What Is a Sober Living House?

Diverse group of people sitting in circle in group therapy session.

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A sober living house is a peer-managed home designed to help people maintain sobriety.  This is achieved through required sobriety, recovery group attendance, and household participation. Those who live in these houses rent rooms indefinitely and live a life in accordance with their responsibilities, like work and school.

If you or someone you know has recently quit drinking alcohol and is now sober—congratulations, quitting alcohol can be a long and difficult process. However, you might be wondering what happens now that the detox is over, you’ve completed your stay at an addiction treatment center, and it is time to go home.

This can be a critical time for your sobriety. Often the structure and routine of treatment programs help keep folks sober, and risking the loss of that when completing the program can be a threat to your recovery.

This is where a sober living house comes in. These are residential facilities that provide structure and support for those healing from addiction. They are designed to be a transitional space from residential treatment to mainstream society.

Read on to learn about what a sober living house is, the history of sober living homes, types, who should go to one, and how you can find a sober living house.

Sober Living Houses

Most residents of these homes have recently completed an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Leaving the structure of the treatment program can be very disruptive to your sobriety, so treatment programs have strict schedules filled with counseling, group therapy, and participatory activities.

While a sober living house doesn’t offer individual or group counseling, it offers structure and support to help you maintain your sobriety. Additionally, maintaining your sobriety typically requires a home that is free of substances. Sober living facilities are often thought of as a sober person's pipeline to life in mainstream society.

The History of Sober Living Houses

Sober living houses originated in the late 1940s. They first came into existence when a group of active participants in the Alcoholics Anonymous group created a “12-step” residence. This was a home, typically placed in low-income housing, that enforced policies around sobriety and required attendance to AA meetings. Meetings were held both in the home and in neighboring organizations in the community.

Over the years, sober living houses have evolved to meet the needs of those in recovery. As such, sober living associations now make finding a residence easier. There are also plenty of independent sober living houses that have not changed their protocols much since the late 1940s when these residences came to be.

Types of Sober Living Houses

There are a few types of sober living houses:

  • Traditional sober living house: In this kind of house, you simply pay a monthly fee for rent, maintain attendance in recovery groups, stay sober, and participate in household duties.
  • Sober re-entry program: Also known as halfway houses, this is a form of sober residence that is often recommended for formerly-incarcerated folks. Sometimes formerly-incarcerated folks are still on parole, which means they finish their prison sentence under close supervision outside of jail. In addition, parole typically requires clean drug tests, making a sober living residence a necessity for many. These programs offer support as they transition back into society. In some circumstances, these programs aren't necessarily designed for formerly incarcerated people and instead adhere to strict programming and have staff present in the home. Most of these programs have a length of stay limit.
  • Transitional housing programs: These function as facilities formerly in which those who were previously homeless can live in as they begin to find stability and move towards securing independent housing. Some transitional housing programs require proof of sobriety.

Sober Living Houses vs. Halfway Houses

Something important to note is that sober living houses are not the same as halfway houses. While they are both residences designed to support folks in maintaining sobriety and transitioning back into society, there are some key differences.

Sober Living Houses
  • You can stay as long as you need to

  • No regimented treatment program

  • Designed for people who have completed rehab

Halfway Houses
  • There's a time limit to your stay

  • Contains structured programs

  • Designed for formerly-incarcerated people

Sober Living Houses

Sober living houses are often recommended for folks finishing up a drug rehabilitation program.Leaving the structure of a treatment program can be jarring, sometimes triggering a relapse. As such, sober living houses serve as a space to transition into a life without addiction, developing tools and community while getting used to the demands of daily life.

They are environments free of substance abuse where individuals can receive support from peers who are also in recovery. There is no time limit on how long someone can live in a sober living house. While meeting attendance and household duties may be required, there isn't regimented treatment programming present in the home.

Halfway Houses

Halfway houses, also known as sober re-entry programs, tend to be more structured. Sometimes they are designed specifically for formerly incarcerated folks. Other times, they function as a more intensive residential facility, meaning that there is consistent recovery programming, requirements, and staff present in the house.

Halfway houses have a limit to how long someone can live there. Due to how interchangeably these terms are used, it is important to ask questions about expectations and structure to determine which home is the right fit for you.

Since there is a difference between sober living houses and halfway houses, it is important to gather as much information about each residence as possible. Below are some important questions to ask when looking for resources:

  • What are the requirements for living here?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How long do residents generally stay?
  • What types of recovery meetings are endorsed? For example, do members of the household strictly adhere to the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Should You Go to a Sober Living House?

A sober living house can be an excellent fit for many people. First, if you’re recently leaving a rehab stay or have just wrapped up an outpatient program, a sober living facility may provide you with the structure you need.

Suppose you’ve recently relapsed and found that the stress of being in environments around alcohol and drugs or a lack of structure is particularly triggering. In that case, a sober living residence may be a good fit for you.

Finally, a transitional housing center with a sobriety requirement could be of great help if you're struggling with housing insecurity, mainly due to addiction struggles. 

Effectiveness of Going to a Sober Living House

Going to a sober living house has been proven to support sobriety efforts, with results ranging from a decreased amount of relapses to long-term sobriety.

Research on sober living houses also states that residents experience a higher possibility of securing employment and a lower likelihood of getting arrested.

While sober living houses have research touting their efficacy, it is also important to remember that they are still environments where you are living with others and the focus is on staying sober.

While some may be hungry to integrate back into society after a stint in a treatment program, there is an expectation that you will remain an active participant in the home and follow its rules. Some sober living houses may be placed in neighborhoods with high crime rates. This can be true for halfway houses, as well.

How to Find a Sober Living House

A great way to find a sober living house in your area is first to explore your network. Not all sober living homes are equal, so finding a place that an acquaintance has recommended could be helpful.

Consider asking folks at a recovery meeting or touching base with any sober friends you may have. If you recently completed a treatment program, contact the staff there for referrals to local sober living homes.

You can also look into Oxford Houses, which provide all recovering users the opportunity to develop comfortable sobriety without relapse.

How to Pay for Your Stay at a Sober Living House

Finances can be crucial in determining the best plan for your recovery. Some halfway houses, or sober re-entry programs, are state-funded. However, sober living houses are not covered under insurance since they do not provide treatment services and thus aren't considered rehabilitative facilities.

There are still options to get the support you need, even if finances are a stressor. If you think that a stay at a sober living house would be a good fit for you, here are ways in which you can pay for your stay:

  • Ask your treatment provider. Some addiction treatment programs have options to support residents in financing their stay in a sober living house. They may also be able to connect you to sober living houses that offer sliding scale fees.
  • Grants and Scholarships. Changing Lives Foundation is an organization that offers grants to those facing unexpected financial hardship, medical bills, catastrophic events, or even need help with rent payments.
  • Finance it. This isn't an ideal option for many, especially due to high-interest rates and barriers to borrowing like low credit scores, but seeking out a loan can be helpful. Before doing this, make sure to consider how debt may impact your level of stress and, in turn, negatively impact your sobriety.

A Word From Verywell

Maintaining sobriety can be a difficult process, however, a sober living house may provide you with the kind of structure and support you'll need to maintain your sobriety. If you're having a hard time adjusting to a sober life, reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in addiction and substance use.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.