Sober living homes are designed to provide people in recovery with a sober environment in which to live. Within a sober living home, people who have experienced difficulties with substance use and abuse in the past can continue to heal without being subjected to the constant pressure that the wider world might place upon them.

That being said, sober living homes are as unique and varied as the people who live within them. While the mission of recovery remains constant for all facilities that offer sober living, each program may operate in different ways and offer different levels of service and amenities for different types of people. We have listed just a few of the facilities that might fall under the sober living umbrella, along with a brief description of how each type of facility tends to operate.

12-Step Sober Living

Twelve-step sober homes often spring to mind when people discuss the sober living concept. Here, people who are in the midst of a recovery from an addiction issue have the opportunity to live with others who are also in recovery. These houses are usually run democratically, meaning that the leadership of the house is usually undertaken by a resident of that home. There are usually no counselors or treatment professionals on site who can assist with the treatment process.

The 12-step recovery model espoused by Alcoholics Anonymous is quite important to those who live within a sober living home like this. Residents are often required to attend meetings, either in the residence or in the community, and they may be required to provide proof that they have done so in order to remain in the home.
The requirement to attend meetings and support groups could be vital to the recovery process for some people with addictions. This level of accountability gives each resident space to prove that they are working on their recovery, as well as a consistent schedule that can help people who are in the sensitive times of early recovery. After all, support groups cannot make a difference if the person does not actually attend the meetings. Mandatory meetings act as a powerful tool in the fight against addiction.

Many 12-step based homes allow people to stay as long as they need, while others have time or space restrictions and time limits based on community and program need. No matter how long a person stays in a 12-step sober living home, they have the opportunity to make new habits and new friends, and this could be an opportunity that’s too valuable to miss.

Sober Living Apartments

Unlike sober living homes, which might ask clients to share kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, sober living apartments provide residents with a bit more privacy. They may be required to share a unit with another resident, but they may also be allowed to keep their own kitchen and they may have access to their own living areas. Even so, they might still be required to submit to periodic urine tests for drugs, and they might also be asked to submit to periodic searches of their living quarters, just to ensure that no illicit substances are present.

People who live in sober living homes or apartments might also be required to provide proof that they are:

  • Working, attending school, or applying to jobs
  • Attending counseling
  • Participating in support group meetings
  • Taking prescribed medications as needed
  • Paying a limited or agreed-upon amount of rent

For some, 12-step homes or sober apartments are an appropriate step-down from the supervision provided in a traditional 12-step sober living home. In an apartment, they have a little more freedom, but unlike a standard apartment, a sober living apartment still comes with rules. This could be important to the recovery process for some people.

Sober Dorms

Sober living is for people of all ages. Many sober homes work with young adults and many colleges and universities are catching on to the effectiveness of this living style.

While some people need help with sober living so they can enter the workforce, some need help in order to complete their education. About four in five college students drink alcohol, meaning that it might be difficult for young adults who are in recovery to find campus housing that isn’t awash in booze. Drugs might also be a problem on college campuses. A sober dorm may help, as these facilities provide an environment that’s free of alcohol and drugs.1

Often, campus-based facilities don’t have the resources to provide drug testing for residents. Instead, these facilities often rely on peers to enforce the rules of the facility. Sober dorm students who drink might be confronted by their peers, for example, while drugs found in a room might quickly be brought to the attention of the program administrators.

Facilities like this usually rely on campus counseling centers for the bulk of their mental health assistance, but they also rely on traditional 12-step groups and student-led activities. In fact, many sober dorms offer ongoing activities that do not include alcohol so students can get the most out of campus life.

Re-entry Sober Programs

While people who are incarcerated might be required to finish out their sentences under the supervision of the state. Other people who have left prison need a safe place to stay sober while they reintegrate into everyday life. “Halfway house” is a dated term to describe housing that helps people make the transition from incarceration to freedom without allowing them to lapse back into the behaviors that led to the original arrest. These homes are now often part of re-entry programs.

Research reveals that as much as half of jail and prison inmates meet clinical guidelines for substance dependence. Studies on five major U.S. cities revealed that an average of 63% to 83% of people who are arrested have some type of drug in their system.2

In some cases, people are provided with addiction treatment while they’re behind bars, but those people still need aftercare therapy and a sober environment in order to continue to live a healthy life. In many cases, people didn’t obtain help in prison, and they might feel an overwhelming need to use when they’re provided with a modicum of freedom. People in both these groups might also need help with employment and education, so they can live independently without returning to substance use or crime.

Sober living that helps people transition from prison offer sober environment for people in the criminal justice system, and these programs also provide clients with counseling for addictions, mental illnesses or both. In addition, clients are expected to obtain employment and otherwise improve their lives. Refusing to do so could be grounds for readmission to prison.

Transitional Housing in Cases of Homelessness

Facilities that provide transitional housing are sometimes placed under the sober living home category, as these facilities provide a clean and sober environment for all residents who live within the walls of the facility. The care provided in this kind of facility is a little different than the care provided in other places that might also be called sober living homes. The reason for these differences has to do with the needs of the homeless population, including basic housing, resources for ongoing shelter, and specialty counseling.
A transitional housing program is designed to assist people who have become homeless, regardless of the reason for that homelessness. Breaking this cycle can be difficult for people to do on their own as people who don’t obtain employment, housing and a strong core of social support tend to fall right back into the patterns that once led to homelessness.

A transitional housing program may help to break that cycle by providing people with:

  • A low-cost or no-cost place to live
  • Access to community programs for education, employment, and more
  • Social skills training
  • Sober surroundings
  • Mental health treatment and support
  • Support group meetings

People may stay in these facilities for only a few months, but the help they get here may allow them to live very different lives when they’re back on their own once more.

Other Unique Types of Sober Living

There are as many types of sober living as there are types of people. Some sober living homes cater to a specific segment of the population. Some are designed for people who have small children, for example, while others are designed for busy executives. Some accept only women, while others accept only men. Some are designed to house people in the LGBTQ community, while others cater to people of a certain religious background. Still others are designed to appeal to members of a specific cultural, age, or economic group.

On the surface, these amendments can seem a little silly. After all, people who have been addicted have one major attribute in common: their addictions (and hopefully their desire to become sober). Any other life factor might seem to pale in importance, when there’s such an important aspect of life that draws people together.

Even so, there are good reasons for customizing care based on these factors. For example, many of these homes accept residents on a voluntary basis. They can come in and leave anytime they’d like to do so, with no questions asked. If the surroundings aren’t comfortable, some people might just drop out and return to their old lives, regardless of the consequences.

Similarly, people in sober living programs are asked to help one another and work with one another. They should function like a cohesive family unit if the care is to be effective. People of strongly different backgrounds or interests may find this kind of rapport more difficult, so customization can sometimes be key to a program’s success.

Learning More

Most communities have a number of sober living homes available, and it can be difficult for families to find a home that suits their needs. For some, this choice isn’t even available, as they’re required to go to specific places based on available space, a need to get away from bad influences, or the recommendation from their parole officers. No matter what situation you or your family might be in, we’d like to help.

Foundations Recovery Network facilities emphasize healing across the lifespan, and we have several facilities that provide robust sober living options. If you’d like to know more about our programs, just so you’ll know more about how aftercare works, please call us. If you do decide to work with us, we can even get the enrollment process started. Just call 855-682-7099 to find out more.

By Kathryn Millán

1National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College Drinking. Nd.
2The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. Incarceration, Substance Abuse, and Addiction. Nd.