A lot of buzz surrounds the “difficulty” of going to rehab. Detoxing sucks, residential gets deep into intense problems… but it’s the wake of these stages that most people in recovery start to break down and return to their old ways. Sober living tries to combat this tendency to relapse by slowly phasing people toward a greater degree of independence. But with a caveat: you have to deal with other recovering addicts and alcoholics who have similar weak spots. Start mixing in difficult personalities and maturity issues, and you wind up with the problem of dealing with roommates in sober living. So how do you cultivate a good experience in a sober living home?Dealing with Roommates in Sober Living

Dealing with Bad Experiences

Bad roommates are everywhere, but they pose a dire risk in sober living environments. Your support network should consist of people you get along with reasonably well. But obviously, you don’t have 100% control over that in a sober living home.

Bashing heads with people you just don’t get along with can act as a major relapse trigger. High stress environments tend to flip bad switches for people in recovery, and these types of situations need to be managed with care and vigilance. While it is an option to switch homes to get away from bad fits, it is a simple truth that most shared living arrangements run into problems.

So rather than seek out a completely harmonious arrangement that you’re unlikely to find, consider the value of tolerance and damage mitigation. Don’t allow others to get a rise out of you when you’re otherwise having a good day; some battles are just not worth disturbing an established peace. These are interpersonal life skills that translate well to other cruxes of life too (the workplace and difficult family members come to mind).

Positive Influences & Role Models

Keeping one another accountable is the main purpose of sober living. Identifying positive role models and housemates willing to keep you accountable takes maturity and experience.

People who are new to sober living dynamics often fall into the trap of rolling along with toxic interactions. Too much structure can create an urge to push back, but engaging in shady behavior just creates more problems in the long run. For example, you might get away with coming back 30 minutes after curfew with your buddy, but pushing that boundary opens up the door for relapse. That’s where positive affirmations step in.

Here are some examples of seeking positive affirmations that are helpful in a sober living environment:

  • Inviting roommates to call out your bullshit.

    Most recovering addicts recognize that they became master manipulators to support their former habit. So when you throw a handful of those people together, they tend to recognize when you’re acting a bit shady. Nipping that behavior in the bud helps keep you on a positive trajectory. And it keeps you accountable!

  • Befriend roommates who are more mature than you are.

    Or at least ones who align the best with the way you want your life to look. While it can be fun to low key mess around with people who are exciting, those behaviors are the same ones that enabled active addiction to thrive. Mature roommates, on the other hand, will set an example and bring out the best in you rather than the worst.

  • Participate more in house meetings.

    Most sober living homes hold house meetings to keep everyone on right track. These meetings can eventually feel like a chore that you tune out until you can go back to doing your own thing. But actually engaging in house meetings on a regular basis is a built-in positive affirmation.

On the other side of the coin, it’s just as important to distance and discourage toxic influences that threaten your sobriety.

Identifying Toxic Roommates in Sober Living

Living in a house with people around your age provides many opportunities to bond. Unfortunately, some of these interactions can prove toxic and actually hurt your progress in recovery.

Befriending roommates who lack maturity and resolve to stay sober can be one such toxic dynamic. Spending any prolonged period of time with people who don’t care about their own sobriety becomes a temptation to stoop to their level. It doesn’t feel quite like stooping when you’re close to the situation, so it’s helpful to identify these types of people beforehand and stay wary.

No matter how fun it may seem, engaging in shady behavior while in sober living starts to cripple all of the progress you’ve made up to that point. During these times, it can be helpful to play the tape as we are taught to do in treatment.

“If I agree to do [shady action], I’ll start getting lax in my program. I’ll stop going to meetings outside the house. Eventually a beer will find its way into my hand. And that eventually becomes a few beers. Once I’ve established I’m ‘okay’ doing that, I’ll pretty quickly pick up [your drug of choice] again. And just roll with that. And then I’m back where I started.”

Go over that scenario again and again until the temptation to be shady fizzles out. You know yourself well enough by now to understand why these behaviors need to be avoided, even if our inner addict says they’re just fine.


If you or a loved one needs help for a substance abuse problem, our addiction counselors are available 24/7 by phone: 855-737-7363