Sober living homes are drug-free living places where people live temporarily to recover from addiction or as they prepare to be self-sufficient. Formal treatment does not happen at these homes. Instead, help is informal, and support comes from peers instead of addiction recovery specialists.
Homelessness, unemployment, and lack of social support make persons in recovery vulnerable to relapse. Of these three major factors, lack of social support during recovery has the most impact on recovery.
By design, sober living homes remove these barriers. Residents share tips on maintaining sobriety despite all odds, finding jobs, or resolving personal issues contributing to their drug use. This informal peer-support model is what makes staying in a sober living house great as a bridge during addiction recovery.
The activities at sober living homes are structured to resemble daily life as closely as possible. While the structure of each day will vary, some activities are stable.
Residents have their rooms or share living quarters with other residents. Mornings start with chores like cleaning, making, and having breakfast together. Then residents leave for work, school, gym, or even stay at home. Residents may also visit their addiction recovery specialist if they get outpatient treatment while at home.
Most evenings go through the same routine too. Residents do laundry, cook, eat, and clean before settling down for a house meeting. House meetings are sessions where residents talk about their days, their current challenges, as well as achievements. Residents also resolve interpersonal disputes at these meetings.
Sober living homes are designed to be drug-free environments for people in recovery. And to ensure that the home remains safe, there are rules preventing residents from using or bringing in alcohol and other drugs. Depending on the circumstances, residents who violate these rules are evicted or made to leave temporarily.
However, there are no such safety rules for the broader society outside the home. Residents can still face situations that stress or trigger them to use drugs. But still, it is possible to stay sober while in a sober living house. Here are some tips that have helped:
There is no controlling exposure to drugs from people they meet or see every day for residents who have to work or school outside the home. Still, a person can decide to walk away from people or situations that are likely to use or be around alcohol or drugs.
This is not always an easy decision, especially when at a low point or work event. But choosing to do this builds self-confidence and self-control over time, making the resident better at handling complex situations in the future.
For residents who have to work or school outside the home, there is no controlling how other people they meet or see everyday talk about or use drugs. A wingperson is a friend, partner, or another resident who accompanies the resident to places they are likely to be triggered or pressured into using drugs.
12-step meetings and in-house meetings are where residents learn about how other people have faced their addiction and maintained sobriety. These meetings help residents learn new self-help tools applicable in real life. Residents can also discuss their latest coping mechanisms and how they would respond to hypothetical situations.
Aside from meetings and house chores, residents have a lot of free time. Left idle, anyone would eventually get bored and may feel nostalgic about the thrill they used to get. Getting involved with a community project, volunteering, going to a school, or training helps fill free time.
Apart from facilitating sobriety, these activities are also personally rewarding. More importantly, the experience or recommendations from these activities can help the resident take on better-paying jobs. The same applies to getting an education or technical training.
Meeting and moving with old acquaintances can bring back old habits. The same goes for living in a neighborhood where drug dealing or use is rampant. Moreover, even while living in a sober home, old friends are never truly far away because of social media.
To get better at sobriety, avoid stressors and triggers from former environments. These often include old friends and family members. Consider getting a new phone number, opening new social accounts, or choosing a sober home in another city.
For most people, these measures are temporary. It is a reliable way to avoid old associates and situations before they are ready to handle stressful situations. And for others, these measures are permanent, a clean slate to start over and be the healthiest version of themselves.
It depends. Most residents of sober living houses will have received some formal treatment, like detox or residential rehab, before moving in.
However, this is not a hard requirement unless a person’s addiction is severe. In that case, total abstinence from drugs and alcohol may be challenging for persons with severe addiction and special needs, like medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
On the other hand, persons with less severe addiction will find sober living homes very helpful for their recovery and sobriety.
Both sober living homes and halfway houses (HHs) are bridges for persons in recovery. It is even common for people to use these terms interchangeably. This is understandable since sober living homes and halfway houses have similarities. Still, both are different in many ways.
