Overview of Sober Living

Leaving the structured safety of formal rehab can be worrying for many people. Sober living homes ease the transition back to day-to-day living by providing a stepping stone between rehab and everyday life.

This article will explain what sober living homes are, how they work, and their benefits.

How Do Sober Living Homes Work?

The concept of the sober living home came out of California, although the idea has spread to many other states. The environment is designed to gather a group of people who are all working on recovery from addiction, who can support each other through the transition from treatment back into full independence. Sober living homes are not the same as inpatient rehabilitation, although many offer group therapy and drug testing as ways to ensure the safety and success of residents.

While the number of residents in sober living homes will vary, the point of the living situation is for the residents to support each other as they strive toward greater, sober independence. Residents must pay rent for their room or bed, and must also participate in household chores and house meetings between the residents. As long as residents comply with the basic rules of the home, they can stay as long as they want; however, they are encouraged to work toward full independence.

Residing in a sober living home for a period after treatment, but before returning to complete independence, has been shown to help recovering people maintain a positive trajectory to long-term sobriety and health.

The Difference Between Sober Living Homes and Halfway Houses

Sober living homes were inspired by halfway houses, but these two programs are not the same thing. Halfway houses often run on government support, which means many of the services they offer suffer when government programs are cut. Halfway houses also required residents to have successfully completed a recovery program before receiving a bed. Additionally, there is often a time limit on how long you can stay at a halfway house.

In contrast, sober living homes use rent money paid by the residents to support the house’s functions, along with some government funding and nonprofit grants. Sober living homes strongly encourage residents to have completed inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation before joining, but it is not always required. Some residents may have completed rehabilitation prior to finding room in the home, but relapsed after leaving treatment, and have now found they need a stronger base of support for their sobriety.

Who Benefits from a Sober Living Home?

Sober living homes work for many people in different situations. Although the residents primarily come from rehabilitation programs and use the homes as a bridge between rehabilitation and full independence, there are a variety of reasons people may want to live in a sober living home. Some of these reasons include:

  • They have the desire or need to stay away from their previous living environment or social situations, because they could be triggered to relapse or pressured to participate in substance use.
  • They need a safe and sustainable living situation that supports continued recovery.
  • They still need structure and support in their newfound sobriety but they want to have freedom to find employment or continue their education.

How Long Can a Person Stay at a Sober Living Home?

A study that examined the success of two sober living facilities, Options Recovery Service (ORS) in Berkley, CA, and Clean and Sober Transitional Living (CSTL) in Sacramento, CA, found that retention of residents was very high. Residents at ORS typically remained for up to 254 days, while CSTL residents stayed for around 166 days.

Sober living homes can be a stepping stone in the course of that treatment, and they can reinforce positive behavioral and lifestyle changes that were made during rehabilitation. These homes allow residents the freedom to stay on a long-term basis, with a more flexible schedule that allows for employment. In return, residents have been shown to be more responsible with their recovery, and maintain sobriety for longer after leaving the sober living home.

Benefits of Sober Living Homes

The study of the Berkley and Sacramento County sober living homes showed that former residents of both ORS and CSTL typically transitioned successfully into full, sober independence. While some former residents did relapse at the 18-month follow-up point, many continued to maintain their sobriety. Residents also experienced improvements in finding and keeping jobs, lower rates of incarceration, and reduced severity of psychiatric symptoms.

Some of the benefits of sober living homes provide the foundation for long-term sobriety. They include:

  • A community of people who understand what you’re going through and can provide support and encouragement.
  • A safe sober environment, free from triggers to use substances, that can help you practice skills learned in formal treatment.
  • Life skills training, such as paying bills, healthy cooking, and working as part of a community.

Finding the Right Sober Living Home

While sober living homes do not have to offer drug testing or group therapy, those that do typically have state licenses that regulate those medical activities. In general, a sober living home is simply a place that does not allow drug or alcohol use, so residents can support each other while they recover from their addiction or substance abuse. However, homes that more closely monitor the safety and wellbeing of their residents through therapy and drug testing usually have better success rates. In addition, state licensure or group accreditation ensures that the sober living home complies with safety standards and a code of ethics.

Some other things to look for in a sober living home:

  • Location.
  • Cost.
  • Reviews.
  • Features and amenities.
  • Structure and expectations for residents.

Getting Help for Addiction in South Florida

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, we can help. At our inpatient rehab in South Florida, we use evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to find meaningful recovery from substance use disorders.

Contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at 24/7 to learn more about our different levels of care — and to find one that’s right for you. They can also answer your questions about what to expect in treatment, how to start rehab admissions, and tell you if your insurance will cover some or all of treatment.

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