For many people, going straight back into the same living environment after addiction treatment can trigger a relapse. Therefore, sober living arrangements can support long-term recovery.
Completing addiction treatment is a monumental achievement, and many individuals choose sober living arrangements for their post-treatment housing to prevent compromising their hard-earned sobriety. For many people with substance abuse disorders, the environment they were in before treatment can spark emotions and trigger a relapse. Acquaintances, friends, and even family members may tempt or trigger them, making someone more prone to relapse.1
Sober living houses provide an alternative and offer a safe and supportive place to live after treatment. By providing a drug and alcohol-free environment and offering distance from negative influences, sober residences can help someone transition slowly back into everyday life.
Not all sober living houses are alike, but they do have similar elements. Besides being a drug and alcohol-free environment, they also include resources geared towards recovery. These environments typically have a balance of freedom and structure to help individuals transition out of the highly structured treatment setting.2
Most homes allow clients to come and go as they please, with some rules around curfews and visitors. Many homes encourage their clients to go to work or school and will assist with job hunting or obtaining job skills.
Though sober living has fewer restrictions and a freer schedule than an inpatient rehabilitation treatment setting, they also offer some much-needed structure. To better prepare clients for a successful and productive life in the community, sober homes may have a schedule for chores and meals. Some structure and predictability enables clients to feel more supported and fosters healthy habits for life out in the community.2
Recovery does not end when drug treatment is done. As such, sober homes will usually have resources to help clients maintain their sobriety. Substance abuse counselors are typically on-site or readily available. In addition, support groups and therapy visits are encouraged.
Unlike an independent living situation where an individual in recovery might find themselves alone and unsupported, sober living allows individuals to live in a less restrictive setting — but with all the help and support they need to succeed.
Depending on what the addiction was focused on or what treatment approach they feel most comfortable with, an individual can choose sober living homes geared towards Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, or any 12-Step program. People looking for sober living homes should evaluate more than one to see which is the best fit.
Every person has their own unique needs and preferences. The kind of sober living an individual chooses should be which one they’re most comfortable with and meets their needs.
Although the term seems familiar, most people don’t understand what a halfway house truly is. A halfway house is where people who were once in a restrictive environment go before transitioning into a home on their own within the community. Individuals discharged from a psychiatric institution or recently out of jail or prison might live in a halfway house. An individual just out of an inpatient treatment center may also reside in a halfway house. A halfway house, therefore, is a “halfway” point to living on their own.3
Most halfway houses are government-funded, though privately-owned halfway houses do exist. Some are free, while others require rent or insurance. Most of these houses have a group of people — from five to as many as twenty — living in a communal environment.
Halfway houses have different rules, depending on their focus. Some houses are very rigid and structured, while others allow a generous amount of freedom. Despite their differences, they do have a few factors in common. They all have curfews that are enforced, and they are all drug-free, which makes a halfway house ideal for someone seeking a sober living environment.
Unlike a halfway house, a sober living facility is strictly centered on helping their clients maintain their sobriety. While a halfway house might have people who do not have substance use problems, a sober living center deals primarily with people who are recovering from an addiction. Its focus is solely on its client’s recovery. Most people in a sober living facility have just completed rehabilitation treatment and are looking to transition back into the community as sober individuals.4
Because of its focus, sober living centers are highly structured with a very recovery-focused environment. Individuals leaving a rehab center and expecting complete freedom might be surprised to find out how many rules a sober living facility might have.
That said, sober living centers are an excellent choice for someone fresh out of rehabilitation. In these facilities, individuals can continue their therapy, meetings and practice their coping skills in a safe environment. Most sober living facilities require drug tests and are staffed by addiction-trained workers. Although sober living centers can be houses, many are structured as apartments or dorms.
Three-quarter houses are meant for individuals who have gained confidence in their coping skills and have demonstrated continued sobriety. A good candidate for a three-quarter house is someone who is almost ready to live independently. Three-quarter homes are different from halfway houses and sober living facilities in that they allow for more freedom, yet they still have the support of sober living. Most three-quarter homes have late or no curfews, and few require drug tests — if at all.
