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The Complete Guide to Sober Living Housing

The Complete Guide to Sober Living Housing
Written by Seth Fletcher on January 16, 2020
Medical editor Dr. Jonathan Siegel
Last update: April 9, 2024

Idividuals dealing with substance abuse disorder may significantly benefit from living in an environment that helps them develop healthy habits and coping skills as they recover from the condition. Substance abuse has severe adverse effects on the users, their families, and the general society. Approximately six million people in Canada (21% of the population) will deal with some form of substance abuse during their lifetime. Alcohol is the most abused substance in Canada, while cannabis and cocaine are also among the most commonly abused substances in the country. 

Sober living homes help people – typically those in a recovery program – to heal their minds and bodies from the effect of their addictions in a distraction-free environment that allows them to focus on their health and recovery. Our guide to sober living homes explains the benefits, drawbacks, and how to make the most out of a sober living home. 

Key Takeaways

  • A sober living home is a facility that helps recovering addicts to transit safely into normal society. 
  • They offer a distraction and substance-free environment that help residents learn how to live independently without depending on alcohol and other mind-altering substances.
  • Sober living homes operate by strict house rules that reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Research shows that sober living housing positively impacts residents’ health, behavior, and relationships. 

What is a sober living home

A sober living home is a facility designed to help people with substance abuse disorder regain or maintain their sobriety. Sober living homes employ set recovery principles to help residents prepare to return to a normal life. These facilities serve as a bridge between a regular inpatient facility and real society. 

Sober living homes are beneficial to recovering patients concerned about transitioning from the structured surroundings of a treatment center to the relatively chaotic real-world environment. They are usually located in quiet neighborhoods, allowing residents to focus on their recovery and transformation. Sober houses offer peer support and encourage individual responsibility to prepare residents for their return to everyday living. 

A sober living housing environment is not as strict as a rehab center, and residents are allowed to come and leave as they please with supervision. The idea is to help them to learn to live independently without returning to alcohol or drugs. For many recovering addicts, a sober house may be the difference between staying substance-free and having a relapse. Time spent in a sober living home gives residents the window of time and psychological space to find a job, get accommodation, and reconcile with friends and family impacted by their addiction. If you or a loved one is recovering from addiction and needs an environment to help their healing process, you may need to consider a sober home. 

What to Expect in a Sober Living Home

When you enter a sober living residence, you’ll expect a drug and alcohol-free environment that allows you to heal your mind and body under the best possible circumstances. You’ll be assigned a case manager who will take responsibility for your recovery. Case managers are certified counselors who are experts in helping recovering patients transit from rehabilitation to becoming functional members of society. Your case manager will assess you and determine the best course of action. They will help you find all the resources you need for your recovery. Your case manager will also find out your personal goals and help you devise appropriate strategies for their accomplishment. 

A case plan offers a blueprint of your sober living goals. It’s the case manager’s job to create this blueprint and find resources to help you meet these goals. Finally, your case manager will evaluate your progress and ensure you remain accountable throughout your stay in the sober home and beyond. In a sober living home, you are in a treatment facility that allows you to come and go as you want, helping to ease you into normal living. A sober living home also offers 12-step meetings with other recovering addicts to support their recovery process. Residents may also attend onsite church services or meditation programs for a more spiritually robust recovery. Sober living homes also provide food, bed linens, towels, and basic toiletries.

Have a struggling family member that needs help? Call 1-855-499-9446 now and get the help your loved one needs or request a call, and we will take care of the rest.

What Are the Rules of Sober Living Homes?

Sober living homes have set rules designed to support recovery, keep residents safe, and help build a sober lifestyle. Every sober home has specific rules, but here are some standard rules in most sober homes:

No drugs or alcohol allowed on the premises

The point of going to a sober home is to get off drugs or alcohol, enjoy sobriety benefits, and become a productive member of society. Naturally, the first rule of any sober home will be “no drugs or alcohol allowed.” There may be allowances for specific prescription medications, and residents must consent to random drug or alcohol tests.

Residents must actively participate in activities in the home

To maximize their stay in the sober living facility, residents must participate in all activities scheduled for their recovery, such as attending weekly meetings and performing regular chores.

Residents must show commitment to their recovery

Residents who are allowed into sober living homes must complete rehab and detox (which may not always be mandatory) and are expected to attend scheduled 12-step meetings. 

Residents must obey house curfew rules

While sober living homes allow residents to come and go as they wish, they must obey set curfew times and be accountable for their whereabouts whenever they’re outside the facility. They must sleep in the facility for at least five nights every week unless given leave to travel. Residents are not allowed to have overnight guests and must also maintain respect for staff and other housemates. Individuals who have had problems with alcohol and drugs have developed unhealthy habits and may be undisciplined in their routines.  Sober living homes provide a structure to develop new and healthier daily habits.

