Working with residents through the journey from self-loathing and shame to self-love and empathy requires more than just an average sober living. One of the keys, is for residents begin to realize they can be open, honest, and transparent with themselves and others. Moreover, that they have to be. Shaming residents into cooperating, vindictively punishing, or making blanketed assumptions is often counterproductive to desired results. A sober living philosophy based on compassion and understanding, often dramatically increases the resident’s willingness and active participation in their own recovery.
Nearly any study on Addiction Treatment will promote the benefits of long-term, transitional care. It is during this period that the education and information received during Primary Treatment can actually be put to use. A minimum 90-day commitment is a good starting point, but it is often difficult to predict when a resident will be fully suitable to graduate. Individually tailored, sober living programs with supportive services give residents their best chance at sustained recovery from addiction.
It can be difficult to know with surety that a person in early recovery is ready to step down out of comprehensive sober living, however, there are definite benchmarks and traits to look for.
Key Indicators for Successful Step-down From Sober Living
- aware of and consistently working on their core issues
- working and/or going to school
- managing their own finances
- helping and sponsoring other people through recovery
- building, strengthening, and maintaining relationships
- balancing the four components of work/school, recovery, fun, and love
- redefining their role within the family system
- respecting and setting boundaries
- reaching out to others with concern and compassion
- honest and forthcoming when it’s not in their immediate interest to do so
- passionate, engaged, and present in life
It should both be the mission and passion of the sober living organization to positively transform the lives of those suffering from Addiction. It is an honor to work with clients and their families to create lasting and impactful change, not a right or something to be taken lightly.
Common Behaviors and Approach
When determining which type of sober living environment, or if sober living should be an option at all (sober living should always be an option), it is important to understand certain behaviors and to ask if the organization how they address them. These types of behaviors, if left untreated or if treated in an improper manner, undermine the recovery process and may lead people down a path to relapse.
“Failure to Launch”
The stage between adolescence and adulthood demands a series of increasingly complex, difficult, and trying milestones. Too often, we see individuals who are incapable of taking the necessary actions to seize control and ownership of their lives. Often, these persons are fearful of their own ability to succeed and are confused as to the correct path to take.
Lasting recovery is about so much more than removing substances from one’s life. It’s about discovering passion, purpose, and true freedom. Building resilience and the needed motivation to successfully help individuals take on the world is a key component of good sober living. Offering Life Skills and task-oriented trainings allow residents to learn the crucial mechanisms necessary to function in this world. Addiction was about surviving and when in survival mode, the mind is incapable of learning the normal skillsets needed to succeed in life. What seems like common sense or “easy” skills are not there and need to be taught or retaught, to effectively be implemented into the life-long path of recovery. A supportive, understanding staff and community should a be there to help during and after any hardship that a Resident encounters.
Self-sabotaging behavior is a common trait amongst new sober living residents. Individuals feel subconsciously unworthy of success and would rather “control” the situation by destroying it. This self-reinforcing cycle can become strangely, second nature when individuals habitually act as their “own worst enemy.”
Approaching self-sabotaging individuals through a positive-reinforcement loop focused on removing critical internal negativity and working towards the development of a set of personal values is detrimental in overcoming this behavior. Furthermore, residents should be taught to practice becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable emotions, rather than simply running away from the problem.
“Playing the Victim”
Quite often residents feel incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. The handling of life’s consequences become too much and they attempt to leverage sympathy to obtain their desired outcomes. They just don’t think life is being “fair.” In reality, the individual is overwhelmed, angry, feels helpless, and is self-degrading, compounding a sense of deep shame and loss of self-worth.
A guiding philosophy is to bring clarity, communication, introspection, and to help start developing personal accountability and self-love. The work to redefine the individual’s role away from being the “one always in need” to the one that is always looking to help others is fundamental in changing the resident’s perspective.
“Living in the Extremes”
Addicts are wired to live in the extremes. The massive highs and cratering lows. It’s always “all or nothing.” Complete chaos or faltering attempts at controlling everything litter the landscape of their lives. They’re constantly in conflict, oscillating between opposing emotions, opinions, or beliefs.
Promoting a healthy balance between work, recovery, fun, and love is key in creating a sustainable path forward in recovery. No individual life is ever perfectly balanced, but through the careful nurturing of each of these components, individuals are able to achieve a sustainable harmony and stability.