The Challenges of Getting Sober Young

Getting sober young is an incredible experience, but you may also face some obstacles along the way.

Updated on July 16th, 2020

Being a young person in recovery certainly has its benefits, but learning how to stay sober after rehab can often be a difficult adjustment for young adults. Getting sober young is an incredible experience, but you may also face some obstacles along the way. Enrolling in a sober living program after rehab can provide life-changing support, accountability, and social connections that will help you learn how to be comfortable in your new sober lifestyle and establish a healthy routine and habits.

Statistics About Young Adults and Substance Abuse

Addiction and drug abuse have a much larger effect on young people than you might expect. In a culture that consistently glorifies alcohol and drug abuse in music, movies, TV shows, and popular culture, these risky behaviors have life-changing effects on the young people that end up addicted to these substances. Here are some recent statistics that clearly illustrate the substance abuse problem among young adults in the U.S.

  • One in every six young adults in America, ages 18 to 25, battled a substance use disorder in 2014.1
  • 6 percent of 12th graders reported using illicit drugs in the last year.2
  • 9 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the last year.2
  • 7 percent of 12th graders reported non-medical use of amphetamines in the last year.2
  • In 2014, the nonmedical use of prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers, ADHD medication, and anti-anxiety drugs was highest among young adults.3
  • In 2014, more than 1,700 young adults died from prescription drug overdoses (mainly opioids).3
  • In 2015, about 40 percent of 12th graders reported being drunk in the last year.4
  • Nearly 25 percent of teens have ridden in a car with a drunk driver.5
  • In 2014, the majority of people suffering from marijuana addiction were between the ages of 12 and 25.1
  • Heroin addiction among young adults ages 18 to 25 has doubled in the past 10 years.6

Getting Sober Young: What Challenges Do Young Adults Face in Recovery?

Although there are many benefits to getting sober young such as saving money, building healthy relationships, and being a mentor for other young people who are struggling with addiction, there are also several unique challenges involved.

  • Romantic relationships – Many young people who enter detox, rehab, and sober living programs are single or dating but not yet married. Romantic relationships can make many things in life more complicated and sobriety is no exception. Whether a boyfriend or girlfriend is supportive of an individual’s recovery (or not) dating in early sobriety can sometimes hinder the success of sobriety maintenance and overall recovery.
  • False assumptions about time – Older people in recovery may make comments about the younger clients in their sober living home or support group, such as, ‘I wish I would have gotten sober so young,’ or ‘It’s great to have so many young people in group.’ While these types of comments are typically well-intentioned, they feed into a false mentality that young people in treatment still have all the time in the world to get sober. This could not be further from the truth. Sadly, many young people die every day from drug and alcohol addiction, and submitting to treatment and recovery as early as possible is ideal.
  • Peer pressure in social situations – Young people tend to drink and use drugs more often and more regularly, especially in social situations. Life experiences such as going to college, turning 21, or even just going out with friends on the weekend can be a serious obstacle if you’re sober. Not only do many young people face intense peer pressure when these situations arise, but in some cases, they may also be forced to choose between using drugs and alcohol or being excluded entirely. These can be difficult choices to make, especially at a time in life when social inclusion is so important.
  • Ongoing brain development and maturity issues – According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the human brain does not reach full maturity until at least the mid-20s. Even at 25, the brain may still not be fully mature.7 Many of these neurological changes may impact decision-making and judgment. In addition, young adults are guaranteed to make a certain amount of mistakes in early adulthood—it’s just a part of life. These life changes can make it seem like sobriety is extremely difficult when in reality, learning how to live as a high-functioning adult is a challenge for all young people, sober or not.

Transitional Living Options After Rehab

After rehab, young adults may choose to return home or live in a transitional housing environment, also known as a recovery residence. Some young adults may not have a sober and supportive home to return to after completing rehab, so moving into a recovery residence can be very advantageous.

