One of the most important things you must have in your early days of recovery is a safe place to live – one that supports your decision to stay clean. If you’re new to recovery, sober living may be the way to go.
What is Sober Living?
Sober living is the general term given to places of residence that have been designated as recovery housing. These places support the sober lifestyle and are occupied only by people who are drug and alcohol-free. Yes, when you are sober, you enjoy sober living. But, when we talk about “sober living,” we are really referring to living in a sober living facility, transitional house, halfway house, three-quarter house, sober dorm, or some other type of sober place of residence.
Who Can Enjoy Sober Living?
Sober living is available to people who are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. This is an excellent way for people to stay clean. The supportive environment offered in sober living gives someone the opportunity to live in a sober environment 24-7. For many, this makes all the difference when it comes to recovery versus relapse. Some people go to a sober house immediately after they get out of rehab. They will stay there for three to nine months after they get out of treatment. Others won’t go to rehab, but will go into sober living after they have a month or so of recovery under their belts. Some people live in a sober living community for years.
Sober Living – Why it’s an Excellent Choice for People in Recovery
A sober living community is not designed to take the place of rehab. Someone goes into a sober house after they detox and get a foundation of sobriety. You have to have at least a little bit of clean time before you go into any type of recovery housing. This is for the safety and integrity of the house. Sober living gives you the opportunity to live in the company of other recovering people so you can stay accountable. No more fighting the urges alone at 3 a.m. No more bouncing out of the house on a whim to go on a three-day binge. Sober living provides a safety net. For in those early days of recovery, this safety net can be a real comfort. No matter what your situation is, if you’re reading this article, you may be considering sober living. Let’s take a look at the different sober housing options available.
Sober Living Facilities Provide Structure and Support in the Early Days of Sobriety
If you’ve just gotten out of an in-patient rehabilitation facility, you may opt for a sober living facility. This is a type of structured sober housing where sobriety is the main focus. You have to pay to live at a sober living facility. These are typically privately-funded places and most of them accept insurance. A sober living facility is managed and supervised 24/7 by someone who does not live in the house – maybe a licensed chemical dependency counselor. Quite often, a sober living facility is an extension of rehabilitation. Many people who stay here are attending Intensive Outpatient Services (5-Day IOP) and continuing to receive addiction treatment services. Many sober living facilities feel very comfortable and homey. Others feel more like a clinical setting or a hospital. Some sober living facilities are very strict. Others are a little loose with the rules. Every sober living community is different. Although those who reside in sober living facilities are free to come and go, they are required to follow house rules, complete house chores, and live by a strict curfew. They are also required to take mandatory drug tests. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be required to keep a job.
Halfway Houses – A Safe Place to Stay on the Way Home
Halfway houses are halfway between someplace and home. Someone may go to a halfway house for a few months when they get out of rehab. They might go to one when they get out of jail. Or, this might be a step up for someone who was homeless and is halfway to becoming fully independent. A halfway house is where five to as many as twenty people live together in a house with one common goal – recovery. They are often government funded, although many of them are privately owned. Some of them are free, but most of them require you to pay rent. In some cases, insurance will cover a stay at a halfway house, depending on the facility. Different halfway houses have different rules. Some are very strict. Some allow you an incredible amount of freedom. Many of them require residents to pass regular drug tests. Curfew is enforced. You must maintain gainful employment. You must complete chores. You must be working a program of recovery. These places are safe, clean, comfortable – and most important, they are drug-free. This is ideal for anyone is committed to sobriety and in need of structure, discipline, and loving support.
Halfway Houses vs. Sober Living – What’s the Difference?
Many people want to know what the difference is between a halfway house and a sober living facility. The main difference is the way the houses are structured. Life in sober living is very different than it is at a halfway house. A sober living community is focused completely on sobriety. A halfway house is focused on teaching people to be more independent and helping them develop the skills they need for independent living. Sober living is what happens after rehab. A halfway house would be somewhere you might go after sober living. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison: Sober Living:
- Very strict, a lot of rules
- Very structured
- Extension of rehabilitation services
- A place to go immediately after rehab
- Recovery-focused activities offered (meetings, classes, etc.)
- Drug tests required
- Early curfew
- Less strict, less rules
- Less structured, more freedom
- Focused less on sobriety and more on independent living
- Place to go after sober living facility
- Many people just released from jail live here
- Many people live here after being homeless
In addition to a sober living facility or a halfway house, there is also a place called the three-quarter house.
