Is Sober Living a Safe Alternative to Residential Treatment for Me ?
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There are many reasons why an individual may want to seek alternative treatment for a substance abuse disorder in a sober living facility, especially if they were formerly considering residential treatment. According to a study on the benefit of these homes, “Affordable alcohol- and drug-free housing that supports recovery is limited in many areas. Sober living houses… offer a unique living environment that supports abstinence and maintenance of a recovery lifestyle” (NCBI).
Certain individuals need residential treatment, and sober living houses do not provide enough to be a safe alternative for this type care. However, in some instances, the care that is provided may be just what is needed by the resident. Consider whether or not sober living might be a safe alternative to residential treatment for you.
Why Would I Choose Sober Living?
Some individuals learn about the concept of a sober living house, and it appeals to them. In most instances, these houses consist of an environment where many individuals who are all working through their addictions and other issues live together. Usually, the residents have roommates, but they can come and go as they please within reason (often there is a curfew). Residents are also expected to pay rent and therefore must have jobs. Support group attendance or other types of treatments are often encouraged for patients as a part of the SLH principles.
Sober living houses provide a drug-free environment where individuals can live, work, and continue to attend treatment. These facilities does have many of the perks of residential treatment without the high costs and with the ability for patients to continue living their lives as they work on their addictions.
Someone might choose to reside in a sober living house because of these perks. While they can be very appealing to some individuals working through their addictions, it is important to realize that these facilities are not like formal inpatient care centers. Below are some issues to consider based on your treatment needs; asking yourself about your needs honestly will help you discover if sober living is a better treatment option for you.
The Need for Reinforcement
Many individuals go into inpatient treatment strictly because of a need for reinforcement. They feel that they will not be as strong in their recovery if they are left alone often. If they are constantly surrounded by doctors, nurses, counselors, and other patients who are reminding them that they have made the right choice in quitting their drug and alcohol abuse, they will continue to be strong and make the right choices.
If this is why you have considered attending residential treatment, a sober living house may be a great alternative for you. You would receive the kind of reinforcement you need without:
- The high costs of inpatient treatment
- The need to put your life, job, etc. on hold
- The ability to see friends and family members more often
- The possibility for working on reestablishing your financial security
- The ability to make a smoother transition when you are ready to leave the house because you have not been in as controlled an environment
Another study on clean and sober transitional living states, “CSTL offers a long term, continuous clean and sober living environment and a culture of sobriety in a community of peers” (NCBI). If this is what you are looking for in your residential treatment, then you might want to consider sober living as an alternative.
Mental Disorders and Physical Issues
Mental and physical illnesses that have either been caused by or exacerbated by a person’s addiction may cause them to seek inpatient treatment as well. In the case of many drug addicts, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are prevalent as well as physical conditions that require extreme care.
These issues are not ones that sober living facilities are particularly well-equipped to treat. The study states that CSTL programs do use “the Psychiatric Diagnostic Screening Questionnaire… to screen for prevalence of sixteen psychiatric disorders.” However, their treatment options for these individuals are not as successful or numerous as those offered in residential treatment.
Some sober living houses suggest that residents attend outpatient treatment for their addictions and their mental disorders while living in the house, but the latter of these services is rarely engaged in by patients, according to the study. And sober living houses will not provide their own treatments (for the most part) for either mental or physical illnesses because they are not able to do so. Make sure you consider whether or not you will need this type of treatment as a part of your care before you decide to stay at a sober living house.
Is a SLH Right for Me?
A sober living house could be a better treatment option than residential rehab for you if:
- You do not have an intense mental or physical illness that is intertwined with your abuse.
- You need to be surrounded by those who support your decision to quit.
- You do not need constant supervision.
- You need a living environment with only some controlled aspects.
- You want to continue working but not to stay where you are currently living.
- You can follow the rules of the facility and take them seriously, just as you would be asked to in a treatment facility.
Many individuals also attend outpatient treatment while they are residing in a sober living house which can also be a good alternative to inpatient care. In fact, a study on the relationship between the two treatment types states, “Outpatient programs should consider establishing SLHs for clients who lack a living environment supportive of sobriety” (NCBI).
If you are in need of a residential space that reinforces your recovery and allows you to interact with others who will do the same, consider your other needs. If they do not require you to be in a facility that is providing constant care, either hospital- or non-hospital-based, an SLH may be particularly beneficial for you and even a good alternative to residential treatment. This will only be true, though, if you are able to maintain a strong recovery and a healthy lifestyle with this less intensive form of treatment.