According to the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR), the term “recovery residence” is a broad term that is used to describe various types of recovery housing, as well as services and programs provided through these homes. These homes are also called sober living homes, ¾ homes, or halfway houses. Although each type of recovery residence provides varying services and programs, these terms are often used interchangeably.

The NARR states that there are are several different types of recovery residences. They include the following:8

  • Level 1: Peer Run Recovery ResidenceThese types of sober living homes are peer-based recovery environments. Residents remain accountable to one another, generally attend recovery support groups, and weekly house meetings are standard practice. There are no paid staff members at Level 1 recovery residences and no additional recovery support services offered. This type of sober home is often best for someone who has already established a lifestyle of recovery and remains committed but could benefit from a sober living environment.
  • Level 2: Monitored Recovery Residence – These types of sober homes are peer-based communities that are supervised by a senior resident, house manager, or staff member. This individual monitors the residents and implements all rules and regulations. These sober living homes are usually single-family residences with rooms that residents share. Some recovery programming may be offered through outside service providers.
  • Level 3: Supervised Recovery Residence – These types of sober living homes offer enhanced structure and supervision, often with IOP or aftercare services provided through an outside provider. These homes also provide case management, life skills development, and access to clinical care. The living arrangements for residents can vary and may be a single-family residence, townhome, or apartment complex.
  • Level 4: Service Provider Recovery Residence – These sober living homes provide the most comprehensive care and structure. They offer peer-based services, life skills, and clinical programs. Most often, these services are overseen by professional staff and provided through a licensed addiction treatment provider. The living arrangements for residents can be a single-family residence, apartments, or townhome.

Level 4 recovery residences are most likely to adhere to professional addiction treatment standards and provide the highest level of accountability and support.

What Should a Recovery Community Look Like for Young Adults?

Often, young people identify with drugs or alcohol because they view these things as a way to have fun or be social. As a result, they don’t know how to enjoy life without addictive substances. To effectively challenge these misconceptions and influence young adults in a positive, life-changing way, a recovery community for young adults should be composed of:

  • Fun, sober activities
  • Friendship and a sense of sober camaraderie
  • Life skills development
  • Access to treatment for mental health issues
  • Family support

Essentially, a supportive recovery community should give young adults the chance to experience life to its fullest without drugs or alcohol.

How Do Sober Living Homes Empower Young Adults to Live Successful Sober Lives?

Great sober living homes provide a solid foundation of accountability and support. Young adults learn how to be accountable to themselves and others, taking full responsibility for their behavior, whether it positively or negatively impacts their recovery.

Sober living homes are also designed to provide wholesome support as young adults gain important life skills that will contribute to a successful and sober life. These skills include managing time and money, creating a resume, and establishing genuine relationships with people, among many other things.

Overall, there are many benefits of sober living for young adults, such as:

  • A safe environment with less stress
  • A sober support network to help young adults manage challenging situations
  • A stable home where young adults can continue developing their independence with sober support
  • Opportunities for young adults to manage responsibilities like household chores, money management, and stable employment
  • Opportunities to use the tools and skills young adults learn in rehab
  • Social connections and fun activities with other young adults in recovery

Sober Living for Young Adults: A Personal Testimony

This picture is a pretty good representation of how I felt leaving treatment at the age of 23. I do not think the reality of the journey I was embarking on hit until I saw the Austin city limits sign. Before moving to Austin, the only association I had with Austin was 6th street.

This time, my purpose for coming to Austin was recovery. You see, while I was in treatment, my counselor kept talking about sober living and how it was what I needed. By the time I agreed to the idea, I needed to take the next step and talk to my father. I clearly remember explaining the concept to him. He said one statement, “There is no such thing!” and then he hung up the phone.

I remember thinking to myself that I was doing the right thing and he should believe me. At the time, I did not take into consideration how many times I had lied to my parents. After a licensed professional confirmed my statements, I was off to Austin for sober living.

Being sober at 23 brought about a whole different set of life changes. In my late teens and early twenties, my life was enmeshed with alcohol and drugs. I do not recall any daily activities in which one was not involved.