Three-Quarter Houses – Almost on Your Own, But Not Quite
Three-quarter houses are for people who have demonstrated continued sobriety for an extended period of time and are almost ready for independent living. Basically, when you live in a three-quarter house, you still have the support of a sober living community, but you are on your own schedule. You can come and go as you please. You usually do not have to take drug tests. There probably isn’t a curfew, or if there is one, it’s much later than you would expect at a halfway house. You have to keep a job, pay rent, and perform house chores. The focus at a three-quarter house is not so much on sobriety (although it is a requirement), but on functioning as a self-supporting adult who can stay sober and maintain a healthy home environment. Three-quarter houses can be government funded or privately owned. This is where someone goes after they have left a halfway house and have proven that they are a responsible, recovering person who is working a program.
What’s the Difference Between a Three-Quarter House and a Halfway House?
The main difference between a halfway house and a three-quarter house is the structure of the house. A three-quarter house is much, much less structured than a halfway house. People who live in a three-quarter house have proven that they can stay clean for a good chunk of time and have been working a program of recovery for awhile. Those in a three-quarter house require almost no supervision and a lot less structure than those who are living in a halfway house. Someone moves into a three-quarter house after they have lived in a halfway house. Or, perhaps they have been in recovery awhile, but their life circumstances are such that they need a safe, drug-free place to stay until they can get their own place. In either case, a three-quarter house offers people an environment that allows them to be on their own schedule and do their own thing. A three-quarter house is where someone goes when they are almost ready to live on their own. Sober living facilities, halfway houses and three-quarter houses are all excellent options for people who are new to recovery and looking for structure, discipline, support, and a place that will help them get back on their feet. Now, let’s talk about a few other types of recovery housing options.
Privately-Owned Sober Houses – Get Clean in Style
This is a great option for recovering people who are getting on their feet. Privately-owned sober houses are nice houses. You will have your own room and only have to share your bathroom with a few other people. You will get to share a full kitchen with your housemates, enjoy a nice furnished living room, a yard, and a safe place to park your car. The deal is, you have to stay sober and work a program of recovery. If you get drunk or use dope, you will be asked to leave. There is no governing body at a privately-owned sober house. You are simply sharing a living space with other recovering people. You are essentially renting a room from a landlord and part of your lease agreement is to stay clean. It’s easy to rent a room in a sober house. Just ask around the rooms of 12-step meetings and you will soon learn of someone who owns a sober house. Guaranteed. If you want to maintain independence, but stay in the comfort of mid to upscale accommodations, this is an excellent choice. Rent is usually $300-$1,000 for a room with all bills paid.
Oxford Houses Offer a Safe, Stable Place to Stay for Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics
Oxford Houses are sober living houses that belong to the Oxford House network. These provide a more structured and disciplined environment than a privately-owned sober house. Not just any ole house can call itself an Oxford House. The place must go through a process of review and agree to operate by certain standards and guidelines to be certified as an Oxford House. Oxford Houses are available across the United States. They have been around since 1975. They are very affordable. You can rent a room at an Oxford house for $150 a month. They will usually let you in free on the agreement of a payment plan while you get back on your feet. Oxford Houses provide a safe, supportive, and clean environment for people who are serious about staying in recovery. Some people live in an Oxford House for the first few years of their recovery because they truly enjoy the lifestyle. The organization promotes self-reliance and democracy within the house. Usually, there are five to fifteen people in every Oxford House. You typically share a room with at least one other person, maybe more. You might sleep in bunk beds. Oxford Houses have strict rules – more so than most sober living houses. You have to completely commit to sobriety. You have to live by a curfew – unless your job requires you to work at night. You will have chores around the house. You have to keep a job. There are usually 12-step meetings on site. These recovery houses are very structured. This is definitely the right way to go for people who need a greater level of supervision in early sobriety.
Transitional Living for The Homeless – Find a Place to Stay Today
If you are now homeless because of your addiction, it is imperative that you find safe place to stay immediately. Living on the streets is not conducive to sobriety. Transitional living homes are available to the homeless. These are different than the typical sober house. Transitional living is specifically designed to help the homeless get on their feet. This includes finding safe shelter, getting a hot meal, taking a long-awaited shower, ultimately finding employment, and finding self-sufficiency again. The Salvation Army is a great place to start. The organization provides services for the homeless, including providing sober living at little to no cost. After you stay clean a few months and get a few dollars in your pocket, you can find a more permanent place to stay. If you’re currently without a place of residence, transitional living is the way for you to go.
