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Sober Living Homes: The Pros And Cons

Entering a treatment facility is often the most effective way to conquer a substance use disorder. However, addiction does not end when an individual leaves an inpatient program. Upon returning home, the person in recovery will encounter triggers that create cravings for their substance of choice. Inpatient programs offer strict environments with professionals who support, monitor, and encourage recovery. What happens after that 30, 60, or 90 days is just as crucial to long-term sobriety.

Sober living homes (SLHs), sometimes called group homes or halfway houses, offer the person in recovery a bridge into a substance-free lifestyle. When an individual moves into an SLH after leaving rehab, they can practice new skills and lessons in a safe environment, hopefully reducing the odds of a relapse. Some estimates indicate that 60% of those in recovery from opiate addiction will relapse at least once after treatment. Often, this relapse occurs very shortly after an inpatient program ends. If you or a loved one is about to exit a treatment centre, keep these considerations in mind when picking a sober living home.

Benefits of Sober Living Homes

Sober homes provide recovery-focused environments for those who are serious about committing to sobriety after leaving a substance use treatment centre. Graduating to an SLH improves the chances for long-term recovery since the person has access to support systems and a safe home. Often, residents can take advantage of 12-step programs, group meetings, on-site sponsors, and other accountability programs that facilitate sobriety. 

Sober living home residents must abide by certain rules, such as abstaining from drug and alcohol use, completing household chores, and sticking to a curfew. The household shares responsibility for rent, expenses, and meals. Usually, residents must keep a steady job. A house manager oversees the home to maintain a sober living facility that supports recovery. As members of the household practice these skills, they prepare to live independently without substance use. 

Individuals in a sober living environment have a powerful incentive to avoid relapse. Most SLHs will evict residents who admit to drug or alcohol use or who break other house rules. 

These features also make the SLH setting a good choice for the recovering addict who needs help to stay sober but does not need full rehabilitation services. For example, a person who is in recovery may decide to move into an SLH after a relapse while living independently.

Drawbacks of Sober Living Homes

sober living homes

Image via Pexels by cottonbro 

Some sober living homes are much more comfortable than others. The person’s budget will largely determine their experience in an SLH. It may take research and patience to find an environment that has the desired amenities and accommodations at a reasonable cost.

Compounding this problem, sober living homes are not subject to state or federal regulation. Many SLHs do not adhere to a specific treatment program or have an affiliation with an industry organization.

Because an SLH does not qualify as a rental property, the manager does not have to follow local and state landlord/tenant laws. Residents who live in a sober home can be evicted at any time and for any reason.

Considerations When Choosing an SLH

If you’re seeking an SLH environment for yourself or a loved one, avoid settings that display these red flags:

  • Claims to be free – remember, you get what you pay for.
  • Rundown, dirty, or otherwise unsafe building or neighbourhood.
  • Little to no admission requirements or record keeping.
  • No abstinence or drug testing requirements.
  • No house rules.
  • Lack of clear ethical standards.
  • Untrained or uncertified staff.
  • Lack of regulatory inspections.

While a sober living house can be an important tool for long-term recovery and sobriety, this environment is not optimal for everyone. Some may need the rigid structure of a treatment centre, others may choose to stay with supportive family members, and others may thrive within the boundaries of a halfway house. SLHs offer a critical transition phase for those exiting a rehab facility who are not ready for the full freedom of life without boundaries. They can offer accountability, social support, and understanding critical to preventing relapse and encouraging healthy living. The key is to do the homework to find the best environment for the person’s needs to maximize their chances of recovery.