Choosing Between Rehab, Sober Living, and Halfway Houses
Sober living homes provide an excellent transitional living situation after recovering addicts complete an inpatient rehab program or while continuing to attend outpatient treatment. These recovery homes help recovering addicts get back into the groove of independent living as they transition from an addiction treatment program back to the real world.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that individuals who participate in sober living programs show a high success rate in avoiding substance abuse during and after their residency at the sober house.
Addiction recovery comes with many different treatment options, including where recovering addicts can stay while in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. However, it’s essential to understand the differences between these three types of programs to make the right choice for yourself or a loved one.
The phrase “drug rehab” is a catch-all term for the variety of services available for treating substance use disorders, including alcohol and drug addiction. However, within the scope of rehab, there is a whole range of programs that offer varying levels of care.
Inpatient treatment programs provide the most structure and highest level of care, whereas outpatient programs offer more flexibility.
An inpatient treatment center requires 30 days where the recovering addict will check-in and stay at the facility for ongoing therapy and treatment. Inpatient care is also known as residential care. While similar to sober living in that patients also live at the residential facility, inpatient treatment requires residents to adhere to a strict daily schedule.
Outpatient programs, such as Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), still provide participants with ongoing therapy and, in some cases, medical care. However, recovering addicts in outpatient programs do not live at those treatment facilities and may return home at the end of each day’s scheduled sessions.
Sober Living Houses
Sober living houses are a potential living arrangement for individuals in early recovery after addiction treatment. Sober homes provide an excellent bridge between rehab programs and traditional society. However, residents aren’t required to have participated in rehab before living in most sober homes.
Residents of sober living facilities must abstain from drugs and alcohol, which provides an excellent peer support system for everyone who lives there. Recovering addicts can practice life skills, such as paying rent and maintaining a clean living space, while surrounded by other sober individuals.
Rules between sober homes may vary. For instance, some homes request residents to check in with a house manager, and some houses will require periodic drug tests. Many sober houses also have agreements with residents, requiring them to attend 12-step programs or similar support groups.
Halfway houses are similar to sober living homes, but halfway houses are generally more strict. Residents of halfway houses are typically required to be enrolled or have participated in substance abuse treatment services.
Halfway houses are also government-funded and have fewer amenities than a sober living home. They tend to be more like dorms, with up to 12 residents, unlike smaller sober homes that offer more privacy and freedom.
Individuals who have completed prison sentences may have to participate in additional addiction recovery to live in a halfway house as part of their reintegration into society.
What is it Like to Live in a Sober House?
Sober living homes are generally privately-owned houses in quiet, residential areas. Residents usually have their own room or share a bedroom with one other roommate, and shared areas will include bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.
Since sober living houses are in residential neighborhoods, backyards may also be available and will be part of the shared communal space.
Sober House Resident Requirements
Sober homes are great for individuals that want to live in a supportive, drug-free community. Residents aren’t required to have completed rehab to join most sober homes, but there are other requirements for all residents.
Typical requirements for participating in sober living are:
- Passing periodic, random drug screens
- Actively participating in 12-step meetings, therapy, or similar behavioral health care
- No drugs or alcohol on the premises
- No violent behavior
- No overnight guests
- Being employed, attending school, or participating in outpatient rehab
How to Choose the Right Sober Living Home
There are also several sober living homes run by religious groups, private organizations, or businesses. When looking into sober living in your area, you have to consider a few things—such as cost, amenities, and house rules specific to each facility.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure that the sober living community is safe and well-run. Since private organizations can run sober living homes, there is a risk that some sober houses aren’t run as well as others.
Here are some helpful things to consider when ensuring your potential sober home is safe and effective:
- Is the house itself safe? You should be allowed to tour the home before signing any paperwork or committing. Look for signs of neglect, such as water damage, broken appliances, damaged walls, flooring, etc. House safety also includes some of the house rules. Some vital safety concerns include:
- Are weapons allowed?
- Are bathrooms limited to same-sex use only?
- What are their privacy rules?
- What are the requirements for admission? One of the valuable parts of sober living is that you’ll reside in a home with other sober individuals committed to a drug-free life. You don’t want to live with people who could jeopardize your recovery. Check the requirements for residents.
- Is there a structure to the day? Some sober houses have a loose schedule that includes house meetings, attendance in 12-step programs, etc. Choosing a sober living home with that level of organization can provide you with important structure. It also shows that the staff is organized and aware of each day’s activities.
- Is the paperwork process organized? Organizational management may not seem important, but the administrative part of the sober living process can tell you a great deal about the safety and legitimacy of a facility. The sober living home should NOT offer a free stay or allow you to check-in without having you complete paperwork.
Lack of administrative attention suggests that the facility may not be well-run or legitimate, which could put your sobriety at risk.
What Is the Average Length of Stay in Sober Houses
Residents of sober living facilities typically stay between 6 to 12 months. However, there is no limit to how long an individual can remain in sober living, provided they continue to follow all the rules.
Typical Rules for a Sober House
Each sober living house will have its own specific set of house rules, and these rules are more detailed than the resident requirements listed above.
Some typical sober house rules include:
- Periodic alcohol or drug tests (frequency may vary per house)
- Required attendance of house meetings
- Assigned chores in the house
- Designated curfews
Find a Sober Living Home Near You
Does it sound like you or a loved one can benefit from a sober living facility? Find out what’s located near you by using the SAMHSA program locator.