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Everything You Wanted To Know About Sober Living

by Landmark Recovery

April 16, 2019
A suitcase packed by a women who is moving into a sober living home

Updated: September 21, 2022

What are the next steps after you’ve completed rehab? Like many who have recently graduated from a treatment program, you may feel overwhelmed by what the future holds. Integrating back into society can be an exciting and frightening prospect. For example, you be eager to rejoin your friends and enjoy your newfound sobriety, but you may also be nervous about having the freedom to potentially use again.

One possible solution to look at are sober living homes. Also known as recovery housing or transitional living, these homes offer a safe space for recovering addicts looking to reintegrate into society. Sober living homes can found in all types of neighborhoods. However, to be certified as a sober living home they must operate under specific rules and guidelines that help support resident sobriety.

What Are Sober Living Homes?

A man looking out a window and wondering what a sober living home is

Sober living homes are properties owned by third parties, usually separate from treatment centers. They offer housing for newly recovering individuals, as well as curfew enforcement, random drug testing, and in some cases even employment opportunities and referrals. These kinds of rules and guidelines can help keep residents accountable while allowing them the freedom to integrate back into society.

Residents of sober living homes pay rent to stay in the home and the house owner typically maintains the responsibility of upkeep and maintenance. Many sober living homes have recurring meetings where residents can participate in 12 Step type exchanges. For many in recovery, sober living homes can be the difference between going back to old habits and staying on the road to recovery.

While sober living homes don’t provide the same sort of safety, security, and assurance as a residential treatment facility, they are the next best thing, followed by intensive outpatient services. Sober living homes are less restrictive than residential treatment, but they offer more accountability and support then intensive outpatient.

What Are Sober Living Homes Like?

Residents in sober living homes are not confined to their residence, unlike inpatient treatment programs. In sober living homes, individuals can come and go according to curfew and generally live their lives in much the same way as before. The biggest difference now is that they must adhere to house rules regarding sobriety, such as mandatory drug testing and completing assigned chores.

Within sober living homes, you’ll find a variety of residents and people from all walks of life. Residents may have just graduated from a form of residential treatment or they may have been living within the home for years. Some live everyday normal lives outside while others may be strictly adhering to a new recovery program.

Sober living homes help residents with a number of things that can help guide them through the road to recovery. For example, giving residents the chance to make amends with friends and family members. Helping them stabilize so that they can find a job. Introducing them to a sober support network of peers who are also in recovery. House members can attend meetings together, share relapse prevention plans, work to support one another.

Most sober living homes are single-gender. This is the case with most residential treatment facilities as well, as it generally helps to have gender-specific support available. When first entering a sober living home, most residents are shown around the property by the senior member or homeowner to establish the rules.

Mornings in sober living homes generally start with daily chores like making your bed, cleaning the room, or helping to make breakfast. There may be morning activities such as a 12 Step or group counseling sessions. If you have a job, you’ll go to work as scheduled. If not, you’ll search for employment, help with more house chores, or perform community service. In the evenings, you can expect sharing a meal with all your housemates and a group session.

Throughout the day, it’s always possible that you will be asked to complete a random drug test. These drug tests will be a required component of staying within the home. A six-month study of 130 residents in sober living homes published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs showed that 40% had stayed clean and sober during that period. Another 24% reported that they had abstained from drugs and alcohol for the majority of that time.

Unfortunately, relapse is a reality for many individuals even while in sober living homes. While you should always do your best to avoid relapse, the next best thing to do after one happens is to get in contact with your sober living housemates, own up to your mistakes, and get back on track with your recovery as soon as possible.

When Should You Move Into a Sober Living Home?

A suitcase packed by a women who is moving into a sober living home

Individuals should strongly consider living in a sober living home after just completing an inpatient treatment facility, or if there any concerns about maintaining sobriety. Living in transitional housing such as a sober living home does not guarantee a successful recovery. However, the more faithfully you adhere to the guidelines and rules of a sober living home, the greater your chances of avoiding a relapse.

Like every other portion of your recovery, sober living location should be determined by your unique needs. Some people will only spend a few months there, while others may spend a year or more before moving out on their own. Above all, you should check these marks when contemplating a sober living home.

  • Does the home seem safe and supportive of your recovery?
  • Do you (or will you) have employment that will cover the costs of rent, utilities, car payments, gas, insurance, groceries, and recreational?
  • Do you feel you can successfully avoid relapse in this environment?
  • What programs does your prospective home follow? 12 Step? SMART Recovery? It’s probably best to find a home that aligns with your personal recovery plan.

