Is Sober Living Necessary After Rehab?

Aftercare can be broadly described as the resources, help, support and amenities provided to patients after rehab is complete. Whether individuals are recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the challenge to stay sober won’t end at the conclusion of a rehab program, no matter how good that program might be.

Sober housing, or living, is drug or alcohol-free accommodation that can help bridge the gap between rehab and independent living. While not strictly necessary for recovery, sober housing can make a significant difference for patients struggling with an addiction.

Defining Sober Housing

Sober housing can go by many different names, including dry housing, halfway homes, supportive housing and sober-living facilities. Sober housing can be privately owned, run by the state, city or federal government or it can be connected and partnered with successful rehab facilities. Sober housing can be small in size, accommodating just a few individuals at a time, or it can be a dormitory where dozens of people live with shared rooms and communal living spaces.

Whatever the size, location or management style of sober housing, the primary goal is always the same: to encourage sobriety among residents. This can be accomplished in a number of different ways, including:

  • Establishing curfew rules to eliminate temptation
  • Holding residents accountable through drug testing
  • Assign chores to make residents accountable
  • Establish a schedule to help create daily routines
  • Encourage or even require attendance at local 12-step meetings
  • Help with employment opportunities

Sober Housing Maintains a Necessary Accountability

An important role of sober housing is providing individuals with a level of accountability that can’t be obtained when living independently. In a closed rehab facility, drugs and alcohol simply aren’t available. Patients are restricted in what they can and can’t access, and sobriety is an assumption.

Once outside of rehab, it can be challenging to deal with a whole new set of rules. Temptations abound, whether in familiar environments or just because of physical and psychological cravings. Sober housing can be instrumental in preventing relapse by ensuring that all residents know they are accountable to others.

Sober housing may require residents to partake in daily or weekly drug tests, or staff and other residents may be on the lookout for signs of intoxication or inebriation. Curfews may also be in place to limit nightlife activities, when relapses are most likely to occur. Many sober houses have a no-strikes policy, which means that any relapse requires you to pack up and leave right away. This level of accountability encourages sobriety, because residents don’t want to leave their home or their support system during recovery.

Opportunities to Develop Healthy Friendships with Peers

Two common reasons people relapse are boredom and loneliness. To reduce the chance of this happening, sober housing addresses both of these important issues.

To combat boredom, sober housing provides the opportunity for 24/7 companionship. Even with family visits and work obligations, there are many hours in a day to fill. Many sober housing facilities encourage dining in groups, organize outings for residents, and create daily schedules to help provide structure.

Such amenities and structure can go a long way in combating loneliness. Instead of feeling isolated from society—an issue noted by many individuals who are recovering from addiction—sober housing offers a group of peers who understand and are going through the same thing as everyone else. This shared connection may encourage true conversation and lasting bonds.

Encouragement to Attend 12-Step Meetings and Support Groups

Participating in 12-step meetings and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can be instrumental in retaining sobriety and preventing relapse. Although all alumni of rehab programs should know and understand the effectiveness of something like 12-step meetings, gathering the willpower and desire to attend on a regular basis isn’t always easy.

Sober housing may encourage residents to attend meetings, or they may require it. Either way, they will supply locations and times to eliminate missed opportunities, and many residents will attend meetings together. Having this continued support, education and outlet for sharing can greatly lessen the chance of relapse because ongoing support and help is always available.

Ease the Transition Between Rehab and Independent Living

Some say that the hardest part of recovery is taking the first step to attend a detox or a rehab program. That may be true, but it’s just as tough transitioning from the structure, support and defined boundaries of residential rehab to independent living. To bridge the gap between rehab and living alone, sober housing is crucial.

There are logistical advantages that sober housing can offer to residents. Trying to rent an apartment after rehab, for instance, may be nearly impossible without a proven income or recent rental history. Sober housing eliminates this worry and rejection. In the same vein, sober housing may have recommendations for employment, which makes it easier for residents to re-enter society, contribute in a meaningful way, feel productive, and earn an income.

Statistical Evidence Supporting Sober Housing After Rehab

Clearly, sober housing can be beneficial to patients. More importantly, sober housing can make a difference in terms of lasting sobriety.

Some studies indicate that remission rates (the duration of sobriety) are higher among those who reside in sober housing immediately following rehab program. Equally important, the overall rates of relapse, whether six months down the line or a decade in the future, are lower for those residents who live in sober housing compared to rehab graduates who immediately begin living independently. This reveals that while sober housing may not be a necessity, it certainly gives those struggling with addiction an advantage when pursuing the goal of lasting sobriety without relapse.

Following rehab, sober living can be highly advantageous to residents who are able to gain companionship, an antidote to boredom, assistance with the logistical side of accommodation and employment opportunities. Sober living provides an easier transition to independent living and the accountability it takes to stay sober for the long term.