When a person first steps out of a rehabilitation program, the world can feel a bit overwhelming. It’s often not easy to get readjusted to daily life after leaving a program with a lot of structure and a total focus on recovery. The temptation to use again can be overwhelming, and people who are newly in recovery often need additional support during this sensitive time. That’s why places like sober living houses exist.
What Is a Sober Living Home?
A sober living home, also known as a halfway house or recovery residence, is a residence where those who suffer from addiction may live after completing an inpatient rehabilitation program. These homes are designed to bridge the gap between the constant monitoring and supervision of inpatient treatment and a return to the “real” world where people are essentially on their own.
Characteristics of sober living homes include:1
- A person’s experience in recovery is highly valued, and residents use their experience to help others.
- Connections between residents, rather than a connection between patient and caregiver, form the basis of the recovery environment.
- Residents both help others, and receive help.
- 12-Step models often create the framework for recovery.
- A sober and positive recovery environment is necessary for the success of residents.
Daily Life in a Sober Living Home
A sober living home differs from inpatient rehab, where clients have to remain at the treatment facility at all times. Instead, residents are able to come and go as they please for the most part, although curfews may be enforced as part of the house rules.2
Residents are generally required to be good housemates, keeping up with designated chores, attending house meetings, and following house rules. Residents may also be required to be either employed or actively seeking employment. Random drug testing may be enforced to ensure everyone in the home is sober and not compromising the recovery of other residents. 2
While most sober living homes don’t offer formal treatment, they do offer a supportive and drug-free environment, and 12-Step meetings may be held on or near the premises.1 Residents may be required to work their recovery by attending 12-Step meetings, volunteering, getting a sponsor, etc. Residents may also attend outpatient programs near the house to keep up with their treatment.3
There isn’t a specific length of time a person has to stay at a sober living house. The length of the stay is solely based on when the individual feels ready to resume daily life outside of the home.1 For some, the stay is relatively short and only lasts a month to a few months while others stay 6 months to a year or even longer. There isn’t a standard or rule that states how long a person must stay since each person’s journey to recovery is different.
What Expenses Are Involved?
Just like standard apartments or homes, residents of a sober living home are required to pay rent each month. Depending on the home, residents may have private rooms or share a room with another individual, but the price to have a private room may be a bit higher.3 Residents generally need to contribute to utilities as well, and this may be included in the price of rent.3
Does Insurance Cover Sober Living?
Insurance policies and what they cover vary widely. However, many policies stick to providing coverage for treatment they deem “medically necessary.” Since a sober living house isn’t technically “treatment” but rather a supportive transitional living environment, an insurance policy might not cover a stay at one of these residences. Although some people may find their insurance policy covers some of the expense, this is likely to be the exception and not the rule.
If you have questions about your specific policy and what they cover, you can call the number on your insurance card.
What Other Payment Options Exist?
Learning to manage one’s living expenses is part of the process of recovery, as one regains responsibilities and resumes their daily life outside the walls of an inpatient program.
Many sober living homes require that residents have jobs or are at least actively seeking jobs if they are not in school.3 Regular employment provides a set schedule and responsibilities, which offer structure that is crucial in early recovery, as well as income to cover the cost of rent.
Government assistance is limited for those who need help covering the expenses of a sober living home. However, in some states, rental assistance may be an option for a limited amount of time, after which you’ll be expected to pay rent on your own.4
To lessen the financial obligation a person has when living in a sober living home, the person may apply for food stamps from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. The program allows the person to purchase food from grocery stores, convenience stores, and possibly farmers markets. Individuals who qualify for monetary assistance from welfare, SSI, or SSD may find their monthly check adequately covers the costs of a sober living house.
In other instances, a person may be able to borrow money from family and friends to fund the first few months in a sober living home. It may help to have a third party draw up an agreement regarding the loan and to give the money directly to the facility versus to the person who is newly sober.
You may also ask lenders about personal loans to help you pay for the cost of your rent while you secure employment.
- Polcin, D., Mericle, A., Howell, J., Sheridan, D., & Christensen, J. (2014). Maximizing social model principles in residential recovery settings. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 46(5), 436–443.
- Contra Costa County Alcohol and Other Drug Services, Behavioral Health Division (2017). Recovery Residence Guidelines.
- Polcin, D. L., & Henderson, D. M. (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.
- Spigel, Saul. (2009). OLR Research Report.