Choosing a Sober Living House

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Congratulations! You’ve either completed, or are about to complete, one of the most courageous journeys you have ever taken – your rehab program. Whether your rehab was 30, 60, 90 days, or longer, you have persevered and your hard work in dealing with the root issues of your addiction has given you healing, freedom, peace and a great sense of accomplishment. But now what?

You might be feeling some trepidation over the reality of now having to live out your recovery in the “real” world. A place where it won’t be so safe and temptations are poised and ready to pounce at any given moment when you least expect it. In addition, you know that the place you came from is full of “triggers” that helped fuel your addiction, such as a dysfunctional spouse, family member or old friends. In your heart you know that if you go back, there is a possibility that you will go right back into your addiction.

Hopefully, as you honestly recognize these potential pitfalls to your recovery, you will want to set yourself up to succeed and protect the freedom you have from your addiction. Because you realize that you are still very fragile and vulnerable in your recovery, it may be wise for you to not go back into that unhealthy environment and instead, transition into a sober living house.

What Is A Sober Living House?

Sober living houses provide you with the opportunity to remove yourself from familiar and toxic communities and dysfunctional influential people. It may feel very uncomfortable to do this, but there’s a saying in recovery; “If you are serious about your recovery, you only have to change one thing…EVERYTHING!” Changing your surroundings and friends significantly increase your chances of continued freedom from addiction.

Sober living houses also provide a healthy transition from a highly structured treatment program to a less-restrictive environment so that you can more successfully transition towards independence. Most sober living houses will require you to be proactive in working on your recovery program, attend 12-Step or Celebrate Recovery meetings, follow house rules and attend regular house meetings. You will most likely be expected to find work, look for your own housing, and work on mending relationships that were hurt by your addiction. Sober living houses have a zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol and will evict anyone caught violating this rule. This is done to protect you and the other houseguests.

It is important to choose a sober living home that offers the necessary structure and support for you during this crucial next stage of your recovery.

Choosing A Good Sober Living House

Not all sober living houses are created equal. Sober living houses are abundant across the nation and you’ll want to make sure the sober living house you choose offers qualities and features that will ultimately be supportive to your recovery success. So how do you go about looking for a sober living house and what do you look for?

#1. Visit In Person

Procrastination is our worst enemy when it comes to transitioning from a rehab program into a sober living. As a result, many rehab clients wait until the last minute to locate a sober living house. In desperation, they start making phone calls and end up going to the first sober living house that has an open bed. This is a recipe for disaster! Avoid this “desperation shopping” and start looking for a sober living house at least 2 weeks before leaving rehab.

  • See if your rehab will give you a pass to go out with a family member or with a trusted individual to visit in person the sober livings you are interested in.
  • Interview and observe every sober living house on your list.

The following will help you know what to look for, what to inquire about and what to avoid.

#2 Location and Safety

Location and Safety


Another important factor in choosing a sober living house is its location and safety. It would be great if the sober living house that you are looking at is located near your meetings, work, church and healthcare providers. You may not have a vehicle to drive to these important meetings, events and services, so you will want to be able to get to them easily by foot, bicycle or public transportation. You will also want to explore whether or not the sober living house is going to be a jeopardy to your physical safety and your sobriety. Is it located in a safe neighborhood? Does the sober living house have a strong staff? Does the sober living staff truly care about the well-being and success of its residents? Who owns the sober living house? How often are staff and residents tested?

#3. Licensed Or Not

Many of sober living houses are not managed well and do not monitor the tenants as promised. There can be problems such as house managers who are rarely present, violence in the homes, or house managers who turn a blind eye toward a tenant who is obviously using drugs or alcohol in order to not upset the cash flow. In California, sober living houses are not licensed or required to report to any agency or local government. However, in California, there are Sober Living House Associations that oversee health, safety, and operations of the houses. These include the Sober Living Network (SLN) and California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP). Due diligence is strongly encouraged when considering a sober living house.

#4 Rules and Accountability

Rules and Accountability

It’s important to find a sober living home that implements more than just a daily routine…it should also implement rules and regulations, such as curfews and a zero-tolerance drug-free environment.

  • You want to find a house that supervises you and holds you accountable.
  • Ask around and find out which sober living houses have a good reputation and which ones aren’t so good.

Why would you want to move into a sober living house that won’t prepare you for the structure of life and keep you accountable in your young sobriety?

#5 Atmosphere

The mood and spirit that you sense from a sober living house is extremely important. Pay attention to your intuitive feelings. Do you get a good vibe from the people currently living there? Is there a sense of camaraderie? Does it appear to be a positive environment or does it project negativity? You will be living here for a while, so be sure that you feel good about the “spirit” of the sober living house you are considering.

#6 Strong Staff

A strong staff will make or break a good sober living house. When evaluating a sober living house, it’s important to find one that has a staff that truly cares about you and your success…but you also want a staff that’s not afraid to enforce the rules and call you on your “stuff”. A firm support system can be seen in policies that enforce regular drug testing or encouraging residents to attend 12-Step or Celebrate Recovery meetings – both of which can make or break your early recovery.

# 7. Cost


You need to find a sober living home that you can afford based upon your income. There are sober living houses that have different financial requirements. Some houses offer scholarship programs for the newly sober resident who is looking for a job. It is vital that you find a house that is going to work with your situation. At most sober living houses, you will be responsible for rent, utilities, groceries and other necessities. Find out what your payments cover. By knowing what you can afford, you can narrow your choices and eliminate the options that are out of your price range.

#8. Things To Avoid

Things To Avoid

There are some things that you should avoid in your search for a sober living house. You want to avoid those sober living houses that don’t have 24-hour supervision. Sober living houses that have a low staff to client ratios also need to be avoided. You should also avoid sober living houses where the staff is not trained or equipped to deal with those in recovery. If a facility does not perform drug testing or offers little or no educational programs, life skills training or support groups – stay away. Additionally, if the facility does not provide referrals to medical or mental health professionals, you would be wise to look elsewhere.

Locating a good sober living can be a daunting task, but if you start early and invest the time and energy into this next level of your recovery, it will reward you for a lifetime.

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