Drug addiction treatment at a sober home is a continuum of care that begins with a primary treatment environment and eventually leads to transitioning into an independent life without formal support. The actions of the recovering person while following the continuum of care make all the difference in the success that person will have in long-term recovery. In this article, we’ll focus on the final phase of the continuum of care: leaving the sober house and beginning an independent life.
Most professionals in the addiction treatment industry agree that a twelve-month investment into the continuum of care will result in the best possibility of long-term recovery. This one-year commitment may seem like a long time to invest into recovery but consider the alternative. Untreated, or partially treated, the disease of addiction will progress and quality of life will suffer for the addict as well as the family and support system around him. This type of suffering is unnecessary if the addict makes a commitment not to give up on his care until there has been sufficient time to build a truly rock-solid recovery program. Time is needed to reconstruct the skills necessary to live a life without alcohol and drugs. In the big picture, a year is insignificant if the result is a lifetime of joyful sobriety.
It’s understandable that the recovering person wants to get back to life, to work, to play, to love… And to complicate matters further, there are often family members and friends coaxing the addict away from continuing care. Codependency can undermine all the progress the patient has accomplished in drug addiction treatment the moment the addict makes an unhealthy decision to discontinue care before he is ready.
This begs the recovering addict’s question, “When am I ready to move on?” This is best answered with input from both the recovering person and his support system. Informed parties are the best resources to address issues around staying engaged in the continuum of care. Once all of the concerns, benefits, and possible solutions are clarified, the best choices can be made.
To help find clarity about when the recovering person is ready to move on from a sober living environment into an independent apartment or back home, let’s consider the factors that may help the recovering person and his support system in making informed observations and recommendations.
Considerations Before Leaving Sober Living
Perhaps the most fundamental of concerns regarding moving on from a sober living environment is the self-reliance of the recovering individual. Self-reliance refers to the individual’s ability to rely on himself for decision making, emotional support, judgment, fulfillment, happiness, activity, occupation, life-balance, and other aspects of living a lifestyle of recovery. Because the disease of addiction is so often associated with narcissism and a belief that one can only rely on one’s self, it is crucial that the recovering individual seeking to move on has modified his behavior to routinely include other people in his life as important influences. It is not enough to simply have a support group around the recovering person; that support group must also serve as trusted counsel.
Another critical factor when considering moving on has to do with interpersonal relationships with loved ones, both family and romantic relationships. The stress of interpersonal relationships is one of the most common stimuli for relapse. The recovering person must be comfortable in a mutually supporting interpersonal relationship, or must be comfortable in lovingly detaching from a toxic interpersonal relationship. This can be complicated in the case of marriage, or separation and divorce where children are involved, or with a romantic relationship with someone who is also in recovery or remains actively using drugs and/or drinking. The recovering person must have a well-grounded recovery program that encompasses codependent behaviors as well as substance abuse in order to effectively cope with the challenges of these complicated interpersonal relationships. It is an excellent idea to remain in a sober living environment until the recovering person’s family support system is stabilized for several months.
Another significant factor in the success of the recovering person moving on pertains to working a regular job. Reporting to work on a daily basis and interacting with supervisors, coworkers and customers places a significant amount of stress on the recovering person. It is highly advised that the recovering person be living in a structured sober living environment for several months while working a regular job, so the support of the other residents and the structure of routine life remains constant throughout a few of the stressful periods in the workplace.
Addicts and alcoholics often accumulate debt while active in their addiction. Debt accumulation can be the result of not managing funds well and not paying back money that has been borrowed in the terms promised. Developing realistic repayment plans, and then keeping to those plans, is an ideal use of the type of support offered in a sober living environment. The recovering person should remain inside a structured living situation until comfortable with the pressures of budgeting and paying bills responsibly.
Sometimes the recovering person has legal challenges caused by addict behavior. Depending on their severity, legal challenges can be intensely stressful. Being a participant in a sober living environment can help to alleviate this stress through open sharing in a community of support. It is advisable to stay in a sober living environment until legal proceedings are concluded and the recovering person has experienced a few months of practice in accommodating any sentencing or judgment requirements.
There’s a lot to consider before moving on from a structured and supportive sober living environment. Being prepared to make healthy choices will tremendously influence the recovering person’s success at leading a long-term fulfilling lifestyle of recovery.