What Is a Sober Living Program and How Can it Help?

A woman relaxes on the couch as she enjoys her new sober living program.

Admitting there’s a problem and entering a rehabilitation program is a sizable first step. Completing a rehab program is an even bigger move forward in getting you back on the right track. But, what comes next? 

You may feel the urge to dive right back into your previous living situation, but those environments may not give you the best chance to succeed. As a way to bridge the gap between rehab and the real world, you can enter a sober living program to continue the recovery process and receive support and encouragement. 

What’s the Difference Between Rehab and Sober Living?

Think of it as an extension of rehab with fewer limitations and restrictions. In rehab, you’re on a strict schedule in a structured setting with counselors and other staff members available at your request. Everything is predetermined, from sleep and meal times to meetings. Even in outpatient rehab, you still have a schedule to follow. 

A sober living house gives you freedom to live your life as you normally would, such as working and getting out of the house. You still have rules and regulations to follow, which we’ll explore later, but it sets you up for success and gives you stability in ways that your house or family setup might not be able to provide.

Since a sober living house is designed to mimic real life, it helps you adjust to your new normal without plunging right in. You’re still in charge of what you do, but the burden to do so isn’t as high as it would be without support from a group setting. These support systems ultimately help reduce arrest rates, relapse, and help increase employment.

How to Stay Sober After Rehab

Adhering to a plan and sticking to a post-treatment routine are among the main factors of sobriety. But, relapse happens, and the key point to remember is that it isn’t indicative of failure. You can view these setbacks like any other illness. There’s a 40 to 60% chance of relapse in people who have a substance abuse disorder. For context, people with hypertension or asthma have a 50 to 70% chance of relapse after receiving treatment. 

People with an addiction are most vulnerable to relapse 30 to 90 days following completion of a treatment program. From there, your chances of relapse remain present until you’ve sustained four or five years of sobriety when the rate decreases below 15%.

The support from aftercare programs, such as a sober living house, will help you or your loved one overcome the negative thoughts, feelings, and desires that can lead to relapse. A sober living program provides a safe environment where residents learn to cope with real-world situations.

While this type of residency can help anyone bridge the gap between rehab and returning home, it’s especially relevant if you’ve been in treatment multiple times and need an alternative aftercare program. It’s also beneficial if you live in an environment that could lead to relapse or don’t have family support.

Benefits of a Sober Living Program 

Going straight back home after completing treatment may immediately bring back old habits or put you in a place that isn’t conducive to staying sober.

A sober living program can help you:

  • Avoid people who still use substances and are not interested in getting sober.
  • Surround yourself with others who are dealing with a similar situation, thus providing you with a stable support system.
  • Seek therapy, 12-step programs, and other means of support.
  • Learn responsibility and hard work, as you’ll need to pay rent and complete chores.

The value of a sober living program comes from its residents. Each person is at a different stage in their rehabilitation process, allowing for shared experiences to help you get through even the most difficult times.

Once you’re there, your goal should be to stay in a sober living program for at least 90 days. A study by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs analyzed two separate programs and found the average length of stay varied between 166 and 254 days. Some residents end up voluntarily staying for several years.

Sober Living Rules and Regulations

Specific rules will vary with each sober living arrangement. But, in general, most are same-sex homes, and they’re open to anyone who has completed detox or an inpatient rehab program. Some facilities have ties to residencies and may refer you to specific sober living programs.

While sober living homes aren’t governed by a singular body, you should still look for certain specifications when searching for a residency to ensure they uphold some level of rules and regulations. For example, some homes have an association with the National Alliance for Recovery Residencies (NARR) or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CERF).

Once you find a place that interests you, you’ll apply and may have to interview with other residents. In some settings, a manager or owner sets the rules. Other sober living programs foster a social approach where residents have more of a say as a source of empowerment.

Any violations come with consequences and, again, they vary by program. Here’s an overview of what you can expect:

  • Sober living houses don’t permit alcohol or drugs on site. You may also be subject to screenings and drug tests to ensure you aren’t using drugs or alcohol.
  • You’re responsible for rent payments, either through family support or finding a full- or part-time job. Costs vary by location and the size of the house, but they’re split equally among residents. You generally don’t have to pay for utilities. In rare instances, government aid or insurance may help pay for a sober living program. 
  • You share group support responsibilities, meaning you provide help to others when they’re struggling. In turn, they’ll support you in times of need. You’ll also complete chores.
  • You should have your own schedule in place to attend meetings to keep your sobriety on track. You may need to attend a certain amount per week, and they’ll encourage you to attend 12-step meetings.
  • They won’t tolerate violence or any type of behavior that puts other members of the home in danger.
  • Some homes have a curfew and may require you to sign in and out when you leave. You also may have guest restrictions.
  • Like rehab, you aren’t held hostage and can leave at any time.
  • There isn’t a set time limit on how long you have to stay or are allowed to stay.

Helping You Find a Sober Living Program

If you or a loved one have any questions about addiction aftercare, we’re available to assist you with any questions and provide support through this process. 

We like to give our clients the best chance at success. We meet with clients for discharge planning sessions before leaving our facility. You or your loved one can research and set up aftercare providers and sober living arrangements either with our facility, other facilities locally, or facilities in the area you will be returning to after treatment. We help you in this process so you can find reputable aftercare providers and sober living locations that are safe and supportive in your recovery journey.

Please call us today at (866) 349-1770 or contact one of our admissions counselors on our website to start your confidential chat. You don’t have to go through drug or alcohol addiction alone.