What is a Sober Living Environment?
Sober living environments are housing options that are supportive of a clean and sober lifestyle.1,2 They are residences outside of treatment that offer a safe living environment for people who have already been to treatment, may otherwise be exposed to drug and/or alcohol use, are not safe, don’t have stable housing, or have no social support.1, 3 Some people may move into a sober home directly after treatment, but others may transition after a period of abstinence followed by a relapse, or if they feel that they are at risk for relapse and don’t want to or are unable to return to treatment.1
Sober Living for Extended Stays
Recovery is often a long process, and it varies from person to person. After completing an inpatient treatment program, moving into a sober house can help people readjust to daily life without the use of substances. Sober living facilities do not provide any direct treatment services to residents and aren’t licensed by state agencies like treatment facilities.1,4,5
Rather than providing treatment services, sober living facilities offer a constructive living environment and supportive services by assisting people in recovery to develop healthy routines without the use of alcohol or drugs.6 Sober living facilities aren’t structured like treatment centers; rather, they allow residents to learn how to constructively structure their routines in preparation for living independently.
What to Expect in a Sober Living Home
While a sober living home is not the same as clinical treatment, residents are expected to follow certain rules. The rules may vary between facilities, but the following expectations are typical:1 (p1-3), 2 (p2-4), 3 (p1, 5), 4 (p9), 5 (p2-3), 6 (p1-3)
- Attending 12-step meetings. In the absence of formal treatment, attendance at self-help meetings is either mandatory or strongly recommended as a condition of continued residence in a sober living home. Rather than passively attend meetings, it is suggested that all residents actively participate and work on a recovery program, which includes getting a sponsor, working through the 12 steps, and participating in service positions that keep the meetings running.
- Attending house meetings. Required house meetings are held on a regular basis, and allow everyone to discuss their progress, goals, and issues.
- Making sober friends. Peer support can be an important factor in the recovery process, especially while distancing from relationships associated with alcohol and drug use. Senior members in a sober house, and in self-help meetings, may offer support, encouragement, and hope to newer members. Providing mutual support can instill a sense of self-worth and pride.
- Getting and maintaining employment. Reintegrating into society and learning to develop a healthy routine involves obtaining and maintaining employment. Sober housing and the supports that it offers may be the first period of stability a person experiences in a long time. This allows people in early recovery to find and maintain steady employment. Working also provides a positive activity to participate in on a regular basis, and a steady source of income to pay for the cost of housing.
Sober Living Houses and Oxford Homes
Sober livings and Oxford Homes are 2 common models of sober living homes.2 While they are similar, there are some important differences in how they are run.2
Sober Living can mandate self-help meetings, while Oxford House doesn’t have that requirement.2 Oxford House has housing limits ranging from 6 to 10 people, while there are no set limits for Sober Living facilities.2 The way the homes are managed varies as well, with Oxford House having a single management style across all facilities, and Sober Living varying between each house.2
Sober houses are freestanding residential homes.1,7 Smaller organizations may operate a single home, while larger ones may run multiple homes.7 Sober homes can range in size and accommodations offered, with some homes offering shared bedrooms and bathrooms, while others may offer private bedrooms, bathrooms, and certain amenities, such as a pool.7
The main goal of a sober living environment is to help people maintain sobriety and improve their quality of life.1,5 Living in a sober house can have a positive impact on a person’s recovery in a number of ways, and is associated with an increased likelihood of long-term sobriety.1, 2, 5
Addiction can make it difficult to maintain steady employment. Sober houses provide stability, support, and encouragement to seek employment, including vocational training to learn job skills.5, 6 People who live in sober homes have better employment-related outcomes over time, even after moving into independent housing.5, 6
Friends & Relationships
One of the most important aspects of addiction recovery is social support.1 Peer support is at the foundation of how sober homes function, and the networks become similar to family relationships.5 , 7, 8 Having strong sober support can indicate a greater likelihood of sobriety.2 Sober houses require people to share living space and attend communal meals, fostering a feeling of community.5 , 6 Being around people with similar experiences may help people become more willing to give and accept feedback, be accountable for their actions, and maintain motivation toward sobriety.8
Sober housing can provide housing stability and help people on their way to living independently.4 (p9), 6 (p2) For people who were previously homeless or come from unstable or unsafe housing environments, this can be a very important step in recovery. Paying housing costs and participating in housing chores can make it easier to transition to independent housing.
