How Sober Housing Helps You Build a Sober Community
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Researchers who explore the benefits of sober living houses (SLHs) uniformly conclude that the environments help alcoholics and drug addicts stay clean. The most comprehensive long-range study of SLHs, carried out by Douglas L. Polcin and colleague from the Alcohol Research Group in California, determined that all indicators for abstinence and social function rose for people in sober houses. The team even wrote elsewhere, “Residents of SLHs showed they make long-term improvements on measures of substance use, psychiatric symptoms, arrests, and employment.”
A smaller survey of counselors and mental health care providers reported in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychoactive Drug revealed that professionals increasingly recognize the value of sober living. A majority of respondents went so far as to agree that entering some type of sober living housing arrangement was essential to avoiding relapse.
This article references other peer-reviewed scholarly articles that highlight why SLHs work. The general answer is that the homes allow residents to create and restore relationships with overlapping communities of people who support their recovery
Make Meaningful Connections with Others in Recovery
Perhaps the best thing moving into a sober house does for an alcoholic or addict is put the person into constant contact with others who share their experiences. Knowing that you are not going through rehab and recovery alone provides the strength to continue meeting daily challenges and opens doors to seeking advice and assistance. DePaul University researchers determined that trusting and supportive relationships strengthened over time among residents of sober living houses. Backing up this finding Polcin et al. found that alcoholics and addicts stayed an average of 5 months and 8 months in the two SLHs they primarily studied.
Stick with Your Program
The support and encouragement available in sober living houses, coupled with the safety and regimentation that come with the environment, make it easier for alcoholics and addicts to avoid relapse. Most houses require 12-step participation, employment or school enrollment, and one-strike drug and alcohol testing. Unstructured, self-directed recovery has much higher failure rates than programs imposed in a sober house environment.
Reintegrate with Neighbors
In addition to helping residents put their own lives in order, joining a sober living house appears to help residents rejoin society. The stigma of addiction does not attach strongly to people known to be actively dedicated to recovering, according to Veterans Health Administration professionals who reported on a survey of SLH neighbors in a 2012 issue of Sociology of Health and Illness. Addicts and alcoholics who do not feel shunned can better engage with all people. That is important, because Polcin and his research group discovered that sober house residents must maintain a “good neighbor” policies. In practice, this means blending in by keeping yards clean and preventing visits from police and other emergency responders.
Learn Job and Living Skills
The final communal benefit from moving into a sober living house can be an increase in employment and/or employability. As mentioned, most SLHs demand work or school attendance. After looking at how closely such rules were followed and enforced, a team from the DePaul University Center for Community Research wrote in a 2014 issue of Therapeutic Communities, “[the] number of days residing in these recovery homes was related to number of days attending school/vocational training and days worked.”
A growing body of scholarly literature indicates that moving into a sober living house and staying for a half year or more both improves rates of long-tern abstinence and the formation of supportive communities.