My Sober Living Experience
For many who find themselves struggling with addiction, the primary focus of their recovery is to simply stop drinking or drugging. After all, this is a gargantuan task for anyone who has ever had a chemical dependency, and taking the steps to prepare for this moment is critical. However, the real challenge begins afterward. When you’re through with treatment, when the paraphernalia has been thrown out, when the chemicals are out of your system, then comes to the big question: now what? I’d like to share with you my ‘now what’ story. About halfway through my stay in rehab, I was called into a meeting with my counselor and my parents. She laid out several different options I had for “aftercare,” various post-treatment recovery organizations. My parents were interested, but I wanted no part of it. I wanted to go back to my apartment and continue the life I had left behind. I knew I had a problem, but I wasn’t fully committed to giving up drugs and alcohol for good just yet. Fortunately for me, my parents had other plans. Within a day of leaving treatment, I was sitting on the bed of my sober living, looking up directions for my outpatient meeting location. At the time I was bitter, but in hindsight, the extra six months I spent in a sober living is what kept me from going home and resuming my addict lifestyle.
I didn’t know what to think when I first heard “sober living.” To me, it seemed like I was locked into more time in treatment, for a much longer period of time. The treatment center saved my life, don’t get me wrong. Extensive group therapy and help from medical professionals fulfilled the work I needed on the clinical side of my disease. But after 45 days of being in a medical center, I was ready to be out in the world and put the life skills I gained into practice. Rehab was a pivotal moment for me, and through it I gained my life back. But it was time for the training wheels to come off and for me to get back in the world.
When I finally arrived and was given a tour, it was almost the opposite of what I was expecting. The sober living was much like any other apartment, but I was surrounded by other people in recovery. My fellow residents went about their daily lives as if they were living in their own home. Unlike treatment, everybody had their own schedule and were free to work their recovery in a manner best suited to them. Some would hit 12-step meetings at the crack of dawn before work, while others chose to attend outpatient programs in the late afternoon. The flexibility was a welcome relief and gave me the agency to craft my own personalized form of recovery, and the freedom to turn my life into what I aspired to be.
At first, I didn’t quite know what to do with it. The rules of the house were simple; be out and about for at least three hours a day, and have a job within two weeks. Simple enough, right? But for a young man who still didn’t know how to function like an adult, these were difficult guidelines. For the first few weeks, I would leave for one hour and then sneak back in to take a nap, and never actually found a job. As the weeks went on, as my wet brain began to dry out and my faculties returned, the three hours became less and less difficult. I found a job delivering Chinese food, I was building friendships with the people around me. I had new hobbies and interests, and by the end of my stay, I had re-enrolled in college. On the last days, I reflected on how I never wanted to go to sober living. Had I got my way, I don’t see any way I wouldn’t be back in my old apartment, drinking and smoking, living my same miserable life. In sober living, I was able to develop one of the most important skills of all: how to be an adult. It is not an exaggeration to say that sober living did just as much to help my recovery as treatment, if not more.
Many people who go to rehab do not consider that treatment is temporary, while recovery is forever. That is why sober living organizations are so important. After gaining the medical help and recovery skills in treatment, sober living houses provide a safe space to ease yourself back into the world. It is the difference between dieting and changing your diet. While getting a length of time clean may seem like the goal, in reality for an addict to change they must work every day at their recovery in order to become the person they wish to be. If nothing changes, nothing changes and you remain the same as when you entered rehab. On the other hand, if you truly seek a second chance at life, major lifestyle changes must be made. Whether your treatment was seven days, 45 days, or 18 months, you’ll need a solid plan of keeping plugged into some form of recovery community. Your success hinges on whether or not you are able to keep seeking the resources around you.