Sober Living Homes: Everything You Need to Know

Sober Living Homes: Everything You Need to Know

Published: 09/19/19

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Sober living homes are an important resource for people currently in the recovery process from a substance use disorder. Generally, sober living homes are a place for patients who have finished inpatient treatment and are transitioning ‘back to reality’. They tend to offer a variety of services and amenities that make this transition easier and smoother.

Many people who finish treatment at a rehab center return to very unsupportive environments. This can be a risky thing to do for someone who has recently regained their sobriety and is still fighting to retain it. Sober living homes are a way to avoid falling back into old habits by putting yourself in an environment that will support your recovery.

What Are Sober Living Homes?

Sober living homes are safe, structured environments that are free of all substances. They are specifically tailored for people who are in recovery from addiction. You might also hear sober living homes being called recovery homes, halfway houses, recovery residences, or sober houses.

Sober living homes are operated similarly to co-ops. Every member is responsible for contributing to the home by paying rent and doing chores. These homes are not simply a place for roommates to get together and live in a house. They are highly structured environments for people looking to stay sober during a delicate time in their recovery.

Usually, sober living houses have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to using drugs or alcohol. The community atmosphere of these homes, coupled with a strict drug-free policy and other structured recovery elements, combine to create a living environment that prioritizes sobriety over all else.

What Are the Levels of Sober Living Houses?

While all sober living homes share the same goal of providing a supportive and clean environment for recovering addicts to live in, they are not all created equal. In fact, there are different levels of sober living homes that each operate in similar, but unique ways.

Level 1 Homes

Of all sober living homes, level 1 homes give residents the least amount of oversight, onsite services, and support. Still, they are supportive environments for recovery. Oxford Houses are a great example of a level 1 home.

Oxford houses are a model of sober living that uses a democratic system to govern the household. Still, they make abstinence from all substances mandatory and they strongly suggest or mandate that all household members be actively involved in other recovery methods. These might include 12-step group meetings, or therapy sessions.

In level 1 homes, all household decisions are voted upon by each occupant. These decisions include whether to allow a new member into the house, so if you are looking to join a level 1 home, this is how they will decide. Because level 1 homes do not have any household supervisors, the cost of these homes tends to be the lowest. However, it might also put the members at higher risk for relapse because of the lower level of support.

Level 2 Homes

The main difference between level 1 homes and level 2 homes is the way that each is governed. Level 1 homes use an equal-vote democracy, meaning that each member gets an equal say in decisions. In level 2 homes, a supervisor is present.

This supervisor is elected by the rest of the household members and they make decisions on behalf of the other members. The supervisor is responsible for resolving disputes in the home and making sure that everyone follows the house rules. 

There are no actual recovery services offered in level 2 homes, but they are more strict about requiring members to participate in ongoing addiction recovery. Usually, members in level 2 homes must have some sort of aftercare plan in place. Additionally, drug and alcohol testing is common in these homes, which makes it impossible for members to lie about their sobriety.

The higher level of support and accountability found in level 2 sober living homes does come at a cost to its members. In addition to standard costs such as rent, shared expenses, and utilities, household members pay a fee for the supervisor’s services and for drug testing. For a higher price than level 1 homes, members get more accountability and a more rigid structure to support their recovery.

Level 3 Homes

Level 3 sober living houses are truly one step down from an inpatient treatment center. These homes feature an on-site staff who actually live in the home with the members and provide some treatment options and other support. Services such as support groups and life skills coaching might be offered by staff in these homes.

Any clinical treatment that is needed is usually still provided outside of the home; however, attending this treatment might actually be a requirement for living in the home. All the elements that are part of level 2 homes such as drug testing and support groups are also part of level 3 homes. With on-site staff and treatment services provided in the house, level 3 homes are a smooth and slow transition from rehab programs back into daily life.

Level 3 sober living homes are the most expensive. Residents of these homes must pay substantial fees for the additional addiction treatment and support that they receive. While not usually as expensive as inpatient treatment programs, these highly structured sober living houses are usually pricey.

However, it is not a wise choice to choose a sober living home simply based on cost. You must be honest with yourself about where you are in your recovery and put yourself in the right environment to succeed.

How to Find a Sober Living Home

Now that we have answered the question ‘what is a sober living home?’ you may be wondering how to find a suitable one near you. Simply conducting an online search using the keywords ‘sober living homes near me’ can turn up many helpful results.

Keep in mind that many homes will not specify what level they are. You will have to inquire about the house rules and how the house is run to learn how structured the environment will be.

Once you have a list of some homes that you are interested in, be sure to check that they have been certified by reputable sources. The National Association of Recovery Residences is an organization that certifies homes and regional networks of homes based on specific criteria. A NARR certification is a good sign that this home is a well-managed place that can keep its promises. 

Some local organizations may also exist where you live and may offer similar certifications. Most of these organizations will have similar requirements to the National Association of Recovery Residences, but be sure to check.

In addition to these certifications, trust your gut when you are choosing a sober living home. If things just do not seem to add up when you visit, and members seem unorganized and disheveled, staying away might be a good idea. Homes that are clean, organized, and have residents that seem to be doing well are something to look for.

How to Pay for Sober Living

You may be wondering how to pay for sober living. Many homes require members to be employed at least part-time. Working while living in a sober living home can be a great way to reintegrate back into following a normal day-to-day. 

If you are unable to work or still need support paying for sober living, there may be other options for you. Sober living homes are sometimes covered by health insurance. While this is rare, it is possible that your plan would cover some or all of the costs involved with living in a sober house.

Even if they do not cover it, they are likely to cover other aspects of your recovery, such as group meetings and therapy, which can make costs more manageable.

The cost of sober living may seem daunting, but it is far cheaper than the cost of losing your sobriety. Treat this period of time as an investment in your future. The benefits of sober living homes are plenty, and your time here may very well pay for itself in the lessons you learn, the skills you gain, and the bonds you form.

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