Making the leap from a treatment program to the home environment can be really jarring. Even though you have changed with your recovery, your home may not have changed at all. All of the stresses you once faced when you were using might be waiting for you once again when you return home. You can certainly deal with these issues with grace and perseverance, but there is something you can do to ease your sober path. By enrolling in a sober living home right after your inpatient treatment program is complete, you will provide yourself with an opportunity to rest, learn, and continue to grow in sobriety, all while you’re surrounded by peers who know just what you are going through.
Sober living homes have the proven ability to help people preserve and strengthen sobriety. In an overview article in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, researchers say that people who enroll in sober homes make improvements in all sorts of areas, including:
- Measures of substance abuse
- Psychiatric illness
- Employment levels
Results like this highlight why a sober home could be really important in your recovery. You will need to maximize that opportunity by preparing for your sober stay in just the right way. Here is how to do it.
Step 1: Work your program.
Just thinking about taking the next step on your sobriety journey can be exciting. You will have more freedoms, more opportunities, and more connections. It can be a wonderful thing to think about. But you will need to remember to keep your eyes on the long-term prize. That might mean focusing on your inpatient treatment program until your team confirms that you are ready.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that drug abuse programs that last less than 90 days are of limited effectiveness. It takes time to learn how to build a sober life that will stick, and it is not a process you will want to rush through. It is not a process you can go through while your mind is on something else. Stick with your inpatient program until your team lets you know it is time to move on. Focus on the work in front of you right now, and take every step as carefully and as cautiously as you can.
Step 2: Pick the right home.
When you have made progress in treatment and your team feels as though you are ready to take the next step, you will be provided with a list of sober living homes that the team has identified as right for you. Some organizations have sober living homes in a network, so you can stay within the umbrella of the same treatment organization you used for inpatient care. Other organizations have contracts and connections with other sober living home organizations. Sometimes, you might want a sober living home that is out of the network. You might want a sober home close to your family, for example, or you might want a sober home that is far away from your family.
As you consider your options, think about what might be best for your sobriety. Where will you be comfortable? What neighborhoods and parts of the country appeal to you? Where will you have a network that supports your sobriety?
Remember too that not all sober homes are alike. For example, in a report about sober homes prepared by Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin, Attorneys at Law, the authors say that sober homes can be large with a corporate oversight board, and they can also be quite small, consisting of nothing more than a landlord who rents out a room or two. In some cases, unscrupulous people abuse the sober home system to get rent from vulnerable people.
Before you make a final selection, ask questions of the home. You could ask about:
- Success rates of alumni members
- Crisis procedures
- Qualified staff on hand (if any)
- Typical lengths of stay
- Endorsements from national organizations
- Licensing issues
Step 3: Ask about availability.
It is not at all uncommon for qualified, high-demand homes to have waiting lists. There is limited space in every sober living home, and that means some people need to wait for a resident to leave before they can move in. Find out how long the wait will be, and talk with your team about how to handle that wait. In some cases, a stay of a few extra days in inpatient care could be quite good for your recovery. In other cases, a long wait might prompt you to look for a new sober living home. Examine the calendar closely and follow the advice of your treatment team as best you can.
Step 4: Pack properly.
Once you have a home all picked out, consider what you can bring with you when you move in. These homes are designed to remove any substance abuse temptations, and that means that the rules about what you can and cannot bring with you can be quite strict. If you are not careful, you could end up bringing in a banned substance, and that could start your stay off on the wrong foot.
For example, the US Food and Drug Administration reports that cosmetic products labeled “alcohol-free” might still have alcohol in them. They may not have ethyl alcohol, but they might still contain lanolin alcohol, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, or stearyl alcohol. All of these items might be banned.
Similarly, some sober homes have rules about valuable objects, such as jewelry and art. Others have rules about clothing and insignia on clothing.
Before you head out to enroll, learn the rules and be prepared to follow them to the letter. That way, when you arrive, there will be no confusion about what you can and cannot bring with you. The items in your luggage will not put the sobriety of others at risk.
Step 5: Arrange transportation.
With addictions come driving restrictions. Often, that means you cannot simply drive away from your inpatient rehab center and into a sober living home. For example, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, two arrests within 10 years for DUI could lead to a one-year suspension of driving privileges.
In addition, if you can drive yourself to a sober home, you might be tempted to make a few stops along the way. The sense of freedom you might feel when you leave an inpatient facility might be overwhelming to you, and the sense of stress and happiness you feel could lead you to make poor decisions that put your sobriety at risk.
For these reasons, it is best to have someone escort you to the sober living home from the inpatient rehab center. A close friend, a sober escort, or a sober support group peer could handle the technicalities of driving and the temptation to make a stop, which leaves you open to focusing on the important parts of the healing process.
Step 6: Be prepared to pay.
Sober living homes are not charitable organizations. Most are not-for-profit or for-profit organizations. That means they rely, at least in part, on the fees that residents pay in order to provide the services they offer to people who have addictions. That means you should expect to pay for the care you will receive in the sober home, and you should expect to make a payment when you arrive.
It can be difficult to think about money when you are focused on recovery, but remember: You will need to handle these sorts of details when your stay in treatment is complete. Learning those lessons now could help you to have a more fruitful long-term recovery.
Step 7: Learn the rules.
The goal of a sober home is, in part, to help you learn how to be a respectable member of society, says an article in the journal Psychological Services. Homes do that by creating very rigid rules that you are required to follow.
The rules can vary from house to house, but it is common for sober homes to regulate:
- When you leave the home
- How many chores you perform
- Your employment status
- Your ongoing relationship with recovery, either through therapy or support group work
- Your relationship with others in the home
- Quiet hours
- Community involvement
You might have a schedule to follow, with every minute allotted for, when you arrive. As you succeed in recovery, those rules might grow less and less stringent, but there is little room for argument or negotiation here. When there are rules, you are expected to follow them. You might be expelled if you do not comply.
Step 8: Make it a habit.
You could easily follow the rules while thinking about how dumb, restrictive, or silly those rules are, or you could think of the rules as a template you can follow for the rest of your sober life.
For example, in a study of the effectiveness of sober homes, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, researchers measured all sorts of different things, including employment status and arrests. They found that arrest rates were 42 percent at enrollment and then dropped to 22 percent at the six-month mark. These are big improvements, and they show how a life of structure can help people in recovery.
As you live with those rules, think about how you might apply them in your life after you leave the home.
Step 9: Be a good neighbor.
You might worry about how the people who live next to your sober living home will think about you and the people you live with. According to a study in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness, it is not common for people to feel blatant stigma from neighbors and community members.