Sober living homes are an important resource for recovering addicts and at-risk individuals with addiction issues. Many sober living homes are specifically designed for patients who have been recently released from treatment at a rehabilitation facility. Others accept both those who are transferring from a rehabilitation center and those who simply have an addiction issue but aren’t necessarily a candidate for rehabilitation. As you dive into this article, you will discover what sober living entails and how the many benefits of a sober living home could influence positive change in your life.
What is a Sober Living Home?
Sober living houses are structured living environments for individuals who are committed to maintaining abstinence from drugs and alcohol. While sober living homes were originally designed to house recovering addicts for a period of time immediately after they left a rehabilitation center, they now have more variation in terms of individuals accepted. Immediate post-rehab patients are still a large percentage of the population in sober living homes, but the communities are also comprised of people from many different walks of life who have addiction issues and are committed to staying sober.
Sober living housing is much more than a community for recovering addicts. It provides the structure and support needed to fight addiction and often have strict guidelines and little-or-no-tolerance policies when it comes to relapse. Drug tests, individualized recovery plans, regular 12-step meetings, and strong community participation are often requirements of a sober living home. Residents are allowed to stay as long as they wish and continue to reap the benefits of sober living, so long as they follow the community rules and fulfill their rent obligations.
What is the Difference Between a Sober Living Home and a Halfway House?
You may have heard the term ‘halfway house’ before, and you may even be wondering how a halfway house is different from a sober living home. While there are many differences, the fundamental distinction is that halfway houses are government-funded facilities, meaning they are subject to funding cuts and much less personalized federal-or-state-mandated house regulations. Furthermore, there are two specific types of halfway houses: Those set up for patients coming straight out of rehabilitation and those set up for recently released jail or prison inmates to help them with their reintegration into society.
Because of the strict governmental regulations on and funding for halfway houses, they tend to provide a much less engaging and genuinely supportive living environment when compared with sober living homes. Particularly in areas of high population density, sober living communities are becoming so numerous that potential residents often have multiple options to choose from and are able to pick a community that fits their specific needs.
Benefits of Sober Living
Sober living homes provide transitional and even some permanent living spaces to those needing extra support in their battle with addiction. Because they are intentionally set up with this purpose in mind, monthly payments often include a variety of workshops, groups, services, and amenities that help residents stay sober. In this section, we will discuss some of the benefits that are intrinsically part of sober living communities, as well as some of the more common amenities and support systems offered.
Community, Camaraderie, Communication
The primary benefit of sober living homes is intrinsic to their nature: You will not be alone in your fight to stay sober. You will not be isolated and made to feel different than others. Instead, you will live alongside peers who also struggle with addiction; and together, you will learn to live sober once again. While different homes offer different amenities and routines, all sober living homes share this common benefit. It is not uncommon for housemates to form lifelong bonds and deep connections that help hold them accountable and keep them happy in their sobriety. Those who have been in the program or who have spent any amount of time trying to abstain, know how important it is to have comrades who can relate to their struggle and offer support and guidance from a place of personal experience.
Sober living homes offer residents far more than a transitional place to live with other struggling addicts in rehabilitation. Most homes offer plenty of structured sober living to residents and even require participation in things such as 12-step programs, routine morning meditation meetings, random drug testing, and personal recovery plans. Patients are usually required to attend at least 5 out of house meetings with other housemates, and can slowly branch out on their own once they have achieved a freedom status. By providing such a stable, organized, and recovery-focused environment, sober living homes ensure that residents get the most out of their time there and that they are well on their way to living clean and sober independently.
A Smooth Transition
While different in many ways from a traditional ‘halfway house,’ a sober house does offer an ideal environment for making a smooth transition from an immersive care environment to an everyday home environment. Sober living allows residents the freedom to have jobs, carry out their own tasks and chores, and remember what it is like to have responsibility for their life once again. However, with the added structure and communal support provided by the home, recovering addicts are given the opportunity to take things slow and find the support they need at the end of the day. A safe, clean, organized, and sober living environment helps these individuals in their own personal journey of sobriety. Developing healthy home routines with the support of peers can ultimately enable recovering addicts to take the next step and feel ready to live on their own; clean and sober. In this way, sober living homes provide an invaluable resource to anyone looking to recover from a drug or alcohol addiction, regardless if they are coming straight from an immersive care facility or they are ready to live sober but don’t require full-on rehabilitation.
