Sober living houses are living environments for those who want to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs.1 Maintaining abstinence is difficult without a stable, drug-free environment following treatment. Most sober living environments provide a lot more than a transitional living environment; many revolve around sound recovery methodology and 12-step programs.1
What Are Sober Living Homes?
Sober living environments were originally introduced as a safe and supportive place for recovering addicts to live during their first months sober.1,2 It is not always necessary for the person to have just completed a rehab program to live in a sober home, though. Sober living can also be an important resource even for those seeking an alternative to formal treatment.1
Some sober living programs in Southern California are also certified by the Sober Living Coalition, which sets a high standard for safety, cleanliness, management practices, and ethics.3 Residents are typically required to take random drug tests, participate in 12-step meetings, and demonstrate that they are taking the steps necessary to achieve long-term sobriety.1
What are The Benefits of Sober Living Homes?
Sober living homes offer individualized recovery plans and provide an environment that allows residents to work on their unique recovery program with the goal of becoming self-supportive. Sober living relies heavily on the philosophy of peer support and involvement for recovery.1
Newer models of sober living are sustained by residents who support themselves, pay their own rent, and purchase their own food.1 They are encouraged to work or actively seek work if they are not employed.1 Many residents qualify for some type of government assistance that can be used to pay for sober living house fees.2
Residents may stay as long as they wish, provided they follow house rules and fulfill financial obligations.2 Residents may be strongly encouraged or mandated to attend a minimum number of 12-step meetings each week, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), or Narcotics Anonymous (NA),1 and some sober living houses also require participation in community service activities.
Clean and Sober Transitional Living (CSTL) is a group of sober living homes in California that places emphasis on community and commitment.1 CSTL homes offer two distinct types of living arrangements, separated by two phases. Residents must successfully complete phase I in order to move on to phase II.4
What to Expect in Sober Living Facilities?
Residents of a sober living house are required to respect and adhere to all of the house rules, which are in place to protect all residents and guests and to make the living arrangement more enjoyable for everyone in the house.1,5 A list of rules is provided upon admission into the house, and residents are required to sign a contract stating that they will obey all the house rules.1
What Are Sober Living House Rules?
Sober living house rules may vary from house to house, but standard rules often include the following:6
- No drinking alcohol
- No taking drugs
- Any cigarette smoking must take place in designated smoking areas
- Must have no sexual contact with other residents
- Must pay your program fees on time
- Must not steal from the house
- Must not destroy house property
- Must not engage in violent behavior
- Must be actively involved in self-directed recovery program activities
Some sober living houses have a zero-tolerance policy in effect regarding the above rules and residents may be evicted from the house for any violation.1 Others are a bit more lenient with certain rules and stricter with others.
Does Sober Living Work?
Some people might be deterred by the idea of living in a sober living facility, thinking that it’s ineffective and a waste of time and money. However, having a structured, alcohol and drug-free environment can have a great impact on a person’s abstinence.18
Generally, programs available at this type of facilities can be beneficial for individuals struggling to stay sober. Sober living houses provide a safe space for people recovering from substance abuse and addiction and help them slowly reintegrate into everyday life.18
A study that followed 300 individuals that entered two different types of sober living houses has found that abstinence rates over a period of 6 months and more have increased from around 11% to 68% in one sober living program, and from around 20% to 45% in another.18
The study also noted that, while almost all recovering users had left sober living facilities after 18 months, abstinence improvements still persisted in the period afterward. The positive effects of increased abstinence rates could also be seen in the increase in employment and decrease in incarceration and arrest of sober living attendees after their stay.18
How Long Can You Live in Sober Living Homes?
The length of one’s stay at a sober living home will greatly vary from one person to another. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) generally recommends that a stay at a sober living home should last for at least 90 days. However, this greatly depends on each individual, as well as any programs they might be attending.18
Generally, sober living homes allow individuals to stay as long as they want to, provided that they follow the rules. The average stay is around 150-250 days, but this varies based on individuals’ needs and situation. Some people might require or want more time to properly recover and ensure that they avoid a relapse. Sober living houses allow recovering individuals them to stay connected to the sober community and continue with their abstinence.19
Additionally, any type of a sober living program might suggest or require certain time to be spent in sober living to ensure proper recovery. As these times vary from program to program, there are usually no set maximum times for living in these facilities, at least not those that are under the programs’ requirements. 18,19
In any case, it’s always best to ask the house staff regarding the length of stay, since another determining factor might be the facility itself. 18, 19
What’s the Difference Between a Sober living Homes and Halfway Houses?
