When people are fighting a drug addiction, what’s the best living environment for them?
Maybe they’ve just finished an inpatient treatment program, and they’re looking for a safe place to live. Maybe they’re making use of outpatient treatments, such as one-on-one counseling, and they’re worried that their current home has too many temptations that increase the chances of a relapse.
One possibility is to move into a sober living home. A drug-free home that’s comfortable and supportive can help people focus on recovering, maintaining sobriety, and rebuilding their lives.
What Is a Sober Living Home?
A sober living environment serves as a stepping stone between an intensive, highly structured rehab program and a fully independent, unsupervised life.
It’s a drug-free group residence that operates with certain rules and with some degree of oversight. For example, residents may be required to attend therapy sessions or meetings of a support group during their stay. At the same time, they’re free to participate in regular day-to-day activities, such as working and going to school. They don’t have their whole day structured for them, and they’re expected to assume adult obligations.
What Are the Benefits of a Sober Living Home?
At a sober living home, you relearn how to engage in day-to-day activities without using drugs. Instead of having to figure everything out on your own, you receive encouragement, support, and advice from other residents and from professional staff. The home gives you stability and helps keep you accountable.
As you develop various skills, build healthy habits and routines, and find ways to relax that don’t involve drugs, you aren’t exposed to powerful triggers. You aren’t surrounded by people, places, and objects associated with your previous drug use. Instead, you’re in a safe and pleasant environment, and you can more easily focus on changing how you live.
At a sober living home, you’re expected to take responsibility for your life and stay on top of bills, chores, appointments, work or school assignments, and other obligations. At the same time, you aren’t left to cope on your own with the challenges of sobriety and life more generally. Staying at the home means that you won’t be struggling alone or feeling isolated.
Within the supportive environment of the home, you can learn how to handle challenges in a healthy and effective way. You can practice strategies for staying sober, and you can figure out how to make a purposeful and fulfilling life for yourself.
Common Questions About Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes differ in cost, house rules, services, amenities, and other qualities. The following questions can give you a general sense of what to expect from a sober living home, but you need to contact specific homes to find out about their policies and what they actually offer.
Who Can Visit You at a Sober Living Home?
Depending on the home you’ve chosen, you may be able to invite relatives or friends to visit you. However, it’s important to review the home’s visitor policies.
Most likely, visitors will only be allowed to come over during certain hours, and they’ll need to sign in and show identification. It’s possible that the house manager will need to approve any visit in advance.
There may be a cap on how many visitors you can invite at one time, and there may be restrictions on where you can bring them inside the home. For example, it may be permissible to hang out with them in the common areas but not in any of the bedrooms. Also, visitors will be subject to certain rules, such as a bag inspection for alcohol, drugs, and other prohibited items.
Are You Allowed to Have a Car?
Assuming you have a valid license, you’ll likely be able to drive during your stay. Some homes allow you to use a car only after a certain period of time, such as your first couple of weeks as a resident. Once you’ve passed this trial period, the restriction on driving gets lifted.
If you don’t currently have a car or a license, the home may help you find alternatives to driving. These include carpool arrangements and easy access to public transportation.
Are You Allowed to Keep Your Phone?
Sober living homes generally allow residents to keep a phone. However, some homes institute blackout periods on phones or other devices. For example, phone use may be restricted for a short time after a resident moves in.
Is there a Curfew?
At a sober living home, you can expect a curfew, and you’ll be required to follow it as a condition of continued residence. The curfew will generally be later for weekends than weekdays.
If you need to be out past the curfew, or if you’re planning to sleep somewhere else on a particular night, you may need to request permission and receive an overnight pass. Typically, there will be restrictions on the number of times you can receive a pass, and earning one will be contingent on a record of trustworthy behavior.
Can You Date During Your Stay?
Dating is possible, but it may be difficult. You won’t be allowed overnight guests, and you’ll need to abide by the curfew. Depending on the day of the week, you’ll have certain evening obligations, such as participating in a house meeting or going to a support group.
If you do start dating, it must be with someone from outside the home. You won’t be allowed to engage in intimate relationships with other residents or with staff.
What Are the Typical Rules of a Sober Living Home?
Homes vary in strictness and in the number of rules they spell out. The following isn’t a comprehensive list, but it includes some common rules:
- A drug-free premises and no unauthorized drug use at all.
- Randomized drug tests.
- Curfews and no overnight guests.
- Either no pets or pets with certain restrictions.
- A requirement to pay rent on time and complete assigned chores, such as helping with meal preparation.
- Mandatory house meetings, involve residents discussing issues affecting their stay.
- Possible mandatory participation in support groups and other therapeutic interventions.
- For residents who are able to work, a requirement to have a job, actively look for one or enroll in an educational program.
- Respectful and appropriate behavior towards residents, staff, and visitors.
- A commitment to a personalized program of recovery, which includes specific steps to take and goals to aim for.
The penalties for breaking rules range from a loss of certain privileges to eviction from the home. The penalty will reflect the severity of the infraction and your general conduct.
How Long Do People Typically Stay?
People often stay between five to eight months at a sober living home and some stay for longer. There’s usually no limit on extending your residence, as long as the home keeps meeting your needs and helping you work towards a better life.
Is there a minimum length of time to stay? Generally, it’s advisable to be a resident for at least a few months. During that time, you’ll have a meaningful opportunity to establish a healthier way of life.
How Much Does a Sober Living Home Cost?
The cost of your stay will be affected by multiple factors, especially the location of the home and the amenities and services it offers.
Along with paying a baseline rent, usually for a shared bedroom, you’ll have additional expenses to cover. Some of these, like groceries or your share of the utility bills, will be unavoidable. Other expenses, like a gym membership or yoga classes, may be optional perks offered by the home. Some homes promote a highly luxurious lifestyle, while many others stick to more basic but still useful services, such as employment assistance.
In New York City, a sober living home often ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars a month. In Texas or Arizona, typical homes may range from $500 to $2,000 monthly. You’ll need to contact a particular home to find out what it charges. Ask for a breakdown of expenses to determine what’s included in the monthly cost.
How Do You Pay for a Sober Living Home?
Each home has its own payment policies, and you can ask about personal financing or the possibility of drawing up a payment plan tailored to your circumstances. Some homes operate with a sliding-scale approach, making adjustments based on a resident’s income. You should also look into the possibility of receiving financial assistance from a nonprofit organization.
Either private insurance or Medicaid may provide you with some coverage for expenses. However, you need to check if a particular home accepts your insurance policy. Maybe your insurance will cover only certain aspects of addiction treatment but not the cost of renting a room at the sober living home.
You may also be wondering if your stay can be deducted from taxes. It’s best to consult with an accountant. You may find that you have certain tax-deductible expenses, such as the cost of medical treatments during your time at the home. However, you probably won’t be able to count the entirety of your living expenses as a tax deduction.
Do Sober Living Homes Need to Be Licensed?
Utah, New Jersey, and Arizona have required licensing from sober living homes. Maryland, Florida, and a number of other states encourage voluntary certification that reflects the standards of the National Association of Recovery Residences. Whether or not you choose a home that’s licensed or certified, it’s crucial to research the reputation of the home, its track record, its policies, and its philosophy towards addiction recovery.