Studies show that the longer an individual is in a treatment environment, the greater their chances of maintaining long-term sobriety. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “it is critical that individuals remain in treatment for an adequate period of time.” For many people, an extended care environment provides an important bridge from in-patient treatment to the mainstream world.
Extended care environments have been common in the mental health field for decades to help people transitioning from treatment back into society. They have also been common for people who were incarcerated and were transitioning to the ‘real world’. The extended care environments were sometimes referred to as “half-way houses” because people were half-way on their way to complete independence.
Extended care environments (or half-way houses) began to be used for people who were transitioning from alcohol or drug treatment. The term “sober house” was coined to describe these living arrangements. Sober houses gained visibility in popular culture through the show “Sober House” on VH1; the program followed a group of celebrities who had successfully completed treatment in “Celebrity Rehab” at Pasadena Recovery Center.
Extended care environments vary widely in terms of accommodations, price, and level of supervision, but all have some common features:
- Stable Sober Environment
Quite simply, the main benefit of extended care environments is the stability they provide. After inpatient treatment, some individuals lack the skills necessary to set and follow schedules and to integrate sober living into their lives. The extended care environment provides a structured living arrangement in which to develop healthy habits and practice integrating those habits into their daily lives, including employment and social interactions. Residents must submit to random drug and alcohol tests to ensure a safe, sober environment for everyone. Most extended care environments have a curfew and require that you complete a probationary period before you are allowed passes to be off-site overnight.
- Camaraderie and Support
All residents in a sober living house are recovering from some form of addiction, providing a ready support network of peers who are recovering – people who share the same values, goals and desires for sober living. Extended care residents often motivate each other to attend 12-step meetings and stay focused on sobriety. Some extended care environments also have on-site managers–or on-call staff–for professional support.
The disease of chemical dependency often progresses to the point that the addict’s life is consumed with either using or obtaining drugs. They neglect tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and sometimes even grooming. The extended care environment requires individuals to assume responsibility and develop accountability. Often, residents must:
- Follow all house rules
- Work or actively seek employment
- Obey curfews
- Commit to length of stay
In most extended care environments, there are consequences if a resident doesn’t meet the expectations. The recovering alcoholic or addict learns to be accountable for their actions.
- Focused living
In most extended care environments, daily stressors are minimized, with structured shelter and social opportunities provided. The cost of staying in the sober house is usually dealt with in a single, lump sum payment, eliminating the stress of various bills and financial management. Visiting hours are often highly regulated, minimizing outside social interactions. The goal is to free up the individual to focus on sober living by eliminating basic stressors they might otherwise have to face after alcohol rehab. The sober environment also eliminates many of the distractions and temptations which await in the outside world.
- Alcohol Recovery Guidance and Supervision
Many extended care environments provide some form of continual care. Daily or weekly meetings are usually mandatory and residents are expected to be actively working a 12-step program. Often, residents will have weekly counseling sessions with staff to make sure they are working on their recovery.
Extended care environments offer a wide range of options in cost and accommodation. At one end of the spectrum, there are sober houses where residents rent a shared room for a weekly rate of $100. At the high end are residential options like Promises Malibu where prices start at $25,000 per month.
Although there is no national criteria for a sober house, Illinois is at the leading edge of creating standards for extended care environments. The Illinois Extended Care Association, Inc (IECA) was established over 20 years ago to ensure individuals in recovery have a safe and healthy place to live where the primary goal is recovery. IAEC is also committed to ensuring that quality residential extended care facilities are readily available and that staff are properly trained to meet the needs of the chemically dependent men and women being served.
The Extended Care Program at New Hope Recovery Center offers a supportive, sober, transitional living environment for individuals who have abstained from alcohol and drugs for thirty days or more. Sober living residences are available in Chicago (Lincoln Park) and Geneva, IL and each is within walking distance of New Hope Recovery Center. Separate units house men and women who are actively working a twelve step program to stay drug and alcohol free.