Sober Living Homes – A Pathway to Long-term Recovery

There are many pathways to long-term recovery from addiction.  One of those includes Sober Living Homes.  In this post, we’ll explore why moving from inpatient treatment or detox into a Sober Living Home might be a good idea.


Sober Living Homes are group homes that act as a bridge between the regimented therapeutic structure of inpatient treatment and the “real world.”  They offer a safe, drug- and alcohol-free living space for people early in recovery.  Also called halfway houses, Sober Living Homes may be owned by a company or religious organization, but they are most often owned by private individuals or groups, many of whom are in recovery themselves. These homes operate like co-ops with residents paying rent and sharing chores and house upkeep.


Research suggests that people who transition from inpatient treatment to Sober Living Homes may have better long-term sobriety outcomes. Sober Living Homes provide several benefits that may increase residents’ motivation for long term sobriety. Let’s take a look.


  • Structure
    • Structure is an important part of the treatment process. It is a key feature of safety which is a basic human need, and for many people struggling with addiction, structure has been a missing link for many years. Inpatient treatment is usually very structured; clients’ days are planned out almost to the minute. Residents of Sober Living Homes have much more freedom than those in inpatient treatment; they can come and go during the day allowing them to slowly move back into their day-to-day lives. Still, most of these homes have curfews, chores, required house meetings, and may also require attendance at outside recovery meetings or outpatient treatment.  Stepping down into a Sober Living Home can provide just enough structure for an ongoing sense of safety early in recovery.
  • Accountability and Supportive Confrontation.
    • Accountability is a key facet of early recovery. Old habits are hard to change, and falling back into old patterns once out of the inpatient environment is easy. Residents in Sober Living Homes are held to the rules of the house; they are held accountable for their actions. The safe living environment of a Sober Living Home depends on residents maintaining sobriety and following the house rules. Drug tests are often required, and if a resident uses drugs or alcohol or breaks the house rules, they are asked to leave. Further, residents are encouraged to hold one another accountable for their actions.They are expected and encouraged to both give and receive supportive feedback or confrontation. One house manager, interviewed by researchers, Polcin and Korcha called this “carefrontation”.
  • Shared Goals and Experience.
    • While family members and friends may not understand a resident’s desire for sobriety, their need to engage in recovery activities, or some of their new coping skills and behaviors, their housemates will.Generally speaking, everyone who chooses to live in a Sober Living Home has a certain level of motivation for recovery, and sobriety can become a team goal and a team effort.  Residents can help each other stay motivated. Further, residents have the benefit of shared past experiences, and this can lead to supportive sharing that might not be possible with old friends or family members.  While each person has their own history, everyone in a Sober Living Home can relate to certain aspects of addiction and early recovery.
  • Social Support.
    • Isolation is a feature of addiction, and unfortunately, it can also be a problem in early recovery as people move away from friends and family members who are still actively drinking or using.The Sober Living Home provides an automatic social group.  Residents spend time together at home, attend outside meetings together, and go on outings. They can develop caring friendships and support each other when things get difficult.  This is nicely illustrated in an excerpt from Polcin and Korcha’s 2015 research. One resident described feeling upset and going out for a walk alone.  She was soon surrounded by peers from her house.  She said:


And part of me was like what the … Why are you going with me? What’s your problem? But the other part of me was like, wow, they’re showing they care for me …. And what they said was, you’re not okay. Everything on your face shows terror, anger, and fear, and we just want to go with you … that’s what sober living is all about … I thought that things were okay that day but clearly I was not okay.


Thirty to 45 days in inpatient treatment can feel like a lot, and the truth is that Sober Living Homes won’t work for everyone. Still, stepping down from inpatient treatment into a Sober Living Home is something to strongly consider if you can. These homes provide many benefits to those in early recovery, and while there is no one-size-fits-all treatment protocol, the structure, accountability, and built-in social support these homes can provide are key facets of strong recovery for most people.  As a rule, counselors in inpatient facilities will have recommendations for good homes in their area. They should, as a part of aftercare planning, help to facilitate house interviews and the transition from inpatient care to the house upon discharge. If you are interested in stepping into a Sober Living Home after treatment, it’s always a great idea to ask!