Spending time in a sober living house after completing an addiction treatment program has the potential to make or break an individual’s early stage sobriety. While some people may be able to transition directly from treatment back to their previous home environment, for most individuals, completing a drug or alcohol rehab program is only the first step in recovery. Learning to maintain a sober lifestyle takes time and can be uncomfortable at first. Residing in a sober living home allows an individual to ease into this new lifestyle and build addiction free habits and routines that can be translated into daily life once the person is ready to return to their old community.

However, just like addiction treatment programs and residential treatment centers, not all sober living homes are created equal. Consequently, it’s important to know what to look for in a sober living house so you can research what options are available and decide what would be the best fit for you or a loved one.

What is a Sober Living House?

A sober living house is a designated residence where a group of individuals who have completed an addiction treatment program live together in a drug and alcohol free environment. While each home is different, most sober living houses require residents to pay rent, do chores, contribute to cooking meals, and participate in other activities that encourage responsibility and allow individuals to practice skills they will need once they return to normal life. All of this is done within a safe and supportive environment, where residents typically have access to care teams or support staff and can build a social network with their sober peers.

For most people, a sober living home serves as an intermediary step between formal addiction treatment and returning to “normal” life. Since studies have found that residents who spend time in sober living homes are more likely to abstain from drugs and alcohol long-term, planning to reside in a sober living environment after completing treatment may be the best option for you or a loved one.

Although individual needs and desires vary when it comes to choosing a sober living house, there are some core values and entities to look for while researching sober living options.

7 Things to Look for in a Sober Living House

1. Balance of Structure and Independence

Most people coming out of formal addiction treatment programs have become accustomed to living life with structure. In many rehab facilities, each day is planned out from morning to night. This is, in part, to minimize stress and uncertainty so residents can focus wholeheartedly on their recovery. However, as we know, when an individual returns to their previous home environment, they can no longer rely on someone else to maintain a sense of structure and must learn to do it on their own.

When an individual leaves formal treatment, it’s easy to become overwhelmed as he or she begins to re-enter the world from a sober place. If all sense of structure is removed in the early stages of sobriety, it’s easy to consider turning to drugs or alcohol again to relieve stress or deal with uncomfortable emotions. A sober living house can help ease that sense of overwhelm by continuing to provide structure for residents but balancing it with independence.

Examples of structure in a sober living home may include:

  • Attending mandatory house meetings
  • Abiding by curfews
  • Adhering to chore schedules
  • Observing house rules

When activities are not scheduled, an individual can choose what to do with their time. The goal is to allow residents to gain a sense of ownership and routine while also learning to make responsible decisions for themselves. This is what helps make the transition back into an individual’s previous home or community successful.

Some homes may have different types of structure for residents based on how long they’ve resided in the home and maintained their sober lifestyle. It’s common for sober living houses to increase established residents’ responsibilities, while in turn, giving them more opportunities for free choice over time.

2. Accountability

To keep the sober living environment safe and conducive to recovery, all residents must be held accountable for their actions. This is particularly important when it comes to maintaining sobriety. All sober living homes should have a strict no drug or alcohol policy and have means to monitor this. While researching sober living houses, ask if they have a zero tolerance policy and how they enforce this.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Do you have random drug testing?
  • What’s the procedure if someone relapses?
  • Will someone who has relapsed be allowed to stay in the home?

Residents should also be held accountable for meeting curfews, attending house meetings, and attending any required support meetings such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. This sense of accountability not only helps individuals learn the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, but also keeps the environment safe and supportive for all residents living in the home.

Peaceful Environment

In addition to being safe and supportive, individuals will have greater success in a sober living house if a peaceful environment is maintained both within and outside the home.

