities, while maintaining a commitment to the spirit of recovery by attending meetings and therapy, making personal commitments, reaching goals, and spending time on hobbies. A life like that requires discipline and effective time management, which can be very challenging right out of the gate.
Sober living is a dry run of sorts, giving recovering addicts the tools and the experience they need to more smoothly transition into normal living.
Sober Living and Long-term Recovery
More than just a tool for early recovery, sober living can play an invaluable role in long-term recovery as a safe haven for recovering addicts who require a drug-free environment, either in times of stress, to reaffirm a commitment to recovery, or to help assuage or cut off fears of relapse by taking up tenancy in a community dedicated to helping people stay sober, and instilling hope in the recovery process.
Over the years, certain developments may lead to anxieties or worries over eventually using again, either due to external pressures or something unseen, like the development of a depressive episode. One-on-one therapy can help, but so can a group dynamic through sober living homes. The basic rules apply – despite long-term sobriety, sometimes you just need a place to stay where others are going through a similar struggle and seek refuge through a community without temptation.
Sober Living for Relapses
A relapse isn’t the end. Making mistakes and relapsing is arguably a part of addiction treatment, and the majority of recovering addicts relapse at least once within the first year after a recovery program. While a sober living home can help tremendously in preventing relapses, it can also help recovering addicts overcome relapses and ‘get back on the horse’. Recommitting to recovery can’t simply be done nonchalantly – it takes a dedicated show of commitment to convince yourself that you haven’t failed, and that you can still beat the addiction. Sober living homes provide an environment designed to inspire commitment to recovery. Through the ruleset, the staff, and the other residents, you’ll overcome the post-relapse slump and work your way back into long-term sobriety.
Taking the Lessons of Sober Living into Regular Life
Sober living can be an effective way for recovering addicts to successfully transition into normal living by providing the necessary rulesets to help someone adapt to life’s challenges and responsibilities without buckling under the pressure or losing the commitment to recovery and sobriety.
The conclusions you draw from your time at a sober living community are unique, and it’s hard to tell how it might translate into normal everyday living outside of helping you maintain a commitment to sobriety.
A Continuing Process
Recovery is, in some definitions, a lifelong process. No one really ‘masters’ life, and recovery is about finding a way to live a healthy and happy life in spite of your history with addiction. It will take time and a great deal of patience. But through sober living, you can help emphasize the part of recovery that truly matters living a good life while sober.