Sober Living Homes: Being Halfway to Full Recovery

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Who Should Stay At A Sober Living Home

To someone fresh out of an addiction treatment facility, the very notion of returning to a world full of anxiety and pressure and of trying to live without their substance of choice can be deeply unsettling. Such a radical change involves serious risks. Statistics show that almost 90% of alcoholism relapses occur in the first three months after leaving an inpatient facility.

The fact that recovering addicts sometimes find themselves unable to cope with life in an unsafe environment is a major reason behind this tendency. A sober living home can help make this change less stressful and smoother.

What is a Sober Living House? Who Can Live There?

A sober living house is open to anyone who is recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol. A person can stay there after leaving a residential or outpatient treatment facility or while undergoing another treatment program. Sober homes have strict rules in place, aimed at helping their inhabitants maintain a healthy lifestyle. This can be difficult without a supportive, clean environment following alcohol abuse treatment.

Sober living houses are a safe place for former addicts to live during their first sober months. This type of arrangement can be a crucial resource for persons seeking an alternative to formal treatment. Sober living emerged in the early 19th century. These homes were traditionally run by religious institutions, such as the Salvation Army and YMCA.

Difference Between Sober Houses and Halfway Houses

Sober houses and halfway houses aren’t the same. A sober living home will not require one to be enrolled in or have completed formal rehab. Moreover, halfway houses have limitations on how long a person can live there. Court-ordered halfway house stays are limited to a maximum of one year because these houses are usually subject to government funding.

Residents of sober living houses, on the other hand, pay rent and cover other expenses – in most cases. There are some free sober living homes, as well as ones that are free for a fixed period.

Sober Living House Rules: Staying Clean

Sober living houses require their residents to stay clean and comply with a set of rules, including paying rent, doing household chores, and being present at house meetings. Their standards are less strict than those of residential addiction treatment facilities. A person is eligible to stay in a sober home only if they have been sober for a period and are free from withdrawal symptoms and/or physiological syndromes caused by addiction.

Some homes require residents to attend 12-step addiction treatment programs like Narcotics Anonymous. Most will mandate one gets a job and keeps it after moving in as residents must cover their expenses, including program fees, which must be paid on time. Sometimes residents are given periodic drug and alcohol screening tests.

The minimum period of stay at a sober home is generally around a month. Some houses have programs for two and three months. A minimum stay of 90 days is recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Besides, the following rules must be observed:

  • Smoke only in designated areas
  • No sexual contact with other inhabitants
  • Do not steal from the house
  • Do not engage in violent behavior
  • Do not destroy house property

Residents are allowed to go out during the day, but only to work or school, and have to come back in the evening. Most homes have curfew hours.

All sober living houses have a zero-tolerance policy to sexual misconduct, and most of them also have such policies in place regarding all sober house rules. If this is the case, a resident will be evicted from the home for any violation. Other establishments can be more lenient. For example, if a person relapses, they may have to perform community service or go to meetings every day for three months.

How Do Sober Homes Help Recovering Addicts?

Staying at home makes it possible for one to deal with the negative emotions and attitude he or she may harbor. A big part of that is coming to understand the nature of addiction. Sessions with counselors help shed light on the root of addiction and potential relapse triggers.

Addiction is not a moral weakness or a sign of poor character. Residents of these homes learn to accept who they are, their mistakes, and their growth potential. Therapy is aimed at resolving issues with guilt or shame. Ideally, one can create a stable, support groups and a network of friends at home, who have had similar experiences.

The friendships built in sober living homes can last a lifetime because the people there work together toward a common goal. Such support is key to long-term recovery according to the results of some studies, including one published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Pros and Cons of Sober Living Houses


A recovering addict can’t stay in an inpatient facility forever. There comes a time when they have to return to the real world, full of the challenges and stress that may have caused substance abuse to begin with. Although they have recovered physically, they need guidance, counseling, and support to rebuild their lives without drugs. These houses offer the advantage of a safety net and help in reducing alcohol cravings. At least 2 of every five recovering addicts relapse after formal addiction treatment.

A study published by the National Institutes of Health showed that lack of a stable, drug-free environment could be a serious challenge to sustained abstinence. Destructive environments can derail sobriety even if the person is very motivated to attain it. This study involved 300 individuals entering two different types of sober living homes throughout a year and a half.

