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A halfway house, aka sober living house (SLH), is a coed or gender-restricted transitional living facility, for people in early recovery from alcohol and or drug abuse. They are considered the next step for those who have completed an inpatient, drug rehab center or outpatient treatment program.
- Sober living houses are frequently large, converted, residential homes.
Sober Living Houses (aka transitional living, recovery residences, recovery housing, sober living) are managed, alcohol and drug free living environments. They require complete abstinence from recreational drug and alcohol use. Most strongly emphasize involvement in 12-step program as well as social support for recovery.
They are structured, closely managed, housing. Each resident is required to stay clean and sober. All residents must live by the house rules, as set forth by that particular house, or face expulsion.
Applicants are screened and approved by management and/or the current resident community.
- Most do not offer formalized treatment or therapy.
- Mandate attendance at 12-step meetings.
- The majority require full-time employment.
SLHs are not places to get detoxed, clean and sober. Applicants must already be clean and sober for some period of time already. The “sober-time” requirement is generally a minimum of 7 days and frequently 28 days or more.
Sober living houses are either not-for-profit which does not mean free. It’s just possibly less expensive than for-profit houses. Information is limited on the number of them are non-profit.
Most people do not realize there are four distinct levels of SLHs as per by the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR).
Q & A
1) Does living in a SLH improve the chances of being successful in recovery?
Yes, research indicates attending a halfway house will improve the possibility of sustaining long-term recovery.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment clearly states: “Residents of SLHs made improvements in a variety of areas. Results support the importance of key components of the recovery model used by them:
(a) involvement in 12-step groups
(b) developing social support systems with fewer alcohol and drug users.
The study went on; “Average lengths of stay in both types of sober living houses surpassed the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommendation of at least 90 days to obtain maximum benefit.
- Retention of residents in the sober living houses was excellent.
Also, One pattern was that residents reduced or stopped their substance use between baseline and 6 month follow up and then maintained those improvements at 12 and 18 months.
- “A variety of studies showed that halfway houses improved treatment outcomes.”
2) What is the best way to find a good sober living home?
Finding the right SLH is the most important factor in it being a successful experience. Currently, to our knowledge, there is not a comprehensive database of all the residential recovery homes in the U.S. Here are four sources for locating a good SLH;
- Rehab Referral; When someone has recently completed an inpatient rehab program, it’s possible that facility can make a “referral”, and make recommendations for local SLH.
- SAMHSA; The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website has a searchable database.
- OXFORD HOUSE; Oxford House is a concept in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. In its simplest form, an Oxford House describes a democratically run, self-supporting and drug free home. It is a non-profit organization.
- NARR; The National Association of Recovery Residences has a list of contact information, in 26 states, on its website.
- We can help anyone who needs assistance, finding the right SLH, call us
- Local: Check for state, county and local assistance. Various locations have resources available.
BEWARE: When searching the web for SLHs, there are websites and other non-reputable elements in this field.
- “Patient brokering” is illegal and a major concern.
3) Which level of recovery residence is right for me?
The four Levels of Support in Recovery Residences listed above reflect the level of recovery already reached by an SLH candidate.
Recovery residences are divided into 4 Levels of Support (listed above). They are based on the type, as well as the intensity and duration of support offered.
- The general rule of thumb is the shorter time someone has been clean and sober, the higher level of SLH they need.
SLH services provided span from peer-to-peer recovery support (all recovery residences) to medical and counseling services (recovery residences offering higher levels of support).
4) What are the benefits of a sober living house?
- The top benefit of a sober living house is living in a supportive, structured, alcohol and drug-free environment.
- Zero tolerance for relapse aka “slips”.
- SLH residents also benefit from a social model approach. They emphasize experiential learning, peer support, and 12-step recovery principles within a semi-structured, group-living environment.
- Learning new ways to cope with drug cravings, such as exercise, stress relief, a healthy diet, and locating and utilizing sources of emotional support.
- Making sober friends and building a support network to remain sober.
5) How does someone get admitted into a sober living home?
Getting into an SLH usually involves filing an application as well as a face-to-face personal interview. It is common, upon acceptance, for new residents to pay the first week’s or first month’s fees. Some SLH that are closely affiliated with outpatient programs will require simultaneous participation in those programs. Some SLH’s draw residents exclusively from their own addiction treatment or mental health program.
6) What do sober living houses cost?
They are not free. Rent is generally between $400 and $1,000 a month, sometimes more. The rent usually reflects the cost of living for the surrounding geographical area.
Insurance rarely if ever covers this cost since sober living houses are not treatment facilities. Remember, those costs usually cover only rent. Additional living costs will reflect similar living costs to living in an apartment, such as food.
7) How long is the stay in a sober living house?
The length of stay in a sober living house depends upon the person and the rate of their recovery. Not everyone recovers at the same rate. 90 days is usually the shortest stay; while others can remain in sober living houses for 6 to 12 months (some remain even longer).
8) What are sober living house rules?
Once accepted into a SLH, residents must follow common house rules including:
- Stay sober
- Be tested regularly and randomly for drug use
- Contribute to the house by doing chores
- Zero tolerance for fighting or violence toward other residents
- No stealing or destroying another resident’s property
- Adhere to a curfew
- Attend 12-step or other recovery meetings
- May be required to interview for jobs if they don’t already have one
9) Are there and SLH standards?
Yes, the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR), a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the availability of well-operated, ethical and supportive recovery housing. They have developed the most widely referenced national standard for the operation of recovery residences.
- NARR provides a comprehensive checklist of Residence Quality Standards.
10) Are there federal standards for SLHs?
Yes, Congress recently passed House Bill H.R.4684. It ensures Access to Quality Sober Living Act of 2018 directs and funds the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Its intent is to identify or facilitate the development of best practices for operating recovery housing, and for other purposes.
- A local Sober Living Houses owner stated that he welcomed those standards because SLC’s that don’t follow good standards gives well-run, honest SLC’s an undeserved bad name.
In an interview with Boyd Pickard, owner of several recovery homes, Boyd stated: “If I really want to recover, I want to be around people that are doing the same thing. I don’t want to be around somebody just straight out of detox.” His residences are all “Level 1”. They require a minimum of 6 months of sobriety prior to admission.
Prison Release Transitional Housing
SLHs are not the same as those for released prisoners who need transitional living back into society. For assistance locating a prison-release, transitional housing, visit this website.
“The Ultimate Guide To Halfway Houses – Sober Living Houses” .pdf