Sober living homes or communities are places where people struggling with addiction recovery can be live alongside and among other people struggling with addiction recovery, and help each other out.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is – in a way, group therapy involves seeking support among other recovering addicts to confess about personal issues, discuss the unique emotional struggles of dealing with post-rehab recovery, and generally opening to one another about what it means to have been an addict, to be an addict, and to go through the different perspectives of how to deal with addiction.
But a sober living community has little to do with therapy. At least, not in the traditional sense. At the end of the day, sober living is meant to be therapeutic – but it is not a treatment facility or a place to go for strict scheduling and sober rigidity. Let’s examine that, and understand better how sober living sets itself apart from other addiction recovery options, and why it works.
Defining Sober Living
Sober living is just that – communal living quarters shared by individuals working towards sobriety after dealing with addiction. Some underwent withdrawal on their own and are trying to stay sober, while others went through residential treatment and need more help to ease back into life.
Unlike group therapy and specialized treatment plans like outpatient treatment, sober living doesn’t base itself on rigid programs, treatment plans, or planned activities. Instead, sober living communities encourage members to seek out the appropriate resources locally to help them thrive in the fight against addiction while seeking support and inspiration in one another.
The idea is simple – to build the lacking self-confidence and self-discipline, and get recovering addicts back on their feet by encouraging them to go out and seek the best possible path to recovery, regardless of whether they find that path in their study, the local gym, a yoga studio or a therapist’s office.
Sober living communities share a living space and arrange group activities, but they’re not designed specifically as a form of team-building, rather as social occasions. Sober living communities do come with certain rules. Each has their own rulebook, but the general gist often is:
- No drugs, alcohol, violence or outside overnight guests.
- Active participation in meetings (doesn’t have to be arranged by the community).
- On-time payment, every time.
- Involvement in work or school.
- Randomized drug tests and alcohol tests.
Some sober living communities abscond with a rule or two, and others add their own – yet they keep themselves separate from outpatient programs by encouraging recovering addicts to take responsibility and keep themselves accountable by dealing with the job search, daily grind, rent payment, and various other regular responsibilities. To put it more bluntly, they avoid hand-holding as much as possible. Arguably, this is effective because of the principles of accountability.
Accountability & Addiction
It’s said time and time again – willpower may not save you from an addiction happening, but it can get you out of it. You’ll have to be headstrong and persistent if you want to keep yourself from a relapse (or another relapse) and being accountable to someone else or some certain purpose helps you stay motivated, and on-target.
By being encouraged and helped by getting a steady job and watching other recovering addicts adjust well and pay their dues on time, a newcomer to a sober living community will feel the urge to fit in, try to focus on their responsibilities, and look towards others in the community for help and guidance when the going gets tough and the temptation grows.
In a group, it’s easier to be strong – we can help each other, look to one another for motivation, and be inspired to do better than we might alone. We doubt ourselves, but when we see others succeed, we begin to hope and think that we can too. It’s easily observable in sports, and general research has found that people feel stronger and more confident in groups – that includes feeling more confident about yourself.
Group Therapy Is Still Important
Sober living communities often, if not always encourage their inhabitants to go to recovery meetings and engage in forms of therapy to stay sober. While living among others dealing with sobriety is one way to feel motivated to be sober, meetings and therapy are still great ways to equip recovering addicts with the emotional tools and logical resources to combat their temptations, put their addiction into context, and overcome negative thinking with positivity and the benefits of long-term sobriety.
With time, staying sober becomes easier. As you build a new life for yourself outside of addiction, with a proper career and a passion for life, and perhaps a family or group of friends to call your own, you’ll simply have too much to lose and no interest in going through the ordeal of a relapse and subsequent addiction.
Of course, having too much to lose also means that loss is extremely painful – and if you go through a traumatic event that turns the order of your new life into chaos, then your prior experiences at a sober living house and your time spent in therapy will have armed you with the coping mechanisms and psychological truths you need to stay true to your new self, and remember the hardships you had to endure to get as far as you did. A sober living home recognizes that every recovering addict’s journey is separate, marked by their own milestones, defined by their own circumstances, framed in their own context. There is no point in a rigid treatment program after the basics of residential treatment – it’s up to every single patient to figure out where to go from here.
Addiction is just another obstacle in life, even if it’s a massive one. With time, with perseverance, and with all the help you can ask, you’ll overcome it – just like how people overcome depression, trauma, and the loss of loved ones. And no matter how dark the day might seem, the sun will rise again another day, and with time, things will look up again.