As an increasing number of individuals seek and receive substance abuse treatment, the population of people who need additional support to maintain their newly found sobriety also rises. Getting sober is the first challenge. Many require an extended period of ongoing support to remain in recovery. There are several good options for those seeking assistance after an inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment program. One of the more common post-treatment options is a sober living program.
The first year of recovery is the hardest.
Talk to anyone in recovery from addiction, and you will find that most consider the first year of sobriety to be a challenging one. Most inpatient and residential programs only last 30, 60 or 90 days, leaving people to face the majority of hurdles in early recovery outside the security of an inpatient setting. Many benefit from extended support as they transition from inpatient to independence. Sober living houses came about to address the needs of those new to sobriety.
The term “sober living” is common in the treatment industry, and the general public is now much more aware of this option than ever before. For some, sober living offers enough accountability to help remain on the sober track. However, life in a sober house is a steep drop off from the high control of a residential or inpatient care setting. This dramatic shift from control to more independence can create problems for many people including:
- Too much independence, too soon. Individuals in a sober living program have far more independence and face large portions of their day unsupervised, with access to money and free reign on the use of cell phones and internet. Unsupervised free time, money, phones, and internet access can all be big time triggers for many individuals and all lead to the temptation of old ways.
- Relapse rates can be high. It’s important to note that those individuals who relapse in sober living are just not ready for the unsupervised free time immediately after leaving the 24hr structure of residential and inpatient programs.
- A personal support system may not yet be established. Many individuals struggle to build a solid recovery support system when they reach sober living. Issues still need to be addressed including anxiety, lack of motivation and an unfamiliarity of what to do to in their new sober life.
- It may be tough to find employment. Another big challenge for those in a sober living program is how difficult it can be for some to obtain employment.
A sober living house is an independent living situation with some accountability and is an excellent option for those who are far enough into their recovery to have established adequate self-control and have begun to establish their personal support system.
Most sober living programs have:
- A house manager who checks in with clients living in the house on a daily basis.
- Requirements or guidelines to produce desired recovery behavior, but it is largely up to the individual to stay compliant with these guidelines on their own.
- Comradery. The biggest benefit of sober living is the common ground that your new roommates and housemates will share with you. Everyone in the house is going through the same challenges often at different times. This is a very beneficial form of support for the client.
Many sober living programs also offer additional support services, but it’s often the case that these services need to be pursued by the client moving into the house, and are not mandated or required.
Is a Sober Living House the right choice for me, my loved one or patient?
Individuals most appropriate for sober living demonstrate these traits:
- High motivation to maintain sobriety,
- Proven ability to find employment,
- A familiarity with the local recovery community,
- An awareness of the challenge ahead,
- Ability to budget and manage money,
- A strong desire to be self-supporting,
- The ability to stay with other clients you know and got sober with, all of whom share a common desire for recovery.
Signs that sober living may not be the best option:
- The person is seeking a sober living as an alternative to a professional recommendation for a higher level of care,
- No prior employment experience,
- Moving to a new location where you don’t know anyone in the area,
- Poor money management,
- Client has high social anxiety,
- Client has a tendency to isolate.
How do I select the best sober living program:
All sober living programs have strengths and weaknesses. Here are some guidelines that can help you select the right sober living house.
- The most important thing you can do is to research sober living programs in advance of entering a program.
- Ask questions. Be sure you understand what the sober living program provides beyond what their website says.
- Clarify. If you like something on the website, make sure that you have a clear understanding of how and when the feature will be available to you.
- Understand how much independence there will be. Remember that no matter how much support you are seeking, it is still an independent living situation. The majority of the day, the client is left to their own motivations and desires.
- Support is stronger when the client seeks it. The amount of support and inclusion received by others is directly dependent upon your desire to seek it out.
Tour the facility It is highly recommended that time is taken to tour the sober living house and meet the people there. This will give you the best information to determine if it’s a fit for you or your loved one. If you are unable to tour the sober home yourself, ask to talk to clients currently living there. The best sober living programs are the sober living programs where the residents are motivated for recovery. Ask your treatment provider Your current treatment provider is an excellent resource as they are familiar with both the patient and area programs. They will know the strengths and weaknesses of the individual seeking care. Additionally they will be familiar with local programs and can advise which sober living homes may be a good match.
What if the individual is not quite ready for the level of independence provided in a sober living program?
Extended care programs offer a transition path between the highly structured and controlled setting of inpatient addiction treatment and the loosely structured environment of a sober living house. Learn more about Extended Care Programs here. Arbor Behavioral Healthcare offers both Extended Care and Sober Living programs as part of our Continuum of Care which is designed to offer the appropriate support required by each person as they progress on their personal journey towards addiction recovery. All Arbor facilities are located in the Austin, Texas. Give us a call to learn more about each program or for help assessing which program best suits the client.