I believe my experience in sober living helped me be a 23-year-old in recovery. Outside of not using drugs or alcohol, I had to learn to live life. At that time, having a social life was a part of it. Prior to being sober, my idea of fun was seeing how messed up I could get. I had to learn how to have fun at the movies and bowling alley, without drugs and alcohol. At first, it was different. I was learning how to be comfortable with myself and not make decisions based on other people’s responses.

Being in a sober home helped me with this: to not be a people pleaser. The common bond I shared with all the guys was the idea of being sober. The experience gave me the ability to learn from their experiences. It did not matter if they had one more day sober than me or a few months. The wealth of sober knowledge in that home was like living in a library. The best comparison I can give is that the experience is similar to living in a frat house, without the partying.

If you are considering sober living, my best advice is to take the opportunity. The experience taught me a lot and provided a safe, clean, and sober place to call home. At that time in my life, that is what I needed. The experience has helped me stay sober for the last 8 1/2 years.

– MG

What Is the Best Sober Living for Young Men?

Finding the best sober living for young men is important. Having a sober and stable living environment where young people in recovery can relate to their peers is extremely beneficial for long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one is searching for the best sober living for young men, a good sober living home will meet all the requirements listed below:

  • No drugs or alcohol allowed
  • Established structure and rules
  • Employment, education, and volunteer assistance
  • Required participation in a 12-Step Program or similar recovery program
  • Individualized recovery programming
  • Positive recreational activities for residents
  • Access to therapeutic services
  • IOP and aftercare services

While searching for the best sober living for young men or women, it’s also a good idea to refer to the characteristics of different levels of recovery residences. The characteristics of these different types of homes will help you determine whether a sober living home will provide the right services, accountability, and structure to meet the needs of the person in recovery.

Young Adult Sober Living Homes and Addiction Recovery Support

At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we provide addiction recovery support for people in all stages of life. That being said, many of our clients are young men and women in their early twenties who are working hard to maintain their sobriety after rehab.

To properly address the needs and challenges our young clients face, we are proud to provide an extremely diverse team of Recovery Specialists. This team of addiction treatment specialists is made up of men and women of all backgrounds and ages, with varying amounts of personal sobriety experience. Each of these individuals is in recovery themselves and they are uniquely qualified to guide our sober living residents through the obstacles of early sobriety.

Some of our staff members even have personal experience getting sober young and can provide helpful wisdom and encouragement to clients who find themselves in similar situations. A perfect example is one of our Recovery Specialists, Derek Stone.

“I started experimenting around 12 or 13 years old, he says. “I got sober when I was 20 but I tell people that those were my three main food groups of substance abuse: pot, pills, and alcohol.”

“While I do believe there are certain clients that only I’m going to be able to reach because of their age, their position, their family dynamics, or even their drug of choice, I also believe that there’s a group of people out there that I can’t reach for those very same reasons.”

“That’s why we have such a variety of people on the Recovery Specialists team. We have people from different walks of life with different lengths of sobriety. I’m definitely by no means a one-size-fits-all Recovery Specialist. There are people that I’m uniquely qualified to help, and I’m grateful for that, but there are others that can’t be helped by me alone.”

At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we offer sober living homes, recovery support services, and IOP programs that are tailored to people in a variety of walks of life, including young adults. If you’d like to learn more about our sober living houses and programs for men and women, please call (512) 363-5914 to speak with a member of our admissions team today.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/monitoring-future-survey-high-school-youth-trends
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/abuse-prescription-rx-drugs-affects-young-adults-most
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2015/12/drug-use-trends-remain-stable-or-decline-among-teens
  5. https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/substance-use/index.html
  6. https://blog.aarp.org/2015/09/28/young-adults-the-new-face-of-heroin-addiction/
  7. http://hrweb.mit.edu/worklife/youngadult/brain.html
  8. https://narronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Primer-on-Recovery-Residences-09-20-2012a.pdf

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