Are You Looking at Sober-Living Houses? Here Are a Few Things You Should Know

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Sober-living homes provide a strong support network and community to help you safely navigate the tough spots and triggers you may encounter

Let's say you or a loved one has almost completed an alcohol or other drug addiction treatment program. Or maybe you're going to start an outpatient program, but living at home isn't a sober, supportive environment for you. Now what? Maybe a sober recovery home is a good option for you.

What Is Sober Living?

Sober living is just like it sounds, a place to stay where you'll have a supportive community and can start your new life free from alcohol or other drugs. Residents in sober-living homes commit to abstaining from substance use while participating in outpatient programming or after completing inpatient drug rehab.

Living in a sober environment helps you develop new habits and routines, taking what you learned during drug or alcohol rehab and applying it in your daily life. This is where the rubber starts to meet the road in addiction recovery.

Think of sober living as your support net as you practice new skills, gain new insight and shape your new life in recovery with other people who are possibly facing the same challenges. Sober-living homes provide a strong support network and community to help you safely navigate the tough spots and triggers you may encounter. 

How Does Sober Living Work?

There are many options for sober-living homes that work in a variety of ways, so finding a good fit based on your individual needs is important. Sober living can occur at the same time as outpatient addiction treatment programming, or it can occur after completion of a treatment program. The National Association of Recovery Residences define four different categories of sober-living environments, including:

Level 1 Peer-Run: These are often single-family homes that are democratically run, typically with a senior resident holding other residents accountable. Drug screenings and house meetings are typical, but there are no paid, clinical positions within the home.

Level 2 Monitored: These are typically single-family homes or apartments. They can be run by a senior resident or a house manager with at least one compensated position. Drug screenings and house meetings are typical as well as peer-run groups and house rules.

Level 3 Supervised: This type of dwelling varies, but the facility is typically licensed and there is organizational hierarchy, administrative oversight, and policies and procedures. Life skills development is emphasized, and clinical services are provided outside of sober-living services. Staff are certified, and drug screenings are standard.

Level 4 Integrated: Services tend to be provided in a more institutional environment and are often transitional services for those completing an addiction treatment program. Clinical services are provided in-house with a strong emphasis on life skills development. Staff are credentialed, and drug screening is standard.

What Is a Halfway House?

Halfway houses are very similar to other sober-living residences, and it's no surprise that people often confuse them.

Halfway houses serve as the halfway point between an institution and independent society, with residents usually coming from either correctional or inpatient treatment facilities.

Halfway houses, like other recovery and sober-living houses, are intended to gently reintroduce tenants back into society, free from the pressures and triggers of a potentially dangerous home environment.

Also like other sober-living environments, halfway houses generally have systems in place to keep residents sober, and drugs tests are usually administered to monitor for any substance use. They also often come with additional mental health, medical, recovery or educational services that help people get accustomed to their new lives.

What Are the Differences between Halfway Houses and Other Sober-Living Houses?

Although halfway houses share a lot in common with sober-living homes, there are a few key differences that set them apart.

For one, the residents of halfway houses may be court mandated to live there, and a resident may be coming from a correctional facility rather than a substance use treatment program, which is usually the case with recovery or sober-living homes.

Similarly, the tenants of a sober-living home are often in the middle of an ongoing recovery process, attending Twelve Step meetings and other outpatient programs for their substance use—whereas the tenants in a halfway house may not be engaged in recovery programs.

Lastly, halfway houses are often owned or sponsored by the state, while most sober-living houses are owned privately or by treatment facilities that want to provide continuing support for their patients.

What Is a Sober-Living House Like?

Sober-living environments vary widely. Some are on the campus where drug and alcohol addiction treatment is provided, and others are independent homes, apartments or condos. The number of residents depends on the size of the home or licensed beds in a facility. In most sober-living environments, bedrooms are shared, but some do provide individual rooms. In some cases, the more-senior residents will get a single room. Each facility may be structured differently in terms of rules. Typically, there are rules about shared living spaces and individual room maintenance and chores, visitor hours, meal times, curfews and Twelve Step meeting requirements.

How Long Can You Stay in a Sober-Living House?

How long you stay depends on the sober-living facility and your progress in recovery. Some sober-living facilities are only offered for as long as you are in the treatment program. For others, you can remain in a sober-living environment after treatment is completed.

The time spent in a sober-living home depends on a number of factors including strength of recovery from addiction, progress on clinical milestones and the personal living situation at home. A minimum stay of three months is recommended, but many benefit from a longer stay for sustained sobriety.

What Are the Requirements to Get Into a Sober-Living Home?

Some facilities require a minimum number of days of sobriety from substance abuse, but many will work with you to determine if you're a good fit.

How Much Does Sober Living Cost?

The cost varies by the type of sober-living environment and length of stay. The more services provided, the more it's going to cost. Location is also a factor in the cost. Some sober-living homes have a base rate with additional costs for added services. When you're looking for a sober recovery home, be sure to ask what's included in the monthly rate and what is extra. Some examples of additional services may include transportation to appointments, recovery coaching, meals and gym memberships. But when considering some of the services offered, make sure they're services that help support your sobriety. Part of living in recovery is "showing up for life," meaning doing things for yourself that make you a successful, contributing member of society. When in active addiction, we tend to ignore the things that make us successful. So when getting back on our feet and in recovery, cooking and cleaning for ourselves is part of a healthy recovery plan.

How Do You Find a Sober-Living Home?

Since sober living typically follows addiction treatment, getting a referral from the treatment provider is recommended. Other referral sources may include the criminal justice system, a mental health professional, Twelve Step meeting participants, or friends and family. Whatever the source of the referral, take a tour of the facility and talk to the people living there to decide if it's the right fit for you.

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