The transition to daily life after completing drug or alcohol treatment can be a jarring, confusing and frightening experience. The more abrupt the transition, the more likely an increase of negative effects: a return to the same people, places and things associated with addiction, falling into a pattern of isolation, avoidance of healthy routines, skipping 12-step meetings, and giving into cravings and urges. Transitioning to a sober living home1, on the other hand, and especially a gender-specific sober home, offers profound advantages on the path to recovery.
The last thing you need when you’re newly sober is distraction from the healing journey. This includes the distraction that comes with being around the opposite sex. There’s the underlying temptation to want to get romantically involved, never a recommended course of action for the first year following treatment. Indeed, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)2 recommends no romantic involvement among men and women in a treatment group, saying further that such involvement can sabotage recovery for either party.
Yet there are many more distractions that can detract from recovery, particularly in the early days of recovery when coping strategies most need reinforcement. Whether the distractions come from work, home, school or elsewhere, they are a formidable force to have to deal with. Gender-specific sober living helps reduce the number and intensity of distractions, while making the recovery journey smoother.
A Safe Place to Continue to Heal
Safety is an important aspect of recovery, one that may be missing from a home environment immediately following completion of a formal treatment program at a residential treatment facility. Some individuals lack a safe home environment to return to, or they haven’t yet developed sufficient self-confidence to be able to tackle the pressures of work and home and still adhere to recovery goals, treatment and meetings, challenging themselves to become stronger and more resilient.
With gender-specific sober living, however, the environment is one that’s supportive, optimistic, caring and genuine. Everyone there wants to further develop and strengthen their foundation in recovery, without fear of being undermined by well-intentioned but often misinformed loved ones, family members, co-workers and others.
Programming that Focuses on Gender-Specific Needs
Men and women have dissimilar needs when it comes to effective programming post-treatment. Men, for example, often have difficulty expressing their emotions3, identifying weaknesses and problems, asking for help, and understanding their feelings. In a co-ed sober living home, men are more likely to feel the need to prove themselves to the opposite sex, leading to competitive interaction with other men and diminished commitment to recovery.
Women in recovery feel more freedom to discuss difficult topics4 such as relationship issues and abuse with other women present, as opposed to a mixed-gender population in sober homes.
With specific needs of men and women in mind, having gender-specific individual and group treatment sessions allow for more of a focus on each gender’s difference and how treatment can maximize effectiveness of recovery goals.
Living in a Structured Environment
Once leaving formal treatment, being thrust into the outside world without the reassurance of the same type of structure treatment provided can prove detrimental to budding recovery. Those who are newly sober need the familiarity and constancy of structure to assist in their healing efforts. Sober living homes are a crucial part5 of effective transition to society.
For example, there are rules for living in all sober living homes. Everyone is expected to keep his or her room clean, to help with chores, to pay rent, and either mandated or required to participate in 12-step meetings. In gender-specific sober living, not only is there the familiarity of the structure, there’s also the comfort and peace of mind knowing that the home’s other residents share the common bond of gender – and the desire to gain strength in their recovery foundation.
Peer Support and Encouragement
When you’re facing the struggles in early recovery, peer support6, identification and encouragement can make all the difference between sustaining recovery and relapse. The first few weeks after treatment are the most challenging times for newly sober men and women. In gender-specific sober homes, you live with other individuals who know what you’re going through, because they’re going through it themselves.
When recovering men live with other newly-sober men, and women on the recovery path live in a sober home with other women choosing the path of sobriety, it’s easier for same-sex individuals to relate to each other. This is a time when you need support and encouragement to provide motivation for continuing the work of recovery.
Supportive, caring individuals of the same sex also won’t enable your addiction, make it less likely that you’ll falter by association with those who aren’t committed to your sobriety.