Pros and Cons of Sober Living
Nobody ever said that recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol would be simple. In fact, most people cannot find the strength and the attitude to recover without professional help. Your decision to seek treatment is courageous, but what will you do when the 30, 60 or 90 days of residential care is over? Where will you turn for help?
Upon leaving your residential treatment program, it quickly becomes evident that the old friends, bad habits and dangerous situations that led to your addiction can quickly cloud your newly sober judgement. The fact is, staying sober after treatment is HARD.
Relapse is very common in those who are recently released from a treatment program. In fact, it is estimated that just as many people relapse following their short duration of sobriety while in treatment as those who relapse from any other chronic disease such as cancer. An estimated 60% of those in recovery from addiction to opiates will relapse at least once following treatment and, in most cases, this relapse will occur very shortly after they are released.
All of this negativity, the mere thought of getting the help you need and then relapsing shortly after, may seem like a doom and gloom cycle, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Recovery takes hard work, dedication and commitment—but sobriety is possible. A sober living facility can help you stay on the path of recovery and will minimize your risks of early relapse following the time that you spend in a residential treatment setting.
What is a Sober House?
Each sober house features a set of rules that help to keep the residents of the home on the path to continued healing and sobriety. Much like a treatment center, sober living facilities will require that residents abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol and they often require random testing to ensure this continued abstinence. Unlike a treatment center though, a sober house provides residents with more lenience to come and go, work, and live their lives. Residents are not confined to the home, and are encouraged to work, attend school and have a social life.
Each sober house has its own organizational structure. Most often, residents will work their way up in the living unit to gain more freedom. For instance, a new resident may have more chores and responsibilities at the home but as they prove that they are remaining sober and doing what’s right, they will move up the ladder and receive more freedom.
Early residents often have more frequent drug or alcohol screenings, earlier bedtimes or curfews and stricter overall rules than those who have proven their ability to remain sober even with the lenience that is provided in the sober house. As time goes on, residents who continue to stay sober, take part in group support and maintain the rules of the sober house will gradually see that their limitations are reduced.
Rules of Sober Living
While each sober house has its own set of rules, most of the time the rules center around common denominators of staying sober, respectful and in control of your recovery. As in school or work, breaking certain rules may lead to immediate grounds for eviction from the home, while breaking other rules may just lead to consequences such as a loss of privileges. Common rules of a sober house include:
- Abstaining from the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Submitting to random or scheduled drug or alcohol screenings.
- Attending support groups or 12-step meetings as required by your counselor or by the household leader.
- Actively participating in house meetings.
- Remaining respectful of others in the home.
- No violence of any type.
- No sexual contact at the sober house.
- Paying rent and other specified bills or share of costs of time.
- Following curfew which.
Are Sober Homes Coed?
The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reports that the majority of those who reside in a sober home are male. Women do participate in sober living programs as well, although fewer women tend to move into sober living following treatment when compared to their male counterparts. Coed sober homes are hard to come by for a number of valid reasons:
- Most men and women find that it’s easier to discuss their recovery struggles with members of the same sex and without the distraction of the opposite sex.
- Men and women suffer from distinctly different triggers, struggles and emotions as a result of their drug or alcohol use.
- Most sober house leaders realize that allowing men and women to live together in a home during a vulnerable time could pose additional challenges in following the sober house rules which may include no sexual contact, no relationships with other sober house residents, etc.
Sober Living Pros
Living in a sober house has a number of potential advantages. The actual advantages that are experienced will depend on the individual attitude, and needs of the resident. Some of the pros of sober living may include:
- Continued participation in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
- Ability to apply 12-step lessons in real life situations outside of the treatment setting.
- Peer support from others in the sober house who share similar goals in recovery and sobriety.
- Motivation to stick to the sober living plan because if residents don’t follow the rules they can be evicted from the home and may be forced to live on the streets.
- Ability to live comfortably right out of treatment even if the resident didn’t have a home of his or her own to go to.
Sober Living Cons
Just as there are a number of benefits to sober living homes, there could also be some negative aspects. Again, like the positive elements of sober living, the negative aspects will depend on the individual circumstances and may vary from individual to individual or from one sober house to the next. Some of the potential cons of sober living may include:
- Being forced to participate in 12 step programs that may not be ideal for the individual. (Some people don’t respond well to 12-step treatment)
- Being faced with the potential for eviction with little or no warning unlike a regular apartment or home rental in which definitive legal action must be taken before an actual eviction may occur.
- Anxiety and stress associated with the constant looming thought of eviction if rules are broken.
- Poor living quarters or accommodations in sober homes that are more akin to homeless shelters than they are to a normal home. (Not all sober homes are like homeless shelters, but some very much are like a shelter)
- Lack of a communal environment that is conducive to recovery. (Not all sober homes lack this communal spirit, but some do)
- High rent for luxury sober home accommodations. (Not all sober homes charge high rent, in fact many offer very affordable rent, but some will require much more than is reasonable.)
Choosing a Sober Living Facility
Because there are so many potential benefits and possible negative elements of a sober living facility, it’s important to choose wisely. Long before a family member or friend is released from a residential treatment program, plans for appropriate sober living should begin. When choosing a sober house, consider:
- The cost and whether it is affordable and reasonable.
- The surroundings and the location of the home.
- The residents and the leaders of the home and their attitudes towards others.
- Ask residents how they like the home and what they feel about the leader.
- Perform an inspection of the home and ask questions.
- Research online to find reports and reviews of the facility.
For help finding a sober living facility, call our helpline toll-free at 1-800-895-1695. Our caring counselors will assist you in finding a home that will help you or a loved one to remain sober and on the path to lifelong recovery from addiction.