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What Is a Sober Living Community?

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Sober living homes are a residential option for recovering addicts looking to transition from a rehabilitation environment back towards integration into society. These homes can provide an ideal living environment for individuals to work on maintaining their abstinence while re-learning how to hold a steady job, perform daily tasks, and relate to others in a healthy manner. Most patients will come from a residential program, though not all do. However, patients are required to have at least 30 days sober prior to moving in, although every case is usually looked at uniquely.  In this article, we will outline what sober living entails and get into some of the basics of choosing a sober life and home. Read on for more!

What Is a Sober Living Home?

Sober living homes are structured residences for individuals looking to maintain abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol. The vast majority of inhabitants in sober living homes are in a transition phase between rehabilitation and full recovery. It is not necessarily a requirement of sober living homes for potential residents to have just finished treatment in a clinical rehabilitation setting, but it is often required that residents are, at a minimum, through the detoxification phase.

Sober living homes are not just communal homes for people recovering from an alcohol and drug addiction to live in together. They provide structure and support, which are necessary elements in the fight for long-term sobriety. Furthermore, they often have no-tolerance policies when it comes to relapse. Warm community atmospheres combined with structured sober living recovery plans incentivize residents of sober living houses to do their best in maintaining their sobriety. While sober living homes share a common concept and goal, they are not all created equal. There are multiple levels of sober homes available to potential residents, each with their own benefits of sober living, and it is important to choose a home that fits your specific needs.

Level 1 Homes

Level one homes give the least amount of support to residents and offer the least oversight and services. Oxford Houses are a great example of the level one model. Oxford Houses are a housing model that was introduced in 1975 in Maryland. They involve a democratic system for governance, in addition to mandating abstinence for all household members and strongly encouraging or mandating certain recovery activities. Any household decisions are voted upon by each occupant. Such decisions include whether to allow a potential member into the house; therefore, if you are looking to join a level one home, the entire household will hold a vote. With a democratic governance model, no outside manager or supervisor is needed, which keeps costs low but does potentially put members at a higher risk of relapse due to a lack of support.

That being said, level one homes are still considered sober living homes and abstinence is required, as is participation in some sort of active recovery. This can include a 12-step program, outpatient counseling sessions, or a variety of other options. While most level one homes do not provide on-site recovery options, living with other recovering addicts still has the potential to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and cohesiveness that has a very beneficial effect.

Level one homes are the least structured option for a sober living home, and it is recommended that only those individuals who already have a strong grip on their path to a clean and sober recovery seek residence here. While some structure and rules are certainly provided, there is still enough freedom and space to allow members to do as they will. One benefit of level one homes is that costs are relatively low (usually only the cost for rent, utilities, and other shared expenses, divided by the number of residents). Sometimes, a small association fee is required to hold membership in the affiliate’s network.

Level 2 Homes

The primary difference between level one and level two homes is how they are governed. While level one homes use an equal-vote democracy, level two homes utilize an elected supervisor to make decisions on behalf of the household, resolve any disputes or complaints, and ensure that all residents comply by the house rules.

Level two homes do not have recovery services on-site; however, they are much stricter than level one homes when it comes to the participation of all residents in aftercare plans. In addition to mandatory participation in a recovery group or sobriety counseling, drug and alcohol tests are often regular and strictly enforced. Level one homes tend to be much more relaxed when it comes to sobriety testing.

Higher levels of support and structure do not come free to residents of level two homes. In addition to the costs of a level one home which include rent, utilities, and shared expenses, level two homes often include a charge for services of the supervisor and for drug testing. For this reason, a level two home with similar amenities to a level one home would probably be somewhat more expensive.

Level 3 Homes

Level three sober living homes provide the most structured environment for long-term recovery available to recovering addicts aside from inpatient rehabilitation. The programs offered in level three homes are far more structured and time-consuming than those in a level two home. Level three homes often include paid counselors and other staff who assist residents in maintaining their sobriety and beginning to reintegrate into society. This on-site staff allows for some recovery options to be available in the home, including support groups and life skill coaching. Clinical treatment is generally still provided off-site but may be mandatory depending on the specific household’s structure and the stages of recovery of the residents. In addition, all the mandates of level two homes tend to apply to level three homes as well. This includes mandatory drug and alcohol testing, support groups, and aftercare plans (in addition to some clinical treatments that may be required by a level three home).

