What’s Next? Sober Living Environments

In Lifestyle by westporthouse

You have admitted to yourself and to others that you have developed an addiction to alcohol or drugs and have recently completed a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program. But the journey to a drug- and alcohol-free life does not end here. Most recovering addicts, regardless of the type of drug addiction they are recovering from, are not prepared to function without having adequate sober living plans in place.

Did you know? For most recovering addicts, alcohol or drug relapse most often occurs within the first six months after they have completed an addiction treatment program. Therefore, it is highly recommended that recovering addicts participate in a alcohol and drug treatment or aftercare program for at least six months after leaving.

Many who are recovering from substance abuse issues find that to remain sober immediately following treatment they must immerse themselves in a sober living environment. These environments serve as transitional living programs between the treatment center and their former lives. Sober living environments were originally introduced as a safe and supportive place for recovering addicts to live during their recovery. The environment offers a place for the recovering addict to live that is both structured and supportive. It is not necessary for the person to have just completed a rehab program, although this is the case for many sober living residents.

The sober living environment originated on the west coast and soon spread across the United States. Most sober living environments provide a lot more than a transitional living environment. Many revolve around sound recovery methodology and 12-step programs. Residents are typically required to take random drug tests, to take part in 12-step meetings, and to demonstrate that they are taking the steps necessary to achieve long-term sobriety.

What is a Sober Living House?

A sober living house is a drug- and alcohol-free environment that offers a positive place for recovering addicts to find recovery support in their peer group. Recovery homes provide individualized recovery plans and offer an environment that allows residents to work on their unique recovery program with the goal being to become self-supportive.

Residents generally must be able to support themselves, pay their rent, and purchase their own food. They are usually required to work or must be actively seeking work. Students who are enrolled in an accredited trade school or academic institution are typically not required to work while staying at the sober living house, although many do. Residents who are permanently disabled or who are receiving local, state, or federal assistance must provide service work to the sober living house or the community. All residents must attend a minimum number of 12-step meetings each week, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Sober Living House Rules

If you choose to live in a substance free living house, you will be required to respect and adhere to all of the house rules. Rules are in place to protect you and other sober living guests and to make the living arrangement more enjoyable for everyone in the house. A list of rules will be given to you when you first enter the house, and residents are generally required to sign a contract stating that they will obey all the house rules. Sober living house rules may vary from house to house, but most include the following:

  • No drinking alcohol
  • No taking drugs
  • Must smoke in designated smoking areas
  • Must have no sexual contact with other residents
  • Must not steal from the house
  • Must not destroy house property
  • Must not engage in violent behavior

Some drug and alcohol recovery houses have a zero-tolerance policy in effect regarding the above rules, meaning that if a resident breaks one of the house rules, he or she will immediately be evicted from the house. Others are a bit more lenient with certain rules and stricter with others. For example, you may receive a warning if you are caught smoking in a non-designated smoking area; however, the warning generally states that the next time you are caught smoking outside of a designated smoking area you will be evicted from the sober living home. All sober living houses have a zero-tolerance policy in effect regarding sexual contact between housemates. You are living in the sober house to work on living sober. Try not to let your attraction to another housemate interfere with your recovery program.

Did you know? Recovery homes tend to be communal in nature. Depending on the size of the house, occupancy generally ranges from six to 30 residents. Almost all sober living homes have only one gender living in the house; coed sober living homes are almost nonexistent.

Halfway Houses: What’s the Difference?

Halfway houses are also called recovery houses. They allow recovering addicts to begin reintegrating with society while receiving support and monitoring. Some halfway houses have been established to provide recently released jail or prison inmates a place to live as they reintegrate with society. Others have been established to house those with chronic mental health disorders. Most, however, have been established to house people with substance abuse problems.

The biggest difference between sober living houses and halfway houses in the United States is that a halfway house generally provides a rehabilitation treatment program. The program runs throughout the day, and residents receive group counseling and intensive individual counseling for their substance abuse problems. The average stay at a halfway house ranges from one to six months, and behavioral health insurance typically covers all or a portion of the cost of the stay. At sober living houses, on the other hand, residents are simply required to remain sober and to comply with the minimal requirements of their recovery program. At sober living houses, residents pay for their own expenses. In some areas, a halfway house is licensed by the Department of Health and includes 24-hour per day staff service, which usually includes a clinical addiction treatment team.