Addiction is a very challenging opponent to overcome. Part of the difficulty in defeating it is our own over-confidence; as soon as we start to underestimate the force of our addiction, it overtakes us yet again. This over-confidence leads many people to conclude that they do not need addiction treatment at all – believing that they could stop their behaviour anytime they wanted to.
But successfully breaking free from substance abuse takes a true commitment of time and effort, even after formal treatment has ended. For this reason, many patients choose to stay in a sober living facility before fully re-entering society.
What is a Sober Living House?
A sober living house is a controlled environment, shared with other recovering addicts struggling to stay clean, but existing outside the walls of an addiction centre. Residents can come and go as they please, but their behaviour is regularly monitored, drugs and alcohol are strictly forbidden, and personal support is given on a semi-regular basis.
As a stepping stone towards the freedom of the outside world, a sober living facility achieves just the right balance of supervision and independence.
The Challenge of Staying Sober
It can be somewhat scary to come from the controlled environment of rehab back to the real world, where the same triggers and environment you have escaped from now surround you once again. Furthermore, taking on and accepting a brand-new identity – that of a recovering addict – can be difficult even under ideal conditions, without the additional peer pressure that helped bring about your addiction in the first place.
Passing by bars and pharmacies on a regular basis, while dealing with the stresses of the world and feeling that you have nobody to talk to who can understand what you’re going through – these can be trying times. In addition, the difficulty of facing up to past misdeeds and apologising to friends, co-workers and loved ones for previous mistakes can be even harder to bear. For many, this pressure is enough to derail their effort to stay clean, or at least make it much more challenging than it needs to be.
The hurry to return to ‘normal life’ should be kept in check until you are completely ready for the trials ahead. In many cases, the best way to get ready is to share your early recovery period with others who are making the same effort.
Finding Support Groups
In a sober living house, all of the positive influences around you combine to form a single message: stay clean. It is a real challenge for people to change their personal habits even under normal conditions, especially if those habits have been reinforced through months or years of compulsive behaviour. A structured sober environment makes adjustment to ordinary life a much easier prospect, particularly for long-time users.
Residents learn to take care of themselves in their new lifestyle, one step at a time. They also receive support and advice from others who are going through the same challenges – as well as therapists and addiction experts who can teach additional skills for staying healthy and operating independently out in the world. Like a set of training wheels on a bicycle, a sober living house represents an excellent safety feature for those who have taken a bad fall.
Addiction recovery requires putting into practice the teachings and methods introduced in treatment centres. It is an excellent opportunity for residents to test out their newly acquired skills whilst under supervision. This process in turn allows residents to develop a healthy amount of self-confidence, in preparation for their eventual return to modern society.
Moreover, formal support groups are commonly found nearby, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Attendees can build real connections that further reinforce a commitment to healthy living, through refined and effective 12-step programmes for recovery.
Through each of these support mechanisms, recovering addicts – particularly those who have struggled with addiction for a long time – will receive the support they need to make their recovery a successful one.
Better Care for Better Outcomes
All of these carefully planned features would suggest that addicts who join a sober living house are more likely to avoid relapses – and studies show that this is indeed the case. One such study looked in detail at residents who stayed at sober living facilities, comparing their data to those who did not. Reviewing their medium-term outcomes (18 months after first entering a sober living facility), the study found significant improvements among those who stayed in a sober house.
For those residents, psychiatric evaluations showed much more positive results, while drug and alcohol addiction declined. Residents from a sober house were also less likely to be arrested in subsequent months, and more likely to be employed. Overall the 12-step addiction recovery method, as well as effective social support systems, were shown to have a highly positive effect.
The study also stressed the importance of being surrounded by peers who are not using drugs or alcohol. Maintaining sobriety is far more manageable in an atmosphere where others also abstain from the consumption of addictive substances. Most sober houses create an effective environment for recovery by actively monitoring their residents to ensure that they remain on the path to wellness and sobriety.