Entering the real world after a stay in an inpatient rehab facility can be challenging. After several weeks of living in a highly structured and intensive environment, freedom can be a welcomed change, but it may also be intimidating. Even if you are moving to a partial hospitalization program or some other type of intensive outpatient program, you’ll have several hours each day in which you will need to safeguard your sobriety on your own. If you are moving to a new level of care, or if you’ve completed treatment, it’s because you’ve completed the treatment objectives necessary to reach the level you are going to, but that doesn’t mean more independence won’t bring more challenges.

However, even though you are gaining more independence, it doesn’t mean you are going to be on your own. Many people bridge the gap between inpatient or residential services and independent living with a sober living home. Sober living homes (SLH), sometimes called halfway houses, are transitional living environments that are designed to offer structured support to people who are coming out of intensive addiction treatment. Homes and apartments that qualify as sober living environments may have a variety of benefits for someone who is taking their first steps into a life of recovery.

What is a Sober Living Home?

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One of the most standard characteristics of a sober living home is a strict no drugs or alcohol policy. People who are caught with addictive substances in a sober living home may be asked to leave, and they may have to enter a more intensive treatment program. But that’s not all. You are also required to maintain your own sobriety while you live in an SLH. To ensure this, administrators will require drugs tests that are usually regular and frequent at first and then periodically after you’ve lived there for a while.

However, sober living homes may also have other benefits that can help you transition into an independent life. Many offer help in your search for a job like resume coaching. They may also help you with your treatment goals. For instance, if you are in a 12-step program, they may help you make amends with friends and family that have been affected by your addiction. Some people become addicted when they are young and find they don’t know some of the basics of independent living when they complete treatment. Sober living homes may help you by showing you how to shop for groceries, do laundry, or clean your living space. All of these skills are not only helpful in making the transition, but they will also help to improve your quality of life so that you can better safeguard your sobriety.

In most sober living homes, you are required to pay rent and keep a job. However, many will hold off on collecting rent until they help you find a job for a predetermined amount of time. It’s common to remain in a sober living home through the duration of an outpatient program and until you find other housing options. In many cases, sober living staff will help you search for viable living options.

Sober living environments can be an essential part of the continuum of care in addiction treatment. Learn more about sober living and if it’s right for you.

Making the Transition

When you are preparing to leave an inpatient program, you may have some concerns as to how you will manage with more independence. However, in addition to the advice your therapist gives you, there are helpful ways to prepare for independent living in a sober living house. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Continue to actively pursue recovery. Whether you have recently completed treatment, or if you’re moving to a lower intensity level of care, it’s important to realize that treatment isn’t over. For your recovery to be long-lasting, it’s important for you to continually pursue your recovery. Things like 12 step programs and personal recovery goals can help keep the importance of sobriety and the things you learned in treatment on your mind.
  • Seek and embrace structure. Living by someone else’s rules can be a challenge, and there are always moments where you’d rather not do it. However, when those rules are designed to keep you from active addiction, they can be incredibly helpful. Structure and stability are important to protecting your sobriety, while no rules at all, even personal ones, can lead to relapse.
  • Recognize new challenges. As you gain more independence and personal responsibility, it’s important to keep an eye out for new challenges. If you are in an outpatient program, you will have an opportunity to address those challenges in therapy sessions. If you aren’t in a formal addiction treatment program, you can discuss challenges in group meetings.
  • Make community connections. Open up to new friendships with other people in recovery who share your same goals. Many people who go through treatment may not see the friends they used to use with much anymore and for good reason. But it’s important to rebuild a support system of friends and family members who support your recovery efforts.

Who Belongs in a Sober Living Home?

Sober living environments are ideal for many people on their journey through treatment and to recovery. But it can serve some people better than others. People who have gone through medical detox or inpatient services, and are moving to outpatient services, are ideal candidates for a sober living home. If you’ve started treatment and your therapist has determined that you’re ready for that level of independence, an SLH can help you continue your recovery.

If you enter an addiction treatment program, you will go through an assessment process that’s designed to determine the best level of care for you. If your therapist and medical professionals determine that you don’t have a high withdrawal risk, high-level medical needs, or high-level psychological needs, you may not need inpatient treatment. However, a sober-living environment can help you through your outpatient treatment.

Sober living homes can also help people with poor recovery environments. The place in which you are planning to live during and after treatment is part of your recovery environment, and it’s an important consideration clinicians make when determining your level of care. In the placement criteria outlined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, your recovery and living environment is the sixth dimension that determines placement. Some factors make your living environment a threat to your recovery, like a roommate who still uses or an abusive family member. If your home would threaten your recovery, an SLH might be the best option after a residential program.

A sober living house may not be right for you if you have high-level needs when entering treatment. If you’ve recently stopped using, you may go through uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms that will require medical detox that is closely monitored by health care professionals. Other urgent medical or psychological needs will also require inpatient services that can’t be provided in an SLH.

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