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Sober Living Homes and Halfway Houses

What Are Sober Living Homes?

Sober living homes, sometimes known as halfway houses or recovery housing, offer supervised, housing for people recovering from substance use disorders.3 Sober living is typically short-term, but the duration may depend on what you and your treatment team feel is the appropriate level of care.3

Recovery housing can be an important transitional step after inpatient residential treatment to help people adjust to a more independent lifestyle without using substances.3 For some people, it can also keep them from experiencing homelessness, which can be a risk factor for severe substance misuse.2

In these homes, substance use is not allowed, which provides a sober living environment in which to continue recovery. Some sober living residences may serve people with specific needs such as veterans, people with co-occurring disorders, or women who have children.5

While living in recovery housing, people can get help with employment needs, financial services, and recovery resources in their community.3

What’s the Difference Between Sober Living and Halfway Houses?

A halfway house is commonly known as a type of recovery housing that helps people in incarceration transition from addiction treatment to a more independent, healthy lifestyle.

The halfway house model emerged in the mid-20th century as a form of community re-entry.4 As addiction treatment and recovery continue to evolve, the term “halfway house” is less common in favor of the umbrella term “recovery residence.”4

What Happens at a Sober Living Home?

The types of services and programs that each sober living home offers will vary depending on the residence and a person’s specific needs. If you or a loved one are transitioning into recovery housing, it’s important to work with your treatment team to make sure the residence offers the appropriate care.

Services

Typical services at sober living facilities can include:

  • Peer-to-peer support like mutual support groups or 12-Step groups.
  • Clinical services like medical care or psychiatric support.
  • Counseling services.
  • Assistance with seeking employment like setting up interviews and offering drug testing.
  • Help with finding housing that is financially attainable and a supportive environment to encourage ongoing recovery.
  • Build relationships with others in the sober living home and continue improving relationships with loved ones outside the residence.

Rules in Recovery Housing

Each recovery residence may have different rules and guidelines about substance use, group living, and relapse penalties. Some residences may even have rules about certain prescribed medications depending on their policies.5 While rules will vary between residences, a few common guidelines include:

  • Abstinence from drugs and alcohol except for prescribed medications approved by the residence.
  • Work requirements such as actively looking for employment.
  • Curfew.
  • House chores.
  • Attendance in mutual support group meetings.

There are some types of recovery housing that may allow alcohol or certain drug use known as “wet housing” or “damp housing.” However, these are not encouraged for long-term abstinence and recovery.5

How Long Do People Stay in Sober Living Homes?

Stays differ from person to person but longer durations in recovery housing are associated with more positive outcomes.5 Duration of stay can range anywhere from a few months, or more than a year depending on the level of care and support a person needs.

Some homes may require that you commit to staying for a specific period of time to help establish a solid foundation for life after recovery housing.

Before leaving, it’s important to discuss options with your treatment team to assess your progress and readiness for entry back to independent living.

Do They Do Drug Testing?

Each residence will have different rules about drug testing but may include both scheduled and random drug tests. It’s important to receive regular drug testing as it can help to keep residents accountable for their actions and encourage fellow residents in their recovery.

Before entering a sober living environment, a person will most likely be tested to ensure they are alcohol and drug-free prior to entering the residence.

Can I Check Myself Out?

If you are not court-ordered or mandated to be in the residence, then you may leave the sober living home at any time. If you are paying to live at the residence and you leave before the contract ends, you may still be financially responsible for the length of time you agreed to stay.

Do Sober Living Houses Work?

Research continues to be done on the effectiveness of sober living environments. However, like other forms of addiction treatment, longer stays are associated with better recovery outcomes.5, 6 One study suggests that a stay of at least 6 months at a Level 1 (or low intensity) residence may be more beneficial than staying less time.5

How Much Does Recovery Housing Cost?

The price of staying in a sober living home will vary depending on the facility. If it’s a state-funded facility, which is more associated with halfway houses, then residents may not be responsible for payment.

Residences in areas with a higher cost of living, such as New York and California, may be more expensive. Additionally, residences that offer more services or specific amenities may cost more.

If you are considering sober living after treatment, and aren’t sure about the cost of treatment, there may be ways to help pay for your stay. These include:

  • Health insurance.
  • Scholarships and grants.
  • Working while in the sober living home.
  • Payment plan if the residence offers it.

Using Insurance to Pay for Sober Living

Some sober living homes take private health insurance. However, it’s important to check with your insurance company about specific coverage and what co-pays or deductibles you are responsible for if any. You can contact your insurance company by calling the toll-free number on your insurance card or visiting their website. You can also contact a representative from the sober living home to discuss payment options.

How to Find Sober Living Near Me

Searching for addiction treatment or recovery housing can feel overwhelming; however, there are several resources to help you find the appropriate care and support.

  • If you are currently seeing a therapist, ask what options they know of for sober living homes and what services you may require.
  • Mutual support groups. If you go to 12-step meetings or other support groups, ask others about their experience in recovery housing and suggestions for residences that may work for you.
  • Treatment team. If you are stepping down from inpatient treatment, discuss options for sober living while creating an aftercare plan.
  • Read reviews. Some recovery homes may have reviews from former residents posted online.
  • SAMSHA Treatment Locater. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a simple search tool to find treatment on their website, including recovery housing.

Sober Living FAQs

How Do You Get into Recovery Housing?

To live in most recovery residences, you must be abstaining from drug and alcohol use. Some homes will require that you already be sober for a specific period of time. Many people choose to attend 28-or 30-day, 60-day or 90-day inpatient treatment programs before entering sober living environments.

Choosing a residence can be a tough decision because there are many different residences available. You can consult with a treatment professional, your insurance company, or use word-of-mouth to see what sober living homes are recommended.

Start by contacting the facility directly to set up an appointment to meet with the staff. Sober living homes often have an interview procedure before they take on new residents to ensure that residents are motivated and ready for this level of care.

Are There Non-12-Step Sober Living Homes?

Sober living homes differ in their philosophies and many are non-12-step based. One research study found that both 12-step and non-12-step homes helped residents stay sober.1

Are There Free Sober Living Houses?

Some residences are free to the residents because they are government-funded or run by nonprofit organizations. Some private sober living homes also offer scholarships and grants to cover the costs.

However, free or low-cost recovery residences often have waiting lists. If you are choosing this type of residence, you’ll want to add your name to the waiting list as soon as possible and follow up regularly. Many low-cost programs are looking for residents who can show commitment to their recovery.

What Should I Look for in a Sober Living House?

Finding a quality residence is made easier by accreditation agencies that ensure that their affiliated sober living homes meet appropriate standards.

  • The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accredits addiction treatment programs and sober living homes throughout the United States. Programs that meet CARF’s high standards are required to demonstrate quality service delivery and a commitment to continuously improving care.
  • The National Alliance on Recovery Residences (NARR) is a 501-c3 nonprofit that aims to provide access to ethical, well-run recovery housing through its widely recognized national standards. They partner with state organizations to ensure high-quality care for residences throughout the U.S.

If you or a loved one are looking for recovery housing or other types of addiction treatment, know that you’re not alone and American Addiction Centers is here to help. Call our confidential, free helpline at to talk with our friendly admission navigators about treatment options and addiction resources. There is hope for a bright future and we’re ready to support you.