By Samir Kadri

Last updated: 25 January 2024 & medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Quitting alcohol and drug abuse can be a challenging, arduous process. If you or a loved one has completed their stay at an addiction treatment center and detoxed effectively, it’s time to take the next step towards sustaining sobriety. Losing the accountability that the structure of a treatment program provides, you may worry that your recovery could be impeded. A sober living home may make the transition back to normal life easier.

Key takeaways:

  • A lack of a controlled alcohol and drug-free environment can be detrimental to sustained abstinence in addicts. A sober living home can provide individuals with a secure, empowering environment in which they can get the help they need to maintain their sobriety.

  • Individuals often move to a sober center following a rehab treatment program. Unlike rehab centers, sober living houses do not offer professional treatments.

  • Sober homes cultivate an alcohol and substance-free environment to help people pursue abstinence. Houses are usually in peaceful neighborhoods where members can focus on healing away from external stimuli and temptation.

What is a sober living home? 

A sober living home (SLH) is a residential establishment that provides structure and a sense of community to those healing from substance use disorders.

A lack of a controlled alcohol and drug-free environment can be detrimental to sustained abstinence in addicts. An SLH can provide individuals with a secure, empowering environment in which they can get the help they need to maintain their sobriety.

Sober living houses are not typically state-funded, and residents cover the costs themselves.[1] They are peer managed with residents encouraged to carry out household chores and help with daily living similar to communal living setups. Residents can rent rooms indefinitely and commute to their everyday work and social commitments.

Sober living homes vs rehabilitation centers

Sober living houses are commonly mistaken for rehabilitation or treatment facilities. Both are important to those recovering from drug or alcohol abuse but play different roles.

Rehabilitation centers

Rehabilitation centers, also known as treatment centers, are institutions that provide therapeutic, medical, and holistic treatments that enable you to learn about and tackle your addiction.

Once you have identified the causes and triggers of your addictions, as well as going through detox, you can work together with professional therapists and counselors to devise and follow a bespoke treatment plan.

If it is deemed useful, your family can be involved in order to facilitate your healing process.

Many insurance providers across the USA accept part of the cost of your course of treatment at a rehabilitation center.

Sober living homes

You generally move to a sober center following a rehab treatment program. Unlike rehab centers, sober living houses do not offer professional treatments. Rather, sober homes work based on peer support, with 12-step meetings such as AA encouraged. Residents all work together to ensure household upkeep and sober living rules are followed.[1]

Residents may choose to use an SLH to transition from the structured, therapeutic lifestyle of rehab to the outside world. They provide a safe, alcohol and drug-free space for residents, enabling them to feel comfortable as they re-engage with wider society.

Typically, sober living houses aren’t as widely covered by insurance plans as rehabilitation centers. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) declares that insurance providers ought to include treatment for substance abuse disorders. [2] However, sober homes are often not considered treatment facilities. That said, verify with your insurance provider whether your plan covers sober homes or not.

Related: A typical day in rehab

Sober living homes vs halfway houses

Whilst both SLHs and halfway houses provide a valuable transitional service for people between institutions and society, there are some core differences.[1]

  1. Unlike SLHs, halfway houses tend to have a limit on how long residents can stay. Before entry is permitted, a fixed period of time is usually agreed upon and residents are required to leave regardless of whether they feel ready.[1]

  2. Halfway houses require residents to be involved in a formal treatment program whilst in the house, in contrast to SLHs.[1]

  3. Halfway houses are often government funded and run by staff, whereas sober homes are resident-funded and peer-managed.[1]

Studies show that both halfway houses and sober homes can significantly improve rehabilitation treatment outcomes for people with substance abuse problems.[1][3]

What to expect in a sober living home

Sober homes cultivate an alcohol and substance-free environment to help people pursue abstinence.[1] Houses are usually in peaceful neighborhoods where members can focus on healing away from external stimuli and temptation.

Whilst peer-run establishments, SLHs can differ in the way household rules are enforced. Some use a ‘strong manager’ model, where the owner or manager of the house is responsible for implementing the house rules. Others advocate a ‘social model approach’ to managing households providing leadership positions and an open forum where all residents can have their say in decision-making.[1]

What are the rules of sober living homes?

The rules of sober homes are integral to ensuring the environment remains conducive to residents’ recovery. Below are some of the common rules.

Abstinence from alcohol and drugs

The central tenet to sober living; residents must remain alcohol and drug-free. Typically, a resident will pledge to abide by this rule upon entry into the SLH

No drugs or alcohol are allowed on the premises of a sober living home.[1] Alcohol and drug testing occurs frequently, and positive samples result in a resident’s immediate removal from the sober living home.[4]

Household upkeep

Residents must participate in household chores and attend house meetings in which the responsibilities for household upkeep are discussed and designated.[1]

This can help foster a sense of personal accountability in residents, encouraging them to take pride in a clean, healthy living environment. This can be contrasted with the messy, chaotic environments many addicts typically become accustomed to living in.

Attending support groups

Whilst not formal clinical addiction programs, sober living homes usually require residents to be enrolled in 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.[1]

Remaining sober requires dedication from recovering addicts. Being enrolled in a 12-step program whilst residing in a sober living home shows that a resident is steadfast in their commitment to sobriety.

Curfew

Residents are typically expected to comply with a curfew in the evening. This is to reduce the temptation for residents to fraternize with substance-using friends and relapse.[1]

How much do sober living homes cost?

The cost of sober living can range depending on the house and location of the sober living home. They are not typically available under insurance as they are not considered rehabilitative facilities.[2]

If you want to join a sober living home but feel it is financially unviable there are still options available to you:

  • Apply for a grant or scholarship – Organizations such as The Sober Living Foundation and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer grants to people seeking financial aid to achieve recovery from addiction.

  • Ask your rehabilitation center – Some treatment providers offer financial assistance to support residents funding their stay in sober living homes

  • Apply for a loan – This may not be the right option for many people, with high-interest rates, low credit scores, and financial stress that accompanies debt all aspects to consider.

Related: Paying for addiction treatment

Who should use a sober living home and when?

A sober living home is a great option for many people. If you’ve recently completed a treatment program at a rehabilitation center or finished an outpatient program, a sober living home can provide an excellent environment to help you stay abstinent.[1]

If you’ve recently relapsed, then sober living residences could be a good option. If you’re struggling with triggers and feeling overwhelmed, then a drug and alcohol-free environment can be helpful.

If you feel joining a sober living home would be beneficial, consider reaching out to your network for recommendations. Ask fellow members of support groups or other sober friends for tips. You could consider reaching out to staff at a rehabilitation center you have previously attended for a referral.

If you are struggling with your sobriety, sober living facilities can be a great option. Explore options as soon as possible and get the help you need to live a sober, fulfilling life.