The pros and cons of sober living when recovering from substance abuse


Are you or your loved one grappling with substance abuse or working hard to overcome some form of addiction?  Is maintaining your sobriety proving particularly challenging along the road to recovery?  Do you need outside assistance to ensure you lay off alcohol or drugs?  Perhaps you have been through a rehabilitation program but are not quite ready to reintegrate into society without ongoing support.


I probably don’t need to tell you that kicking an addiction can be extremely difficult.  It is incredibly challenging to stay sober when temptation is placed back in front of you in the outside world.


There are a range of treatments available to assist with sustained sobriety. In order to help you or your dependant stay on the straight and narrow a sober living home may be an appropriate solution to help ease your way back into society.


What is sober living?

First, in case you are not familiar with the term, let’s clarify what I mean by ‘sober living’.  Sober living refers to living in group homes designed for those recovering from addiction.  It is seen by many as a supportive transition from an addictive lifestyle, providing a live-in environment with a level of supervision and structure.


Sober living environments are distinctly different from rehabilitation centres which typically administer more intensive recovery and less freedom.  Sober living homes are often privately owned establishments that require tenants to pay rent, purchase their own food and adhere to certain rules (the most important of which is to stay sober).  In return the sober living facility provides a supportive environment to assist with recovery.


This sounds like a sensible half-way step for recovering addicts.  However let’s look at a few of the pros and cons of sober living in more detail.


A safe and supportive environment

Sober living places individuals in an interim environment and surrounds them with like-minded people.  All of the tenants understand the perils of addiction and are focused on achieving their goal of staying clean for the long term.  This environment can provide a safety blanket and support network as users go through their rehabilitation process.


You don’t need to go to a rehab centre first

While a vast majority of attendees have been through a more intensive rehabilitation program prior to enrolling at a sober living home, this is not mandatory.  Sometimes simply the support of one’s peers at a sober living facility can be sufficient to navigate a recovering addict through to long term success.  So long as a person has the ability to stay sober, then it could be the right choice for them.


Provides individuals with personal responsibility

Provided you follow certain house rules, pitch in with household chores and complete mandatory drug tests, then sober living provides individuals with flexibility to come and go in the same way they would in ‘regular’ daily life. It is a good stepping stone to returning to non-supervised care, and gives attendees a sense of personal responsibility.  However, violate common rules and you could end up with a fine or be tasked with making amends with residents in another form.


Ok, so sober living sounds like it could be a worthwhile option as you look to overcome a difficult time in you life.  But let’s also consider a few of the drawbacks.


Different levels of structure

The amount of structure provided at a sober living house can differ significantly between facilities.  As most of these are private establishments and there are no standards that must be adhered to, facilities can be managed as the owner sees fit.  Facilities with a higher level of structure tend to exhibit better results in terms of achieving long term sobriety; so, if you have a choice, it is important to consider the processes and directives of individual homes.


The environment won’t suit everyone

It goes without saying that a sober living environment will not be optimal for everyone.  For some the intensive nature of a rehabilitation or detox centre is the key to kicking addiction.  For others release into an environment surrounded by loved ones might be the best way to stay sober.  The ability to come and go (within some boundaries) might even provide a path to relapse for certain individuals.  The key is to select an environment that will best suit the concerned individual to maximise their rehabilitation success.


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