For most individuals finishing primary treatment, aftercare is an important next step in their recovery process. Aftercare comes in many shapes and sizes and their are options for almost every type of person. What works for one person will not always work for another. This makes the aftercare selection very important. Understanding which types of aftercare are most effective with which types of people will go a long way towards helping an individual and their family make the right decision about the next step. For young people, sober living is one of the most common choices following rehab. Because of this, it’s important to be educated before walking into the situation blind.
What Types of Sober Livings Are Out There?
Sober living is the primary aftercare option for most individuals following addiction treatment. This is for a few reasons. For one, it has been proven that the longer someone stays sober, the less their chances of relapse. In fact, for individuals who make it to 5 years sober, their relapse rates drop to less than 15%! That is an extremely powerful statistic, considering what we are constantly told about the futility of treating addiction successfully. Sober living helps individuals put together that time sober while they are at their most vulnerable. Another reason that sober living is such a highly recommended option when it comes to aftercare is because of the transition it provides for individuals jumping back into the stream of life. When deep in an addiction, regular living falls to the wayside. This is especially true for individuals that started drinking and using at a young age; often, drugs and alcohol are the reality with which they are the most familiar. Sober living can also help a newly sober individual (read: less than a year sober), build healthy relationships with others who are also sober. This is another crucial part of long-term recovery.
So which one is the right fit for someone? Well, there are a couple big differences in the types of sober livings available. On a very simplistic level, there are a couple different types:
- Check in, check out sober livings
- Structured recovery communities
What is the difference between the two and who is best suited for which?
Check In, Check Out Sober Livings
Check in, check out sober livings are what most people think of when they hear the term. These are locations that have little structure outside of some basic house rules. There will often be a curfew in place, occasional drug testing a weekly house meeting, and a wide range of different age groups present. The reason they are referred to as check in, check out is because outside of letting a house manager know that someone is leaving and returning, there is not much that is required of residents. When they are run with integrity and with resident’s best interest in mind, this type of sober living can be helpful for some individuals.
Sometimes someone going into sober living will have gotten sober later in life. This means that they may have a family that relies on them. They may have a career that will only allow a brief period of time off for treatment. They may have a full, busy life that addiction has derailed and as a result, need a temporary, supportive environment, to get back on their feet. These individuals will often dive into a 12 step program, stay in a sober living for a period of time, and then transition back into their life relatively quickly. This scenario is common with older individuals who may have developed an addiction as the result of legitimately prescribed medication, or a long drinking career that ultimately came to a head later in life.
Because of the lack of structure and internal recovery programming, these type of sober livings rely heavily on the preexisting willingness of a resident to do the work necessary to maintain sobriety. Also, because there is less oversight, it is possible that a negative influence inside of the house can spread to other individuals more easily. This can be difficult to navigate for young people getting sober, where peer influence is still so powerful.
Structured Recovery Communities
Structured recovery communities are a lot different in a number of ways from a traditional sober living. In a structured recovery community, there is generally a designated age group inside of the house. This is beneficial for younger people specifically, because it allows them to connect with and relate to other individuals who have similar backgrounds, experiences and struggles. Someone getting sober at 45 is going to have different feelings and reactions than someone getting sober at 20 – while the underlying disease of addiction is the same, the recovery experience can be very different.
Structured recovery communities often have a much higher level of camaraderie because of this difference. When getting sober young especially, it can be difficult to break away from an unhealthy peer group. Having an age specific community allows newly sober individuals to build new, healthy relationships with others who are going in the same positive direction as they are.
There is also a level of structure in structured recovery communities that provides guidance in early recovery. While primary treatment does a great job of removing drugs and alcohol for a period of time, there are a lot of twists and turns in early recovery that can be difficult to navigate, regardless of age or background. For young people, this can be especially difficult. If someone is getting sober in their late teens or early twenties, they can often struggle with reintegrating into a healthy lifestyle. Having guidance throughout this process and having a community to lean on while working through difficulties makes relapse much less likely.
Structured recovery communities also offer a lot more to residents in terms of program taking place. House meetings, life skills sessions, group outings and a heavy participation in healthy social activities are all part of a structured recovery community. While some of these additional offerings might not be as necessary for an older individual with a previously established life, it can be a make it or break it factor for young people.
Making A Decision
Ultimately, each individual is different. As a general rule of thumb though, placing a young person getting sober in a regular, check in, check out sober living does not give them the same level of support or community as a structured recovery community. For someone who is older, with a life that is already established, a structured recovery community may not be the best fit. For someone that is getting sober young though, it is difficult to find a better situation. Peer grouping is key when it comes to this process and so is the addition of life skills and effective sober coping techniques. Young people that have a chance to take advantage of these benefits are able to more easily reach multiple years of sobriety – where the chance for relapse plummets.