When a Young Adult Needs More Support

How recovery housing can provide the extra support needed after addiction treatment

When young adults complete residential or outpatient addiction treatment, they may need to explore transitional living options other than immediately returning home, living alone, or living with others who are not in recovery. For young adults, recovery housing, also known as sober living, offers an alternative option that provides extra structure and support before total independence. "Recovery housing provides a deeper level of support that allow individuals to feel safe and to embrace their 'true self'," said Barbara Kistenmacher, executive director of Hazelden in New York. This extra support can help young adults build skills and gain confidence about how to lead a healthy and productive life in the context of facing day-to-day triggers that can encourage a return to substance use.

What does recovery housing provide?

Good recovery housing offers individuals who have gone through treatment a safe environment with positive peer support for living a life where substances don't get in the way of accomplishing goals and dreams. During a time when young people can be ambivalent about recovery, discovering that life can indeed be full and fun without the use of substances becomes an important part of the decision to stay in recovery. By living with other young people who are also committed to living substance free, young adults new to recovery find the encouragement and support they need to make long-term decisions about living in recovery.

What are some of the unique challenges young adults face in the early stages of recovery?

Most young adults are ambivalent about abstaining from substances, let alone abstaining for life—this is normal. At this age, the concept of "recovery for life" can be overwhelming. While they may be experiencing positive effects of sobriety, many young people in early recovery may erroneously assume that they will be able to return to some level of substance use again without harm. Living in a recovery community may be the first opportunity these individuals have to experience the positive aspects of life in recovery.

What does a successful recovery community look like?

The most successful recovery communities are more than just a sober place to live. "Successful recovery housing for young adults offers fun, friendship, family support, life skill building, and the opportunity to try out life without substances—all so that the young adult can decide if their life is better sober," says Barbara Kistenmacher. Successful recovery housing also has a supportive recovery community that looks at recovery from a broader perspective—mental health issues, family history, relationships, etc. and addresses issues that can compromise recovery. All of this is done within a supportive living environment that helps young adults develop independent living skills and a network of community support so they can successfully get their lives back on track.

How else does a sober living house empower young adults to lead full independent lives?

In addition to nurturing interpersonal skills, a successful sober living house offers concrete support in building and enhancing basic life skills. These skills may range from balancing a checkbook to learning how to study to writing an effective resume. A successful sober living house also has accountability built into it—whether that be through drug testing or by setting and keeping goals on a daily basis that help young adults transition to independence. All of this is supported by a professional staff who are on-site 24/7.

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