Adjusting to Your New Life
Transitioning from inpatient care to independent living can be overwhelming and sober houses can ease the readjustment period. Returning to an environment with triggers can lead to relapse. Sober houses can be a positive influence by helping people create new associations within the community, or even relocate to a new community.7 (p11) Learning to follow the rules in a sober house will make it easier to transition back into an educational or work environment.7 (p13)
Regularly Attending Meetings
Attending 12-step meetings is another important part of living in a sober house.1, 2 Meeting attendance is encouraged or even mandated, so people from the house may attend together, and participation is strongly recommended.1, 2 Houses include people in various stages of recovery, and people with longer periods of sobriety can help newcomers feel more welcome in meetings. Attending meetings with others may feel less intimidating, especially for people going for the first time.
How Much Does Sober Living Cost?
The cost of sober living can vary widely, depending on several factors. These factors can include:
- The organization that operates the facility.
- The size of the house, and how many residents live in it.
- What type of amenities are included in the house.
- Where the house is located.
- Whether the rooms are shared or single occupancy.
Renting a room in a sober house may be comparable to costs in the local area. It may be worthwhile to contact your insurance company to check if they cover the cost of sober living.
Is Sober Living the Right Choice for Me?
If you’ve been to inpatient treatment in the past and have relapsed or feel as though you are on the verge of a relapse, sober living can be an effective way to maintain your sobriety. However, if you are struggling with alcohol or drugs and haven’t been to treatment yet, a sober house isn’t likely to get you sober. Since treatment isn’t provided in a sober house, you won’t receive the care needed to help you detox from substances and address the underlying issues that contribute to and maintain addiction.
As the leading provider of substance use treatment in the United States, American Addiction Centers can help, whether you are looking for treatment or sober living facilities.9, 10 With facilities across the United States, American Addiction Centers can help you find treatment or sober living houses near you.9, 10
Still Unsure About Seeking Treatment
Learning about addiction and treatment options may feel overwhelming. If you are still unsure about how treatment works, how to ask for help, or how to get treatment, consider the following guides:
Don’t let your insurance, financial situation, or fear get in the way of getting the help you need. The first step is making the phone call to get valuable information that could help you heal and put you on the path to recovery.
- Polcin, D.L., Korcha, R., Bond, J., & Galloway, G. (2010). What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here? Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 42(4), 425-433.
- Polcin, D.L., Korcha, R.A.Bond, J., & Galloway, G. (2010). Sober living houses for alcohol and drug dependence: 18-month outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 38(4), 356-365.
- Polcin, D.L., & Henderson, D.M. (2008). A clean and sober place to live: Philosophy, structure, and purported therapeutic factors in sober living houses. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40(2), 153-159.
- Wittman, F.D., & Polcin, D. (2014). The evolution of peer run sober housing as a recovery resource for California communities. International Journal of Self Help and Self Care, 8(2), 157-187.
- Mericle, A.A., Mahoney, E., Korcha, R., Delucchi, K., & Polcin, D.L. (2019). Sober living house characteristics: A multilevel analyses of factors associated with improved outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 98, 28-38.
- Polcin, D.L., Henderson, D., Trocki, K., Evans, K., & Wittman, F. (2012). Community context of sober living houses. Addiction Research and Theory, 20(6), 480-491.
- de Guzman, R., Korcha, R., & Polcin, D.L. (2019). “I have more support around me to be able to change”: A qualitative exploration of probationers’ and parolees’ experiences living in sober living houses. Therapeutic Communities, 40(1), 51-65.
- Polcin, D.L., & Korcha, R. (2015). Motivation to maintain sobriety among residents of sober living recovery homes. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 6, 103-111.
- American Addiction Centers. (2020). American Addiction Centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2020). Resolutions.