Despite these freedoms, three-quarter homes still have expectations — although they differ from sober living. Sobriety is still a “must,” but it’s expected that the client already has the skills to maintain their sobriety without much oversight.
A three-quarter house is focused on getting its clients ready for living on their own. Therefore, keeping a job, paying bills and rent, being a good roommate, and doing chores are expected. The goal is still remaining sober — but these homes also foster the independent living skills necessary to thrive as a functioning, self-supporting, and sober person.
Transitional housing is typically geared towards people who are homeless because of their substance abuse disorder. After all, being homeless does not offer the kind of support or safety that is ideal for maintaining sobriety. Transitional living allows people who are homeless a place to get back on their feet and remain sober. These housing arrangements help individuals save money, find jobs, and secure a permanent residence, as well as assisting them to stay sober.
Integrated intensive outpatient programs (IOP) allow people to attend work, school, and participate in everyday activities while receiving scheduled intensive therapy sessions, monitoring, a 12-Step program, or medical management. Integrated IOP services cater to each individual’s situation and help manage mental health issues as well as substance abuse disorders.
Although some sober living centers may break their phases up into smaller sections, most programs have three major phases: the restrictive phase, the reintroduction phase, and a self-sufficiency phase.
Upon leaving treatment in a rehab center and entering a sober living arrangement, most individuals feel vulnerable and exposed. The restrictive phase allows recently sober individuals to slowly become acclimated into sober living by providing structure and organization. Having a sense of predictability keeps clients from feeling overwhelmed or pressured, thus keeping them from relapsing due to stress.
The reintroduction phase lifts some of the restrictions and rules, letting clients experience more of the community on their own. This phase also tests the skills they learned in therapy while also offering the support they need if they feel cravings or triggers.
The self-sufficiency phase occurs when a track record of sobriety is exhibited, and confidence in their coping skills is apparent. In this phase, most people are ready to look for independent living arrangements.
Although sober living is an ideal transition method to life back into the community, some individuals may find the rules and expectations of sober living a challenge. Failure to follow rules can result in eviction because rule-breaking can compromise the sobriety and safety of other clients in the program.
Rules vary, but some of the most common rules are:
No drugs or alcohol.
Set wake-up times and curfews.
Participation in activities and chores.
Maintain a code of conduct.
No overnight visitors.
Attendance of a group or one on one therapy, support sessions, or a 12-Step program.
Sober living facilities vary. What may be the perfect fit for one person may be less than ideal for another. Choosing the right environment after rehab depends on the individual who will reside there. Some individuals may prefer a more restrictive and structured setting, while others may find that they are suited for a more unrestricted environment. Others may prefer certified or accredited housing with formally trained professionals.5
A person looking for a sober residence may be a veteran, have significant medical issues, or have a severe mental illness that plays a role in decision making. The Veterans Affairs may offer sober living arrangements for the military, and people who have medical or psychiatric needs may benefit from specialized housing.
One thought to consider is whether an individual has a dual diagnosis (a diagnosed mental illness). Someone who is dual-diagnosis may require a different level of support. Moreover, some sober living has specialized care, perhaps catering to people addicted to opioids or alcohol. Also, some individuals may prefer a smaller home while others enjoy more extensive settings. Keep all of these factors in mind when searching for sober living.
Even without a substance use disorder, living amongst strangers can be challenging. However, for many individuals recently out of rehabilitation, being away from familiar places and people may be just what they need. As difficult as living with new people can be, the environment offers some shelter from past relationships that can impact their newly-found sobriety. Sober living provides a fresh start.
Sober living also develops “muscles” that individuals may have lost while they were using drugs, like controlling their behavior, keeping to a schedule, time management, and honoring their commitments. One-day-at-a-time sober living helps to move individuals back into society, with a renewed life purpose and a sober outlook.
If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
(888) 744-9969 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.