Anytime a person makes a commitment to living in a home in which no drugs or alcohol are allowed, that person could be said to have mastered sober living. It’s a goal that most people strive for when they enter treatment programs for addiction, and some people need a little extra push to help them get over the finish line and really make lasting changes that can lead to long-term sobriety. A sober living community can help. While each program might be a little bit different, and the care provided in these facilities can vary dramatically as a result, the basic concepts that drive these communities tend to remain much the same.
Safe and Sober
Since sober living communities are designed to provide people with homes that are free from temptation, these facilities tend to have very strict rules regarding the use and abuse of substances. For example, most facilities require residents to undergo periodic urine screenings for drugs, and residents might also become accustomed to periodic searches of their rooms or their belongings. Breaking the rules regarding this sober life can result in serious consequences, including expulsion from the community. As a result, these are the rules that most residents are careful to adhere to, at all costs. The sober home that results from these rules might be responsible for some of the major benefits attributed to these programs. For example, in an 18-month study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that people who participated in these homes tended to stay sober, and they had lower scores of addiction severity. It’s possible that these people may have relapsed to use if they’d been living in communities in which drugs are relatively easy to come by, but the protected environment of the sober living home allowed them to make better choices and avoid a looming catastrophe.
Some of the successes attributed to these communities might also come from the influence of the addiction treatment process residents continue to follow as they live in these communities. As part of their agreement when they move in, residents also agree to follow their treatment plans to the letter, which means they might also:
- Attend addiction therapy sessions
- Attend mental health therapy sessions
- Take medications
- Attend support group meetings
The requirement to continue with care can keep people involved and learning, and this might allow them a better chance at sobriety. A 2008 study in the Journal of Addictive Diseases might make this concept a little easier to understand. Here, researchers provided addicted people with a total of six months of care for addiction, in various different models. Not surprisingly, the researchers found no difference in the efficacy of one treatment model over another at the nine-month follow-up level. That might be due to the fact that six months just might not be long enough for people to make great strides in their addiction care. When they’re at home, with their programs wrapped up, relapse just seems likely. Modern addiction or mental health treatment programs might last for much longer than six months, when aftercare components are included, and dropout rates in the later stages of care tend to be high when people are living at home in their communities.
Sober homes keep people connected with the concept of recovery, and they ensure that dropouts just don’t happen. That could be vital to long-term success for some people.
Making New Habits
In addition to learning about sobriety and how to maintain that state on a daily basis, sober living communities also attempt to help people learn how to develop a balanced and rewarding life. For some, this means learning more about how to structure the day and fill it with work, chores and healthy meals. For others, this means working on communication skills with a group of patient peers who can work as a sounding board. People who emerge from these homes often have skills they just couldn’t access before, and they have a deep understanding of how to fill up the days with tasks that lead to long-term health and happiness. People in specific troubled populations may benefit from specialized sober living homes that are designed to help them recover from their past and develop a healthier future. People who have been arrested and convicted of a drug-based crime, for example, might benefit from sober homes within the criminal justice system. These homes provide the same types of services found in other sober communities, but they may also help convicted criminals to:
- Find work
- Apply for housing
- Complete their education
- Contribute to society through volunteer work
These specialized sober living homes can help to smooth the transition between prison and home, and according to a study in the journal Crime and Delinquency, they can reduce the rate at which people disobey their parole and return to the prison system. As studies like this make clear, specialized homes really can help some people to make new habits.
Many sober living homes are built around the traditions and steps made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. As a result, it’s not uncommon for the administrators of these communities to ask clients to participate in regular support group meetings. Some facilities even hold such meetings in community rooms shared by all residents. These meetings can help people to learn more about addiction, of course, but they can also help residents to integrate regular support group work into their day-to-day lives.
When they leave these facilities, they may be more likely to attend meetings on their own, and they may also be more likely to stay in contact with the sober community they find through their meeting attendance. For some, this is the best way to stay sober.
The feeling of community can also persist through the structure of the sober living home itself. Some communities have active alumni programs that allow former residents to mentor new residents and inspire them with their tales of healing. These alumni programs might also provide former residents with social opportunities, allowing them to engage in fun and social activities in a safe and sober place. For some people, this is yet another reason why participation is valuable over the long-term. At Futures of Palm Beach, we provide all our clients with a detailed relapse prevention plan when treatment is complete. As part of this program, some clients move into sober living homes. We work hard to ensure that we help clients find the right community to meet their needs, and we’d love to tell you more about the searches we perform on behalf of our clients.