What to Look for in a Sober Living Home
Sober living homes, or transitional housing, provides a middle ground between a structured treatment center and full integration into society and regular everyday life. A sober living home can be a great way for a person to ease back into the community slowly after addiction treatment.
What Is a Sober Living Home?
A sober living home is usually a house within the community, sometimes maintained or connected in some way to a treatment facility or community-based addiction treatment center. In these homes, small groups of people who have completed an addiction treatment program will reside together. The number of residents often depends on the size of the house.
Generally, there will be a range of people in recovery in a sober living home. For example, some people may be further along in recovery than others, and this can provide hope, encouragement, and mentorship for those just moving in who are new to recovery.
The main rule in a sober living home is that individuals remain free from drugs and alcohol. Residents are also expected to follow the house rules, help with chores, and keep up with rent payments. Helping to prepare meals and clean up around the house can restore a sense of self-reliance and purpose. Responsibilities can be slowly added in as a person moves through recovery and becomes ready to handle more responsibility.
Most sober living homes do not require individuals to continue with formal addiction treatment; however, participation in support group meetings, therapy, educational opportunities, and aftercare or alumni services is often encouraged. The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs publishes that individuals who participated actively and regularly in a 12-Step program (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) while residing in a sober living home were more likely to remain abstinent for longer than those who didn’t.
A sober living environment can provide individuals with social support and a healthy peer network upon reentrance into society after treatment. Addiction is a relapsing disease, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports addiction relapse rates that are between 40 and 60 percent. Per NIDA, treatment should last at least 90 days and then be followed with some form of ongoing and lasting support to minimize relapse. In a sober living home, individuals have time to keep practicing habits, coping mechanisms, and new life skills in a safe environment.
Questions to Ask When Looking for a Sober Living Home
There are many factors that contribute to addiction and how it affects each person, making treatment highly variable. Just as addiction treatment varies in terms of offerings and programs, sober living homes are not all exactly the same. Finding the right fit can be extremely beneficial to a sustained recovery.
Here are some questions to ask when deciding on a specific sober living home:
- Where is it located? Location is important. The sober living home needs to be in an area that is easily accessible for the individual and close to where they may continue to attend meetings and sessions.
- Is transportation to meetings, sessions, and aftercare services provided? Some sober living homes may make arrangements for rides, be on a community transit route, or allow residents to have their own cars.
- How many residents are there? It can be beneficial to find out how many beds there are and how long the residents have been there.
- Is it a specialty sober living home? Some sober living homes are targeted to specific demographics, such as men or women. There are many different types of sober living homes catering to all demographics of people from all walks of life.
- What are the costs associated with living there? Sober living homes can be low-cost and affordable, but location, the number of residents, and other factors can influence the cost. Some may be more expensive and offer more amenities. Be sure the home selected is within the family budget.
- How long can people stay? Sober living homes generally allow residents to stay as long as they wish if they continue to adhere to the house rules and regulations. A halfway house, however, is a type of transitional housing that has more strict requirements on admission and length of stay.
- What are the requirements of admission? Typically, individuals in a sober living home will first have completed a residential, or inpatient, addiction treatment program, although this may not always be the case. Each sober living home has its own selection criteria.
- What are the expectations while living there? Each sober living home will have their own set of house rules. These rules are often made by the residents themselves. There may be rules on curfews, visitors, time spent outside of the home, etc. Individuals residing in a sober living home are also required to perform chores around the house as outlined by the rules and regulations of the specific house.
- What are the rules regarding visitors? Sober living homes may have set visiting hours. It is important for individuals to remain vigilant, especially during early recovery; therefore, people who may not be supportive of a sober lifestyle are discouraged from visiting.
- Are drug tests performed? Most sober living homes will do random and regular drug and alcohol screenings to ensure that individuals are abstinent while residing in the home. There is usually a zero-tolerance policy on drug and alcohol use.
- What is the daily schedule? A sober living home is not as structured as an addiction treatment program; instead, residents are in charge of their own schedules. There may be set waking, eating, and lights out times, and also times set aside for checking in with each other and socializing together. Residents often attend peer support and 12-Step meetings, and many may also attend counseling and therapy sessions while in residence.
A sober living home can serve as a great transitional environment between the intense structure of an inpatient addiction treatment program where sleep times, meals, meetings, workshops, and sessions are all strictly scheduled and back home where individuals are in charge of every aspect of their own lives. In a sober living home, the pressures of “real” life are not quite as great.
The social support provided by other residents in a sober living home can be ideal in early recovery, as each resident has the same overarching goal of continued abstinence. The brain is often damaged by chronic drug and alcohol use and can take time to heal. Medical and mental health personnel may continue to provide check-ins with residents of a sober living home and help to manage medications and any co-occurring disorders that are simultaneously being treated.
While living in a sober living home, individuals may begin to return to aspects of “normal” life. Some may return to work or school, for instance. Families may spend time together during the evenings and weekends.
Overall, a sober living home may help to minimize relapse and encourage long-term recovery. Substance abuse treatment providers are great resources when looking for a sober living home, and addiction treatment programs can often provide referrals to homes in the area.
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