While different from rehab, sober living homes can have an integral part in the recovery process and have been shown to support the recovery process according to researchers. They provide a safe and structured environment for people in early recovery as they are getting used to living a life of sobriety. This blog provides an overview of what to expect in sober living, who it is suited to, and how it can support people in recovery from substance use disorder.
What is sober living?
Sober living homes are a recovery residence that provides transitional support for individuals leaving formal treatment. These individuals may not yet be ready to return home, for a variety of reasons, like having limited social support, or no source of income. They are also called halfway houses (although these are slightly different with residents usually coming from correctional facilities), sober homes, Oxford Houses, and sober living.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, safe and stable housing is integral to recovery and can lead to positive effects on abstinence, employment, and criminal justice outcomes.
Recovery homes provide structured and supportive living environments that may include:
- 12 step meetings
- Furnished accommodation
- Recovery support
- Employment support and training
- Support accessing services, like Medicare or Medicaid, and long-term housing
- Case management
- Peer support
Sober living vs. traditional drug rehab
The key difference between sober living homes and rehab is that rehabs are formal programs run by counselors to help individuals achieve sobriety. Rehabs also provide detox, counseling, process groups, and family therapy. While sober living is also structured, it allows a lot more freedom than rehab and is a transitional step between rehab and returning home.
Each sober living home is different. Some are run by people who have lived experience (also called peers), counselors, or house managers. There are four levels of sober living support according to the National Association of Recovery Residences:
- Peer run: Typically a single-family home managed by another resident or someone who has graduated from the program, who is not paid.
- Monitored: also single-family homes or apartments, run by a senior resident or appointed house manager. This position is usually paid.
- Supervised: a more commercial operation with procedures, policies, and organizational structure that supports life skills and clinical services. Most staff are certified.
- Integrated: provided by credentialed staff who support transitional living by supporting residents to enhance life skills to sustain recovery.
Each residence will have a set of guidelines that residents must follow (see section below), and amenities differ depending on the type of sober living home. The goal of sober living is to increase recovery support (also called Recovery Capital) across financial, social, human, and cultural domains. It is up to the owner of the sober home how they define residents to stay accountable. Some homes require members to obtain employment and attend daily meetings, others may require regular drug testing.
Who should consider sober living?
Sober living housing is great for individuals with:
- Severe substance use disorders who have just completed a rehab program
- Limited social and home support
- No secure housing
- Limited resources
Additionally, sober living builds social support and provides a community among individuals all working towards the same goal of recovery. Residents also find that living among other sober individuals promotes accountability and shared problem solving that you might find in other self-help domains, like self-help groups.
How much does sober living cost?
Sober living costs depend on several factors:
For example, if the home is funded by a nonprofit, then it is likely there is funding available to support a lower cost of rent to say $400 per month. In contrast, private residences in California with beach views and more amenities will cost considerably more at around $10,000 per month.
How long can you stay in sober living homes?
The answer to this question is: it depends. If you’re doing well in your recovery, you may leave after three months. Other programs may have a minimum stay of three to six months, and others can allow residents to stay for 18 months or longer. It really depends on your progress and the support you have created to sustain you when you return home, like securing employment, stable housing, and a recovery community.
What are some sober living rules/guidelines?
Each home varies, but in general, residents can expect to follow some specific rules and guidelines, including:
- Random drug testing to maintain abstinence
- No overnight guests and limited overnights outside the home
- Obtaining employment
- Meeting rent requirements
- Regular meeting attendance
- Completion of an outpatient treatment program
- Achieving certain recovery milestones