What is Sober Living

For people with no affiliation to the addiction treatment arena, the term “sober living” might refer to a lifestyle in which people refrain from using any sort of intoxicating substance whatsoever. For those who know a little about addiction recovery, however, the term has a slightly different meaning. For people like this, the term refers to a home that’s specifically designed to provide residents with a safe place in which to live as they continue to recover from their addictions. These aren’t the right facilities for everyone, but those who do choose to enroll in a program like this might get the kind of help that could provide them with a chance at long-term sobriety.

Foundations of Care

what is sober livingEach sober living community is likely to be a little different, with a different vibe and a different set of expectations, but a study in the journal Recent Developments in Alcoholism might make the concepts underlying these communities a little easier to understand. Here, the authors suggest that many sober living communities are founded on the same set of principles that lie beneath 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. In essence, the founders of some sober living communities have attempted to develop a home in which the principles of AA are put to good use on a daily basis.

As a result of this grounding, facilities tend to have these characteristics:

  • No trained professional runs the home. Instead, residents help one another to recover.
  • Leadership of the home is shared and rotated.
  • Sharing is encouraged, and regular meetings enforce that sharing.
  • Personal responsibility is encouraged, but accessing spiritual help is also viewed in a positive light.

Additionally, the founders of sober living communities also view addictions as chronic conditions that can be controlled, even though they might not ever disappear. As a result, people who live in these facilities are encouraged to reduce temptations whenever they can do so, and the home is also designed to be a safe place that’s free of relapse prompts. No addictive substances of any sort are allowed, and residents might also be asked to submit to regular urine screenings.

Setting Up a Schedule

While this sober and structured community can help people to feel safe in the recovery process, some of the other traditions in a sober living home can help people to make a robust recovery. For example, many facilities require clients to obtain regular employment, and head to the jobsite each day, without fail. Getting a job can allow people to pay the bills at the facility, of course, but a job can also give a person a sense of purpose.


There’s a place where the person is needed each and every day, and a contribution the person is asked to make on a daily basis. A day full of work might also be so consuming that the person has fewer opportunities to even think about addictive substances, and this can also be helpful for recovery.

This emphasis on work shows up in studies about the efficacy of sober living communities. For example, in a study in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, researchers found that residents in these homes made significant improvements in employment rates during the 12 months of the study. It might be hard to quantify the importance of work in a study like this, however. People who work have money and filled time, but the feeling of importance and benefit to society might be much harder to measure.

In addition to working, clients might be asked to do chores around the house, and they might even be asked to tackle cooking responsibilities for the house from time to time. Again, the idea here is to help people to set up a schedule and learn how to build a life that’s centered on nourishing activities, not on addiction. These tasks also provide people with an opportunity to meet with their housemates and chat with them informally, and this can also provide people with a sense of community and family.

Continuing Care

continuing careResidents are also asked to continue to fight their addictions by:

Some facilities require clients to provide proof of their participation in these steps, and refusing to comply might be grounds for expulsion.

Other facilities are slightly more relaxed, but peers might put pressure on one another to keep fighting the addiction process, and this might be enough to force some people to get the help they need.

In addition to fighting an addiction with conventional methods, some people in recovery need help with other portions of their lives that have been damaged by their previous lifestyle. They might have legal difficulties, for example, or they might need assistance with money management or job training. According to a scientific session presented at the 134th Annual Meeting and Exposition of Public Health and Human Rights, some facilities are adept at linking clients to community resources that can assist with these problems. Clients might be referred to community counselors, for example, or they might be enrolled in classes in the community. However, not all facilities provide this kind of in-depth care. It’s possible, however, that clients could get this help from their individual addiction counselors.

length of careLength of Care

Most people who live in programs like this need to stay engaged with the help for months, and they’re encouraged to live in the facilities as long as they perceive the need for assistance. They might work with their counselors in order to determine when they’re ready to leave, or they might work with family members in order to find another suitable and safe place to live. It’s an individualized decision. There are some people, however, who leave these programs when they don’t feel quite ready to do so.

Sober living communities are designed to preserve the sobriety of everyone who lives within the walls, and as a result, the facilities can’t make exceptions for individuals who are struggling. Bringing alcohol into the house, taking drugs at work or bringing dealers into the house could all bring about an immediate expulsion. These behaviors put the sobriety of everyone at risk, and they just can’t be tolerated.

Finding the Right Fit

When done right, sober living communities can bring about big changes in people with addictions. For example, in a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers found that people who enrolled in these programs improved in a variety of ways, taking fewer drugs, being arrested less often and working more. Even so, living in an environment in which people don’t feel comfortable could be catastrophic to people in recovery, leading them back into bad habits and poor choices.

Facilities might vary by:

  • Location
  • Cost
  • Amenities
  • Rules
  • Genders or cultures included

Shopping around, asking questions and just being a little picky makes sense for people in recovery. After all, they’ll be living in this facility around the clock for a long period of time, and they should feel comfortable in the place in which they’ll call home. Scheduling interviews and touring facilities can help people to make good choices, ensuring that they’ll get just the help they need from a facility like this.

If you’re looking for sober living options, please contact us. Foundations Recovery Network programs provide several sober communities, and we’re happy to outline how these facilities work and where they are located. We have operators standing by.