Pets and phones policy

Some sober living houses allow non-disruptive pets on their premises. They may restrict access to phones and other internet-enabled gadgets as they can be triggers for relapse. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Sober Living Homes

Recovering from an addiction is never easy. Many people are unable to break free from their addictions with the kind of structured supervision that sober living homes offer. The benefits or drawbacks of sober living homes depend on personal circumstances and even the choice of a sober house. Sober living homes have several benefits, including:


Sober living homes help residents to be accountable as they participate in 12-step recovery programs, group meetings, and other activities that facilitate sobriety.  

Peer support and motivation 

Residents of sober homes will receive peer support from others in similar conditions, motivating them to continue even when they don’t feel like it. The prospect of being kicked out of a sober home for laxity or non-adherence to rules can also be a motivating factor. There is a saying in 12-step meetings: one cannot always think one’s way to give living; we sometimes need to live our way to good thinking.  Peer support from others encourages others to take action consistent with their commitments.

Skills to live comfortably after treatment

Recovering addicts gain the necessary skills to live alone right out of treatment at a sober home. Individuals who suffer a relapse after living independently can also move back to the more structured environment of a sober living home. 

It may not work for everyone

Not all recovering addicts are suited to a 12-step program, some individuals find the spiritual principles taught in those programs to be a barrier. Other individuals may spend time in a sober living environment without significant positive impacts. The prospect of sudden eviction if a resident breaks set rules can also be a source of anxiety that can hinder recovery. Also, residents unwilling to put in the work required to get better can negatively affect other housemates. 


The cost of living in a sober home also affects the quality of care provided, so your budget largely determines the kind of experience you’ll have. A low-budget home can mean poor living quarters, which can be less than conducive to recovery. Residents or their families often spend significant sums for luxury sober homes.

How to Choose a Sober Living Home?

The ideal sober home for a recovering addict is a sober house that provides an environment that offers them the best chance for complete recovery. One of the first considerations when choosing a facility is its reputation and amenities. A sober home with a reputable staff and excellent amenities will likely provide an environment conducive to recovery. 

It also helps to consider the sober home’s house rules, privacy regulations, and adherence to regulatory standards to ensure they fit your needs. The location of the sober house is also worth considering.   A complete change of scenery can do wonders for recovery. Also, remember that a sober house close to your hometown or in a location that might potentially trigger a relapse may not be ideal.  Take the appropriate time before making a decision.

How Much Does Sober Living Cost?

The cost of sober living in Canada depends on the type of amenities on offer. It also depends on whether the home is government-funded or private. Government-funded facilities are free under the province’s healthcare plan but allow only a fixed number of residents per time. So, these facilities cannot meet the demand for sober-living homes. 

Privately-funded sober living homes range from basic to luxurious ones. Basic sober living homes cost, on average, $500 per month. Luxury facilities with better high-end amenities that can aid recovery can cost as much as $12,000 per month. 

Who Should Consider Joining a Sober Living House?

A sober living environment can benefit anyone recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. Although not a strict requirement, most residents of sober living homes must have completed a rehab or detox program before joining. These programs pre-equip residents who have learned how to stop drinking or using drugs with coping skills for staying sober. 

A sober living home is an ideal option for recovering addicts who want to remain sober and reintegrate into normal society with minimal to no risk of relapse. Sober living homes ease the transition process and help residents stay accountable even after they leave. Individuals who do not have a reliable support system or who have suffered from multiple relapses will find the sober living environment particularly helpful. 

However, sober living homes are not only for people who hit rock bottom due to their addictions. Functional members of society who work or go to school but realize they need help before their substance use gets out of control will also find support from sober living homes.

When to Move Into a Sober Living Home

Knowing when to move into a sober home can be the difference between a full recovery and a catastrophic relapse. You may want to consider checking into a sober living facility if you’ve undergone rehab or detox and still feel you have some way to go toward complete recovery. If you have finished your recovery process but feel you’re not ready to live alone, it may be time to go to a sober living facility. 

Individuals who have been living independently but want a support system to aid their path to full recovery can also get help from a sober living facility. Moving into a sober home is always a good decision for any recovering person committed to complete sobriety.

How Long Should Residents Stay in a Sober Living Home?

Residents are typically allowed to stay in sober living homes for as long as they want, provided they stick to the house rules. However, addiction is a complex condition, and people take different paths on their journey to recovery. Some studies show that residents must spend at least 90 days in a sober living facility to achieve lasting sobriety, although again, the recovery process is highly variable and depends on many different psychological and psychosocial variables.  The factors that can influence a resident’s length of stay in a sober house include the following:

Individual needs

Recovering addicts have varying needs, and people with co-occurring disorders or a history of severe substance abuse may have to spend more time in the sober house. Residents who need to complete vocational training or a school program may also require longer stays. 

Progress of treatment

Residents making steady progress on their path to recovery may not need to stay in the home for longer than necessary. For others who suffer repeated relapses, there may be a need for an extended stay and more frequent appointments with their case manager and therapists. 

Home environment 

Residents who return to a home environment that does not aid or promote sober living (due to the presence of drugs, alcohol, and other triggers) may need to stay in the sober home until they can arrange safer accommodation. 

