What to Do If Your Sober Living Home Isn’t Really Sober

Man considering sober living

It is often believed that recovery really starts once treatment is fulfilled.
As the patients transition back into their normal life, they require continued support more than ever in order to help them prioritize recovery throughout this highly vulnerable time.

These days, many drug treatment centers offer outpatient treatment services to make this transition smoother. One such example are sober living homes.

What is a Sober Living Home?

Sober living homes provide newly treated patients the necessary structure they desperately need as they transition toward an independent and routine life.

Also known as halfway houses, the residents that live in these sober living homes are at varying stages of recovery.

Recovering patients at a sober living facility are typically in a house or complex alongside other individuals who are on their last steps of recovery from substance abuse disorders.

These facilities enforce strict rules against permitting any kind of substances on the grounds that could potentially be abused, even if it is substances like mouthwash with high alcoholic content, after-shave or cigarettes.

They are filled with individuals who are believed committed to beating their addictions, have completed a recovery program, and are seen as ready to enter the workforce and begin living productive lives again.

Sober living facilities are essentially regarded as the final stage in the journey to recovery. There are, however, some patients who may be just starting their process of recovery there.

The facilities are specially designed to assist individuals in learning how to function again in society through engagement in activities like house hold chores, paying bills and participating in constructive activities and events. [1]

A 2010 paper published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs emphasized the importance of sober living environments in helping recovering alcoholics and drug addicts maintain their sobriety.

Man looking at sober living houseOver an 18-month period, researchers assessed 245 residents with substance abuse problems, enrolled in the Clean and Sober Transitional Living program in California.

Assessments encompassed various aspects including the severity of substance abuse, the legal problems involved in the process, co-occurring psychiatric issues, employment, and family problems at baseline, 6-month, 12-month, and 18-month intervals.

Results depicted significant improvement amongst the patients residing in the sober living environment, as 42 percent of subjects reported abstinence from drugs or alcohol at 18 months, compared to 19 percent of subjects who reported being abstinent initially.

Improvements were also noticed in other areas of the participants’ lives, such as employment and mental health.

When researchers followed up with residents at the six and 18-month mark, they found the residents displayed fewer psychiatric problems and better job prospects. Arrest rates lowered as well.[2]

Hazardous Homes

Back in early 2000s, a series of news articles highlighted some serious issues regarding safety and supervision in so-called “sober homes” across Boston.

These sober homes were found guilty of extremely poor living conditions, including the alarming fact that a couple of men had overdosed on the premises of one.

“We don’t fund them, but we need to have oversight over them,” Senator Steven A. Tolman (D-Brighton) said in a 2007 interview with the Herald. “The neighborhoods have to have recourse if they are run inappropriately.’’

Despite shedding light on such inappropriate conditions, little has been done to change anything. In fact, there exist no accurate record of how many sober living homes exist and how many people live in them.

Due to an absence of state funding for sober homes or regulation of the provision of continuing recovery programs, there is no accountability for their operations.

Massachusetts is not the only state that has struggled with the functioning of sober homes in recent years. New York witnessed similarly alarming patterns of drug overdoses in several homes.

Kate Browning, an elected official in that state’s Suffolk County, confirmed how “speculators” had purchased foreclosed summer homes, converting them into crowded group residences, and taking up to $450 in state-funded rental subsidies with limited or no provision of oversight to residents struggling with addiction. [3]

Findind a Suitable Sober Living House

Ultimately, finding a suitable sober living home depends on the amount of time, energy and research you are willing to put into the whole process.

You will need to mindfully and practically decide exactly what you want to get out of your sober living experience. In case you are already in one that isn’t following the correct protocol and regulations, immediately decide to look for a better option.

Following are a few basic but crucial factors to keep in mind:

Budget. It is important to be realistic about which sober living housing fits into your budget and financial capacity. At most sober living houses, patients are responsible for rent, utilities, groceries and other necessities.

Location. Location plays an impactful role when it comes to deciding the best sober living house. It will make things easier to have a sober living house near your workplace, family and close to other support groups alongside healthcare providers.

It is also important to choose a house away from the triggers and temptations that can lead to relapse. A rural location or another city might be good options in such a case.

Specific needs. If a sober house is child-friendly or accommodating of families, whether it caters to gender-specific needs and what kind of a recovery philosophy it enforces are important factors to consider when deciding upon a sober living house.

Two guys looking over a balconyThings to avoid. Surprisingly, not all halfway houses are required to be regulated. There have been “sober living” residences opened by realtors or slumlords as a means to collect rent and profit off of addicts without providing them the structure and services they need.

You need to be sure that the facility has a license to operate and an experienced staff that is available for 24-hour supervision. Sober living houses that have a low staff to client ratios also need to be avoided. [4]

Sana Ahmed photoAbout the Author:

A journalist and social media savvy content writer with wide research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana Ahmed has previously worked as staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute focusing on mental health and addiction recovery, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. The art of using words to educate, stir emotions, create change and provoke action is at the core of her career, as she strives to develop content and deliver news that matters.


[1] http://soberhouse.com/guide/what-is-sober-living/
[2] http://cornerstonecarecenters.org/do-sober-living-homes-work/
[3] http://www.dotnews.com/2010/special-report-sober-homes-issues-safety-inside-safeguards-outside
[4] https://dreamcenterforrecovery.com/a-guide-to-selecting-a-sober-living-home-after-rehab/

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on January 22, 2018
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.