Treating addiction and mental health is often a life-long process. Treatment is highly focused on developing the life skills, coping mechanisms, and tools to support overall wellbeing. In many cases, addiction and mental health conditions are not “cured”, rather, a person develops the skills to support a happy, sober life with the assistance of a supportive community. While not impossible to do alone, successful sobriety is most often achieved with the help of a sober support network.
Dual diagnosis treatment provides individualized care to those who struggle with addiction and mental health disorders. Co-occurring disorders can produce a variety of side effects that may require specialized care to address. Both individual and group therapy are utilized in addiction treatment, but some specialized forms of care may also be used to address specific mental health disorders like anxiety or depression, unique individual factors, or specific combinations of substances and mental health needs.
The Benefits of Dual Diagnosis
While addiction treatment is designed to treat both mental and physical health, therapies catered to address the relationship between substance abuse and mental health is vital in supporting sobriety. Although substance abuse can cause any number of mental health symptoms as a normal side effect of use, the presence of a mental health disorder can make symptoms more severe. Addressing an addiction without also treating underlying mental health disorders often leads to ineffective treatment that ultimately results in relapse.
Addressing co-occurring disorders requires a number of changes in order to be successful. Some aspects that should be focused on include:
- Managing stress and emotions: Substance abuse is often related to poor coping mechanisms for stressors and triggers. In recovery, it is important to learn healthy ways to deal with difficult emotions and how to manage stress effectively. Stress and unpleasant feelings are inevitable throughout life making the development of these skills critical to long-term success.
- Developing a support network: In addition to relationships with substance-abusing peers, loneliness, isolation, and boredom can be triggers for relapse. Much of recovery is focused on developing positive relationships with those who support your sobriety and the sober community as a whole. This can be achieved through mending relationships with friends and family that may have been hurt by past substance abuse, participating in group therapy, and engaging with support groups through aftercare services.
- Healthy lifestyle changes: Many people in treatment find that they may not know themselves as well as they think they do. When drugs and alcohol are out of the picture, figuring out what they identify with, what drives them, and what makes them happy is unknown. Much of treatment focuses on recovery from addiction, but it also spotlights the need to explore new interests, make changes to diet and exercise, and the development of life skills to support independence.
Sober Living with a Co-occurring Disorder
After completing treatment, stepping back out into the real world can be overwhelming. In addition to continuing the management of your sobriety, learning how to manage the responsibilities of everyday life may be too much. Rather than immediately transitioning into independent living, sober living homes provides a safe place to continue working through sobriety while gradually becoming reacquainted with life after treatment.
Sober living homes provide many benefits that are particularly helpful to those with a co-occurring disorder. Mental health and sobriety require long-term care in order to maintain and the structure of a sober living home has many of these supportive tools automatically built in.
- Sober community: A sober living home is made up of sober individuals who are actively working on their recovery. Some residents may be sober longer than others, but ultimately, they are able to relate to one another because they share similar experiences. Having a safe, sober place to return home to every night can help reduce the risk of relapse and allows for the development of a sober safety net within the household.
- Continued therapy: Therapy is vital to the recovery process. In a sober living home, residents are able to continue engaging in individual and group therapy. This ensures they are actively working through difficult emotions, tough topics, and potential pitfalls that can threaten sobriety. Because mental health conditions and addiction require life-long care, the ability to stay close to support and therapy is incredibly beneficial.
- Accountability: A sober living home is not a hotel. Residents are expected to actively participate in the upkeep and care of the home. Each home is different, but in general, clients may expect to contribute to bills, purchase groceries, and do household chores. They are also often expected to either have a job or be enrolled in school. This helps residents develop accountability for themselves and their peers.
Sober living is not a form of treatment for co-occurring disorders, but it can provide a number of tools and methods of support that promote successful recovery. Maintaining sobriety and improved mental health requires continued engagement with therapy and other forms of support designed to address individual needs. As clients’ needs change over time, the amount of support needed may shift as well. Sober living homes provide a unique way to stay connected to the community and treatment resources while actively working on cultivating independence to support long-term sobriety.