Deciding to get treatment for addiction is a major step. It’s a decision that gives you your life back, but the road to recovery doesn’t end there. Treatment is only the first step of a lifelong process for maintaining sobriety. If this is where you find yourself, you may be asking what’s next. You’ve probably heard the terms halfway house and sober living home, but how do you know what’s best for you, and why choose one of these options instead of going straight back to your regular life?
The Critical Time of Early Recovery
Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is never easy. The initial steps of getting treatment and going through detox put your body through the ringer. When you’ve started to heal and you’re ready for the next step, transitioning back to “real” life can be tricky. This transition in early recovery is a critical time, because you are especially vulnerable to relapse. Going back to the space where you were before treatment could be a trigger that makes maintaining sobriety harder.
The problem with returning to regular life immediately is that your environment plays a major role in thoughts, feelings, and especially cravings. If your home is where you used drugs or alcohol, you probably developed an association between that space and the craving to use, even without realizing it. Besides just your home, getting back into familiar routines and around people from your past can trigger cravings. At the same time, you don’t want to isolate yourself in an attempt to avoid these triggers. Having a strong support system is crucial to maintaining sobriety. This is why transitional housing can help you adjust to life in recovery, where you are surrounded by the right people, in a supportive environment and away from triggers.
Making Sense of Your Options
Lots of different terms are thrown around to describe transitional housing, so it can be confusing figuring out what’s what. When someone says “halfway house,” they may be referring to transitional housing after rehab, but the term is also used to mean a center for transitioning back into society after prison. These halfway houses, run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, are officially called residential reentry centers (RRCs). RRCs can be found all across the country, and they provide a variety of services for ex-offenders to prepare for life outside of prison. They usually provide resources for finding housing and employment, along with substance abuse treatment for those who need it.
A sober living home is dedicated to helping people in early recovery for substance abuse make a better transition back into life after treatment. The National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) is the primary organization that supports and provides credentialing to these centers, and they use the term recovery residence. Of course, any center can use whichever term they choose, so it can get a little confusing. The bottom line is that the name used to describe a facility isn’t what matters most; what really matters is the services that are provided and their overall quality.
What Can You Expect From a Sober Living Home?
The NARR describes a recovery residence as a “sober, safe, and healthy living environment that promotes recovery from alcohol and other drug use and associated problems.” The exact services vary from one home to another, but the NARR report goes on to explain that “at a minimum, RRs offer peer-to-peer recovery support with some providing professionally delivered clinical services all aimed at promoting abstinence-based, long-term recovery.”
Besides the benefit of being in an environment away from triggers, the peer support that you find at a sober living home is a major factor in helping you cope with this next stage of recovery. This setting keeps you from feeling isolated, and being around peers who are going through the same thing as you creates a powerful feeling of being understood. One research study of sober living homes found that participants benefited from being able to identify with others in the recovery process. They also appreciated having the support and accountability of their peers, which is something you can’t get outside this setting.
One thing to keep in mind is that some centers offer greater levels of support than others. Along with peer-to-peer support, some higher level centers also offer medical and counseling services. Some may even focus on helping people who have other conditions, such as mental health problems or major medical issues. Research has shown that living in a sober living home that provides specialized case management services may lead to better long-term success in recovery. This is why it’s important to consider the level of support you need, and find a center that fits those needs.
What to Look For in a Sober Living Home
Besides finding the level of service that’s right for you, there are a few other criteria that are worth considering. The size of a home, location, and setting can all play an important role in your experience and ultimate success. In one study, researchers found that homes with a smaller number of residents and ones that are affiliated with a treatment program have better results in helping residents find employment.
The main thing to keep in mind is that not all centers are created equally, so do your homework to make sure you find one that lives up to the best standards. Finding the right place to begin this next stage of recovery is a major step. Getting the right support in the right place is the best way to set yourself up for success in this big transition.