Recovery from any type of substance use disorder is often a long and challenging process. A good number of individuals who attempt to address their issues with substance abuse will initially get involved in a very intensive rehabilitation program. Often, people who have moderate to severe substance use disorders will need to go through some formal withdrawal management in an inpatient rehabilitation program in order to deal with the withdrawal process from drugs or alcohol and continue into comprehensive treatment to develop a strong base for recovery.
Once the acute inpatient treatment phase has been completed, many individuals need to face the prospect of changing their entire lifestyle in order to remain free from drugs and alcohol. For some individuals, this transition may include getting away from their previous living conditions where a number of triggers for relapse can interfere with their early recovery. Others may simply need structure, support, and an isolated environment to help them concentrate on the important changes ahead. Sober living homes enable a smooth transition from rehab to living independently in recovery.
What Is a Sober Living Home?
Sober living homes are essentially group homes that offer housing for individuals recovering from substance use disorders. Many of these are privately owned, some are owned by businesses, and some are owned by charitable organizations. These residences are designed to help individuals in recovery transition from the early stages of recovery to a more stable situation.
A nonprofit organization, The National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR), sets national standards for sober living homes, halfway houses, three-quarter houses, etc. NARR was founded in 2011 and now refers to all of these different types of facilities as recovery residences in order to better describe what they do. These residences are designed to be transitional living environments to allow the individuals who live in them to adjust to lifestyle changes during the early and middle stages of recovery from a substance use disorder. They offer a stable environment, the opportunity to be engaged in treatment (although they do not often formally provide treatment), and the chance to become self-supporting and independent in the challenging transition from inpatient rehab to acute and middle recovery.
Recovery residences differ from rehabilitation centers in that rehab centers are designed to deliver intensive recovery in the early stages of recovery from a substance use disorder and typically do not give their residents much personal freedom; instead, they are required to remain on a strict schedule. Individuals living in recovery residences can typically come and go as they like as long as they adhere to a certain set of structured rules. For instance, someone living in a recovery residence may be able to leave the facility without getting permission, but there may be strict curfews related to when the individual must be back in the home. Residents are also usually required to obtain some type of employment and do volunteer work. Random drug and alcohol testing is often given in order to ensure the sobriety of residents. In addition, most of these facilities require that residents be involved in some formal substance use disorder recovery treatment program.
Residents have to assume responsibility for their own behavior and are held accountable. Some types of facilities may cater to individuals who have certain types of cognitive disabilities or other co-occurring severe mental health issues. In these cases, residents are supervised more closely, but they are still required to assume as much independence as they are capable.
Taking responsibility for one’s behavior is an important step in recovery, as individuals with substance use disorders often have a history of being irresponsible and/or having family members and friends who enable their behavior. In the majority of cases, people living in sober living homes are responsible for paying rent, buying their own food, cleaning up after themselves, and engaging in other activities that are part of independent and drug-free living.
Rules and Requirements of Sober Living Homes
There will be some variation in the specific rules from facility to facility, and often, the regulations of the facility are based on the specific clientele that the facility is designed for. For instance, individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders may be required to take medications that are dispensed by a member of the staff. These facilities will have specific times for each individual to take their medications.
Residents are presented with the rules of the facility before they agree to move in. Each potential resident must agree to the rules, and the penalties for violating the rules are specifically laid out so they understand what is expected of them. Depending on the facility and on the violation, the resident may have to pay a fine, issue a formal apology, or be dismissed from the facility if they break the rules. Staff members of the facility explain the specific regulations of the facility, make sure that prospective residents understand the rules and regulations, and outline the penalties for violating rules. In some cases, staff members may actually be long-term residents of the facility who have demonstrated the ability to be responsible supervisors.
In general, there are certain rules and regulations that are common to most sober living homes.
- The resident must remain sober.
- Most facilities have random or scheduled alcohol and drug testing.
- Certain types of household items are banned in most residences. For example, mouthwash containing alcohol is typically prohibited.
- In most cases, individuals are not allowed to take any medication without supervision. This includes aspirin and other over-the-counter medications. In many cases, these medications are dispensed by staff members, and their use is monitored closely. Individuals with prescriptions are often required to have their drugs dispensed to them by a staff member.
- Residents typically have to work, go to school, or perform chores around the house. Individuals are expected to perform some type of productive activity on a daily basis.
- Aggression and violence toward other residents are strictly prohibited. This includes arguing, name-calling, bullying, physical assault, sexual advances, etc.
- Residents typically have a curfew.
The rules are designed to ensure that individuals remain sober, engage in some productive activity, and take responsibility for themselves.
Are Sober Living Homes Expensive?
The cost of staying in a recovery residence can be variable, but it is often comparable to the cost of living in a moderately priced apartment. NARR reports that average rent costs for staying in these facilities will vary from between $400 and $800 a month, depending on the location of the residence.
Typically, the resident will be required to pay first and last month’s rent and then pay their rent on time. In most cases, residents do not have to pay utilities, but they are asked to be frugal regarding their use of electricity, hot water, heat, etc. The majority of these facilities are not designed to be a large profit generating enterprise; instead, they are designed to offer services for individuals in recovery who need them. Thus, there is a concentrated effort by the owners of these facilities to make them affordable and at the same time relatively self-sustaining. There are certain exclusive recovery residences that are far more expensive and catered to more affluent clientele who can afford them. Some of these recovery residences may charge thousands of dollars per month.
It is important to note that the cost of living in a recovery facility is far less expensive than the cost of living in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. This is because, in most cases, these facilities do not offer onsite professional treatment, and there are fewer services provided by staff members. Most of these facilities require their residents to engage in substance use disorder treatment, but the treatment is typically off site. Some of the residences may host onsite 12-Step meetings on a regular basis. When onsite 12-Step meetings are offered, residents are encouraged to attend them. Attendance at such meetings may be required in some facilities.
Sober living homes or recovery residences are transitional facilities that are typically used for individuals transitioning from acute rehabilitation to a more stable environment. Residents in these facilities are required to take responsibility for their behavior by adhering to the rules of the facility, engaging in some productive activities such as work or school, and attending treatment for their substance use disorder.
These facilities attempt to balance the structure and supervision they provide with freedom and accountability for the recovering individual. Recovery residences are not for everyone in recovery; however, for individuals who need to establish structure and responsibility in their lives and/or need to isolate themselves from potentially toxic environments or triggers may find them to be essential to as they establish a lifestyle that is conducive to long-term recovery from a substance use disorder.