Sober living communities are transitional environments where a person in recovery from addiction can stay after committing to sobriety.
Many participants go straight from a residential or inpatient addiction treatment program into a sober living home as a kind of in-between option before returning home and fully integrating back into society.
Sober living homes offer a person time and space to solidify healthy lifestyle choices and habits formed during a treatment program before being faced with the full pressure of everyday life. The amount of time a person stays in a sober living home will vary according to individual circumstances.
What to Expect
Sober living environments vary in how they are run and what expectations are laid out. The main goal is the same, however: to offer a person the ability and space to adjust to sober living and enhance recovery.
In a sober living environment, residents are required to stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol. While most don’t offer any formal treatment, many will have rules and regulations. These commonly stipulate that residents will commit to attending support group meetings and be involved in a 12-step or similar program.
Residences are commonly self-governed. They ask that residents perform household chores and stick to the house rules that are often laid out by the residents themselves. These rules might include curfews and policies for the duration of stay, but many allow residents to stay as long as needed.
Sober living environments are often nonprofit or independently run. They may or may not be licensed by the state. Each one may run differently.
Gauging Duration of Stay
The length of time a person should stay in sober living is dependent on the individual. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends a stay of at least three months’ participation in any form of substance abuse and addiction treatment.
A sober living residence can provide a stable living situation while individuals adjust to life in recovery. There are usually a certain amount of residents in the home at a time. They are all people in various stages of recovery working toward the common goal of sustaining long-term abstinence.
The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reports that the average length of stay in a transitional sober living environment is between 166 and 254 days. Staying longer can provide more time to ensure that the new life skills, coping mechanisms, and healthy habits learned in treatment can become more ingrained to minimize episodes of relapse.
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, and sober living homes can help to enhance recovery. The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs publishes that individuals who live in sober living communities after completing a treatment program and before reintegrating into society tend to use substances less, are more successful at work, have fewer arrests, and experience less severe psychiatric problems.
The level of peer support in a sober living environment can help to sustain abstinence and minimize relapse, especially in individuals who are also actively participating in 12-step and other peer support groups.
Knowing the Right Time to Transition Out
While staying in a sober living residence, a person can start to return to parts of their daily life slowly. Individuals may start looking for work or return to work or school.
It is important to continue to attend therapy sessions and also to establish a healthy support network that will often include 12-step or peer support groups with regular meetings.
Physical and mental health status will play a role in how long a person will stay in a sober living environment.
Co-occurring disorders will need to be managed, and a safe level of stabilization will need to be reached before returning home.
Someone struggling with significant medical and/or mental health issues may need to stay longer in a transitional environment.
Support at home is a factor as well. People with strong social support in the form of family members and loved ones may be ready to transition back home sooner than those without stable living environments.
A person may be ready to transition out of sober living if:
- A supportive social network is established that plans to work together to support sobriety and sustained abstinence in recovery.
- A program of recovery is set up that includes peer support and/or 12-step meetings, ongoing therapy sessions, and an established plan for self-care.
- Co-occurring conditions are being successfully managed, and there is a solid plan in place to continue this in recovery.
- Healthy habits are established that can minimize relapse, including balanced meal plans, stable and supportive relationships, and other physical and mental health strategies.
- There is a stable living environment to return to, and finances can support it. Financial situations may require a person to stay longer in a nonprofit or supported sober living environment until financial stability is reached.
NIDA publishes that there is no finite length of time that a person should remain in an addiction treatment program, but staying longer is generally related to better outcomes.
A person should stay in a sober living environment until they feel confident and ready to go back to daily life with a solid plan for recovery in place.