Sober living houses are living environments for those who want to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs.1 Maintaining abstinence is difficult without a stable, drug-free environment following treatment,2 so sober living environments were originally introduced as a safe and supportive placefor recovering addicts to live during their first months sober.1 It is not always necessary for the person to have just completed a rehab program to live in a sober home, though. Sober living can also be an important resource even for those seeking an alternative to formal treatment.1
Early models of sober living first emerged in the 1830s and were traditionally run by religious institutions, such as the YMCA and the Salvation Army.1 “Twelfth step” houses later emerged in Los Angeles after World War II to assist with widespread alcohol-related problems.1
Most sober living environments provide a lot more than a transitional living environment; many revolve around sound recovery methodology and 12-step programs.1 Some sober living programs in Southern California are also certified by the Sober Living Coalition, which sets a high standard for safety, cleanliness, management practices, and ethics.3 Residents are typically required to take random drug tests, participate in 12-step meetings, and demonstrate that they are taking the steps necessary to achievelong-term sobriety.1
ADDICTION RECOVERY PROGRAMS
For anyone battling an addiction, there is hope for recovery through the help of addiction recovery programs for drugs, alcohol and behavioral addictions.
Sober living homes offer individualized recovery plans and provide an environment that allows residents to work on their unique recovery program with the goal of becoming self-supportive. Sober living relies heavily on the philosophy of peer support and involvement for recovery.1
Newer models of sober living are sustained by residents who support themselves, pay their own rent, and purchase their own food.1 They are encouraged to work or actively seek work if they are not employed.1 Many residents qualify for some type of government assistance that can be used to pay for sober living house fees.2
Residents may stay as long as they wish, provided they follow house rules and fulfill financial obligations.2 Residents may be strongly encouraged or mandated to attend a minimum number of 12-step meetings each week, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous,1and some sober living houses also require participation in community service activities.
Clean and Sober Transitional Living (CSTL) is a group of sober living homes in California that places emphasis on community and commitment.1 CSTL homes offer two distinct types of living arrangements, separated by two phases. Residents typically share a dorm room in the first phase and each house will have a senior resident who is the house manager. Men and women live separately, but they attend events together; meals, toiletries, and furnishings are provided; and residents have access to recreational facilities. In the second phase, living arrangements are less restrictive and roommates share a home rather than a dorm room. Residents must successfully complete phase I in order to move on to phase II.4
EXPECTATIONS OF SOBER LIVING RESIDENTS
Residents of a sober living house are required to respect and adhere to all of the house rules,1 which are in place to protect all residents and guests and to make the living arrangement more enjoyable for everyone in the house.5 A list of rules is provided upon admission into the house, and residents are required to sign a contract stating that they will obey all the house rules.1 Sober living house rules may vary from house to house, but standard rules often include the following:6
- No drinking alcohol
- No taking drugs
- Any cigarette smoking must take place in designated smoking areas
- Must have no sexual contact with other residents
- Must pay your program fees on time
- Must not steal from the house
- Must not destroy house property
- Must not engage in violent behavior
- Must be actively involved in self-directed recovery program activities
Some sober living houses have a zero-tolerance policy in effect regarding the above rules and residents may be evicted from the house for any violation.1 Others are a bit more lenient with certain rules and stricter with others. For example, residents may be required to do community service or attend 12-step meetings every day for 90 days for the first relapse.1 All sober living houses have a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct.1
Polcin D. L., Henderson D. (2008). A Clean and Sober Place to Live: Philosophy, Structure, and Purported Therapeutic Factors in Sober Living Houses. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40(2), 153-159.
Polcin D. L., Korcha R., Bond J., Galloway G. (2010). What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here? Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 42(4), 425-433.
The Sober Living Network. (n.d.) Sober Living Coalition Membership.
Clean and Sober Living. (n.d.) Clean and Sober Living Frontpage.
The Sober Living Network. (2012). Standard for Quality Sober Living Homes.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums. (2012). Frequently Asked Questions About Federal Halfway Houses & Home Confinement.
Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. (n.d.) Licensure Rules: Rules for Providers of Substance Abuse Services.
Prison Legal News. (2015). When Halfway Houses Pose Full-Time Problems.
Mending Hearts. (2013). Mending Hearts Half-Way House Rules.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Types of Treatment Programs.
MedlinePlus. (2016). Substance use recovery and diet.
Smith M. A., Lynch W. J. (2012). Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Drug Abuse: Evidence from Preclinical Studies. Front Psychiatry, 2(82), 1-10.
Melemis, S.M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, (88)3, 325–332.