Five Reasons to Live in a Sober House after Rehab
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Addiction is not an easy thing to overcome. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, forty to sixty percent of drug and alcohol abuse patients relapse. Perhaps the best means of mitigating the chances of relapse is for the patient to live in a sober house, halfway house, or clean-living facility after attending an inpatient rehabilitation program or incarceration. There are five primary reasons why this is a good idea. These are:
- the continuation of addiction treatment,
- peer support,
- structure and accountability,
- help re-integrating into general society, and
- housing help to avoid homelessness.
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Continuation of Addiction Treatment
Addiction specialists agree that patients are less likely to experience a relapse, and more likely to remain drug and alcohol free, if they continue in an outpatient behavioral program following inpatient detoxification. Many clean-living facilities encourage patients to participate in an outpatient program. Outpatient behavioral treatment encompasses a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a clinic on a regular basis. Most programs involve individual or group drug and alcohol counseling. Some programs also offer other forms of behavioral and medical treatment. Additionally, nearly all sober or half-way houses require participation in a twelve-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and will regularly offer meetings on their premises to aid in the recovery process.
In 2010, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published the results of an exhaustive study on the statistics for former residents of sober-living communities. The research found that at six-month intervals ranging up to eighteen months post-treatment, recovering addicts who passed through some kind of structured half-way house environment were significantly less likely to face relapse, arrest and homelessness. One of the key findings of the study was that a major factor in the improved outcomes for the subjects was the large and mostly positive community of support that was established in the very early days of sober-living. Here are some of the peer support benefits of a clean-living facility:
- living with other recovering addicts that understand the patients situation,
- advice and wisdom for dealing with addiction,
- positive peer pressure to continue addiction treatment,
- sober networking opportunities, and
- help in making amends, which is an important step in repairing damaged relationships and recovery from addiction.
Developing a social network that supports ongoing sobriety is an important component of recovery. Residents are encouraged to provide mutual support and encouragement for recovery with fellow peers in the house. Those who have been in the house the longest and who have more time in recovery provide support to new residents. This type of “giving back” is consistent with a principle of recovery in twelve-step groups. Residents are also encouraged to avoid friends and family who might encourage them to use alcohol and drugs, particularly individuals with whom they have used substances in the past
Structure and Accountability
While housed in a residential inpatient program, a patient often has very few liberties. Back at home, the sudden burden of making responsible decisions can be too much to handle. A sober house program will have a structured set of rules to follow, but these rules always have an emphasis on the eventual transition back to independence. Some of these include:
- mandatory drug and alcohol screening,
- maintaining sobriety,
- resident responsibility for paying rent and other fees,
- nightly curfews,
- accountability for whereabouts when not at the house,
- participating in house chores, and
- attending house meetings.
Different houses will have different rules, and the consequences for breaking these rules depends on the facility. However, all of these houses will eject someone who refuses to follow the rules, and report their non-compliance to authorities if they were staying there as part of a court-mandated treatment program.
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Help Re-integrating Into General Society
The National Institutes of Health found that drug addicts and alcoholics who cycle directly out of inpatient treatment and into their old lives and habits face a greatly elevated chance of relapse. Without sober-living homes or other ways to bridge the gaps from total-immersion residential care facilities to the unrestricted environments, compulsive substance abusers are far more likely to revert to their old patterns of use after discharge.
There is also the undesirable outcome of a patient who undergoes an extended stay in a rehab clinic becoming acclimated to the intensive therapeutic environment facing the inevitable discharge without the necessary skills for long-term sobriety outside of the clinical environment.
There are two main ways that facilities help re-integrate the newly sober into society successfully. One is the structured accountability mentioned above, and the other is help organizing a job search. Looking for employment will never be easier for a person in recovery than when a support system is in place and a schedule is provided that allows adequate time for the application process, including interviews and pre-employment drug screenings.
Housing Help to Avoid Homelessness or Relapse
Many residents come to their sober-living communities without any other homes. Others have homes but are afraid that returning to their old lives will just lead to temptation. After all, it can be difficult to resist a craving when the recovering addict knows every place to get drugs within walking distance. Time spent in a halfway house can be put to an apartment search. Also, longer stays at inpatient facilities are impractical for a variety of reasons, such as the escalating cost of inpatient treatment. Unfortunately, staying in residential care is often too expensive to be practical for the vast majority of patients. Especially since many recovering addicts are financially insecure. Sober-living facilities offer low-cost housing options that have no required move out date, help finding employment, and permanent housing, all while continuing the recovery program.
Transitioning to a sober house when leaving an in-patient addiction program or incarceration makes full recovery more likely. According to the National Institute of Health, many individuals attempting to abstain from alcohol and drugs do not have access to appropriate housing that supports sustained recovery. Sober-living facilities meet this need, which suggests they might be an effective option for those in need of alcohol and drug-free housing. All of these reasons combined result in a lower chance of returning to alcohol and drug use, re-arrests, psychiatric symptoms and eventual relapse.