Sober Apartments are a Reality and They are Way Cool
If you can believe it, there are actually sober apartment complexes. These are every recovering person’s dream. Imagine living in an apartment complex with a community of people who are committed to sobriety. It’s a pretty cool way to live. Usually, these are not commercial complexes. They are privately owned sober apartments that typically consist of less than fifty units. The rule here is that you have to commit to a drug and alcohol-free living space. These apartments usually offer short term leases, month-to-month rentals, and furnished living spaces. Of course, every unit comes with a full bathroom, kitchen, living room and one or two bedrooms. Pets and children are not allowed in some complexes. What’s great about living in a sober apartment complex is that there are usually a lot of activities like cookouts, game nights, and 12-step meetings. If you want to live on your own, but surround yourself with other people who are in recovery also living an independent lifestyle, sober apartments are awesome.
Sober Living is Possible While You’re Away at College
Because addiction and alcohol abuse have become such a major problem for people between the ages of 18-25, many college campuses across the country are providing sober living accommodations for students who have committed to a sober lifestyle. Universities like Auburn, Baylor, and Fairfield have garnered a reputation of excellence for their sober dorms. These universities have created dormitories where sobriety and a continued commitment to sobriety is a requirement to live in the dorm. Most of these sober living communities house less than fifty people. They offer shared bathrooms, kitchen spaces, and community areas. Many of these sober dorms offer 12-step meetings, peer support, and mentorship programs that help students stay on track. The idea of sober living on college campuses is to help students maintain their recovery while they keep up their studies. If you have a strong desire to go to college, but you’re early in sobriety, you may strongly consider looking into an educational institution that offers sober living. Being in a supportive recovery environment in college can make all the difference to your academic success and your continued sobriety. Are you in college, but think you might have an addiction? Know the ten signs of drug or alcohol abuse in college students.
The Many Pros and Not-so-Many-Cons of Sober Living
Just like with anything else in life, sober living has both its benefits and its drawbacks. Let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons to sober living. Pros:
- You will be in a supportive recovery environment
- You will be in a safe place, away from drugs and alcohol
- You will increase your chances for continued sobriety
- You will have to be accountable to other people, which is a good thing
- Sober houses are affordable
- Bills are usually included in the total monthly cost
- It can be fun living with other recovering people
- Things will never get boring
- It can be difficult living with other people if you’re not used to it
- There will be some lack of privacy
- It can be costly to maintain two residences if you keep your apartment or house
- You may be confronted with relapses of housemates
Small Sacrifices are Worth the Many Benefits to Sober Living
Yes, you may have to sacrifice a little bit of privacy if you live in a sober house. It may not be the most convenient location, and you may have to drive a little further to get to your job. If you live in a sober house, there will probably be drama and you will most likely fight with housemates about what to watch on the television. BUT, these are all teeny tiny prices to pay when it comes to your sobriety. The freedom of recovery is worth the small compromises that come with living in a sober house for a few months. Besides, most people say sober living is fun. It’s like living in a college dorm – without all the alcohol-induced vomiting and all-night cram sessions. You gain very valuable friendships in sober living and spend some nights up till dawn just laughing.
No Matter What You’re Using, There’s a Sober House for You
Barbiturates are a major problem in Colorado. Many detox from this powerful drug in a rehabilitation facility and decide they need to go into a sober living community for the first few months. This is a step in the right direction. Trying to stay clean from powerful prescription medications those first few months is quite the challenge. Maybe it’s not barbiturates. Perhaps you’re fighting the meth monster or you are recovering from cocaine addiction. Overcoming powerful cravings is one of the greatest obstacles to sustaining long-term sobriety when you’re withdrawing from meth or coke. You have to get through those first few gruesome months of wanting more of the stuff. Why sweat this time all by yourself in your house or apartment when you can do it in a sober house? It really doesn’t matter what you’ve been using. Sober living is available to people who want to get clean from drugs and alcohol. It doesn’t matter what kind or how much you used. All that matters is that now you want to stay clean and you want to live with other people who do too. Have you ever stayed in recovery housing? Share your experience here.