The biggest difference between sober living houses and halfway houses in the United States is that halfway houses generally require that residents either have already completed or are actively enrolled in some type of formal rehabilitation treatment program; sober living homes do not.2
Another difference is that halfway houses have limitations on how long a resident can stay.2 Halfway houses are typically subject to government funding, leaving them vulnerable to funding cuts, and for those who are court-ordered to remain in a halfway house, generally the maximum time will be 12 months.6
At sober living houses, residents are simply required to remain sober and to comply with house rules—including paying rent and other dues, completing household chores, and attending house meetings.1,2 Residents pay for their own expenses.1
In some states, a halfway house is licensed by the Department of Health and includes 24-hour staff service, which usually includes a clinical addiction treatment team.7 Some halfway houses have been established to provide recently released jail or prison inmates a place to live as they reintegrate with society.6 Others have been established to house those with chronic mental health disorders.1 Most, however, such as federal halfway houses, have been established to house people with substance abuse problems.6 Many halfway houses will only accept residents who do not have criminal records because halfway houses that accept ex-convicts have experienced opposition from neighbors when trying to locate their halfway house in certain neighborhoods.8
Similarities Between Sober Living and Halfway Houses
The duties and responsibilities of residents at sober living houses and halfway houses are very similar in nature. All house guests must do their part to keep the house clean and neat, including picking up after themselves. The sober living arrangement is so much more rewarding when all residents chip in and help each other.
What are the Duties and Responsibilities of Halfway Houses?
Some halfway house duties and responsibilities include the following:9
- Chores such as keeping living space clean
- No pets or feeding animals
- Pay fees in a timely manner
- Take messages for other guests
- Attend at least two 12-step meetings per week
- Attend other weekly meetings such as house meeting, therapy group, and educational group
- Keep mental health and medical appointments and arrive on time
- Take your medications as prescribed
- Inform the house manager if resident will be out overnight (eligible for a 48-hour overnight pass once per month)
- No overnight guests
- Residents must have disability or full-time employment on admission
- Persons on disability are required to do volunteer work
- Smoking in designated smoking areas only
Are Halfway Houses Safe?
Halfway houses are generally considered to be safe for people recovering from substance abuse. Given that halfway houses are usually state-regulated and licensed facilities, one can expect to be met with a comfortable and safe environment while living there.18
These facilities employ professional staff that ensures the safety of their residents and that helps with their recovery by providing a supportive living environment.18
However, it’s still important to take steps to ensure that you’ve found the right facility for yourself or a loved one. This will help ensure that the environment is safe, increasing your or a loved one’s chances of recovery.18
This can include researching the facility of choice both online and in person, asking about their state licence and the programs that they provide. You can also call a helpline and discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
Additionally, there are rules and regulations that help ensure safety in halfway houses. Some of these include physical exams, inclusion of life skills classes, visitor approval which denies visits to people with felony convictions, smoking and substance prohibition, passes and curfews, discouragement from bringing valuable belongings or any type of items that can be used to inflict harm.18,20
What Happens if You Walk Away From a Halfway House?
Even though halfway houses are generally similar to sober living houses, they are actually a bit different. The main difference lies in the legality of walking away from one.21
While both sober living and halfway houses are facilities that provide safe and supportive environments for recovering individuals to properly reenter society, halfway houses are generally regarded as correctional housing where there’s a mandatory length of stay.21
This time can vary from 3 to 12 months, and walking away from a halfway house can have the same consequences as violating a parole. The justice system views walking away from halfway houses to be similar to escaping from prison or even committing a felony. The main reason for this is that many halfway house residents live there as part of their sentences. Violating these conditions can result in a 2-5 years imprisonment charge.21
For this reason, it’s best to consult the halfway house manager regarding how long you should stay and under what conditions you can leave the facility.21
If a person lives in a halfway house voluntarily, though, then the situation is a bit different. As people who enter a sober living home on their own are not bound by legal regulations to reside there for a specific period of time, they’re usually free to leave. However, it’s still best to check with the halfway house manager regarding the house’s rules.21
How to Stay Sober?
Whether living at home, in a sober living house, or in a halfway house, it is imperative to have a plan in place for how you will live in recovery.10 The following are a few tips to help you live sober long-term:
Attend a 12-step program at least twice a week: Most recovering addicts need to be involved with an addiction support group.10 The support group is made up of people who have gone through or are currently experiencing the same or similar issues regarding recovery. The group can offer support and provide feedback to you about any concerns you have about living sober.
