Jennifer L. McCrackin
Director & Recovery Coach
In the early stages of recovery, you might begin to question your motivation and even start to return to old behavior patterns. Pure Life Sober Living aims to create an environment that will keep you from succumbing to negative thoughts and behaviors to prepare you further to function in the real world. However, sober living comes with one caveat; living with other individuals recovering from substance use, which, like you, might have weak spots. With many different personalities and maturity levels, you may face challenges that create problems with your roommates. However, you can utilize many different tools and techniques from your recovery toolbox to cultivate a good sober living experience.
Navigating Bad Experiences
Having a negative roommate is not limited to just clashing with a person because you have differences in your personalities or maturity levels. A roommate might be an enabler and tempt you to drink, use drugs, break curfew, and form alliances against other roommates. Any of these scenarios may create relapse triggers. High-stress environments tend to flip the wrong switches within you, and these types of situations need a proactive approach that uses care and persistence. While your first impulse might be to move to another sober living situation, understand that these problems can occur in any sober living environment.
Rather than searching for the perfect living conditions that are not likely to exist, use this opportunity to exercise tolerance, resilience, and communication. Use your experiences to determine how you feel.
For example, when you have a good day, focus on why you are having a good day instead of getting pulled into the bad day that another roommate is having. Try not to get "hung up" on the small things like a sock on the floor or a dish in the sink. We all have different ways that we like to live, and we cannot expect everyone to be as timely when it comes to cleaning up and other household chores. Remember that this is part of the shared experience and that the patience you develop in these environments will help you in other life areas.
The idea of sober living is to create an environment where the residents hold each other accountable. Instead of arguing with more combative or less mature housemates, make it a goal to identify the more responsible and mature housemates. This will offer you a positive outlook that will help keep you accountable. While you might want to push back against the structure of sober living, pushing and resisting these boundaries will take you further away from your goals. The rules of sober living exist to put your recovery needs first.
Encourage Roommates to Open Up
Encouraging roommates to offer constructive criticism might sound like a sure-fire way to start an arguement. However, you are not only utilizing a tool for lasting recovery, but you are supporting an environment that promotes honesty, leadership, humility, and accountability. When you were using drugs and alcohol, you may have developed the skills to hide and manipulate other friends and family to thinking that everything was okay. However, because you live with others who share similar experiences, it will be that much harder to manipulate them. Being honest and upfront with them lets them know how serious you are about recovery, which helps keep you on a positive trajectory. Giving others that kind of leadership can also instill a sense of responsibility and maturity to help one another.
Don't Gossip or Resent
Resist the urge to resent in silence or gossip about your roommate to others.
Remember: the first one to know about a roommate conflict should be the roommate. People in recovery need to be careful of holding a grudge because they fear facing an uncomfortable situation, such as confronting someone. When that happens, we develop resentments and that can be dangerous territory. You can bet that your roommate will eventually get wind of all of your complaints. So, be mature, and take it to the source (i.e. directly to your roommate) when something is bothering you. If you have addressed the issue and nothing has changed or your uncertain on how to approach the issue, talk with people you can trust, like your sponsor, therapist or with myself.
Participate in House Meetings
We hold meetings every Sunday evening to make sure everyone is staying on track. After a while, these meetings can feel like work. Or worse, they can feel like they are getting you nowhere and even cause a sense of resentment because you think you are past the discussion topic. When you lose interest in meetings, you become less motivated to participate. If you feel that the meeting is not connecting with you, speak up. Ask a question that might take the conversation to a different place or encourage housemates to bounce new questions off of your question. These meetings exist to give you a voice to express your concerns. Don’t waste the opportunity to participate, and remember that when you’re having a bad day, you need to be in a meeting, and when you’re having a good day, you need to be the meeting,
Set Boundaries, BUT Do Not Retreat
Set boundaries with yourself and others. It can be challenging to prepare for responding to a situation, especially when your first response might be emotional. However, establishing boundaries might help you get back to the center before going over the edge. Setting boundaries starts with knowing your triggers and what you need to do to combat these triggers. Is it meditation, exercise, or reaching out to your sponsor? When you know your weaknesses, you can better develop ways to combat and even avoid triggering situations.
Try to identify those in your living environment who may not be suitable for your recovery. If you think befriending this person can result in a conflict or harmful behavior, think of ways to avoid meeting them at their level.
On the same token, don't retreat into yourself because you are fearful of these differences. Coming out of your old isolation and coming to terms with how to communicate is extremely important! Do not "shut down" to avoid talking about how you feel. Learn how to convey these feelings, so resentment does not build with negative feelings.
It might sound harsh, but your recovery and well-being should always come first. If you do not feel that other housemates are ready to handle recovery responsibilities, you don’t have to go out of your way to befriend them. While recovery hinges on support, the individual also has to be fully committed to the most successful journey, and only the individual decides when they are truly ready.
Living among different personalities is never easy at any point in life. Know that you are much more open in a sober living situation than you may think. Care for your needs, and try to understand and learn from these vulnerabilities. As tempting as it may be, you don’t need to pretend you are something you’re not. While you might have roommates you do not get along with, it shouldn't make you uncomfortable or runaway. View this environment as an opportunity to learn and attain reasonable goals that will extend beyond your time here. This will help you in maintaining a peaceful, sober life hereafter living in this world full of so many different personalities and situations you encounter.
Don't be afraid to fail, Be afraid not to try. You will only become what you believe yourself to be. Never let yourself say "I Don't Care".
Stay on your path...