For people who have just completed their treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab, those who may have recently relapsed, or those who may not live in a supportive environment to continue with their addiction recovery, a sober living home can provide a vital “stepping stone” in keeping their recovery on track.
However, with hundreds and hundreds of sober living homes (and other types of recovery housing) located all across the U.S., all amid a complete lack of federal regulation, choosing the right sober living home for yourself or a loved one isn’t an easy task.
You need to find not just a sober living home that fits your specific recovery needs, but also one that suits your personal preferences and your monthly budget.
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What is Sober Living?
Sober Living describes homes specifically for people in substance addiction recovery who want or need to live in substance-free accommodation.
Sober living homes (often referred to simply as an SLH) were originally set up to provide a practical option for recovering drug addicts or alcoholics who recently left the round-the-clock care of a residential / inpatient rehab facility, and want to avoid many of their personal potential triggers to relapses, such as their previous home and neighborhood.
For many people in recovery, living in a sober living home after their addiction treatment has ended has made a huge difference for them and their continued recovery.
This is because an SLH is a temporary midway stop that combines important factors for recovering addicts: (1). Staying on this new, sober path, and (2). Returning to a life where many of their choices – good or bad – are their own.
During the time spent in a sober living home, recovering residents can take positive steps forward towards a new life by:
- Adjusting to living in a less structured environment
- Locating suitable housing after sober living ends
- Finding employment, and
- Personal progress, such as making amends with friends and family
Note: “Sober Living” and “sober living homes” are only one possible option in a range of options for all types of “Recovery Housing” – a term that encompasses all types of recovery residences.
Drug & Alcohol Rehabs Can Help You Find a Sober Living Home
If you have recently finished treatment (or are approaching the end of treatment) at a drug and alcohol rehab facility, you can speak to them about sober living accommodation in the local area – as I once did.
Thanks to the drug rehab I attended (who have ensured I have remained clean and sober ever since), I was able to access good quality information about my own options for sober living in Arizona.
Fraudulent Sober Living Homes: Your Due Diligence is Critical
In some U.S. states, it is a necessary legal requirement for sober living homes to be licensed by the relevant state authorities. However, unfortunately, this is not the case in every state.
Because of a lack of both federal and state regulation in many parts of the U.S., sober living homes have unfortunately been identified by criminal individuals as easy targets for potential fraud.
Put simply, they are looking to make a fast buck from someone’s treatment of and recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD), a recognized medical condition.
Even though the recently formed National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) has issued a profession national standard for all types of recovery housing, no one is required to abide by it, and anyone technically can open a “sober living home” – charging exorbitant rents for completely unregulated facilities.
In Arizona, for example, to be officially classified by the state as a “Sober Living Home,” the owner of the accommodation has to apply for Special Licensing from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ASDHS), which sets out the minimum standards and requirements for the property.
As we have already stated, there are some U.S. states with no legal SLH requirements whatsoever.
Remember, your due diligence when choosing an SLH becomes absolutely critical.
Choosing the Right Sober Living Home
Finding the right sober living home for you (or a loved one) should be looked at as a process. With that in mind, here is a step-by-step guide to making sure your navigation through the selection process has essential due diligence built into every part of it.
The location of a sober living home is extremely important, as your life (for a while, at least) will be centered here. Although relocating can be a challenge, it can provide a brand new start in a different place. If you are locating to a new area to live in an SLH, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the SLH located in a safe neighborhood?
- Are there recovery meetings near the SLH?
- What types of activities are near to the SLH for sober fun?
- How is the local job market?
Due diligence was stressed earlier in the article, and if you’re moving to a new area, it is even more important. You will need to carry out diligent research to make sure that any SLH you’re considering is going to provide a safe and positive living environment, and the recovery support services you need
Although many SLHs are not regulated by the state, local, or national agencies, some actually are, and these should be looked at first. High-quality SLHs usually have the following elements:
- Accreditation and/or licensing: Accreditation and/or licensing is an outward sign of an SLH’s commitment to excellence. To find one that maintains a high standard of care, look for those that are backed by well-known organizations like the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR).
- Strict zero-tolerance policy for drugs or alcohol: Good SLHs will have a strict policy that does not tolerate any drug or alcohol use whatsoever.
- Residents’ rules: SLHs should also clearly state complete rules and regulations for residents.
- Recovery support services for maintaining sobriety: High-quality SLHs normally provide recovery support services, such as drug testing and peer support programs.
Visiting the SLHs is next. Prepare a list of general questions for staff and other residents, and schedule a day visit to check out the SLH for yourself. If you can visit in person, consider taking a trusted sober friend, family member, or your sponsor with you for a second opinion.
If you are unable to visit the home personally, the next best thing is to look at photos online, and read online reviews from previous residents.
#4. Rules & Standards
Talk to the management or admissions team to ensure you understand all the rules, requirements, and expectations for residents. Do this before you commit to residency.
As you study the rules and standards for residents of the SLH, look for:
- One-on-one peer accountability
- Type of recovery programming and/or 12-step group meetings
- Random drug testing
- Visitor policy
- Social activities
These are all important things to consider as they can be pivotal in maintaining long-term sobriety.
The management and staff of a SLH play a big role in the success and happiness of its residents. Check out the staff as much as you can, looking for qualifications and suitable training. Do they live on-site? Provide peer guidance? Are they in recovery themselves?
If there are no staff members on-site at any time, cross this one off your list!
You also need to make sure you have all your finances worked out and can afford the SLH you are currently looking at. If you plan to enroll in an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or attend regular clinical counseling sessions, you may be able to use your health insurance benefits to cover some of the costs. Check first.
Some SLHs have length-of-minimum-or-maximum-stay requirements for residents. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how long you will need to stay. Therefore, it’s best to choose one that allows for flexibility and allows you to stay as long as you need.
#8. Red Flags
There are several “red flags” (danger signs) you should watch out for when you’re searching for an SLH. Here are some of the most common red flags that show a particular SLH is thinking only of profit, and not its residents and their recovery:
- Does not adhere to regulatory inspections
- No admissions requirements
- Claims to be free
- No rules for residents
- No staff or unqualified staff
- Does not drug test residents
- Rundown or unsafe structure
Remember, you fully deserve the best chance at a clean and sober life, and applying your best due diligence before entering a sober living home will be a positive step in your continued recovery.