For one, these community recovery residences are informal living arrangements. So, anyone can open these residences without a license. It is not unusual for people to convert old family homes, motels, or abandoned factories to sober living homes, provided living conditions meet municipal ordinances.
Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) does not set standards of care at these residences, unlike formal treatment programs. Likewise, the regulation of sober living houses and halfway houses at the state level is also unclear. But despite the absence of official regulation, community recovery residences have rules, and stakeholders set up boards that manage internal affairs.
For one, residents of halfway houses must have completed or be in a formal rehab program before they can move in. Sober living houses do not have this barrier to entry.
Furthermore, residents can only live in a halfway house for a specified period, after which they must leave. On the other hand, there is no limit to how long a person can stay in a sober living home. A resident can stay in a sober living house for as long as they follow house rules and meet their financial obligations.
Meanwhile another difference is that halfway houses rely on government funding, insurance, or charitable donations to provide subsidized accommodation. In turn, the halfway house accepts patients from public rehab programs or clients from private rehabs affiliated with the house. Conversely, residents of sober living homes typically pay for their stay and expenses out-of-pocket.
Life at halfway houses is also more structured and controlled. Residents must attend their rehab sessions or find jobs in preparation for when their tenancy expires. Life at sober living homes is more flexible, and residents don’t have to attend a formal rehab session — even though informal group meetings are mandatory.
The four popular types of sober living homes, based on the levels of support they offer residents are:
Halfway houses are recovery residences that provide the highest support for residents. These residences are typically associated with formal rehab centers or alternative sentencing programs. While halfway houses are low-cost, there is little privacy. Also, residents are usually persons with limited external support, disabilities, or conviction history.
This type of sober living house is also often affiliated with formal rehab programs — usually intensive outpatient rehabs. The home takes greater responsibility for residents' sobriety and personal development. Residents attend workshops and acquire life skills that are useful for independent living.
Recovery houses are the most popular types of sober living homes. These homes are usually independent of formal rehab centers, and residents have more responsibilities. Managers or a governing board make house rules that residents follow, including curfews and drug tests. Although residents do not have to go to a rehab program, attending house meetings is compulsory.
Sober housing is the least formal among sober living homes in Florida and provides the least level of support for sobriety. This type of home is best-fit for persons with a strong external support group, jobs, education, or skills that can help them become self-sufficient when they leave the residence.
Sober living can be looked at as a 3-phase process comprising:
This phase focuses on detoxing or removing the resident’s access to alcohol and drugs. Peers take turns helping the resident adjust to their new environment and motivating them. The resident also spends this time learning house rules and attending group meetings. Early curfews are imposed at this stage.
In this phase, the resident becomes more active in the house. First, they start by shadowing older residents and assisting around the house. Eventually, they get added responsibilities or dedicated tasks that help them build stress tolerance. Many residents are also ready to resume school or find jobs in this phase. Curfew rules relax at the stage.
This is the last phase before the resident moves out of the sober living home. During this time, the person spends more time on their own, away from the house.
They may even get a more comfortable apartment and shuttle between the two places on alternating days. Residents at this phase still have curfews, but it is later compared to newer residents. Eventually, the person is ready to leave and stay on their own.
A sober living home gives residents structure and support when they most need it. Life in these homes is informal, and help is based on experiential learning from other residents. People who come to live here go through three phases, each preparing them to handle more responsibilities and live a healthy, sober life after leaving.
If you or someone you know struggles with addiction, help is near you. Call (800) 662-4357, the SAMHSA helpline, to find a rehab center near you. Your conversation with SAMHSA’s representative is confidential, and the line is open 24/7.
You may also use SAMHSA’s treatment center locator to find a rehab center reviewed and rated by independent experts. The locator shows the facility's location and contact information. You will also see an overview of available therapies, amenities, and supported payment methods.