Of course, paid on-site supervisors and counselors (and the structure and support they bring) come with a cost. In addition to the costs outlined for level two homes, residents of level three homes can expect to pay significant fees for the administrative staff and counselors. While these expenses may seem daunting at first, level three homes can literally save an addict’s life as it hangs in the balance. Choosing a lower level home or no sober living home at all when you are in the tender stage of reintegration could end up being far more costly if you relapse and are forced to return to inpatient rehabilitation, or worse.

Finding a Sober Living Home

Now that you have gained a strong understanding of what a sober living home is and the different levels of homes available to prospective residents, you may be wondering how to go about looking for a sober house to live in. To start, check the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration database for homes in your area. While most of these homes are government-funded ‘halfway houses,’ there are some legitimate sober living homes listed, so it is not a bad place to start. Next, it would be wise to contact third-party networks that have directories of sober living houses in your state. Simply search “sober living home directory in (your state)” to pull up some databases.

Once you have compiled some options for yourself, consider checking that these homes have certifications from legitimate and reputable sources. Membership in a regional network that has been certified by the National Association of Recovery Residences is a key sign of a well-managed home. Additionally, certification by Oxford House is a good start if you are looking for a level one home. Finally, regional associations offer certifications and generally mandate similar standards as the National Association of Recovery Residences.

Finally, use your wits when you are looking for a sober living home. Look for houses that offer clearly defined rules and guidelines. Look for houses that are clean and tidy, as this is often a sign that the structure in place for organizing household members to perform chores and other tasks is working well. And finally, ask around about potential residences and get a feel for the local reputation of the house.

Paying for Sober Living

Paying for sober living is the responsibility of the tenant. Some homes may require that you hold at least a part-time job. In this way, paying one’s own rent and expenses is actually an integral part of the sober living model, for as residents begin to get a grip on their lives again, they slowly add responsibilities and work towards a normal life. That being said, financial assistance from a variety of sources may be available to prospective tenants of sober living.

Is Sober Living Covered by Insurance?

The short answer to the above question is: not usually. That being said, it can never hurt to check with your health insurance provider about the potential for them to cover costs. Additionally, there are often cases in which rent and other living expenses are not covered, while house-mandated recovery plans fall under one’s health insurance. In fact, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to provide coverage for mental and behavioral health. This means that while your rent may not be covered, your weekly 12-step program and drug test is. For more information about insurance coverage for sober living housing, read our related article on “Is Sober Living Covered by Insurance?

How to Make Sober Living Affordable

A common question regarding the financial aspect of sober housing is, “How much do sober living homes cost?” While it may seem daunting to become responsible for rent and other household costs after rehabilitation, the sober living home model does make it possible to receive the support you need without taking on too much at once. Prices do vary for sober living houses and will still largely reflect the local rental market, but rooms tend to stay between 450 and 750 dollars per month a significantly cheaper option to living in an apartment. However, depending on the location, structure and services, the cost of sober living can be in the thousands. Additionally, some homes are subsidized by local or state governments, making them affordable even in expensive areas. If you are still apprehensive about costs, consider the following options for paying for sober living.

  • Get a Full or Part-Time Job

Sometimes required by the home guidelines, having a job not only helps a recovering addict pay their expenses, but it also pushes them to reintegrate into society. In most cases, patients are guided through the process of getting a job after successfully completing certain steps in the program.

  • Set Up a Crowdfunding Page

If you are truly not ready to hold a job, consider reaching out to friends and family for help in your recovery. Many loved ones will be eager to help, especially because sober living homes have such a high rate of success in recovery. You could always make an effort to pay friends and family back later when you are on your feet and holding a steady job.

  • Use Savings or a Credit Card

If you have no other options, it is not unwise to consider dipping into savings or even using a credit card to pay for sober living. Finances should not keep you from having access to the tools you need to recover successfully. If you are worried about being in debt, consider the much higher cost of an inpatient rehabilitation center, should you relapse at any point. Your life is at stake when it comes to your recovery, and any means necessary to maintain your sobriety should be considered.

For more information on sober living communities, contact Haven House. We are here to help you along this journey to becoming drug and alcohol-free.

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