Other Treatment Options

Sober living homes are only one of the options available on the path to addiction recovery. They are ideal for people with complex treatment needs due to prolonged periods of substance abuse. Sober homes are also better for people who have finished rehab or detox programs. There are other treatment options to consider if a sober home doesn’t feel like the best fit for you: 


Individuals with substance abuse disorder needing immediate attention will benefit from a hospital’s thorough, structured care. Hospitals will also offer supervision and continuous care to patients who need it. 

Detox and rehab centers  

Detox centers help individuals who are dependent on drugs or alcohol to safely withdraw from using the substance. They are known as withdrawal management centers, and they help get all toxic substances out of the patient’s system. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely draining, and even fatal, so professional monitoring in a detox center is necessary. 

After a successful detox, rehab centers provide round-the-clock monitoring to help individuals manage their progress. Rehab centers offer holistic addiction treatment (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), reducing the likelihood of a relapse. 

Outpatient centers

Outpatient centers are facilities designed to help recovering addicts continue their treatment without being committed to the facility. They are typically walk-in clinics offering structured treatment that keep patients on the path to recovery. Outpatient centers are ideal for individuals with stable living arrangements whose conditions do not put them or others at risk. 

Counseling sessions

Counseling sessions with experts or individuals experiencing the same problems help the recovery process. Talking to groups of people in the same situation builds positive reinforcement that goes a long way in helping individuals remain substance-free. 

Sober Living Houses vs. Halfway Houses and Rehab Centers

The terms sober living houses, halfway houses, and rehab centers are often incorrectly used interchangeably. While these establishments often have similar goals, they are not exactly the same.  . Sober living houses and halfway houses have the same goal – to provide housing and support for individuals on the path to sobriety who no longer need intensive inpatient treatment. 

The key difference between sober homes and halfway houses is that residents of halfway houses may be court-mandated to be there. Residents are typically inmates of correctional facilities required by law to live there. Sober living home residents choose to be there and are usually fresh out of a substance abuse recovery program. Halfway houses are often state-owned, while sober living homes are mostly privately funded. 

While sober homes and halfway houses aim to transition residents into normal society, rehab centers help addicts recover from substance abuse. Rehab centers are usually the first step on the road to sobriety. They may employ medication, therapy, and other holistic forms of treatment to find the root of the addiction and bring healing on all levels. Rehab may also involve detox to get the substances out of the individual’s system. People who are through rehab may proceed to sober living homes or halfway houses to continue their treatment. Rehab centers may be privately owned or government-funded. 

Do Sober Houses Actually Work?

The primary aim of sober houses is to provide residents with a supportive environment that prepares them to become functional members of society. Studies on the effectiveness of sober living homes show significantly positive outcomes, especially for residents who spent up to a year in the homes. Recovering addicts who spend time in sober homes report positive behavioral and relationship changes and a marked reduction in mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression.

The kind of living environment a person stays in post-rehab plays a significant role in their ability to achieve permanent sobriety. A sober house motivates residents to stay substance-free and decreases their chance of suffering a relapse. If you or someone you love needs help recovering from addiction, a sober home is one of the most effective ways to facilitate faster healing. 


Getting the right help is crucial when it comes to substance abuse recovery. Sober homes take residents on a holistic healing journey of their mind, body, and spirit, equipping them with the will and strength they need to overcome their addiction. If you or a loved one is dealing with substance abuse, getting in touch with a sober home will significantly help the journey to recovery. 

If you are not sure and want to find out more about getting help for your addiction or your loved one’s addiction, get help today by calling 1-855-499-9446 or request a call.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of sober living?

Sober living is a healthcare system designed to help people recovering from substance abuse ease into normal society. Sober living homes create a conducive and distraction-free environment for recovering addicts to focus on their health and recovery. Sober homes serve as a bridge between an inpatient facility and the real world.

What is another name for a sober living house?

A sober living house is also known as a halfway house, as it serves as a bridge between a treatment facility and society. However, a halfway house may also describe a facility for addicts ordered to undergo sober living by a court. 

Are sober living homes effective?

Yes. Individuals who spend time in sober living homes report positive impacts on their health, behavior, and relationships. Research also shows that sober living homes can provide a structure for living that supports and motivates residents to remain free from alcohol and drugs and achieve emotional sobriety, one day at a time.

Are sober living homes safe?

Yes. Sober living homes are generally safe as they operate by strict house rules to which every resident must adhere. They are also designed to provide a distraction-free environment to give residents the best chance of recovery. Health authorities also inspect sober living homes regularly to ensure they maintain set regulatory standards. 

Can you leave a sober living home?

Yes. You can leave a sober living home if you want. However, you should ensure that you are fully ready to start living independently before leaving. Leaving a sober home too early or without a strategy for living without alcohol or drugs may potentially contribute to a relapse. 

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.


Dr. Jonathan Siegel earned his doctoral degree in counselling psychology from the University of Toronto in 1986. He is a registered psychologist in private practice and has 30 years of experience conducting both assessments and counselling with a diverse group of individuals presenting with a broad range of psychological adjustment difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, and addictions.

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