Get a sponsor and call him or her as often as necessary1: The sponsor has accepted the responsibility of being a mentor, so reach out often and talk about any problems. The sponsor likely has experienced similar problems and can offer help and guidance.10 It is important to stay in contact with peers who are also in recovery to help one another stay sober and remind each other to work on daily programs. The recovery process does not have to be done alone.
Eat three meals per day: Drug use causes negative lifestyle changes included irregular eating and poor diet, which means the body does not receive the daily nutrition it needs to function.11 Regular meals are important because a person with substance use is more likely to relapse if they have poor eating habits.11 Eating foods with low fat, more protein, dietary fiber, and even vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful during recovery.11
Exercise at least three times per week: Addiction recovery involves the spirit, mind, and body. Exercising can play a large role in recovery by reducing compulsive behaviors.12 Regular exercise is known to release endorphins, which are your body’s natural feel-good biochemical compounds.
The most important thing is to have a long-term plan in place. Set a goal to achieve long-term sobriety. Recognize that relapse may occur, so have a plan in place if and when a relapse should occur.13
What’s a Sober Living Community?
Sober living communities refer to a group of people living in so-called sober living houses. These homes are designed to provide comfort to people who have undergone rehabilitation for substance abuse.18
The people living in these homes usually follow a set of rules designated by the facilities themselves. These rules may vary from periodic substance testing to doing different chores around the house. What they all have in common is that the ultimate goal of sober living homes is to prepare their residents for a gradual return to everyday life.18, 19
Since there are usually multiple people living in a single home, there’s a sense of community among the residents, which may help speed up the recovery process. As the residents have gone through similar hardships, there’s a strong bond between them, which can help prevent a possibility of relapse due to the nature of mutual care and holding each other responsible.18
Furthermore, recovering individuals may stop feeling lonely as they did during their time of struggle with substance abuse. In these communities, individuals struggling with substance abuse can meet others who’ve experienced the same issues, which tends to help with reinforcing one’s hope and will to rehabilitate properly.18
Sober living communities also enable individuals to develop independence over time, as their rehabilitation progresses. This helps strengthen their willpower, as well as make sound life decisions and get their lives back on track properly.18
Does Insurance Cover Sober Living?
Sober living houses provide shelter and comfort to those patients that have undergone a rehabilitation program but are not yet ready to go back to their daily lives.16 However, sober living may bring significant expenses. Therefore, it’s best to be informed if your health insurance can cover the cost of living in a sober living home.
Unfortunately, that is most likely not the case because even though sober living houses provide comfort to those who have gone through rehab, they do not count as treatment facilities and are, therefore, not included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).16
Residents of these homes may be expected to pay rent, as well as cover certain utility bills. However, as with Medicaid, a lot of rules and regulations are predominantly state-based. For example, in the state of California at least, insurance won’t cover the cost of living in a sober home. However, certain discounts, such as free rent, are available at certain sober living homes.16
In case your insurance doesn’t cover sober living, you can consider finding other payment options, such as payment plans, loans, and out-of-pocket payments.17
Does Medicaid Pay for Sober Living?
Medicaid may cover some costs of treatment at a rehabilitation facility, especially if the patient is dealing with a complex addiction issue. According to the official Medicaid government site, a patient is covered for certain rehabilitation services, such as treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology. The patient is entitled to a semi-private room, as well as meals, nursing, and other hospital services and supplies (such as drugs).14
However, to fully benefit from Medicaid coverage, a doctor must certify that a patient indeed suffers from a condition which requires intensive therapy and rehabilitation procedures. As far as sober living is concerned, whether or not Medicaid will cover the cost of living in sober living houses depends greatly on various individual state policies, as well as specific sober living facilities.14
Some states and facilities have different standards when it comes to addiction treatment modalities such as detox, rehabilitation and, in extension, sober living houses. Therefore, different requirements for patients may be in place in terms of their eligibility, as there’s no standardized process at the national level. Facilities may have their own set of standards when it comes to being eligible for treatment or stay.15
It’s also important to note that eligibility rules may be changed annually, so it’s vital to check every now and again to see if the same conditions for Medicaid apply.14
Finding A Sober Living Home or Halfway Home Near Me
As you complete an outpatient or inpatient program, consult with your treatment team to see if a sober living home or a halfway home is a good choice for your next step in your recovery.
Are you feeling unsure about whether you need inpatient or outpatient treatment? Sober living or a halfway house? Reach out to one of our admissions navigators to discuss your treatment options. They are there 24/7 to provide the support and help that you need. Call .