The pros and cons of sober living when recovering from substance abuse

Are you or your loved one grappling with substance abuse or working hard to overcome some form of addiction?  Is maintaining your sobriety proving particularly challenging along the road to recovery?  Do you need outside assistance to ensure you lay off alcohol or drugs?  Perhaps you have been through a rehabilitation program but are not quite ready to reintegrate into society without ongoing support.


I probably don’t need to tell you that kicking an addiction can be extremely difficult.  It can be incredibly challenging to stay sober when temptation is placed back in front of you in the outside world.


There are a range of treatments available to assist with sustained sobriety. In order to help you or your dependent stay on the straight and narrow a sober living home may be an appropriate solution to help ease your way back into society.


What is sober living?

First, in case you are not familiar with the term, let’s clarify what I mean by ‘sober living’.  Sober living refers to living in group homes designed for those recovering from addiction.  It is seen by many as a supportive transition from an addictive lifestyle, providing a live-in environment with a level of supervision and structure.


Sober living environments are distinctly different from rehabilitation centers which typically administer more intensive recovery and less freedom.  Sober living homes are often privately owned establishments that require tenants to pay rent, purchase their own food and adhere to certain rules (the most important of which is to stay sober).  In return the sober living facility provides a supportive environment to assist with recovery.


This sounds like a sensible half-way step for recovering addicts.  However let’s look at a few of the pros and cons of sober living in more detail.


A safe and supportive environment

Sober living places individuals in an interim environment and surrounds them with like-minded people.  All of the tenants understand the perils of addiction and are focused on achieving their goal of staying clean for the long term.  This environment can provide a safety blanket and support network as users go through their rehabilitation process.


You don’t need to go to a rehab center first

While a vast majority of attendees have been through a more intensive rehabilitation program prior to enrolling at a sober living home, this is not mandatory.  Sometimes simply the support of one’s peers at a sober living facility can be sufficient to navigate a recovering addict through to long term success.  So long as a person has the ability to stay sober, then it could be the right choice for them.


Provides individuals with personal responsibility

Provided you follow certain house rules, pitch in with household chores and complete mandatory drug tests, then sober living provides individuals with flexibility to come and go in the same way they would in ‘regular’ daily life. It is a good stepping stone to returning to non-supervised care, and gives attendees a sense of personal responsibility.  However, violate common rules and you could end up with a fine or be tasked with making amends with residents in another form.



Ok, so sober living sounds like it could be a worthwhile option as you look to overcome a difficult time in your life.  But let’s also consider a few of the drawbacks.


Different levels of structure

The amount of structure provided at a sober living house can differ significantly between facilities.  As most of these are private establishments and there are no standards that must be adhered to, facilities can be managed as the owner sees fit.  Facilities with a higher level of structure tend to exhibit better results in terms of achieving long term sobriety; so, if you have a choice, it is important to consider the processes and directives of individual homes.


The environment won’t suit everyone

It goes without saying that a sober living environment will not be optimal for everyone.  For some the intensive nature of a rehabilitation or detox center is the key to kicking addiction.  For others release into an environment surrounded by loved ones might be the best way to stay sober.  The ability to come and go (within some boundaries) might even provide a path to relapse for certain individuals.  The key is to select an environment that will best suit the concerned individual to maximize their rehabilitation success.

Sober Living Homes: A Good Solution

If you or a loved one have a substance abuse addiction, you are not alone. According to the National Council of Alcoholism over 17 million people face alcohol addiction. Another estimated 200 million, share an addiction to drugs. The statistics of the amount of substance abuse are overwhelming. You should take comfort in knowing there are many treatment programs available. Each method will take emotional strength and dedication to recovery. If you are not comfortable with the idea of staying in a rehab facility, a sober living home may be the answer.


Although there are similarities, a sober living home is not like a rehabilitation facility. A rehab facility offers a more intensive program, where there are usually doctors and psychiatrists available to you 24 hours a day. You should also keep in mind, that there are more rules, regulations, and limitations, in a rehab facility. A sober living home allows the patient more freedom. Mostly, you may come and go as you wish. However, there are basic rules, like curfew and random drug tests, that should be expected.


Realizing that your own sobriety will be a lifelong journey, is the first step. Finding the right support system, is the second. The goal of a sober living home is independence. You will pay rent, buy groceries, and go to work or school, as you would if you were living on your own. It will be a sober environment where you will have the emotional support to live a clean life. If you don’t follow the rules, or fail a drug test, you may be asked to leave.


An equally important aspect of success, is your social network. A study performed by Zywiak, Longabaugh and Wirtz in 2002, found that clients who had social networks with a higher number of abstainers and recovering alcoholics, had a better outcome 3 years after treatment completion. Many people find themselves abusing substances when they are in a specific social circle. Removing yourself from those individuals and places while remaining independent, can aid in a successful transition–and ultimately sobriety.


The majority of individuals who live in a sober living home have already gone through a rehab program. Many facilities will only accept patients who have previously detoxed, or have attended a rehab facility. Many individuals meet the requirement by attending an outpatient treatment center while living in a sober living home. The usual length of stay, can range between 3 to 12 months, depending on your recovery.

Facts About Sober Living Homes

  • Prices can range between $300 to $2000 a month depending on where you live. A good rule of thumb, is the rent will usually equal the cost of living in your city.
  • Health insurance can cover some costs. Your insurance provider can give you a list of facilities in your network.
  • You can continue to go to work or school while living in a sober living home.
  • Usually, you may come and go as you please.
  • There will be random drug tests performed.
  • A high emphasis is placed on community participation.
  • You are usually given chores that must be completed.
  • The home may require you to attend group meetings, outpatient services or a 12 step program.


Unlike rehab facilities or halfway houses, a sober living home will allow you to stay longer. It is usually recommended a person stay a minimum of 90 days. Abstinence is your goal. Therefore, having the option to stay as long as needed, can aid in your sobriety.


In Conclusion

A sober living home is structured to avoid the limitations of rehabilitation facilities. This will allow you independence and emotional support while transitioning to normal living. A sober living home promotes a community environment. Studies show that strong social support will aid in recovery. Knowing your options is important when seeking help. Ultimately, you and your loved ones will decide what makes the most sense for you.