Entering a treatment facility is often the best and most effective way to conquer a substance abuse disorder. However, addiction rarely, if ever, comes to an abrupt end once an individual leaves an inpatient program. Triggers can come in all forms and the environment one lives in often affects what those triggers are. Inpatient programs offer strict environments with access to a variety of professionals to support, monitor and encourage recovery. What happens after that 30, 60, or 90 days is just as crucial to long term sobriety.
Sober living homes (SLH’s), group homes, or halfway houses as they are often referred to, offer the recovering addict a bridge into real life. They can ease that transition and allow the recovering individual to practice new skills and lessons in a safe environment, hopefully reducing the odds of a relapse. It is estimated that 60% of those in recovery from addiction to opiates will relapse at least once after treatment. Often, this relapse occurs very shortly after an inpatient program ends. If you or a loved one are about to exit a treatment centre, there are some considerations when picking a sober living home.
Recovery Focused Living
Sober Living Homes operate as recovery-focused living environments. Continuing to actively pursue recovery after leaving a treatment centre greatly improves the odds of long-term sobriety. SLHs often provide access to 12-step meetings and programs, sponsors and accountability programs, and other critical levels of support, while also providing a safe place to live.
Each sober living environment often has basic house rules, including abstinence. These rules could include curfews and household chores, and are often overseen by a house manager. Additionally, each individual may be expected to pay rent, shop for groceries, cook, and maintain employment, as conditions of remaining in the home.
Rehab Not Required
Sobriety is the name of the game during a stay in an SLH, and a relapse could be grounds for eviction. Attending a treatment centre is often not mandatory, making an SLH a good option for those who simply need an increased level of accountability but not the full service of a rehabilitation centre.
Safe and Sober Living
Perhaps the most important benefit of Sober Living Homes is abstinence. It is an environment free from the temptations of drugs and alcohol where an individual can focus on their recovery with other individuals who understand and can offer social support.
You Get What You Pay For
Sober Living Homes are not all created equal, and you get what you pay for. Some offer upscale living, while others can seem more like a homeless shelter. The accommodations and amenities available to you ultimately depend on your budget. While recovery is not an area to cut costs, it is important to be aware of the budget, and to do the research to find the best environment possible that will support and encourage recovery.
Sober Living Homes are Often Not Regulated
Unlike treatment centres and rehabilitation facilities, SLHs often operate independently, with no affiliations or specific treatment programs. Many individuals do attend outside 12-step meetings and other support programs, but with no regulations to dictate how a home operates, it is left up to each home to determine how they are run.
Sober Living Homes are Often Not Considered Rental Properties
When renting a home or apartment, an individual is offered a basic level of security through rental agreements and tenancy boards. SLHs are often not considered rental properties, and are therefore not likely to be required to abide by the same laws. An individual can be evicted from a sober living house with little to no notice, otherwise they would be able to break the rules and continue to live there.
How to Pick a Sober Living Home
If a sober living home or halfway house is the best next step in recovery for yourself or a loved one, there are several red flags to consider:
- Claims to be free – remember, you get what you pay for
- Rundown, dirty or otherwise unsafe building or neighbourhood
- Little to no admission requirements or record keeping
- Does not require abstinence or regular drug testing
- No house rules
- Lacks clear ethical standards
- Employs untrained or uncertified staff
- Does not submit to regulatory inspections
A sober living house can be an important tool for long term recovery and sobriety, though it may not be optimal for everyone. Some may need the rigid structure of a treatment centre, others may choose to stay with supportive family members, and others may thrive within the boundaries of a halfway house. Sober Living Homes can also offer a critical transition phase for those exiting a rehab facility who are not ready for the full freedom of life without boundaries. They can offer accountability, social support, and understanding critical to preventing relapse and encouraging healthy living. The key is to do the homework to find the best environment suited to the needs of the addict. Always remember that recovery is possible.