Why Structure is So Important in Sober Living

Recovering from a substance use disorder is no easy task.  It can be challenging, awkward, and sometimes painful. Sober livings can help individuals successfully stay sober and rebuild their lives in sobriety. Sober living houses provide support for residents as they face the challenges of early sobriety and learn to navigate life without having to rely on drugs or alcohol.

Life in a sober living home may require a bit of an adjustment. It is likely very different from the type of life you were leading during your days of active addiction. Going from a life of addiction to life in a sober living home can be a shock. The main reason is that life in a sober living is highly structured. This is all the more true when it comes to structured sober livings — sober living homes that offer even more structure. What does it mean for sober livings to have structure, and why is structure such an important part of addiction recovery?

What is Structure?

Structure can mean many things, depending on the context. Broken down simply, the concept of “structure” simply means living life with aims, goals, and a certain amount of predictability. This may sound boring, but it is often actually a far more effective way of accomplishing your goals. Without structure, it is far more likely that you’ll simply wander aimlessly through your days, doing little. Sure, you may end up doing a few activities you enjoy, but there is a good chance you’ll forget to get groceries, get to your therapy appointment, or pay your bills.

Having a structure entails having a set schedule each day. That schedule doesn’t have to be tight or rigid — there can be room for flexibility. But it means that every day you have a certain amount of focus. Structure also helps you prioritize long-term goals. Not only will you have a to-do list each day, but you can work towards future plans. Instead of just wasting time as the clock ticks, you can use structure to empower yourself and develop your life. For this reason, even though words like “routines” and “schedules” may sound boring, structure is actually one of the best ways to ensure that your life is interesting, dynamic, and yours.

The “Negative Structure” of Addiction

It can be helpful to recognize that life in addiction is actually quite structured! You likely woke up every day with one single goal: to get intoxicated and stay intoxicated. While there is no doubt that people in active addiction often lead dangerous and impulsive lives, in most cases addiction is fairly predictable. A lot of addicts and alcoholics follow the same routine each day: earning enough money to buy drugs or alcohol, going to the same place to get them, and then getting intoxicated. Even if you go to bed every night at 6 AM, that’s a kind of structure.

Aside from the severe and sometimes life-threatening consequences, one of the reasons that substance use disorders are so painful is that your life is being structured by outside forces. Instead of choosing how to live your life yourself, drugs and alcohol are making all the decisions for you. Whether your substance of choice is alcohol, heroin, or crack cocaine, chances are your schedule is quite rigid and inflexible, since it is geared 100% toward satisfying the needs of your addiction. As a compulsive and involuntary structure, addiction is a type of “negative structure.”

The Importance of Structure in Recovery

Sober living houses help residents recover from addiction by offering them not only a safe and trigger-free environment but also a great deal of structure. After living a life structured by addiction, quitting drugs and alcohol can cause people to feel lost. It is important to replace the “negative structure” of addiction with a structure that is healthier, more life-affirming, and that the individual actually enjoys.

Structure is crucial since it helps individuals feel more accomplished. It also assists with goal-setting and completing. Having a daily structure helps individuals keep their priorities in the correct order. Structure is important for just about anyone, but for individuals in addiction recovery, it is absolutely essential. During addiction recovery in a sober living house, you have a set schedule. This set schedule is encouraged not just for the convenience of sober living staff members, however. What is the importance of the schedule, then?

Having a structure and a daily schedule limits your “downtime.” Being idle can lead to boredom. Boredom can lead to negative emotions — or directly to relapse. Having a routine is also important for developing a sense of comfort and familiarity. Instead of feeling lost and uncertain each day, you will be able to move your feet forward and confidently take charge of your day.

Most importantly, perhaps, the routines, schedules, and resources offered by sober living structure are all geared toward recovery. Making healthy meals, attending group meetings and support groups, managing your finances, and getting to important medical appointments on time are all elements of the recovery process. So structure has many inherent benefits, but it is also important to recognize that the specific activities you engage in as part of your sober living schedule also have many benefits for your recovery.

A Healthy Recovery Routine

Your daily routine in your sober living can vary, depending upon the specific house you live in as well as your current stage of recovery. Some elements that might constitute a recovery routine may include:

  • Waking up at the same time each day — even on weekends!  Sleeping at consistent times can repair your brain and reduce substance abuse triggers.
  • Doing tasks around the house in order to ensure a clean and well-maintained environment
  • Having set meal times — and even having rotating cooking responsibility for group meals
  • Setting aside time for work or school work
  • Developing a hygiene and self-care routine
  • Engaging in daily exercise, sports, or a fitness regimen
  • Taking time for recovery, support, or AA meetings
  • Scheduling and attending necessary appointments, including therapy and medical check-ups
  • Engaging in fun hobbies or activities with fellow sober housemates
  • Setting aside daily time to center yourself and be alone

This may sound like a lot. What’s truly amazing, though, is that once you have a set routine, many of these activities become automatic. Having a healthy schedule means you don’t need to stress out about getting any of this done — you just need to put one foot in front of the other.

It is also worth mentioning that taking part in these schedules with fellow housemates is a great way to bond with them. After all, since you are living similar lives and engaging in many activities together, you will have much to share and laugh about. This can help build connections. Studies on sober living houses repeatedly demonstrate that graduates of sober livings have lower relapse rates down the road, and these lowered rates are directly attributable to the strong social support systems that residents cultivate.

Structured Life Outside of a Sober Living

Another reason that sober livings encourage you to live in a structured way is that life outside of a sober living home is generally fairly structured. In order to meet commitments with friends, family members, work, school, and even with hobbies, it is necessary to follow a schedule and hold yourself accountable. Sober living houses are designed to help individuals transition from addiction to a healthy life in sobriety. This means developing a structured approach to living as well as a set of strong core values, including honesty, integrity, responsibility, and accountability. The structure and principles that individuals learn in sober living houses allow them to succeed in any endeavor they choose to pursue!

Daily life in a sober living is not rigid. As you develop a stronger foundation of sobriety, you will likely be encouraged to start considering your goals for the future and taking tangible steps toward them. Setting goals takes structure beyond the confines of the day-to-day, as you consider your plan for the next 5 years, for example, and break that plan down into smaller steps. During your year in a sober living home, you will inevitably get a job — which will structure much of your day. You also may find yourself planning for a new career or applying to an academic program. Fortunately, with the structure and support of your sober living community, you will be well-prepared to tackle any of these.

Recover from Addiction at Design for Recovery

Design for Recovery is a structured sober living home that is located in West Los Angeles. It is a single-sex sober living home for men that offers a safe, supportive, and trigger-free environment for recovery. No matter what a person’s substance of choice was or how extreme their addiction was, residents have the ability to turn their life around at Design for Recovery. Our young men work daily to develop the toolset, values, behaviors, and peer support that they need to maintain long-term sobriety. In the process, they work to build new lives for themselves beyond what they ever could have envisioned for themselves during their years of active addiction.

Design for Recovery was founded on a simple concept: substance addiction recovery involves more than just quitting drugs and alcohol. Successful recovery necessitates developing a life that is meaningful, joyful, and free. Residents at Design for Recovery work to develop a strong foundation of values to live by. These crucial principles include honesty, integrity, responsibility, and accountability. By cultivating these values, a prosperous and joyful approach to life becomes possible. Career prospects change, relationships improve, and the future opens up. Best of all, making use of the tools necessary for long-term sobriety becomes second nature.

If you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, help is available. Contact us today. No matter where you are in your recovery journey, the structure, support, and resources of our sober living home can help you stay sober and rebuild your life.

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