As inpatient addiction specialist Donna White reminds us in this PsychCentral article, “there is no magic wand to help substance abusers avoid relapse; staying clean and sober takes a lot of hard work and commitment.”
White goes on to share several recommendations for avoiding relapse risk, all of which make sense. From avoiding the temptation to sticking to a schedule, these are actionable tips that have been proven to work.
But how do you actually incorporate these best practices into your life when you’re juggling recovery, responsibilities, and daily routines?
One method to ensure you’re following these guidelines is to enroll in an official sober living program. Also known as sober homes or sober housing, sober living programs are typically operated by addiction recovery professionals who help residents maintain regular schedules, stick to sober policies, and attend treatment or aftercare.
Research has shown that sober living programs can be highly effective. A 2010 study by the Alcohol Research Group found that a pool of 300 sober living residents in California showed decreased drug and alcohol abuse and fewer arrests. As the study continued, researchers found that residents maintained lower rates of drug and alcohol use more than 18 months after they entered the program.
Why is a formal sober living program so effective compared to simply leading a sober lifestyle outside of housing?
Based on observations from our own successful sober living clients, we believe these programs help with recovery in several key ways, including:
Accountability: For people struggling with addiction, one of the most effective and helpful ways to avoid relapse is to develop accountability among peer groups whose opinions they respect and value. In a sober living setting, these bonds often develop quickly among roommates, fellow residents, and staff, all of whom can hold each other accountable for staying sober and continuing their treatment and aftercare. Group motivation is a very powerful psychological boost that, when directed towards something positive, can be the difference between sticking with a new habit and giving up.
Safety: One of the most practical benefits of sober living is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that someone recovering from addiction won’t harm themselves or someone else due to their drinking or drug use. Though sober living residents are free to determine their own schedules, both the staff and their fellow occupants can remain alert for signs of potential relapse that could lead to a dangerous outcome. Having this built-in support system not only lowers the potential for harm but also discourages potentially risk-taking behaviors.
Encouragement: In addition to lowering risky behaviors, sober living programs also encourage positive and healthy behaviors. Because sober living homes can only function when every member abides by agreed-upon rules, residents and staff will naturally celebrate safe, responsible behavior while correcting behavior that puts their fellow residents at risk. This built-in encouragement is a powerful reinforcement of sobriety and other forward-looking, health-conscious decisions that will ultimately become regular parts of everyday life after recovery.
As Donna White reminds us, sober living is not a “magic wand” for tackling issues of addiction and substance abuse. Without proper addiction treatment programs led by qualified professionals, sober living residents will struggle to recover and move past their addiction.
But with proper treatment and supported by a caring, compassionate sober living environment, people struggling with addiction can truly change their lives.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and want to learn more about our treatment and sober living programs, please contact us at 1-844-597-1376. We look forward to helping you.