Transitioning Into a Sober Living Home
A sober living home or a recovery house is a safe, protected space you can live in while you refine your recovery skills. You might live here after detox or inpatient rehab.
At a minimum, says the National Association of Recovery Residences, a home like this should offer you a sober environment and peer support. But some provide advanced help, including medical and counseling services.
In this overview, we’ll cover:
- Who needs a sober living home.
- How they complement addiction treatment.
- How much do they cost.
- The effectiveness of sober homes.
- How to choose the space that’s right for you.
Who Needs a Sober Living Home?
Almost anyone could live in a sober living home. There are few restrictions on who can enter and when. But most people who make that choice share a few characteristics.
You might live in an unsafe space within a home you own. You could have roommates or family members who use. And you may not have sober peers to lean on.
Connecting with peers is a main benefit of a recovery house, says the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. All other residents in your home are also in recovery. Together, you will:
- Participate in support group meetings.
- Perform chores and maintain the household.
- Prepare and consume nutritious meals.
The other residents can come to feel like parts of your family. You’ll learn from them, but you’ll also get a sense of acceptance that might be lacking in your traditional home.
Your length of stay depends on your progress in recovery. Some might need to stay for weeks, while others need to stay for months. When you feel confident that you can leave this protected space without relapsing, it might be time to move out.
Sober Homes Complement Addiction Treatment
Support group meetings and a structured living environment could be part of your treatment program. But you won’t have access to a therapist or medication management in most sober homes. This isn’t the space for intensive addiction care, but the help you get here can work hand in hand with your traditional recovery program.
Experts writing for Psychiatric Services say some sober homes are affiliated with addiction treatment programs, and when they are, you are required to get care. You may have daily or weekly appointments with a counselor, and you might need proof that you’ve kept those commitments.
But others have no hard-and-fast rules. It’s up to you to make sure you go to your therapy appointments, but your sober community may help you do that. They can:
- Use peer pressure. You may have a mentor that reminds you to go to appointments.
- Enable easy access. Your recovery house might be quite close to your treatment facility. Easy excuses about difficulty getting there won’t apply.
- Set an example. The other residents in your home may talk about their appointments and how much they are learning.
- Reinforce in group. Working on your sobriety is a key tenant of 12-step support group work. Your peers may bring up the issue, and that could spur you to keep your commitments.
Life in a sober home can also keep you protected while you learn more in therapy. You may not have the strength to resist an urge to relapse. Your protected life could prevent you from making a mistake you won’t make later on, when you know more.
Sober Home Costs
Just as home real estate prices vary from region to region, so do sober living home rental rates. Most are upfront about the cost, but you will need to ensure you understand what you’re asked to pay and when the bill will come due.
The New York Times suggests that rents for sober living homes hover at $400 per month, but a quick internet search uncovers a great deal of variability. The more amenities included, the higher the price. Some sober homes come with the following:
- Security systems
- Private masseuses
- Extensive landscaping
- Private rooms
- Private bathrooms
Others seem more like family residences with bare-bones kitchens, shared amenities, and bunk beds.
You’ll need to call the facility home, so it pays to pick a space where you will feel comfortable. If all of those added benefits ensure that you don’t move out before it’s time, they could be a good investment. But if budget is a concern, you’ll need to be choosy.
That’s especially true as your insurance isn’t likely to pay for a sober home.
As we mentioned, you won’t get therapy in most sober living houses. You’ll have peer support and a sober environment, but you won’t have medications or a therapist. That means insurance companies consider these facilities “homes.” Just as they won’t pay for your apartment, they won’t pay for your sober home.
Do Recovery Houses Help?
It’s hard to determine which addiction interventions help, and there aren’t finite rules on what works for everyone.
After all, recovery is a fluid process, and it’s not uncommon for people to have a path speckled with relapse. To some, that seems like a failure. To others, it’s just part of recovery. But the evidence suggests that sober homes can play a role in recovery for some, if not all, people.
The National Council for Behavioral Health says people who move into sober homes experience:
- Decreased substance use.
- Smaller relapse likelihood.
- Higher incomes.
- Steady employment.
- Improved relationships with family members.
But not all homes come with these high success rates. And it’s hard for communities to make the weak homes comply with best practices.
As Governing explains, sober homes are considered residences. Federal laws require no discrimination in housing based on disabilities, including addictions. That means regulators can’t reasonably close poorly performing homes. Doing so means evicting a protected class.
Just because legislators can’t change things doesn’t mean you’re locked into a home you don’t love. You can ensure that the home you choose is best for you and your sobriety. With a little work, you can pick a winner.
What Should You Look For?
If you’re considering a sober living home, it pays to do your homework. All facilities aren’t created equal, and with your sobriety on the line, it’s important to be particular.
Your counselor or treatment program may recommend a home to you. Or you may find one during your own searches of your community. When you find a space you like, ask about:
- Many sober homes have rules about what you can bring, eat, wear, and do. Others outline how much time you must spend at work or in therapy. Breaking the guidelines can mean eviction. Make sure you can live by the edicts of the home.
- Hidden fees concerning food, cleanup, and fines can eat away your financial security. Make sure you know just how much you’ll pay and when it’s due.
- Find out how many people will share your space. If possible, head to a group meeting in the home to see if it’s a good fit.
- You’ll be protected from bad influences in the house. But what happens when you walk out the front door? Learn more about nearby crime rates.
- Are you close to a bus line, so you can get to therapy? If not, does the facility let you keep your car?
- If your family is close-knit, you might appreciate showing off your new home. Find out if guests are allowed.
- Will you have your own room? Can you bring a pet? Will you share a bathroom? Do you cook your own meals, or do you prepare them as a group? These tiny details can make a big difference in your quality of life in the home.
This is a long list of questions, and it can be exhausting to think about doing so much research before you’ve even signed up for care. But it’s important to really understand where you’ll be living and what will happen once you move in.
If you’re uncomfortable with the home at any stage, it’s best to keep looking. You do have choices in sober homes, so you can take the time to find one that’s a good fit.