Strict, But Not Too Strict
While sober living homes do allow residents the freedom to remember what it is like to live a normal life, they also provide the discipline and structure to do so in a safe way. Many patients in rehabilitation programs cite the strict rules as a key element of their successful rehabilitation. In sober living homes, residency is often contingent upon following a similar set of guidelines. Mandatory meetings are often scheduled, and may be part of a 12-step program or may have a different format. Curfews, random drug tests, and room searches are not uncommon occurrences in sober living homes. Of course, sober living is the choice of each resident and the motivation to follow house rules and avoid relapse must be somewhat self-propelled. That being said, the supportive environment that is found in sober living homes is usually enough of an incentive for members to get on board with house rules and programs.
In this way, sober living homes provide a unique balance of supportive structure and discipline while also allowing residents to get back to a normal life. When a home is well-run, these two key elements of sober living work to feed each other and create a positive feedback loop in which sobriety, healthy living, productivity, and communal support are continually renewed.
Different sober living homes offer different hierarchical structures and use different leadership models. In order to maintain the sanctity of a sober living house, strong leadership is often required alongside communal involvement. In certain cases, live-in house leaders (or a house manager) will be in place to ensure that all household members follow the rules and guidelines and maintain a good path towards sobriety. These leaders are usually individuals who are recovered addicts with past experience living as a member of a sober living home. In other cases, house leaders are people who have never struggled with addiction themselves but have received professional training and are qualified to take on the challenges of facilitating a sober living home.
In other homes, every individual living in the house will be a recovering addict. In these cases, leadership is designated based on seniority. New residents are ‘at the bottom of the totem pole,’ so to speak. They are often subject to much stricter rules and guidelines and are required to take on a bigger portion of house chores. New members have little freedom when it comes to spending time outside the home or having guests over. While this may sound unpleasant, this phase is often quite necessary for newer members and allows them to get accustomed to the home while still having the structure needed to maintain sobriety. As residents achieve seniority in the house, they gain access to more freedoms and their responsibilities gradually switch from household chores to organizational and leadership duties. Senior members of a sober living home may even be responsible for facilitating group meetings and delegating chores to other members.
So, Why Live Sober?
Now that you are well acquainted with what a sober living home is and what living sober specifically entails, you may have some reservations about the idea. Since sober living homes are usually privately run entities, residents enter the household contract on their own accord. Why would a recovering addict who has recently been granted the freedom to return to their normal life choose an environment with rules, structure, strong leadership, and peers who share the struggle of abstaining from drugs and alcohol? The answer is simple: You will choose a sober living home because you are serious about staying sober, and you want to set yourself up for success and long-term sobriety.
While sober living homes present many challenges, these hurdles are only in place to help residents succeed in maintaining their sobriety. With a strong community in place to help each member of the household win their battle with addiction, incredible change can occur on an individual and household level. Not only do sober living homes provide a great environment and home base for abstaining, they additionally give residents enough freedom to gradually get accustomed to returning to a normal sober life.
When executed correctly, the sober living model has been proven time and time again to be extremely effective in reintegrating recovering addicts. The benefits of sober living have the potential to save your life, but not without your willingness to succeed and openness to structure. There are sober living models tailored to fit specific needs, lifestyles, and levels of addiction.
Questions and hesitations regarding the cost of sober living housing are common. Our related articles “How Much Do Sober Living Homes Cost?” and “Is Sober Living Covered by Insurance?” and provide all the information you need to find out affordable ways to live in a sober living home. Do not hesitate to look into options available and contact Haven House or your local addiction support center if you feel that sober living could be a good fit for you!