Just about anyone with any appreciable amount of recovery will tell you that getting sober is only the beginning – staying sober is the real challenge. For most of us, living in addiction was a full time job and we have either never learned or lost many life skills. We have often been withdrawn from society for an extended period, and it takes time to transition back to societal norms within the context of being drug and alcohol free. Many people who are in the process of getting clean and sober (whether for the first time or after numerous attempts) find this transitional period to be one of the most difficult to conquer.
Sober living homes offer a recovering addict a slow and gradual transition back into daily life at a pace each individual can learn to grow comfortable with. Studies have shown that aftercare programs like this can better one’s chances at avoiding relapse and maintaining sobriety. In fact, a study highlighted in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs identified sober living homes as a crucial part of recovery. Abstinence rates for the residents studied increased dramatically over a six and twelve month period. Rates went from 11% to 68% over a six and twelve month follow-up period for residents in one facility, while the other boasted an increase from 20% to 40% after 6 months.
Most relapses occur in the first 30 to 90 days after initial treatment (detox, intensive outpatient, residential), and are often directly related to stumbling over day-to-day life circumstances and relational difficulties. Relapse is also likely to occur if an addict returns to the same living environment and/or family structure that they had when they were using without being adequately prepared. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that people overcoming an addiction remain in a rehabilitation program for a minimum of 90 days to obtain maximum benefits.
Joseph Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., LPC, CAI is an Addiction Specialist and Professional Interventionist in Roswell, GA who has been practicing in the addiction field for decades. Dr. Kirkpatrick feels strongly that sober living residences can be an integral part of a successful long term recovery: “People rarely get sober by themselves. Especially for the first year, they need to stay close to other recovering addicts constantly, attend meetings regularly and most benefit greatly from some type of family support team. Addicts with similar issues living together in a healthy, motivated and non-judgmental environment is a great opportunity for people to experience the power of the group dynamic – people helping each other with day to day life challenges, and to change their addictive thinking.” When asked how long he recommends one should stay, Joseph suggests that “if a person has succumbed to their addiction so far that they required residential treatment, then 6 months to a year would be appropriate. Someone requiring an IOP level of care or less may not need that much time – however, too much recovery is always better than not enough.”
Reputable sober living programs incorporate rules regarding curfews, attendance at group meetings, work or community service requirements and routine drug testing. Many also include group meetings and social activities that are guaranteed to be drug and alcohol free, reinforcing the ideals of sober living. Residents are surrounded by others from all walks of life who share the common desire to stay clean from drugs and alcohol. In addition, nearly everyone associated with sober living homes is either in recovery themselves or a substance abuse treatment professional, or both. Evidence has shown that the longer someone engages in treatment and the more support they have in both clinical help and social support, the better the recovery outcomes tend to be.
Clearly transitional sober living environments benefit persons new in recovery by providing them with accountability, structured living, peer support, life skills and comradery within a healthy, motivated environment. This means that a resident of a sober living arrangement is never far from their network of support. While 12-step groups and therapy sessions are available anywhere, the 24/7 availability of housemates and staff who are dedicated to sober living is a valuable resource that’s hard to find.
The author, Nancy Steffke, is a Recovering Addict, Mental Health Advocate and freelance writer who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Dr. Joseph Kirkpatrick, Ph.D, LPC, CAI and his services, please visit www.doctorjfk.com. For more information on 365 Sober Living Residences in Alpharetta, GA, please visit www.365soberliving.com.
This article was written at the request of 365 Sober Living; however it is not intended to be an endorsement of any one particular sober living residence, facility, group of homes, individuals or companies involved in the sober living business. Its purpose is to highlight the benefits of a sober living/recovery residence as it pertains to an increased success rate in an individual’s recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.