Social support and participation in 12-step groups were strong predictors of outcome, confirming the significance of social and environmental factors. Results showed residents were able to improve abstinence from 20% at baseline, to 40% at six months, 45% at 12 months and 42% at 18 months. They were also able to maintain improvement 18 months after leaving the homes.


There are no or very few state-funded sober living homes, and this can deter someone who is struggling financially. However, some insurance companies can help. If the provider covered the costs of addiction treatment, the person could ask if prices like therapy will continue to be covered if they live in a sober home.

Some government housing programs can provide financial assistance to recovering addicts in a sober living house. Moreover, residents may qualify for unemployment benefits depending on the state. In some cases, a resident won’t be able to find a full-time job, and benefits will cover costs of living while they attend therapy, take part in job retraining, go back to school, or seek a better-paid job.

What are the Best Sober Living Homes?

New Life House is a sober living facility for young men that helps its clients understand the causes and conditions that kept them from living a drug-free life by building a strong foundation and support system. It has a very high success rate. Same-sex sober living is recommended to avoid sexual relationships in some cases, and the availability isn’t limited to homes for men.

The kind, caring all-female staff at Muse Center in Los Angeles can understand the unique challenges women in recovery face. They help recovering female addicts by offering 12-step meetings, college classes, and a customized behavioral therapy program.

A Sober Way Home

A Sober Way Home is a comprehensive addiction treatment facility located in Arizona. It provides services to young adults struggling with drug addiction and comorbid psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. It also caters to recovering gambling addicts.

A spirituality-based approach is available for people with religious beliefs who identify God as a higher power. Therapy groups include a variety of themes, including family, grief, codependency, anger management, love addiction, boundaries, shame, steps to alcohol recovery, and relapse prevention. Also, all clients are offered equine therapy.

How Much Do Sober Living Homes Cost?

These homes cost less than inpatient treatment facilities, as mentioned, which makes sense because inpatient rehabs charge for detox and that’s expensive. If one is finding the price too steep, there are some lower-cost houses to choose from in every state. Some houses allow disadvantaged people to stay at a reduced rent price. Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance is accepted in certain cases.

Some homes let recovering addicts negotiate a payment scheme or offer a flexible plan during the first month of their stay. SAMHSA makes grants for sober living homes available through the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the Center for Mental Health Services. If one’s home of choice has received such, it may also be possible to stay there for a lower rent price.

Choosing the Right Sober Living Home

The following factors are essential when choosing a home:

  • Credibility
  • Rules
  • Admission criteria
  • Location
  • Rent
  • Services

Some houses require prospective residents to undergo a medically-assisted detox program. Others will admit anyone free of withdrawal symptoms. Most homes will mandate the person has stayed clean for some time. We encourage talking to former and current residents to establish the credibility of the organization. Always look for a home that has been certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Lists meeting quality criteria are available at the National Alliance on Recovery Residences website.

The rules can vary, with some houses being stricter than others. Former residents have reported being banned from using mouthwash because it contains alcohol. Homes also differ in that some require the attendance of a 12-step program, while others will agree to less formal, non-12 step programs. Residences are usually located in quiet, safe neighborhoods because the environment is an indisputably important factor in recovery.

Of course, one should avoid homes in seedy neighborhoods if given a choice. Ideally, a person will take into account the location of his or her workplace or school and look for a home that’s as close as possible, so they don’t break curfew and can attend house meetings.

Sober living homes do not provide the wide variety of services that an alcohol addiction rehab would, but it is possible to find a house that offers family therapy, customized mentoring programs, job search support, and legal support to better cope with employment or custody issues.


Gregory Okhifun

Dr. Gregory Okhifun

Medical Reviewer

Dr. Okhifun is a passionate medical doctor, with over five years’ experience as a general practitioner. His passion for medical education led to his journey in medical writing. He has a wealth of experience writing for hospitals and medical centers, health organizations, telemedicine platforms, wellness organizations, medical tourism publications, addiction websites, and websites focused on nutrition and nutraceuticals.
He also serves as medical coordinator and content writer for Gerocare Solutions, for which he also volunteers as a health advisor/consultant for the elderly.
Dr. Okhifun enjoys traveling, meditation, and reading.

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