Making the decision to enter sober living may or may not be easy. It can admittedly seem a bit daunting, especially if you have a spouse or children at home. You miss your family, you miss the familiarity, and you’re taken out of your routine; that’s enough to shake up even the soberest adult.
Being separated from your old life, your daily habits and the ones you love most can seem very isolating and lonely, but the truth is that sometimes it’s necessary in order to get you back on the straight and narrow path. Without escaping that which is most familiar to you, you’ll eventually slip back into old habits.
Furthermore, life in sober living isn’t always as dry and boring as some people make it out to be. Yes, there certainly are rules and restrictions, but they’re in place to protect everyone’s sobriety.
That doesn’t mean you won’t learn, grow, and have fun while you’re in sober living; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Most people in recovery who spend time in a sober living home learn valuable life and social skills that let them live a better life even after they leave.
That includes all the skills listed here in this article.
How to Resolve Conflict
Conflict resolution is a sticking point for many of us. It is especially difficult for people who struggle with dual diagnoses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety (SA), or major depression (MD), who may have relied on substances to help them stay calm and resolve conflict in a (seemingly) effective manner for years before getting sober. In extreme cases, we may even lack an understanding of how to resolve self-conflict, let alone conflict with other people.
Because many recovering addicts lack the ability to resolve conflict effectively, small everyday arguments and disagreements can spiral out of control. Poor conflict management leads to relationship troubles, strained child-parent relationships, and may even land you in hot water with the law. It’s also a significant contributor to workplace drama.
Sober living forces you to address your issues with conflict resolution; you aren’t simply dropped into the deep end with no support. When issues with roommates, chores, or even entertainment choices crop up, house leaders should work with everyone involved to resolve the problem. This approach frequently includes helping each person recognize their power and their responsibility in the situation.
Although it isn’t always easy to confront someone assertively, and it certainly isn’t any easier to admit when you’re wrong, learning to resolve conflict effectively is an extremely valuable life skill.
How to Manage Cravings
Do you know what to do if you’re lying in bed at 3 a.m. and severe cravings hit? At certain times of day and within certain situations, cravings are especially dangerous. As recovering addicts, our minds trick us into thinking that just one more hit, one more drink, one more sexual partner will somehow work out okay.
This phenomenon is true whether we’ve overdosed 100 times in the past or if we’ve never really had serious trouble at all. Herein lies the danger of addiction; it looks at maladaptive behaviors through rose-colored glasses.
Getting through cravings (especially when you’re under immense stress) requires a specialized approach.
At the immediate onset, you need to make sure you’re in a safe place where you can’t access your problem substance or behavior. That’s one of the reasons why most facilities have very strict rules and regulations, like fairly early curfews and/or not using substances of any kind in the house.
Furthermore, when cravings hit, there’s a counselor around to walk you through it. In the heat of the moment, recovery staff can sit with you, talk with you, and sometimes, just hold your hand while they provide you with practical advice to get through the craving. That might be as simple as helping you to focus on your breathing or as complex as networking with doctors to access specific treatment method for you.
You’ll also learn how to spot the signs of an impending cravings crises, how to head it off at the pass, and how to avoid triggering them in the first place.
How to Socialize Without Substances
Now that you’re sober, do you feel strange socializing? This isn’t an unusual phenomenon. Although it may seem backward, many of us turn to drugs and substances to help us feel friendlier, more conversational, and more relaxed in social settings in the first place.
For the average person, a drink or two at a party isn’t a big deal; we just somehow forgot to stop along the way. Suddenly, that social drink or toke turned into chronic daily use that sucked all of the joy out of our lives and hurt those around us. But we kept using it because we thought it made us cooler, friendlier, more engaging, and more interesting, if only to our own detriment.
Re-learning how to socialize without substances isn’t easy. At first, being sober can seem dull, boring, or unfulfilling. This is often temporary, and may pass as your brain slowly rebalances vital chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and endorphins. Once that happens, most addicts find that they’re able to once again find joy in everyday activities.
While in sober living, you’re placed squarely in the center of an entire life that surrounds recovery. Everyone living in the house is on the same path as you; they understand you. That interdimensional peer support is invaluable when re-learning how to socialize without substances.
Best of all, you have access to human contact in a way that’s safe and supportive without risking your sobriety goals.
Over time, all of you will learn each other’s likes, dislikes, and triggers, so you can decide upon social activities that benefit the group. Whether it’s curling up in the living room to watch a movie with snacks or heading out to the library as a group, those early excursions are valuable. And if things feel a bit awkward at first, it’s okay: they’ve all been there, too.
How to Ask for Help & Support
At your worst moments, sober living provides you with something you might not otherwise have: immediate support to keep you safe. Over time, that very support system will hold you up as you learn healthy ways to deny your cravings. Much like desensitization, refusing your cravings repeatedly will eventually make it easier to refuse in the first place.
More importantly, sober living facilities are there for you when you’re not necessarily there for yourself. It’s easy to toss caution to the wind after a slip or lose sight of the prize when under heavy stress. It’s so common that most recovery counselors expect and anticipate relapses along the way.
When counselors and residents see you making potentially self-destructive decisions, or neglecting self-care, they’ll often pull you aside and encourage you to refocus on keeping yourself well.
One of the main goals in recovery, at least for counselors and therapists, is to teach the addict that it’s okay to ask for help when you falter; hiding doesn’t help the situation. When you’ve relapsed, slipped, or are losing control, they’ll intervene on your behalf and help you get back on track.
Finally, moving into a sober living home doesn’t just give you the benefit of care within the house. Most facilities have working relationships with everything from chiropractors to psychiatrists. When you identify a health struggle, be it physical or mental, they can advocate on your behalf so that you can find and access the care you need to stay healthy and well.
Still not sure whether sober living is right for you? The fact that you’re considering it is meaningful, too. Moving into a sober living home certainly isn’t a decision to take lightly, but it just might be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make for yourself. Dedicate yourself to your recovery plan and seek out the right support and you will come out on the other side better for the experience.