While addiction can be treated in many different ways, there is a universal applicability to a sober living community because they’re more than just a treatment method.
Therapy, rehab, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment – there are a lot of ways to help someone deal with the ramifications of addiction and return to a semblance of normalcy and sobriety. However, these treatment tools fail to do one thing as effectively as a sober living community: teach self-sufficiency in sobriety. Ultimately, after a debilitating disease, every patient longs for the day when they can cut loose their crutches. Stand up out of the wheelchair. Use their limbs again. While many treatment centers help residents learn how to deal with sobriety in the real world, it is a specialty in sober living communities.
Addiction can be disabling, sometimes on a mental and emotional level and sometimes on a physical level – and overcoming the effect of years of addiction takes more than a few weeks in a treatment center. Even a 12-step program is limited by its ideology and function as a group therapy tool. A sober living community is not meant to be a treatment method, or even just a facility for early recovery – it’s a place where people come to learn how to live again, and learn how to enjoy being alive again, without drugs. It’s a place where you can become in-tune with your own needs and wants, grow conscious of others, and become part of a community rather than being stuck with yourself.
The advantages of a sober living community are numerous – but before one can delve into why, it’s important to understand what a sober community is.
What is a Sober Living Community?
Sober living communities are defined by their ruleset and setting. A sober living community is a community, for the most part – composed of either one building or several homes on private property, it is a tightly-knit, controlled environment where residents can live to guarantee a safe early recovery environment, and stay sober outside of temptation.
Not unlike a homeowner’s association, a sober living community has some established ground rules that must be respected in order to live there. For one, everyone must pay rent. Every resident must also either work, look for work, or be in school. Random drug tests are part of the safety measures implemented to ensure that no drugs are available on community premises, yet otherwise, every member’s time and privacy is valued.
In some communities, it is mandatory to join a number of activities with other community or home members, in order to build a real relationship with others. In other communities, this is left for the resident to decide.
By and whole, every community has the same aim – to create an environment that is as close to real life as possible, simply with more stringent controls to prevent drug use or the temptation thereof. Some communities give residents extra things to do, including house chores and cleaning work as well as curfews, in order to provide both a sense of routine and establish a schedule. These things help residents who struggled with addiction find something to hang onto, a pattern they can use to get back into recovery if a relapse occurs.
Sober living communities have both an individual and collective focus. On one hand, they often offer and further encourage people to seek therapy and treatment, either through the facility’s own treatment options, or outside. Beyond that, sober living communities are a community, and thus invest a large amount of time and resources into organizing group events and outings, group meetings, and group activities.
When a rule is violated, the punishment ranges from paying a fine and apologizing, to being sent out of the community. However, relapses are rare as most sober living communities are meticulous about their security, to prevent any substance abuse on-premises.
Leaning Back into Life
Ultimately, the main advantage to a sober living community over a residential program aside from the overall cost is the fact that a sober living community better simulates real life and gives you a greater opportunity to adjust to the responsibilities and difficulties of struggling with both recovery and living life again.
Make no mistake – no matter what you do, you’ll never go back to the same life you once had. Addiction changes everything, including you – but that’s a good thing. Take this as an opportunity to grow like never before, and reshape yourself and your life into something better.
Yes, addiction and addiction treatment will cost both financially and emotionally, and recovering from these traumas won’t be an easy task. But it is an opportunity to seek out new ways to cope with stress, find a line of work you’re truly interested in, and approach your family and loved ones with total honesty and ask for forgiveness.
Maintaining Sobriety Outside of the Community
Sober living communities typically don’t have a time limit – which is part of why they are effective. While many other programs are meant to be completed within a certain time period, including most rehab and residential programs, a sober living community can be a useful tool for the first few weeks or months of recovery. However, at some point, it’s time to move out of the community and into a life where many of the same safeguards against drug use no longer exist – especially for legal drugs.
Maintaining sobriety outside of the sober living community is easier than with other treatment facilities or options. The routine and scheduling build into sober living treatments allow residents to embark on their new lives with a better sense of time management, useful coping skills, and the self-discipline needed to work hard without the constant sense of temptation coming from their old days of addiction.
It’s true that, in general, the temptation doesn’t go away completely. There’s always something that lingers from addiction – but with the right toolset, your family and loved ones, and the relationships formed through staying in a tightly-knit sober community, you’ll have nothing to worry about.