The tenets of sober living are simple: be honest in your dealings with others, be earnest in your will to recover, and be open to receiving all help. Sober living communities exist to help those with the goal of being sober stay sober, by creating a unique environment for those in recovery help each other through inspiration, motivation, group therapy, and the constant vigilance of the community in making sure every member does their part to ensure a drug-free, sober lifestyle.
Sober living is different from just rejoining the world after rehab and living a normal life in a drug-free neighborhood. It’s different, because you’re different. You’re different not just because of the addiction, but because you’re in recovery, and there are likely few people in your day-to-day life who can properly relate to that.
While group therapy and regular meetings and the encouragement to meet with therapy members outside of scheduled meetings to stay in touch all have done a lot to help people who struggle with being alone with their feelings and not having others to talk to about them, it’s nothing compared to what it feels like to actively live with and regularly engage your neighbors on topics of sobriety, spirituality, psychology, and the troubles of addiction. And that’s the sort of opportunity sober living presents.
The Rules of Living in Sobriety
The golden rule is obvious – stay sober. There is a strict no drugs policy in sober living homes and communities, including alcohol and cigarettes. To enforce this, regular and randomized mandatory drug testing is done to ensure there isn’t any sort of break in the rule. Therefore, most people go through rehab before entering a sober living home, to ensure that they’re free of possible withdrawal symptoms and can live and work normally while working on their sobriety.
As part of that continued philosophy of sobriety, residents are typically restricted on the number of people they can bring into a home, and they’re absolutely forbidden from engaging in any kind of fighting or violence. And finally, a curfew is common as well to keep track of everyone at night. Some houses restrict the use of toiletries and food items with potential addictive properties or dangerous active ingredients, like mouthwash and vanilla (few houses restrict vanilla, as the science behind its addictiveness is dubious at best).
Other than the golden rule, sober living homes typically do not tolerate wasting time. Those who live in a sober living community must dedicate themselves to some type of school or work program, depending on their age and experience, and engage in various chores and common responsibilities, from paying their monthly dues to overseeing meal prep, groceries, cleaning or some other task on a rotating basis. This is to help those out of rehab lead a steadier life.
A Sober Living Family
Sober living isn’t just an individual experience. It’s about living with a family. It’s about being accountable to one another, about being responsible about one’s actions and their repercussions, and most importantly, it’s about relearning how important you are as a contributing and working member to a household. If one person in a sober living home doesn’t do what they need to do to be a productive member of the household, it can generate strife and stress throughout every person – and it can terminate their chances of living there.
Addiction often strips you of any power, and leaves you broken without the sense that you’re important enough to matter to others and be a strong, secure person again. Sober living homes teach you how to embrace those things once more, and be part of a harmonious, functioning unit – a household made up not just of individuals trying to get better for their own respective families, but individuals that are working together, with one another, communicating and inspiring one another to stay sober, obey the rules and keep the peace not out of dogma but out of a sense of necessity and purpose.
Discipline and willpower won’t save you from getting addicted – sometimes, it just happens. But restoring those two things, and learning to rely on yourself again so others can rely on you as well; it’s an important lesson, and one that will make you much stronger on your road to long-term sobriety.
It’s Only Temporary
Sober living homes or communities are still just a single step in the long route to recovery. You’re not meant to stay in a sober living community forever – it’s a single destination on a longer journey, one you’re mostly meant to spend with those you love, as a family, or on your own if you prefer. Sober living homes help teach you how to live again – they help you get used to the responsibilities of a home, from paying rent to organizing meal prep, cleaning up, enforcing a curfew and leading an otherwise solid work and life schedule based on self-discipline and an accountability towards others around you.
Once you’ve grasped this, and feel comfortable being sober and functioning, it’s time to move on. However long it’ll take you to grasp this, though, is up to you. You see, when it became clear that addiction had to be treated on a personal level that included the living environment of an addict, residential treatment facilities began to pop up across America. This was back in the 60s. But at some point, the limitations of these facilities became apparent. They were forcibly temporary and functioned solely in the context of treatment.
Sober living homes are about living. Treatment is part of the equation – and a necessary part at that – but the onus lies on living as a sober person. At some point, you’ll have to move out. At some point, you’ll have to move on with your life and close the chapter on addiction. Until that point arrives, a sober living community can help you turn the disease of addiction around and end the all-too-common cycle of relapses.