Preventing Relapse With Sober Living

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Transitional changes in your life can be stressful because they usually involve developing new habits in a new environment. After completing a treatment program, the transition from living in a highly monitored facility to planting roots in the “real world” can be overwhelming. You might be stressed by the idea of finding new resources for managing your substance use disorder (SUD). One way to ease this transition and make it feel less drastic is by joining a sober living community.

What Is Sober Living?

Sober living homes (SLH) are exactly what they sound like. It's a community where people live in sobriety, a transitional home post-treatment completion. Sober living facilities are safe environments where you can practice your emotional management skills while also exercising independence and developing decision-making skills. 

There are several levels of sober living which range in independence and monitoring of the residents. All sober living facilities require you to be sober. Most facilities don't offer detoxification because they are meant to be part of a post-treatment aftercare plan. Many of them also require you to take part in the community, attend peer support groups and obtain and maintain employment. The four levels of sober living are:

  1. Peer-run housing
  2. Monitored sober living housing
  3. Supervised housing
  4. Residential treatment housing

Some levels of SLH might appeal to you more than others, depending on where you are in your recovery journey. Studies have found that attending a sober living program decreases the risk of relapse and incarceration. Sober living can be used as a stepping stone, absorbing the shock of “real world” problems.

Benefits of Joining a Sober Living Home

There are many benefits of joining a sober living program after inpatient treatment. Sober living provides you with accessible professional and peer support. It also provides you the opportunity to continue to learn about yourself in a safe substance-free environment. You'll be exposed to “real world” problems gradually instead of all at once.

Professional Support

Joining a sober living community means delaying the difficult navigation of finding professional mental health support on your own. Most sober living facilities have mental health professionals on staff. This makes therapy more accessible for you. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can immediately get professional help. In doing so, you have less time to ruminate on treating overwhelming feelings with unhealthy behaviors. 

Sometimes it's difficult to motivate yourself to get to a therapy session when you're experiencing intense depressive symptoms, especially when you have to go through the effort of driving thirty minutes to get there. However, having a therapist in close proximity will help mitigate this problem.

Peer Support

Expanding your support network is important for your recovery journey. You must learn how to ask for and accept support from others. To build healthy relationships, you also need to learn how to offer your support to others. Peer support is essential to sober living. People in SLH are encouraged to look out for one another. This will improve your empathy and communicative skills as you build relationships with your peers.

Sober living makes it easy to give back to the recovery community. It also makes it easy to build friendships with people who have a good understanding of what you're going through. The friendships you make and the communication skills you build in a SLH will be there for you when you do eventually decide to live on your own in the “real world.”

Safe and Substance Free

Living in a substance-free environment mitigates the stress of temptations. Learning how to manage your mental health and substance use symptoms on your own is tough. You don't want also to have to figure out how to navigate social situations where substances are involved. 

Sober living provides you with a reliable, safe substance-free space where you don't have to explain your recovery to anyone. You won't have to worry about people judging you over your past faults because they'll get it. They've been there too.

Studies have suggested that being in an environment where drinking is discouraged will make it easier for you to maintain your sobriety. In the study, researchers found socializing in groups with larger numbers of abstained drinkers led to better recovery outcomes three years after completion of treatment.

Learning Responsibility

Many sober living facilities have house rules. These rules are reinforced to keep everyone in the community held accountable for their actions and teach them responsibility. House rules might include paying rent, attending house meetings, and participating in house chores. 

This allows you to take part in responsibilities you didn't have to attend to during inpatient treatment. However, you will have the advisement and support of professionals and your peers. In doing so, the pressures of responsibility are placed upon you more gradually. If you become overwhelmed by your responsibilities, you'll have an immediate network of peers and mental health professionals to help you work through that stress.

Other Aftercare Programs

Most recovery facilities offer a variety of aftercare programs along with sober living. Some facilities offer outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, or alumni services that can help you in the next step of your recovery journey. 

Sober living can help you maintain your sobriety during your recovery by giving you a community and safe space to work on personal growth. Pathways Recovery Center started as a sober living facility and has since expanded. We offer several treatment packages, including sober living, partial hospitalization, and inpatient and outpatient care. We will prepare you for life outside of our treatment programs by providing you with the tools you need to manage your substance use symptoms and take each day of your recovery one step at a time. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call Pathways Recovery Center at (888) 771-0966 to learn how we can meet you where you are in recovery.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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