An Overview of Sober Living

Post-rehab residence in a sober living community can be part of an effective recovery plan. The lack of a stable, drug-free, supportive environment after rehab can be a trigger for relapse. Sober living communities provide a safeguard against relapse and can offer a recovering substance abuser the personal space needed to build a new life based on abstinence. These homes are not licensed nor do they receive government funding; therefore, residents must pay out of pocket as if they were renting a room.

In general, sober living homes emphasize peer support and attendance at 12-Step meetings.

Although room accommodations vary, sober living is a communal situation based on the idea that people who are in recovery are uniquely situated to mutually support each other to maintain sobriety.

A research study reported in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs monitored 300 recovering substance abusers over an 18-month period in two different sober living homes. The research findings affirmed that social and environmental factors play a key role in successful recovery. Social factors include one’s social network, which often relates heavily to one’s living environment. For instance, one study on recovering alcohol abusers found abstinence was positively associated with social support based expressly on sobriety as well as attendance at 12-Step meetings.

The study found that sober living homes not only helped with abstinence but were also a factor in lower arrest rates, higher employment, and improvement in psychiatric symptoms. The researchers further noted that the following factors were predictors of rehab success: greater involvement in a 12-Step program, having fewer alcohol and drug users in one’s social network, and having fewer psychiatric problems. Those participants in the study who were referred to a sober living home through a criminal court procedure had similar rehab success outcomes as those who were admitted voluntarily. However, the criminal court referral group had a greater incidence of re-arrest and a harder time gaining and maintaining employment. The study confirms that an aftercare plan that involves a drug-free and supportive environment can be instrumental to recovery success.

The Perry House

While it is true that mutual support among drug recovering peers is one of the hallmarks of sober living, actor and former addict Matthew Perry took the sentiment to the most serious and compassionate place when he famously turned his Malibu home (list price $12.5 million) into a sober living community named “The Perry House.” Perry has since listed the home for sale but plans to move it to the more affordable neighborhood of Study City, Los Angeles. Features of The Perry House include 12-Step meetings, regular drug testing, 24-hour management, and home-cooked meals. But Perry’s noble work aside, at least one addiction expert, best-selling author Anne Fletcher, takes issue with one of The Perry House’s policy rules – medication-assisted treatment (such as methadone and Suboxone) is prohibited. Fletcher’s concern addresses an issue some recovering substance abusers may have about living in a sober house.

As Fletcher points out, methadone and Suboxone are not only detox medications; these drugs may be administered to recovering opioid addicts as part of a long-term recovery plan. Sober living facilities inquire with prospective residents about their drug use and may end up discriminating against interested applicants who receive methadone or Suboxone treatment (as did The Perry House when Fletcher inquired). Although this practice is unlawful, as Fletcher found, it does occur.

Fletcher’s point opens up a larger discussion on the realities of living in a sober facility. It is important for prospective sober house residents to be aware of some of the limitations they may face and weigh them against the benefit a sober living house can provide.

Additional Considerations

As sober living homes are largely unregulated, conditions and the quality of accommodations and services vary. As a personal story published in The Fix relays, the owners of sober living homes may not have sufficient experience or training to equip them to successfully operate this important form of aftercare. Since sober living homes can be lucrative for the owners, some may be motivated by profits more than a sincere desire to assist and support recovering substance abusers. Still others may be well run and entirely helpful. When looking for a sober living facility, it will be useful to keep these tips in mind:

  • Get a solid recommendation from a trusted and informed source.
  • Read the house rules in advance of moving in.
  • Decide on whether to live in a same-sex or coed home.
  • Find out about the owners/operators, including their type and years of experience.

Even if one sober living home does not prove suitable, it is important not to give up. Sober living residents are best advised to remember that they are not making a commitment to a specific sober living home as much as to sobriety itself.

When you seek dual diagnosis help at an FRN facility, our specialized staff will work with you throughout your treatment and ensure that an effective aftercare plan is in place when rehab ends. We want you to be successful not only under our care, but also in any sober living facility where you may decide to live after completing a treatment program.

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