Sober living first began as an alternative for people who underwent the full treatment program offered at their local rehab facility, yet still felt the need for an intermittent step that would help them on the road to recovery, particularly in the transition from a dedicated residential treatment environment to living in the “real world”, with all its temptations and issues.
Set apart from other halfway homes or rehab facilities, sober living homes for the most part mimic normal residential communities, set within a home or apartment, with a few minute differences. Sober living homes each come with staff and rules, rules that have to be upheld to continue having tenant privileges.
Payments are scheduled once a month, much like rent, and every tenant is required to either have employment, be in school, or be on the active lookout for a paying job. Family and friends can financially support someone in a sober living home, but most sober living communities make it a point for a tenant to work hard on attaining and maintaining employment as a means of reintegrating into society and transitioning into a normal life after rehab. Furthermore, tenants have mandatory and randomly-scheduled drug tests, and strict curfews.
These rules represent what sober living homes try to achieve – instilling their tenants with a sense of responsibility and self-control. Rehab facilities are important to helping tenants better understand their addiction, take charge of their own recovery, and have at least a vague understanding of where their life is headed from now on. Sober living homes offer tenants an environment where they can be guided into taking life into their own hands, by being productive, helping others in the community, and remaining committed to total sobriety as part of their new drug-free life. It’s a delicate balance between providing tenants with the freedom to be their own adult, while still giving them the structure necessary for someone fresh off an addiction, looking for a sense of direction and purpose.
A Qualified and Welcoming Staff
While the rules change from sober living home to sober living home, they all generally share a 24/7 staff dedicated to helping tenants settle in, answering any and all questions, and helping them find various services and amenities.
The staff at a sober living home is usually experienced with addiction and mental health issues, and all sober living homes have psychiatrists and experienced therapists working at the home, although many also encourage their tenants to go seek further treatment outside of the sober living home, either by visiting another therapist, or by going to a local sober support group for addicts, including 12-step programs such as AA. This is also to help tenants seek help independently and rely on a variety of different sources for support.
The staff also works hard to organize events that help instill a sense of community into the home, by getting tenants to come together for teambuilding fun, sober parties, and group therapy. Most recovery programs emphasize that being active in the local community can help in making new friends, creating and fostering healthy relationships, which is integral to giving someone the sense that they belong to something greater.
Amenities Encouraging a Social and Active Lifestyle
Lifestyle changes are integral not only to sober living homes, but to sober living itself. A drug-free life has to be healthy – chances are that your drug habits left you somewhat malnourished and struggling both mentally and physically, and eating healthier as well as getting moving can help you be happier with yourself, make progress towards looking better, and improve your confidence and self-esteem, not to mention help your brain deal with the physical aftermath of prolonged drug use.
Having hobbies is also important. Drug use is often a way for someone to cope with a hard life, or deal with mental health problems. When drug use is taken out of the equation, many people are left wondering how to deal with their emotional troubles. Hobbies can fill that gap by acting as a form of stress management, while simultaneously helping someone actively tackle the problems that plague them to begin with.
A Flexible Yet Structured Daily Plan
All sober living homes have daily schedules and curfews, around which tenants can structure the rest of their day. Tenants are expected to be back in the facility at a certain time and are expected to help with chores and responsibilities at the home, ranging from helping clean up common areas to keeping their own living space clean and organized, as well as doing their own laundry.
Chores aren’t just for kids – time management can be difficult for recovering addicts, especially if they’re still getting used to healthy sleeping schedules and all the time they have on their hands without drug use, so giving them an idea of what a healthy schedule can look like and feel like is a good way to prime tenants for living a better life outside of their sober living home once they’re ready to move on.
What Sets Sober Living Apart from Rehab?
Sober living homes aren’t quite as structured or rigid as rehab programs, which only go on for a set number of days, going through a certain curriculum as per each client, based on their struggles and circumstances. Rehab is good for helping people detoxify, get past the withdrawal stage, and learning more about how they can continue to stay drug-free outside of rehab. Sober living is about helping people figure out how to live life without drugs, using a concrete plan they can follow and try out.
At the end of the day, tenants at a sober living home are free to leave at any given moment, and there is no limit to how long they can or should stay. Tenants are encouraged to stay for as long as they need to, in order to feel ready for what’s to come, and return if they fear they’ll relapse. By helping them find work, maintain a steady schedule, communicate and interact with others, be a responsible member of a greater community, make a handful of new and close friends, and take up a hobby or two, sober living homes prepare tenants for a drug-free life outside of rehab, filling the gap between a dedicated residential treatment plan and life out in the “real world”.