There are many ways in which you could make the most of your time while in sober living. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that sober living works for you.

Establish a Treatment Schedule

When you pick your sober living home, you can do research on what kinds of therapists, support groups, and doctors are available near you. You can even consider intensive outpatient programs near you.

Establish Other Healthy Habits

You can look up local yoga classes, fitness centers, or even an acupuncturist to help lower your stress and thrive in recovery. Feel free to look up local activities with your peers in recovery. Plus, you should get into the habit of making positive lifestyle choices such as eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep.

Find a Job

Take time out of your daily schedule to seek out jobs that can work with your lifestyle. Interview for positions that provide a stable enough income while allowing you enough free time to focus on your recovery.

Find the Right Place to Live

Make sure that ultimately, you find a safe and budget-friendly arrangement that does not put your recovery at jeopardy. Always do the most research possible before moving anywhere.

Creating an Alumni Support Network Through Sober Living

After completing any sort of addiction treatment program, individuals may find themselves unsure of their ability to face the daily challenges of maintaining sobriety. They have learned the tools and methods they can use to stay sober, but they are no longer in the same supportive, secure environment where sobriety is guaranteed.

Alumni programs offer individuals a way to ease the transition back into the real world through structured events, activities, and support. Alumni support and ongoing services are as vital to the recovery process as the detoxification and therapeutic counseling that take place while in treatment.

These programs may also provide individuals with a transitional living options, known as sober living homes, which can be an important provisional step between residential treatment and reintegrating with daily life.

In these places, alumni can connect with one another, support, and encourage continued sobriety. According to the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, sober living homes and transitional programs can help to sustain sobriety and that residence in one of these homes increases the odds of attending 12-Step meetings.

Post-Rehab Support Reduces Long Term Substance Use

An individual holding another persons hand as a sign of help

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance abuse relapse rates are as high as 40 – 60%. In addition, completion rates for rehab vary across the board and there is no set standard yet for measuring the long term success of these programs. However, there is data to support the idea that alumni programs and ongoing services are tied to reductions in substance use, higher completion rates for rehab, and reduction in ongoing psychiatric symptoms.

From the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, one qualitative study found that 33% of people who dropped out of treatment indicated that they would have stayed longer in substance abuse treatment if they had received practical assistance, functional help with life areas, and individualized services post treatment.

Research from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs also indicates that a combination of treatment, long-term housing, and “life-affirming” alumni services leads to improved residential stability and reductions in substance use and psychiatric symptoms. This should be a call for treatment providers to realize that ongoing services for alumni are one form of evidence based practices (EBP) that should not be overlooked or understated when it comes to structuring treatment programs.

Fortunately, there are more ways you can expand your recovery network after completing rehab. You can engage with self-help groups and workshops to meet with other peers in recovery and learn more recovery related tools. It’s hard to talk about building a sober support network without bringing up groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

The 12-step programs are found in most large cities around the world and provide sober people, of all degrees, to find the social support and friendships they require to help maintain their sobriety. Many people can make lifelong friends from these types of groups. While these self-help groups may not be for everyone, they can be an effective way to meet new people who will encourage sobriety when you may need it.

There are a number of local workshops and development retreats that you can attend after you are living independently from treatment facilities. While some can be a bit pricey, others are more affordable, finding one that suits your needs best is key.

These retreats can cover multiple topics or activities like personal development or yoga, all of which will help you grow personally and will give you the opportunity to meet new people who can help you with your sober lifestyle.

How Do Sober Living Homes Help?

Having something like a stable living environment while completing recovery is important for health, safety, and continued sobriety. Studies show that living in a dysfunctional home environment can derail efforts towards recovery. Sober living homes, or at least those that are well managed, can provide the sort of safe living arrangements that lend to recovery.

Within sober living homes, you can receive the type of support and treatment that you would normally only get from residential or intensive outpatient treatment or 12 Step programs. Sober living works best for those that are committed to recovery. In a sober living home, you can be surrounded by caring people who have been through what you are going through, to share stories, share meals, and support you.

Connect With Recovery Professionals

If you’re seeking sober living for yourself or for a loved one, don’t hesitate to seek out the assistance of trained professionals. Call 888-448-0302 to talk to a recovery specialist at Landmark Recovery. If you’re looking for drug or alcohol addiction treatment, visit our locations page to find the closest facility.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.