If you have the ability to tour sober living homes, some things to look for that contribute to a peaceful environment include:

  • Spacious bedrooms
  • Ask staff how many residents are assigned to each bedroom. If you can, be sure to view the rooms to ensure that residents have enough personal space and aren’t sleeping in a cramped environment. 
  • Noise rules and restrictions.
  • In early times of sobriety, individuals need peace of mind and space for quiet so they can focus on their recovery. Ask about house rules when it comes to noise, including noise limits and quiet hours at night.
  • Maintenance of home.
  • Look to see if the home is well maintained and feels clean. Ask about housekeeping policies. Are residents responsible for cleaning the home? Are repairs and maintenance requests responded to quickly?
  • Neighborhood safety.
  • A peaceful environment extends to the neighborhood, as well. Ask about neighborhood noise, foot traffic, and any crime in the area. All of these items can affect an individual’s recovery.

3. Experienced staff and support team

In a sober living home, the safe, supportive, and peaceful environment should be monitored and maintained by skilled and licensed staff members. As residents are still learning how to engage with the world as sober individuals, it’s important that staff care about their success but are also willing to hold residents accountable for their actions. Additionally, reputable sober living homes should have a member of staff available 24 hours a day to support residents and enforce rules.

Here are some questions to ask as you consider which sober living home may be best for you or a loved one:

  • What is staff experience?
  • Are they licensed?
  • How and where are staff trained?
  • Is there an awake staff member that can be accessed 24 hours a day?

4. Amenities

The wants and needs of each resident entering a sober living home will differ, but as you begin to research sober living houses, ask about the specific amenities that each home offers. Will any of these amenities help contribute to your loved one’s recovery?

Some amenities that you may find valuable include:

  • Transportation to/from support meetings or medical appointments
  • Social activities and group outings
  • Yoga or exercise classes to support a healthy body
  • Access to computers and the internet
  • In-house laundry
  • Classes to learn skills such as cooking, budgeting, or resume building
  • Alumni programs
  • Opportunities for community service or volunteer work

5. Location

The location of the sober living house can also affect an individual’s recovery. Just like with house amenities, the best location will vary by individual. Each person is different, and therefore different locations may be more beneficial or detrimental to his or her long-term success and feelings of comfort in the home.

Here are some key items to consider as you begin to look at sober living options:

  • Is the home close to the individual’s family or support system?
  • Is it close to the individuals support meetings, doctors, school, or work?
  • Are there nearby grocery stores, gyms, libraries, etc?
  • Is the home nearby activities the individual enjoys such as the beach or the mountains?
  • Is it in a busy, city environment or more rural?

6. Cost

Just like with apartments, sober living houses will vary when it comes to cost. Amenities, the home’s location, number or residents, and other factors may all affect the cost of living at a specific home. In the beginning stages of sobriety, the last thing an individual needs is to be stressed about finances. Consequently, when researching houses, it’s important to ask about cost. Some questions you can ask support staff or house managers include:

    • Is rent on a sliding scale?
    • Are payment plans available?

Is a security deposit required?

  • Are there optional activities that come at an extra cost?
  • Do residents pay for utilities, food, and/or house maintenance?
  • What forms of payment are accepted?

7. Clear Program Philosophy

Considering the philosophy of a sober living home is crucial to an individual’s success. This philosophy is what drives the home’s mission, influences how residents spend their time, and gives insight into what residents will be taught while living there.

Some questions to ask house managers or staff include:

  • What is the mission of the home?
  • What are their core values?
  • Is the home rooted in the 12-Step Program or other recovery philosophy?
  • Is the home associated with a specific religion?

If you can, take the time to find a sober living house whose philosophy resonates with you. If you don’t agree with a home’s philosophy, it’s probably not the best environment for you to continue your recovery.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, choosing a sober living house is all about what feels best for the individual. What will make them feel safe and comfortable? What home will help them maintain their sobriety and prepare them to transition back to their previous community? The most effective way to determine which home will be best for you or a loved one is to tour the home, meet the staff and residents, consider the above guidelines and, most of all, trust your gut.

Harbor Recovery Sober Living

For men looking for sober housing, Harbor Recovery Sober Living provides a unique option. By focusing on structure, life skill development, and community involvement, our mission is to promote lasting sobriety and long-term recovery for our residents and their families. If you or a loved one is in need of sober housing, contact us today. Our confidential intake specialists can provide guidance as you navigate the next steps on the road to recovery.