Sober living is living in a structured environment with other individuals who are also in early recovery and want to live a sober life, offering the support of peers outside the bounds of traditional treatment.
It typically takes the form of a residence or a “home-like environment,” however there is typically a house manager present to ensure that the rules are followed.
Several studies have showed that entering sober living improved treatment outcomes, resulting in a greater chance of sustained sobriety. The most recent study showed improvement in employment, psychiatric, and arrest outcomes as well.
Some common elements of a sober living residence areYou Must be Clean to Enter
1. You Must be Clean to Enter
Sober living homes typically don’t allow people who are currently using drugs or alcohol to move in. Some will specify that you need to be sober for a period of time before you enter the household, and/or have gone through detox and residential addiction treatment. If you’re still using drugs and alcohol and want to get sober, your first stop probably should not be sober living. You have detox from the effects of drugs and alcohol first, and then you will likely need residential or partial hospitalization treatment afterward. This will not only get you through the sometimes tough post-acute withdrawal stage, but help you to heal from whatever was driving you to use drugs and alcohol in the first place.
Those who have not been through any sort of treatment for their substance abuse issues may be unaware of underlying issues such as past trauma or co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety. They also may not have developed the coping skills needed to handle the level of independence a sober living provides its residents.
2. You Must be Clean to Stay
Just as being around others who are working toward a common goal can encourage you to continue moving forward, someone who is relapsing into drug and alcohol use can sometimes bring others along with them. That’s why use of drugs or alcohol at any time after admittance to sober living can be grounds for immediate dismissal. Passing random urinary analysis (UAs) is required to continue living at a sober living residence.
3. You May be Required to Attend 12-Step Meetings (or Other Treatment As Well)
Not all sober living homes require 12-step meeting attendance, but you’ll find plenty that do. In addition, some homes require residents to attend continuing treatment for alcohol and drug abuse in the form of intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
Attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs can help you stay focused on your sobriety and stay clean by building a network of support. A 2010 Journal of Psychoactive Drugs study followed 300 individuals entering two different types of sober living homes over an 18-month period, finding that “involvement in 12-step groups and characteristics of the social network were strong predictors of outcome.” Sobriety was maintained for the majority of residents at six, 12 and 18 months, and they saw improvements in their job prospects, arrest records, and psychiatric symptoms as well. Over 80% of the residents had left the sober living homes after 12 months, and six months later, both sobriety and other improvements were maintained for the most part. Again, being involved with a 12-step program was the strongest predictor of success among those who maintained those improvements over the long-term, even after leaving the sober home.
Earlier studies have found that receiving social support for recovery is key. In fact, social support that was alcohol-specific tended to result in less drinking, AA specifically has been found to improve outcomes. Also, having more recovering alcoholics/abstainers in your social circle was associated less of a chance of drinking three years after treatment.
Intensive Outpatient & Outpatient Programs
Continuing your treatment for alcohol and drug addiction may also be a requirement. You may also be required to attend an intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient program or other treatment as well. An intensive outpatient program involves visiting a treatment center three to five times a week, typically, for about two to three hours at a time. Group and individual therapy can be involved, and drug testing is nearly always a part of the program. Outpatient treatment can involve just a few hours a week of therapy, giving you maximum flexibility with work hours. These types of program can also help you stay strong in your sobriety.
4. You Must Follow the House Rules
You will be expected to adhere to a curfew in many cases. Unless you receive special permission to be out overnight, for instance, if you work nights. This will get you used to a regular schedule and keep you out of trouble. Reasonable curfews could be 11 pm on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, for example.
There isn’t a household on planet earth that doesn’t need upkeep. You will be expected to clean, do laundry, keep your room (or your area of the room) neat and some added chores. For example, you may be tasked with cleaning a bathroom once a week, or taking out the trash, or doing the dusting and vacuuming in common living areas. Other tasks, like cooking dinner, may be decided by the residents themselves, everyone may do their own thing, or it could be specified by the house manager who will cook on which night. Be sure to ask about this if it is a concern to you. Pretty much all sober living facilities will give all residents chores.
You may be required to attend a house meeting on a regular basis. These can address issues that are cropping up in the household (for example, someone may not be doing their chores). Attendance is usually mandatory at these meetings, unless, of course, you receive special permission to be absent.
5. You Must Have (Or Get) a Job, Or Do Volunteer Work
Many sober homes will not want you sitting around all day. You will be strongly encouraged to look for employment. If you receive disability or some other financial income and do not need to work, the sober home may require you to leave the house to do volunteer work during the day. Being idle is never a good thing, just as giving back to the community will give you a sense of purpose and reward.
6. You Will Pay a Moderate Rent Amount
Most sober living residences charge a moderate monthly fee for rent and move-in. This is because of the economies of scale achieved with sharing a residence with others. However, the relatively low cost of rent is also designed to help those who may not have yet replenished financial resources. Typically, the rental fees you’ll find in sober living homes are much less expensive (by hundreds of dollars, even) than those in the regular real estate rental market. Plus, your rental fee can include extras like utilities, toiletries, paper products, and even bedding and a shared computer with WiFi. When you add it all up, you are saving a bundle every month by entering sober living, giving you time to build up a savings and making it a perfect transition to regular life.
You will most likely be responsible for your food and transportation at a sober home. The close proximity of other members in the household who are also looking for employment, attending 12-step programs, etc., can help in this regard. You may be able to catch rides to meetings and interviews by simply building connections with those in the same household.