Sober living homes are supervised housing environments designed to help people who are just leaving a rehabilitation facility transition back into their regular lives. It is important for people transitioning from rehabilitation to independent living to remain in sober living programs for an appropriate amount of time. When people who are recovering from addiction stay in sober living for the recommended amount of time, they are less likely to relapse and more likely to return to treatment sooner if they do relapse.
The Optimal Residency in Sober Living
For people who have just completed a medical detox and inpatient rehabilitation program, sober living offers a supportive environment with oversight, either through a community council or through a professional residential manager. Sober living homes offer a great deal of social support by requiring attendance at 12-Step-style meetings, other types of therapy, and strict compliance with rules regarding visitors and intoxicating substances on the premises.
In order to reap all the benefits of sober living housing, residents should remain in the program for at least 90 days. Although the individual may have been at an inpatient rehabilitation facility for several months prior to joining a sober living home, it is very important that the full three-month stay is observed once the individual joins the community.
Many sober living communities charge a monthly fee, which covers rent, meals, treatment, and other offerings. People who join sober living homes are often encouraged, at least after the first month has passed, to search for gainful employment while they live in the facility. Also, many facilities allow individuals to live in sober living housing as long as they feel like they need the support. Stays are not prescribed by medical professionals, although they are highly regulated at the state level, and some do accept individual insurance.
Because sober living housing is not medically prescribed or required for an individual’s course of treatment, people who live in these homes can leave prior to the three-month mark. However, typically individuals join sober living communities because they need to remain away from triggering stress in their daily lives, which can exist in or around their homes and daily routines. By remaining in a structured, supportive environment, people in sober living are better able to learn new coping strategies for stress, and gain better social support from other people who are going through a similar recovery process.
Benefits of joining a sober living community include:
- Living in a substance-free environment
- Making sober friends and building a support network to remain sober
- Learning new ways to cope with substance cravings, such as via exercise, stress relief, a healthy diet, and sources of emotional support
- Discovering more about oneself strength self-confidence and standing in recovery
People who join a sober living community may, after 90 days, be encouraged to return to their daily lives, with outpatient support as necessary. However, the timeline of when to leave is individual. Some people may be ready to leave at this point while others may reside in sober living homes for 6-12 months, or even more. The decision to move out of a sober living home should involve a conversation between the resident and a therapist or support group.
Risks of Leaving Sober Living Early
There are several risks associated with leaving sober living early, the greatest of which is relapse. When a person has not developed strong coping mechanisms and a network for emotional support in the face of substance abuse triggers, the person becomes much more likely to relapse in a dangerous way. Because addiction is a disease, people who struggle with addiction or substance abuse are likely to relapse after they become sober; however, when they develop appropriate coping mechanisms, get a sponsor, and have group support to help them deal with these urges or even a relapse, they are much more likely to get needed help before they put their lives at risk. With support, relapse is less likely, and if it does occur, a swift return to recovery is more likely.
However, if a person does not remain in sober living for its full course, especially if the person has a history of mental health problems or incarceration, that individual is more likely to relapse soon after leaving. Unfortunately, people who have a history of being incarcerated, homeless, or suffering from mental health problems are more likely to leave sober living housing too early, so it is important for support groups, therapists, family, and friends to work with the individual to make sure the sober living program is completed.
Research shows that remaining in a sober living program for the recommended 90-day period greatly benefits people who are recovering from addiction. While sober living does not involve medical treatment like inpatient rehabilitation, this type of supportive program can be greatly beneficial to those in early recovery.