• How to Make the Most of Sober Living Programs
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    How to Make the Most of Sober Living Programs

    Sober living facilities have come a long way from where they were before. A sober living environment was usually a house or apartment complex that provided shelter to people in early recovery. The purpose was to provide housing arrangements that were supportive of early recovery.

    Many addicts in early recovery from their addiction destroy their life situation to the point where they either have no home to return to or are not supported in their recovery in the place where they last lived. Some need to work through relationship issues and stay away from a primary partnership until they are more stable in recovery. Most sober living environments earlier on offered no structure or program, just basic rules for remaining in the community.

    What It Looks Like Today

    Today, however, sober living has taken on a whole new meaning. There are large-scale facilities designed for treatment, post-treatment and all manners of living conditions. These homes or apartment complexes may be in low-cost neighborhoods or exclusive areas, with costs ranging from a few hundred dollars a month to live in a shared room to a private room in a mansion for up to $10,000 per month. Some homes have full staffing available, with private chefs and maid services, while others provide a basic twin bed in a room with 3-4 people sharing the room, in a house with 3 or 4 bedrooms. The latter types of housing often provide shared kitchen privileges or even rotation of chores in the home that include weekly cooking and cleaning, shared by all the residents.

    Reasons for Entering

    Addicts in recovery have several reasons to consider entering a sober living program. Some may go to a sober living environment in lieu of treatment if they have had previous attempts at maintaining abstinence or do not have the resources to cover the cost of treatment. Some will enter a sober living environment to benefit from the support of the people who run the residence, as well as the other addicts living there. Since sober living environments often mandate the necessity of remaining abstinent while living in the facility, they feel safe in this protective environment.

    Sometimes addicts decide to move away from their current living environment in order to gain distance from the damage done to relationships and their life situation. A sober living facility can provide them with a stable and structured place to recover from behaviors that went along with their addiction. Some programs offer group therapy, counseling and/or staff who work with them to adapt to a lifestyle conducive to ongoing abstinence. Others may offer transportation to support group meetings, gyms, classes, work or other opportunities they do not have access to in their current place of residence.

    The consequences of their addiction may render it necessary for the recovering addict to remain in a controlled environment for a period of time that is specified by a legal system. Some courts are referring addicts to treatment for periods of time that may be longer than those available. Some even sentence up to a year in a controlled environment, stipulating that this is done in lieu of jail or prison time. Others may allow for early release from jail or prison, to be served in an environment where treatment of some kind is provided. These situations allow the addict to enter a treatment program, and then subsequently reside in sober living to fulfill the time commitment required by the courts. Many sober living programs have been approved by legal systems to accommodate the recovering addicts they see in the court system so frequently.

    What to Look For

    Apart from costs and location, there are many types of facilities available. Some referral agencies have been formed across the country to provide guidelines and standards for operation of sober living facilities. Look at these agencies to find reputable and licensed or approved agencies. This is a safeguard against places where difficult circumstances may arise when going to a new area or when the addict is not able to see the facility first hand.

    Ask for references from the facility. Do they have professional relationships with the community they serve? How successful have they been in helping addicts remain abstinent and get their lives back on track? Who works in the agency? Do they have successful recovery of several years? Have they been trained to do the work they are doing? What are the professional and personal credentials of the staff?

    Check into the guidelines and rules of the agency. Talk to some of the residents with whom you will be living. What are the costs of living there? Who does the cooking and cleaning? Is there adequate room for your personal belongings? Are there rules about working outside the facility in a part-time or full-time job? Some agencies demand that residents work or go to school. Others do not permit it, since they provide full-time or part-time program services that conflict with a work or school schedule. Find the program or facility that matches your personal needs in this area. If you are looking for a program to assist you with your recovery, it is best to find one that supports you in this area. If you have a job that you need to go to each day or are enrolled in classes, be sure to find a facility that will give you these opportunities.

    It is important, for transportation purposes to make sure the facility is close to mass transit or provides transportation. If this is not an issue for you, be sure to determine the convenience of commuting from the location to those services in the community that’s required. This is different for each person, so be sure to ask about these things before deciding on a facility for yourself or your loved one.

    Kelly McClanahan has an MSW/ASW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 25 years, she has a CATC-IV credential. She is also a lecturer and workshop provider for meditation, mindfulness and issues arising in long-term recovery. Kelly is currently writing a book about the spiritual principles in 12-Step recovery.


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