How Do Sober Homes Work?

Sober Living Home Defined

Sober living homes are critical to the continuum of care model of addiction recovery in that they provide “transitional living”.  This covers the period after completing residential inpatient treatment but before mainstream living.  Studies have shown that this is a critical time in a person’s recovery process.  Going to a sober home after treatment while participating in an Intensive Outpatient therapy program (IOP) has been connected to higher sobriety success rates at 12 and 18 month follow ups.

A sober living home is a safe environment where recovering patients can stay after receiving 30-day treatment. To understand what it is, one should be familiar with how rehabilitation works.

Most rehab facilities provide a customized program that works according to a person’s specific needs. At the core of these programs is detoxification and behavioral therapy. The first step is all about helping the patient get sober again and restore their health. The latter is all about teaching them how to stay sober.

Upon completion of their program, the patient has usually cleansed the remains of the drug or alcohol from their system. They have also explored all the benefits of maintaining a drug-free life, and all the devastating consequences of relapse.  They generally feel excited and ready to conquer the world at this stage.

Emotional Aspect

Despite their enthusiasm, most are not yet strong enough in their recovery to turn down the temptation – to forget what they just learned and go back to what they know. This is especially true when they are sent right back into their old living environment – with the same stressors and problems they had before they went into treatment.  This situation often proves too tempting and, unfortunately, relapse is often the result.

Alternatively, sober living homes provide additional time to emotionally prepare for the transition into their lives. They continue to have a structured living environment and are required to stay sober and follow the house rules.

Residents usually stay at a sober living home anywhere from 30 days to 12 months and longer. This will usually depend on the level of support needed before they feel comfortable living on their own again.  

Addiction doesn’t just affect a person’s mind and body, it also destroys their relationships. Some might have even forgotten how to connect with others in a regular social setting.  A good sober living home can help re-train residents on how to interact with others while maintaining their sobriety.  They often make new friends and connect with others with whom they can relate.  This type of peer support is one of the foundations of 12 step groups and drastically improves the person’s chances of avoiding relapse.

Solidifying New Tools

It takes a while to develop new habits—research suggests 66 days before a new one is formed.  Unfortunately, addiction is a habit that is extremely hard to break. Sober living homes allow recovering individuals to establish new healthy habits. They are required to abstain from drugs or alcohol and random drug tests are administered. Most importantly, they receive encouragement and peer support in pursuing a new, healthy lifestyle.  They don’t just regain confidence, they also regain independence.

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