The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists Home, Health, Community, and Purpose as the four keys to stable recovery. It’s true that the home is vitally important to many of us. It’s a safe place to sleep, it gives us security, a sense of peace, and a place to manage our daily routines in. While individuals coming out of drug or alcohol addiction are more likely than anyone to know what it’s like to be without a home, the home environment can be a vitally important part of recovery, and fostering those elements is important for that recovery.
While simply taking care of yourself and your home will never be enough to guarantee that you stay in recovery, it can help. If you are struggling, many rehabilitation facilities now offer home–care, life skills, and support in caring for the home as part of treatment and as part of aftercare.
1) Structured Environments and Mental Health
Most of us are aware that we feel better when we’ve just cleaned the house or when we walk into a tidy or aesthetically pleasing environment. Most of us are less aware that a cluttered environment actively causes stress, creating disorganization, inability to find things, and constant distraction. Clutter actively makes you feel bad, and can contribute to relapse through stress and anxiety. But, taking care of your environment and building a tidy, clean place where you want to live actively boosts your mental health and your mood.
If your home is cluttered or frequently dirty, creating structured schedules to clean and declutter it will help with your mental health and your sobriety. Here, it may be an idea to simplify your possessions, to take time every day to clean a little bit, and to organize your possessions in ways that require little maintenance and care.
2) Social Support from Loved Ones
For most of us, the home environment is about family, parents, siblings, loved ones, children, and friends. If family isn’t part of your life, you should incorporate a close social network so that you have people to lean on and to support. Most of our meaningful social interaction is done at home, and home should be a place to lean on people and to ask for help.
At the same time, negative social environments at home can greatly contribute to relapse. If your family are not supportive, are still drinking or using drugs, are violent or abusive, or create very stressful environments, this may not be an ideal environment to recover in. Changing your home environment can be difficult and costly, but if home is a significant factor in stress and distress, it may be important for your recovery to move out. Sobriety homes can offer significant support but consider discussing options with your rehabilitation clinic or facility before making decisions.
3) Providing Reliability and Stability
Reliability and stability are important factors in addiction recovery, and your home can provide both. While this relies on a stable income or stable housing through some other means, not having to worry about rent and housing can relieve a significant amount of stress. In addition, having a stable home will allow you to focus on your health, your habits, and your routines. This can be significantly impactful on recovery.
Vice versa, lack of stable housing is a significant contributor to stress and therefore to relapse. Individuals with significant housing problems, who are staying with unstable relationships or in volatile relationships/families should prioritize finding new housing, which is why many rehabilitation facilities offer job placement and housing services to help graduates move into safe and comfortable living situations.
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4) A Safe Place to Destress
The home is a space where you can get away from the outside world and have a space to be upset, to be happy, to destress, and to do nothing. Most of us work in busy and demanding environments, school is busy and demanding, traffic is stressful, even support groups can demand a lot. Your home should provide you venues to relax, to meditate, to exercise, to work on things you love, and to take care of yourself. That means building a space where you feel safe, where you take care of yourself, and where you set boundaries for yourself so that you have that time.
5) Building Healthy Habits
Taking care of your home and your environment can require significant work. Clutter, disarray, dirt, and laundry are all immensely stressful. But building patterns of habit surrounding cleaning, cooking food, exercise, and sleep routines in addiction recovery can be very good for your sense of discipline and for building habits. Simply taking 15 minutes a day to clean up your home, building regular schedules around sleeping and waking, and investing in your home will build the same skills and tools you need to resist cravings and move on with your recovery. And, because they improve the quality of your life, they also reduce the need to cope using substances, effectively helping your recovery in two ways.
6) Creating Happiness
Your home is a place where you can invest in yourself and your happiness. Barring financial issues, you have the opportunity to create an environment where you can grow and thrive. That can mean changing decorations, it can mean buying plants or a pet, it can mean barring people who bring negativity into your life, and it can mean learning and growing as a person. Your home is your space to do something with, and it will change and grow with you.
7) A Step Away from the Past
No matter where you go in recovery, you are moving forward. Your home is there with you and you can invest in it, invest in an environment that adds to your life, and invest in the social circles you meet and engage with in your home. Wherever you go, your home offers support, a place to rest, and a place to grow from.
Sober homes or halfway houses are increasingly popular as an option for individuals who don’t have the option of returning to an ordered, drug and alcohol-free home environment. While not everyone has access to sober or halfway homes, they can provide considerable assistance to individuals who need safe, supportive housing while they navigate the early stages of recovery, move back into the job market, and begin to rebuild their lives. If you do have a supportive household, can live on your own, or otherwise don’t have to worry about housing and your environment, this isn’t an issue. For the many people who do, there are almost always options.
No matter where you are in your recovery, good luck. Hopefully your home can be a meaningful contribution to your recovery and to your life moving forward.