Easing the Transition from a Sober Home to Independent Living
The transition from sober living to independent life can be scary—whether you’re moving on from a coastal home for sober living in Delray Beach or an expansive sober living community in the Midwest.
While sober living isn’t as rigid and structured as inpatient drug or alcohol treatment, there are still rules and guidelines you must follow. This helps create structure and routine, which are critical in early sobriety.
Wherever you are on your journey—whether you’re in treatment and you’re thinking about sober living, or you currently reside in a sober living home—ahead we look at some ways to ease the transition to independent living. First, let’s take a closer look at sober living and its benefits.
Why Sober Living?
Sober living communities provide essential support for people who have completed a drug treatment program but aren’t yet ready to live independently. Often called a “step-down approach” to treatment, sober living is a transitional living arrangement that can help ease the transition back into “normal” life.
How do you know if sober living is right for you? The short answer is that sober living can benefit anyone struggling with addiction, but it can be especially beneficial—if not essential—if any of these apply to you:
- You have a co-occurring mental health issue, such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
- You’ve been through rehab one or more times before.
- You don’t have a strong support system in place (such as supportive family members and sober friends).
- You have legal, relationship, or career problems because of addiction issues.
- You are generally resistant to treatment.
A study of sober living homes found that the average stay in sober living was 254 days. Experts recommend a minimum stay of 90 days in sober living in order to be effective.1
Living on your own as a sober person comes with a lot of responsibility. Pressures from work, school, family and friends, and the daily grind of life can all create stress—and stress is a leading cause of relapse.2
Relapse and Our Evolving Understanding of Addiction
There’s a lot of stigma around relapse, as if it only happens to “weak-minded” people. The reality is that it’s very common—relapse is not a moral failing or a sign of weakness.
Thankfully, our understanding of addiction is evolving. Today, many experts believe that addiction is a chronic disease, with relapse rates similar to those of other chronic diseases (such as diabetes and asthma).3
Most people wouldn’t shame a person for having an asthma attack or a diabetic crisis, yet society routinely shames people for relapsing from drugs or alcohol. If you’ve relapsed recently or in the past and are feeling guilt or shame about it, know this: Relapsing is not a moral failing. There is help, and there is hope.
Our evolving understanding of addiction helps explain what many have suspected for a long time: That there’s more to the story of addiction than lack of character or self-control. This, however, doesn’t relieve those in recovery of the responsibility to actively care for themselves by going to meetings, making healthy lifestyle choices, and avoiding addiction triggers.
It goes without saying that if you’ve gone through a drug or alcohol treatment program, you want to do everything possible to avoid relapse.
While addiction can’t necessarily be “cured,” it can be successfully managed—and this is where sober living can provide additional help, beyond an inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment program.
Benefits of Sober Living
A sober living community provides the structure and support many people in recovery need between drug or alcohol treatment and independent living. Sober living is a “step down” or “halfway” period. This transition can be critical for many people.
Sober living programs have curfews, schedules, and other requirements, including household chores. Many programs require you to attend meetings (such as AA or NA meetings) and work or go to school—or, at a minimum, be actively looking for a job or applying for a school program.
Most importantly, sober living provides a stable, supportive community of like-minded peers. Sober living gives you more time to explore and understand your triggers and actively work to find coping mechanisms to avoid relapse.
From Sober Living to Life in the Community: Making the Transition
Recovery is a lifelong pursuit, and sober living can help you transition back into the community. Yet, how do you make the leap from sober living to life on the outside?
Here are some tips:
- Continue your routine. Sober living may not be as structured as inpatient rehab, but it still involves routine and responsibility. Continue your routine after you leave sober living—go to meetings and counseling sessions, exercise and meditate regularly, eat well, and continue working or going to school. Routine helps give you a sense of purpose each day.
- Fill your time. The transition to independent living brings with it many possibilities. This can be a blessing or a curse, especially in early recovery. Don’t leave yourself prone to boredom after you return home. If you’re not working or going to school, start looking. If you’re not going to meetings at night, start going. If you haven’t joined a gym, sign up. Don’t give yourself idle time to start reminiscing about your former life. That said, filling up every waking moment can easily lead to burnout. Make sure you’re giving yourself enough downtime, especially if you’re naturally introverted and find social activities draining.
- Set goals. They don’t have to be lofty. It could be as simple as embracing a healthier diet, saving for future travels, or learning a new skill. If you have big dreams—like earning a Ph.D. in psychology by age 35 and having an established life-coaching business by 40—good for you. Just be conscious about burnout and examine the real motivations behind your goals. If you’re trying to achieve something to prove yourself to others or your worthiness to the world, you could be headed for trouble. Goals should be realistic and achievable in both the short and long term.
- Minimize triggers. Exploring your feelings and triggers in counseling sessions and 12-step meetings is a core part of rehab and sober living. You probably learned a lot about yourself during this time. Yet, once you’ve left the relative safety of a sober living community, it’s easy to find yourself in situations that can trigger your craving to use—family vacations, outings with friends, concerts, and other events where alcohol and drug use is common. Be aware of your triggers and opt out of any event that could spell trouble for you. Don’t let friends or family members pressure you into doing anything that makes you uncomfortable.
- Continue building your support network. In sober living, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll make new sober friends and form new bonds. Nurture these new friendships, go to meetings, and grow your support network even more. If your old “tribe” of friends doesn’t support your recovery, it’s best to move on. Friends and family members who truly have your best interests at heart will support you in your sobriety. Be prepared for the possibility of changing relationships once you return home, and reach out to your support network of sober friends when the going gets tough.
- Pay it forward. Helping others can be a true joy. It’s a great way to focus your attention on something other than your own struggles. Get involved at a local senior center, become a sponsor in your local 12-step meeting, help a family member with a project (just be especially aware of triggers), or become a docent at your local nature park. There’s an infinite number of ways to be of service. You’ll be all the better for it.
Everyone’s recovery journey is unique. While anyone in recovery can benefit from the support and structure of a sober living home, for some people—such as those with a co-occurring mental health issue or legal troubles surrounding addiction—sober living can prove to be essential.
Sober living is temporary, though. Everyone in sober living must eventually move back into the general community. Planning ahead can reduce the likelihood of relapse and improve your chances of long-term sobriety.
Sober Living in Delray Beach
Thinking about sober living? RECO Institute’s Recovery Residences provide the structure, support, and stability individuals need in their journey toward recovery from drug/alcohol addiction. Offered in conjunction with our outpatient program, RECO Intensive, our programs are thoughtfully designed to promote healing. Learn more about RECO Residences and contact us to speak with an admissions specialist today.
A brighter path forward begins at RECO Institute