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Sober Living Homes

Learn about sober living houses and find one near you.

After successfully completing an intensive treatment program for a substance use disorder, you may feel that you need ongoing support before you’re ready to live independently. If so, a sober home may be right for you.

Sober homes are drug- and alcohol-free houses that offer a safe, supportive living environment for people in recovery. Sober homes can help you build skills for a life in recovery.

Recovery is possible, and sober homes can help.

What are sober living homes?

Sober homes can provide a stable living environment for people recovering from drug or alcohol dependence. They give their residents the time to build social, financial, and life skills for independent living. Research shows that sober homes are effective in helping people avoid drug and alcohol use, stay out of prison, and become employed.

The National Alliance for Recovery Residences categorizes recovery housing by levels, from the least intensive therapeutic environment (Level I) to the most intensive (Level IV):

  • Level I facilities are peer-run.
  • Level II facilities are monitored by a house manager or senior resident.
  • Level III facilities are supervised by administrators and licensed staff members.
  • Level IV facilities are supervised by administrators and medical professionals and are considered residential treatment housing.

Sober homes such as those in the Oxford House model are Level I environments. These sober living environments are peer-run and self-supporting, with few or no staff members. They provide you with a social network and the time, space, and structure to learn or relearn behaviors and skills that assist you in recovery.

Sober homes tend to be rooted in philosophies of self-help, self-governance, and peer support. They are often governed by a founding document, or “charter,” that outlines residency requirements. When you live in an Oxford House or another type of sober home, you’re typically expected to:

  • Contribute an equal share of rent and time to household upkeep.
  • Participate in the home’s democratic operation — for instance, voting on applicants for residency and electing house managers.
  • Continue recovery in a 12-step or another treatment program. (Note that these services are not usually operated by the sober home, although the house may allow an independently run program such as Alcoholics Anonymous to hold meetings there.)

Sober home versus halfway house

Both sober homes and halfway houses provide stable, drug- and alcohol-free housing as a transition from one phase of life to the next. Both types of housing are generally single-gender or are only for women with children.

However, there are several key differences between these sober living environments. Staying in a sober home is typically voluntary, and sober homes often have less structured rules or conditions. Staying in a halfway house is often linked to the federal or state criminal justice system — typically as a court-ordered step that involves close supervision as well as certain rules and restrictions. And while sober living homes are often self-governing and financed by residents, many halfway houses are administered by the government and reliant on public funding.

Sober home and halfway house rules vary depending on the program model, regulations, levels of service, and other factors. Here are a few general differences between sober homes and halfway houses in the criminal justice system:

People in sober living houses …

People in halfway houses in the criminal justice system …

  • Apply voluntarily to reside in a sober home and are interviewed and approved by a majority vote of residents.
  • Agree to abstain from alcohol or other drugs, pay rent and other expenses, do chores, and perform other responsibilities.
  • Are encouraged but not always required to be engaged in formal substance use treatment.
  • Can stay as long as they need to, as long as they follow house rules. A typical stay in an Oxford House is about one year, but many people stay for three or more years.
  • Are assigned to live in a closely supervised setting by a court order.
  • Must follow rules such as abstaining from alcohol or other drugs, maintaining curfews, and meeting work requirements.
  • Are often required to receive outpatient treatment or complete rehabilitation programs.
  • Must leave after a period set by a government agency, even if they do not feel ready to live independently. This period is typically less than one year.

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What should you expect in a sober living home?

Living environment

There are many types of sober living environments, including single-family homes, apartments, and buildings in close proximity. Homes are rented, operated, and supported by the residents. Sober homes often have a communal space for recovery meetings, recreation, and other events.

The number of residents in a sober living facility varies by location, facility size, demand, and other factors. An Oxford House can accommodate six to 15 people, with the average number of residents being eight. In most cases, you will share a room with a peer, which helps build camaraderie and reduces the cost to individual residents.

Application process and cost

After you’ve found a sober living facility you’re interested in, you then apply and undergo an interview. If you’re accepted, you may need to pay a certain amount upfront. Your monthly cost to live in a sober home depends on the rental costs, the number of residents, and other factors.

Skills you’ll gain

Your stay in a sober home can help you develop responsibility for yourself and others as well as skills in:

  • Collaboration and communication.
  • Facility management (e.g., cooking, cleaning, maintaining common spaces).
  • Financial management and independent living (e.g., paying rent and utility bills).
  • Job readiness and work attendance.
  • Mentorship and volunteerism.
  • Mutual support and encouragement.
  • Nutrition and wellness.

Phases of sober living houses

Sober living programs may have slightly different ways of operating, but most are modeled on a self-help, peer-support philosophy. As long as you observe the house rules, you can stay until you’re ready to live drug- and alcohol-free on your own.

Your sober home peers with experience in recovery are likely to monitor your progress in two main phases:

Early phase: You follow a more structured set of rules, often under the guidance of a “buddy” or resident peer who has been at the house longer. Your buddy may help you navigate your journey in the early phase. You may be required to devote more time to recovery, limit or avoid contact with visitors, abide by a curfew, or pursue employment. A “blackout” period — forbidding outside communication or visitors (with the possible exception of a sponsor) — is sometimes enforced so you can focus on laying the foundation of your recovery.

Later phase: As you demonstrate the ability to meet requirements of the early phase, you earn privileges on the way to living more independently. Typically, these privileges are earned after one week to one month.

Rules and regulations

Rules and regulations of sober living facilities vary. Here are some things to consider:

Do I have to be free of alcohol or drugs for a certain number of days before applying for a sober home? This depends. Many require you to have some level of abstinence prior to entry, from a few days to as long as 30 days.

Can I apply for a sober home if I have a mental health condition in addition to my substance use disorder? Studies of sober homes have shown positive mental health outcomes as well as recovery outcomes. However, if you have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis for which you need formal treatment (such as therapy) or case management, you will likely have to arrange for it outside the sober home. Further, having an untreated mental health disorder may impede your ability to thrive in the sober home. Look for the level of care you need to treat your symptoms.

Can I live in a sober home and remain in medication treatment for a substance use disorder? You may be in such a program and feel it’s working for you. However, not all sober living houses accept people taking controlled substance medications, even methadone, buprenorphine, and other approved medications for a substance use disorder. During the sober home interview, ask about policies regarding prescription and over-the-counter medications to see if the living environment is right for you. Find out more about medication treatment for substance use disorder.

Is sober living right for you?

Research shows that sober homes can be of particular benefit to those who:

  • Are finishing a residential treatment program, such as a 28-day rehabilitation program or a 10-day withdrawal management program.
  • Are enrolled in outpatient treatment.
  • Are reentering the community after being in prison or jail.
  • Want to recover outside a formal treatment program.
  • Have a source of income to pay for residence fees.

A sober house may not be a good fit if you:

  • Do not feel comfortable with the peer-run, self-help recovery model of sober homes.
  • Have therapeutic needs beyond those offered by the sober home.
  • Pose a threat to yourself or others or are engaged in criminal activity.

Find support near you.