Making a complete recovery from substance use disorder and addiction takes time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people need to stay enrolled a personalized treatment program for several months. Once this primary treatment ends, they will need to continue paying attention to their mental health and wellness so they won’t relapse back into active use.1
Will Primary Addiction Treatment Provide Long-Term Care?
Not all standard treatment programs are ready or able to provide the long-term support needed for recovery. Intensive programs should always include aftercare, alumni services and connections to follow-up or continuing care options like therapy and sober living.
However not all of them do. Some provide treatment for the weeks or months needed, but after that time has passed, people are expected to manage their recoveries on their own. This leads to an abrupt jump from the safe rehab environment to “real life.” This jump can be hard to make alone.
How Do I Transition Home After Addiction Treatment?
A well-designed sober living home can fill the gap between inpatient care and unsupervised, unsupported home life. These residential facilities house people who are new to the recovery process, allowing them to develop good habits that can allow them to stay sober in the years to come.
Below are a few basic facts about these facilities along with some statistics about participants who enroll in these programs and the help they obtain.
What Level of Care Does Sober Living Provide?
Sober living homes are often run by peers rather than mental health experts. This self-management is often a new concept to people in recovery from addiction and changes the overall feel of recovery. The Journal of Offender Rehabilitation found that many people choosing sober living didn’t think they were choosing drug treatment at all due to the absence of a counselor. Some people find this discouraging and drop out before giving sober living a real try.2 That’s a shame, as sober living homes are built around the idea that peers can, and do, provide the boost that allows people to sustain their sobriety.
How Do Peers Support Recovery?
Peer support is a powerful recovery tool.
- Share stories
- Find role models
- Discuss their concerns openly
- Mentor others
Sober living rules ensure that people stick to their commitment to sobriety now, but the help peers provide can be key to a long-term recovery even after sober living ends. They encourage and support good behavior, and they’re often willing to step in with empathy and advice when things go wrong. Some people even come to think of their housemates as a sober family. Residents relearn how to make connections with others during sober living, and these connections can last a lifetime.
Who Participates in Sober Living?
No matter a person’s age, legal status, recovery challenges or personal history, people who participate in sober living are just regular people. Regular people who ended up with a substance use disorder that just takes a little more time and attention to continue healing. Most choose to be in sober living, and most are at a point in their life when they are focused on creating a positive future for themselves and their families.
Some sober living homes are more specific than others and cater to a particular demographic. Some gear their services towards helping women with small children or offered a tailored stay for people of a specific religious or cultural group. These specifics can help residents to feel comfortable and stay committed to their recoveries.
What Structured Care Does Sober Living Provide?
Even when sober living isn’t professionally run, all sober living comes with structure and rules. Rules keep residents safe, comfortable and sober. Facilities present their rules long before enrollment, and those considering a sober home should study those rules carefully. Rules can help a person recovering from addiction make significant gains toward recovery. They cover everything from self-care to peer support to house chores, employment and more.
Does Sober Living Work?
When trying to determine if sober living works, most people immediately look for sobriety success rates. Individuals and families want to choose a home that will help participants stay clean and sober in the future no matter what challenges might come along. While it’s true that participation in sober living is associated with extended sobriety, focusing exclusively on substance use and abuse allows people to overlook the real benefits a program can provide.
The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs explains that sober living does more than just extend time spent sober. It also improves a person’s psychiatric symptoms and employment while reducing likelihood of arrest.3 Sober living can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. It can also teach parenting and life skills while improving interpersonal communication. Sober living gives participants and chance to really pull their lives together on all levels.
How Do I Find Sober Living?
Because sober living homes aren’t formal treatment providers, finding statistics about their numbers and availability can be difficult. There is no official registry, and while some groups are working to create such a thing, in the meantime it’s relatively easy for anyone to open up a home and not necessarily provide care that’s up to par.
Individuals and families need to their homework before choosing a sober living home. An Internet search is a great way to get started. Call facilities, tour the grounds, and talk with professionals like those at Michael’s House to get recommendations for reputable, effective sober living options.
1 “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan. 2018.
2 McCorkel, Jill, et al. “How Treatment Is Constructed Among Graduates and Dropouts in a Prison Therapeutic Community for Women.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. 12 Oct. 2008.
3 Polcin, Douglas, et al. “What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go From Here?” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Dec. 2010.