After you complete your primary treatment for drug or alcohol problems, you will still face a number of significant challenges as you try to establish a sustainable, substance-free lifestyle. Without proper support, you can easily slip back into old habits and behaviors that will increase the likelihood of returning to substance intake. This is especially true if you live in an environment where alcohol or drug consumption commonly occurs. Fortunately, you can increase your chances of maintaining your hard-fought sobriety by enrolling in a sober living program.
What Is Sober Living?
A sober living program is designed to provide people recovering from drug or alcohol problems with a daily living arrangement that emphasizes and supports the ongoing goal of substance abstinence. Because participants live in a private residential setting, the common term for such a program is a sober living house, or SLH.
Sober living houses do not provide formal treatment services. Instead, they provide a structured environment that furthers the benefits of treatment. Many houses require all residents to take part in Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar type of mutual self-help group that emphasizes substance abstinence. Other typical program features include mandatory attendance at weekly house meetings, a requirement to sleep at the house most nights of the week and a requirement to account for your whereabouts while not at the sober living facility.
Unlike some residents of halfway houses, residents of sober living houses enroll voluntarily, instead of through a court mandate. Sober living houses also differ from halfway houses because they focus on people from all walks of life rather than people newly released from jail or prison. In addition, SLHs do not receive government funding, and most people pay for their enrollment. Typically, you can only stay in a halfway house for a limited amount of time. However, stays at sober living houses are frequently open-ended as long as you follow the program’s rules of conduct.
Mixed Programs Vs. Substance-Specific Programs
Some sober living programs include people dealing with all sorts of substance problems. However, since individuals with similar usage histories may benefit from the examples set by their peers, other programs only work with people recovering from the use of specific substances. You can typically find a substance-specific SLH if you are recovering from alcohol or cocaine-related problems, problems stemming from the use of methamphetamine or problems stemming from the use of legal opioid medications or illegal opioid drugs.
Self-Governing Programs Vs. Manager-Led Programs
In some sober living houses, managers and staff members bear the responsibility of developing the daily rules of conduct for all residents, as well as the responsibility for enforcing those rules and determining the consequences of rule violations. However, many SLHs further the overall goals of the program by requiring residents to play an active role in setting the norms for the house. In addition, residents often play an active role in determining and enforcing consequences for unacceptable conduct. Participation in a resident-led forum or residents’ council can increase your sense of belonging and help you channel your energy away from behaviors that promote or support substance use.
Twelve-Steps Houses Vs. Non-Twelve-Step Houses
The 12-step model of mutual self-help is known to play an important role in the successful, long-term recovery from drug or alcohol problems. For this reason, 12-step programs often play a prominent part in the daily lives of sober living house residents. Not all SLHs require 12-step involvement, as long as residents can find other suitable methods of supporting the goal of continuing substance abstinence.
Additional Program Options
In addition to supporting the core goal of maintaining a substance-free lifestyle, sober living houses may offer a range of other program options for their residents. Depending on your specific needs, you can find SLH programs that provide in-depth education about substance-related topics and other types of educational classes. Some focus on spiritual awareness, conduct meditation or yoga classes, and/or provide work programs for their residents. Some sober living houses grant alumni status to former residents, and thereby make it easy to keep close ties with other current and former residents.
The range of available options makes it possible for you to find a sober living facility that matches your core needs, as well as specific preferences that may make your stay more satisfying. Residence in a suitable SLH may greatly increase your chance of forming and maintaining a substance-free lifestyle.