Many recovering addicts experience a feeling of apprehension when they leave treatment. Not everyone considers moving from a treatment facility straight to sober living, but those that do are often concerned about how the transition will work and what their life will look like once they start their time at a sober living community. More specifically, they wonder how long they should stay in sober living. On one hand, they are excited to get back to their life without their addiction weighing them down. On the other, they may be worried about the possibility of relapsing.
It is impossible to know how long each individual person needs this kind of support before they are ready to re-enter an environment where they may come face to face with their addiction alone. It is a fact that the length of time spent in treatment and sober living directly impacts the likelihood of relapse. Most recovery counselors recommend a minimum of 90 days spent in treatment and sober living together before being reintroduced to society. However, there are situations in which this time may need to be increased.
Medical and Mental Health
A person in recovery may need to continue their time in sober living past the 90-day mark if they have additional and separate medical and/or mental health diagnoses that could affect their sobriety. For example, a person with anxiety that self-medicates with alcohol may have a more difficult time maintaining their sobriety during a panic attack than an alcoholic who does not have such a trigger. More time in a supportive environment could be beneficial to help them begin using the tools they learned in treatment. A physical health example may be a person with chronic pain who is addicted to narcotics. They may have to work extensively on alternative therapies to manage their pain and that takes more time than a mere 90 days. During that time, it is best that they continue to have the support of peers.
A Poor Support System or Dangerous Environment
Some people have a hard time maintaining sobriety because of their environment at home. It could be that they come from a family of addicts and have never known anything else. Or, it might just be that they live in a community where access to their addiction is hard to avoid. Maybe they even lost their home trying to pay for their addiction and do not have friends and family that are willing or able to help them out. Most often, the issue is that the family of an addict just doesn’t know how to support them during their recovery. Whatever the case, it is often beneficial for those in recovery to maintain a place in sober living until they can make arrangements for a safe home where they won’t be tempted to relapse. Some families of addicts also seek their own mental health treatment during this time so that they are ready to support their recovering family member when they come home.
Longer treatment is also generally recommended each time an addict relapses. This is to spend more time working on determining their relapse triggers and to help them establish more tools to prevent another relapse. Longer treatment is then usually followed by longer time in sober living, so as to cautiously re-integrate them back into the “real world” to maximize the potential of success. The same approach is used for addicts who are resistant to treatment in the first place. This is because their resistance may make it harder for therapists to get to the bottom of their addiction and since much of their time in treatment would have been used working on that, they would need additional time in sober living to put the tools they learned for managing their addiction into use and form new habits.
Overall, the length of time each person should spend in sober living is dependent on their personal circumstances. Studies have found that the average length of time in sober living is between 166-254 days. However, if you are an addict or the loved one of an addict, it is highly encouraged that you do not set your expectations based on these numbers and instead, discuss a plan with a therapist/doctor who understands the addict’s personal situation and can make a recommendation. Call us at 844-639-8371.