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Sober living homes, sometimes referred to as sober environments or halfway houses, are a type of safe housing. They provide structured living conditions for people recovering from alcohol addiction or other substance abuse issues. Sober living homes are supportive, transitional living spaces for people trying to become sober before rejoining society.
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The environment that sober living homes provide can help to promote lasting recovery. People often find it easier to remain sober as they adjust to treatment programs and the life that awaits afterward. These homes also help people transition from rehab treatment to independent living without needing alcohol or drugs.
There are many well-established rules in sober living homes, as the structured environment is one of the main reasons they help with recovery. Some of the universal house rules that are set out in almost all sober living homes include:
A typical day in a sober living home usually begins with chores such as tidying the bedroom, cleaning the bathroom, or helping with breakfast. After that, there may be house meetings, Twelve-step meetings, mandatory drug tests, or counseling sessions either inside or outside the home. If a person living in the home has a job, they go to work as scheduled and schedule meetings or counseling around work hours.
If the person living in the home does not have a job, afternoons may consist of searching for employment, helping with household chores, or providing community service acts. Evenings usually entail alcohol-free meals with housemates and support group therapy sessions. Nighttime is reserved for free time, where people usually call home to loved ones, read books, or simply watch television.
Sober living homes are specifically for people who are new to addiction recovery or those who want a longer-lasting option than traditional inpatient treatment. Many of these homes are located in regular neighborhoods, making them more comfortable for residents. The main thing that all of these homes share is that residents must commit to sober living and take part in daily responsibilities.
There are several different types of sober living homes. Most are single-gendered, where everybody in the home identifies as the same gender. Co-ed homes, also known as couples sober living, do exist, but they have many drawbacks that can limit effectiveness.
During recovery from alcohol addiction, especially in the early stages, men and women often seek short-lived romantic relationships to fill the void created by removing alcohol. A full, comprehensive recovery is needed to fill this void for the long-term, which is much easier to accomplish in gender-specific settings.
Sober living homes are very important for many men, as they often have severely strained relationships with family due to their drinking. Men-only homes help residents to better deal with fractured relationships through mutual support. A peer support network like this often leads to long-term positive changes and an increased chance of lasting sobriety. This typically only comes from living in a men-only sober living home.
Sober living homes are also incredibly important for many women, as they often have different needs and characteristics when it comes to recovery. Females suffering from alcohol addiction face unique problems that are different than those experienced by men. Women also tend to begin drinking earlier in life to deal with mental health trauma that is often experienced at a young age.
Women who move into a female-only sober living home are typically in a safer environment. Utilizing a support system composed of women facing the same issues helps those living in the home get back on track and begin living the life they desire.
Sober living homes are particularly effective in reducing recidivism rates of those suffering from alcohol addiction and other problems, such as homelessness. However, they have proved much less effective in reducing recidivism rates of those that have maintained stable employment while battling alcohol addiction.
One of the only in-depth studies on the effectiveness of sober living homes was conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in California. The study looked at two disparate models of sober living homes to determine success rates.
In the first model, the percentage of participants that were completely abstinent from alcohol at different milestone points was as follows:
In the second model, the results were:
These figures show that sober living homes are reliably successful at curbing alcohol usage, but success rates differ depending on the home. This could be due to location, house rules, or any combination of factors that affect recidivism rates.
Sober living homes typically cost about the same as an average apartment. This is typically less expensive than living at an addiction treatment facility or alcohol abuse treatment center because fewer services are offered. However, many sober living homes have mandatory support group meetings or other outpatient treatment programs, which may carry additional costs.
Prices for sober living homes vary depending on location across the country as well as location within each city. With all services included, most home stays will cost between $500 to $1,200 per month. These prices are typical, but they can be as low as $300 or go as high as $2,000, depending on the neighborhood and the services offered.
Some examples of services that may increase costs are treatment-related, such as 12-step programs, and while others may be linked to utilities like electricity, phone, or internet. Some sober living homes include utility bills in the monthly price and some ration utilities to avoid waste and excess costs.
Many sober living homes are covered under insurance plans or government funding.
If you or your loved one is in need of a sober living facility, contact your local healthcare professional or medical professional for a referral. They will be able to discuss the best available options and can help locate nearby locations. You can also reach out to an Addiction Group specialist for more information about treatment options.
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Polcin, D. L., Korcha, R., Bond, J., & Galloway, G. (2010). What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here?. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 42(4), 425–433. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2010.10400705
Reif, S. et al. (2014). Recovery Housing: Assessing the Evidence. Journal of Psychiatric Services. Vol. 65 No. 3. https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/appi.ps.201300243
Polcin, D. L., & Henderson, D. M. (2008). A clean and sober place to live: philosophy, structure, and purported therapeutic factors in sober living houses. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 40(2), 153–159. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2008.10400625
Mericle AA, Mahoney E, Korcha R, Delucchi K, Polcin DL. Sober living house characteristics: A multilevel analyses of factors associated with improved outcomes. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2019 Mar;98:28-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 15. PMID: 30665601; PMCID: PMC6605057.