Health Care

The Do’s and Don’ts of Sober Living Environments

We sometimes spend so much energy on finding a good rehab program that we forget to make arrangements for the time when the program ends. Those first few months of sobriety are some of the most difficult for addicts who have centered their entire lives around drugs. They have to go back out into the world and cope without chemicals—which can lead to an astronomical relapse rate.

A lack of support from family and friends, poor coping skills, and a lack of available aftercare programs can leave new rehab graduates in a bad place. They find themselves faced with all of the same problems they had before rehab, but with fewer ways to escape.

Sober living environments can fill this gap between rehab and independent sobriety. These can be halfway homes, sober living homes, and peer managed facilities—they all work to create a supportive place where addicts can have more freedom in their choices.

Many of these places rely heavily on peer-to-peer counseling, where addicts learn to help one another. With that being said, a resident will need to adhere to the rules and regulations of the sober living environment or face ending up on the street. These do’s and don’ts can make that transition a little easier:

Do Understand the Rules

When you choose a sober living environment, you’ll need to review the rules and expectations of the facility. The staff will usually provide these in writing, and you may be asked to sign a contract stating that you’ll abide by them or leave.

Fairly standard rules include:

  • No drugs or alcohol
  • Agreeing to submit to random drug screens
  • Attend all assigned groups
  • Maintain proper personal hygiene
  • Keep rooms clean and orderly
  • Participate in chore rotations
  • Refrain from inappropriate or sexual activity
  • Abide by a curfew
  • Maintain employment
  • Pay fees on time
  • Show up to all scheduled medical and psychological appointments
  • Take only your medications as prescribed
  • Communicate any changes to staff as soon as possible

Not knowing the rules is not an excuse for breaking them. Being in a sober living environment is a privilege, and you’ll need to take your time there very seriously.

Don’t Get Romantic with Peers

Achieving and maintaining sobriety can take an addict years of therapy and hard work. Trying to “hook up” with someone else living in the sober living home or bringing your romantic interest to stay with you is a bad idea. It’s important to focus on yourself and your health. You can’t do that if you’re chasing a new boyfriend or girlfriend around the treatment facility.

Some programs recommend waiting a year before trying to take care of a pet—a new relationship can wait. This is worse when your interest is also trying to recover from addiction and can set both of you back in your progress. Just remember: if someone truly cares about you, they’ll wait for you to be ready.

Do Attend all Meetings

Sober living is about more than just a place; it’s a lifestyle. You should be working your program of choice every day and staying active in your treatment. Take advantage of any and all programs offered and see what you can do to help others.

Most homes will offer AA or NA meetings either in-house or nearby. Even if attendance isn’t a requirement, it’s still a resource that you can use to aid in recovery. Keep in mind that everyone there is struggling and there’s no shame in sharing your journey with your peers.

Don’t Discourage Sobriety

When the rules say, “no drugs or alcohol,” they mean no drugs or alcohol. Even if you were addicted to methamphetamine and never developed a drinking problem, it’s not okay for you to drink even casually.

Relapse is a normal part of recovery for some people, but this doesn’t mean that it’s okay to take your sober living house peers with you. If you do backslide, be honest with the staff and see if they can help you seek a more effective program. Bringing any substances around others who are struggling is both cruel and selfish.

Take your time in any sober living environment seriously. The entire residence is designed around providing support to those who need a little extra time before tackling life again. Help to become a positive influence while there and embrace a higher purpose.

Do Work on Improving the Environment for Everyone

Living with anyone can get messy. Don’t make it worse by trashing your living area or “forgetting” to shower for weeks at a time. You may be living in really close quarters, and your roommate won’t want to live with your body odor and pile of dirty laundry.

Most facilities have rules about this for a good reason. Not only is it disgusting, it’s also a health hazard. It’s easy to spread bacteria and illnesses that come from poor hygiene when several people are all living under one roof.

Cleaning the entire house will also be partially your responsibility. Pitching in and helping to make things nice for everyone is considerate and surprisingly therapeutic. The same can be said for your attitude and habits.

Don’t smoke anywhere but in designated areas and try not to be loud or purposefully rude to your house mates. Unnecessary drama makes everyone uncomfortable and recovering from addiction is harder in a tense environment. It can also shorten your stay considerably.

Don’t Get too Comfortable

Remember, any sober living environment is meant to be a stepping stone on your journey through recovery. It’s about learning to live sober when you’re confronted with real-life and all of its temptations. Always work towards the goal of becoming as independent and confident in your coping skills as possible.

Most places will have a cap on the amount of time that you’ll be allowed to live there. Make the most of it, but don’t get too comfortable. When it’s time to leave, you should feel better prepared to face the world without drugs and alcohol.