Drug treatment is very important, but treatment alone is not enough to stay sober on a long-term basis. You need something that is more sustainable and can be a part of your day-to-day life. While you were in treatment, you were in a different environment. You were also under the care of medical professionals 24 hours a day.
What happens after you leave treatment? When you go home, you’ll see the same places you once used. You’ll run into familiar faces that will likely ask you to use again. For many people, sober living is the difference between staying sober or sliding back into bad habits.
The time right after leaving rehab is very challenging. Statistics from the National Institutes of Health show that only one-third of people stay clean a year after treatment.1 How can you help ensure you end up on the right side of that statistic? What can help you as you transition back to “regular” life after treatment? Sober living.
The Benefits of Sober Living
A new environment is essential for your new life without drugs. Why? If you’re totally honest, you know that you are a creature of habit. Your mind resists change and wants you to take the path of least resistance. So if you normally did drugs in your living room, the familiar sights, sounds and smells will remind you of drug use. This is one of the reasons why changing your environment is so important.
A new atmosphere allows you to create a fresh start. Sure, you still may experience drug cravings — that is completely normal — but you will have less of them in a new environment. Plus, you can associate your new surroundings with positive behavior such as exercise or staying sober, both of which help you move forward in your recovery.
The Importance of Structure
Many sober living homes have specific rules that enable you to step down from the routine of treatment while still having some accountability. This allows you to become more disciplined and keep you on track while experiencing some freedom in a safe place. For example, some sober living facilities require that you attend 12-step meetings on a regular basis. This rule may seem like something you could implement on your own, but with other people holding you accountable, you will have a higher rate of success.
Many sober living homes require drug testing and have a zero tolerance policy. When you compare this to staying at home, it’s easy to see how this added layer of structure can help. When you have more accountability, you’ll be able to make better decisions regarding your sobriety.
Support For Your Life
When in recovery, the constant support of others provides many benefits. Specifically, social interaction with others can prevent isolation and boredom. When you are lonely, you are more likely to feel depressed and make poor decisions. Research shows that loneliness impairs the brain’s ability to exercise control over our desires, emotions and behaviors.2 So if you are tempted to use while lonely or isolated, your willpower is already depleted. You become more likely to relapse. In addition, boredom can be connected to a lack of motivation or wanting something to do. If you used drugs as a way to relieve boredom in the past, you are more likely to turn to drug use again.3
Support from others — especially others who are also in recovery — will encourage you and lift you up. Just spending time with other people has many health benefits such as increasing your sense of belonging and even your sense of purpose.4 For example, Ryan N. is a part of Heroes in Recovery. He went to a sober living house, and it was there that he met someone else in recovery who inspired him. As they shared stories with each other, he found hope. Now Ryan N. currently enjoys a life without drugs. Sober living had a tremendous impact on his life, and it can impact yours positively too.
The Cost of Sober Living
The cost to stay in sober living varies depending on location as well as the amenities available to residents. Not all sober living homes are the same, regardless of cost. When looking at specific facilities, it is helpful to ask for recommendations from others in recovery or loved ones. Finding the right sober living facility takes intention, but it is worth it.
Heather H. is another great example of someone who went to sober living and had great results, shared in her story on Heroes in Recovery. She spent seven months in sober living and credits the investment of her time and energy into recovery as the main reasons she is clean today.
If you or your loved one is considering sober living, please know it can truly help you start your new sober life. Surrounding yourself with others who are living in sobriety in a healthy environment is a fantastic way to move forward in your recovery.
Written by Jim Woods
A writer for Foundations Recovery Network
Foundations Recovery Network’s mission is to be the leader in evidence-based, integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders through clinical services, education and research. Our vision is to be the best at delivering effective, lasting treatment and providing superb experiences across our continuum of care in all places.
. Dennis, ML.“An eight-year perspective on the relationship between the duration of abstinence and other aspects of recovery.” National Institutes of Health, December 7, 2017.
. “Could loneliness be the cause of addiction?” Functional Health Minute, December 6, 2017.
. Bennett, Carole. “Boredom—A Very Real Road To Addiction.” Psychology Today, December 7, 2017.
. “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health.“ The Mayo Clinic, December 7, 2017.