Sober living environments provide the structure and support for people in recovery to move forward with a maintenance plan designed to help them stay sober. As a variation on post-treatment maintenance programs, the strength of sober living homes lies in its expectations that participants re-connect with society. Residents are surrounded by a support group of peers undergoing the same transition, allowing the emotional processing of anger and frustrations in a safe and structured environment.
Sober Living Offers Structured Environments
Because sobriety requires discipline and guidance, sober living homes are structured around de facto rules that reinforce and assist its participants in their journey. Common to all homes are:
- No drugs/alcohol
- Required AA or NA attendance
- Random drug tests
- Paying rent and bills on-time
- Acceptance by the other residents at the center
- Being employed, seeking employment, or enrolled in school
- Disabled residents contribute to the homes community and maintenance
- Intolerance of theft, violence, harassment, sexual activity, absenteeism and curfew violations
What’s a Sober Living Home?
Misconceptions: Sober living homes have been mistakenly labeled as Halfway Houses, Rehab Homes, Recovery Support Homes and other (less kind) names. Sober living homes are not detox or treatment centers providing structured medical or psychological services, although a referral list of such services many be maintained. Residents are not necessarily referrals from treatment programs. Some residents may be following the recommendations of 12-Step sponsor, family member, or from their own personal realizations of the need to change environments.
Strict rules: Typically, a sober living home is in a residential neighborhood, and is gender-specific. Its residents are required to follow a strict set of house rules, including health, grooming, safety and life-skills management. Each resident is accountable for maintaining the facility and completing assigned chores and responsibilities. Violating these strictures results in a variety of penalties, from fines to expulsion from the home.
No tolerance: The most common and rigid rule is zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. Included in this prohibition are items found in almost every household: mouthwash, aftershave, vanilla and other alcohol based flavorings, and alcohol or opiate-based cold medicines. Each of these, because of their inordinately high alcohol content, can result in failed drugs tests — even from innocent use.
Sober living and the sober living home is still in its infancy. As such, little data exists as to their efficacy as treatment and support methodologies. The data that has been collected, however, is encouraging; given that sober living is an extension of established post-treatment support philosophies, and future studies are likely to remain consistent with current findings.