Substance addiction is a chronic disease that makes lasting changes in the brain. It takes time and commitment to overcome. Often, those battling substance addiction require long-term and residential treatment. This provides them a safe, secure, structured, and sober place to live while they recover.
A structured sober living program is a beneficial option for people early in recovery, specifically those attending an outpatient rehab program, or transitioning out of residential treatment. Structured sober living environments are important in helping people in recovery ease into mainstream life with their newfound commitment to living substance-free.
What is Structured Sober Living?
In order to understand what structured sober living is, it’s important we first understand the concept of sober living. Sober living refers to a state of existence in the recovery process, in which a person is living without the crutch of drugs or alcohol. The person in recovery did not just “get sober,” but rather, changed their way of life to stay healthy and substance-free. Sober living can also refer to the specific residences that people stay in during or after completing rehab. Sober living homes give them a safe, secure, and often structured place to live before transitioning back into mainstream life.
Structured sober living, also called high-accountability sober living, means that a person is living in a sober home, with a set routine or schedule, in their early recovery. They may have completed a drug rehab program, or are currently in treatment, but require a safe space and structure in their day-to-day life. Their schedule may require weekly 12-step meetings, support groups, or regular drug testing. In a structured sober living program, they may also be required to hold a job or attend school. This type of structured schedule helps hold individuals accountable, both for their responsibilities and for their recovery from addiction.
Why is Structure Important in a Sober Living Environment?
Structure is key to a successful recovery from substance use disorders. When a person is battling substance addiction, it often feels like their lives are spinning out of control. Their actions, thoughts, and priorities are typically irrepressible, due to the grip of addiction on neurological functioning – It makes long-lasting changes in the brain that affect thinking habits, attitudes, and behaviors. So, in recovery, it is important that individuals re-learn the importance of structure and control, in a safe and regulated setting, over an extended period of time.
By having a routine, those in recovery benefit from a predictable rhythm in their day-to-day lives. They redevelop a pattern of behavior and their bodies adjust accordingly, re-learning how to sleep, eat, and exercise (and at usual times of the day). Essentially, structure gives them the opportunity to re-program and prepare themselves for a healthier daily routine.
This, in turn, helps the person’s overall emotions and mental health. The body is so connected to the mind. When a person is adhering to a routine, their brain also starts to predict the habits and events that will occur throughout the day. This can be reassuring for those who were previously overwhelmed by addiction and mental health disorder symptoms. It can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, by providing them a safe, drug-free space and healthy schedule to look forward to each day.
Structured sober living also fills a person’s day-to-day with responsibilities and activities. This, as a result, prevents boredom, anxiety, and restlessness – feelings that are difficult to cope with in early recovery, and that often lead to relapse. Think about it. People struggling with addiction spend much of their time seeking, using, and recovering from drugs. Even if they held a job or went to school, much of their “free” time was spent fueling their substance abuse. For this reason, it’s important for those in recovery to avoid too much “free time” that can lead to boredom. If they don’t know what to do with that time, if they don’t have structure, there is a greater risk for relapse.
An obvious benefit of structured sober living is that it helps hold those in recovery accountable. Structured sober living homes have rules or stipulations that their residents must follow. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Meeting a set curfew
- Periodic drug testing
- Complete sobriety from drugs and alcohol
- No violence
- No overnight guests
- Involvement in work, school, or a drug treatment program
- Active participation in recovery meetings and support groups
The above rules hold individuals accountable for their sobriety. By disallowing any substances, conducting random drug tests, and ensuring no overnight guests, sober living programs can help residents stay sober and healthy. Requiring residents to also hold a job, go to school, or attend a treatment program ensures that they have a responsibility – and a purpose – each day, which is key to a sustainable recovery.
Finally, structured sober living homes are important because they ease the transition from treatment to society – and provide support throughout the process. Going home after rehab is not always easy. While drug rehab programs provide structure and support, mainstream society does not. Upon leaving rehab, it can become overwhelming to go back to a life you once knew, full of people who still drink and use drugs. Or, potentially, a life where you do not have a safe, drug-free space to live in just yet. Sober living environments provide that space, as well as provide you with access to nearby recovery services, and a community of other individuals in recovery. In a sober living home, you live alongside other individuals who are living sober and who are committed to recovery. This can be one of the greatest supports of all.
Structured Sober Living Can Be Life-Changing
Mike, now a Turnbridge graduate, attended our extended care program after finishing drug rehab. He first began using drugs at age 17, and after a car accident that put him on pain medications, his drug use skyrocketed. Today, he continues to stay sober and live a productive, stable life with his now-wife. Mike credits the structured sober living program at Turnbridge for his success today.
“At Turnbridge, I learned… how to live a structured life that kept me out of trouble. There was a big emphasis on sobriety and on recovery, and what I took from it was to do the right things. It was a great environment for me. I think it was good overall, productive, and helpful.”
“I definitely don’t feel like the same person,” Mike continued. “Responsibility is a big part of it. Even though I don’t always like going to work, I like the fact that I’m responsible for myself. I’m making a big effort to provide for myself. One thing that was very paramount to me, in my life and recovery, is when I really started to develop relationships with people outside of recovery…when I was actually able to start effectively interacting with people that didn’t have to do with my recovery. It was a big point in my life. I felt like I was actually part of the world again.”
Turnbridge is a recognized drug treatment facility with residential sober living programs for young men and women. Our drug treatment and extended care programs are available to those seeking a safe, secure, structured, and substance-free space where they can heal. No matter where you are at in your recovery, we can help you. Call 877-581-1793 to learn about our structured treatment programs, or to learn more about the benefits of structured sober living.