Sober Living Homes


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Sober living homes (also called sober living) serve as transitional housing arrangements for people recovering from substance abuse. Their's structures and rules in place to help people stay sober and to gradually reintegrate into society.

Who Goes into a Sober Living House?

A sober living house may include any of the following clients:

Those Leaving Substance Abuse Treatment

Once you've completed your spell in substance abuse treatment, you might not want to go home right away. Moving suddenly from an unrestricted and monitored environment to a relaxed one could disrupt your momentum and cause a relapse. A sober living house will ease you gently back into the old life, and ensure you stay clean, by helping you consolidate the coping skills you learned in rehab.

Those Who've Relapsed

You might suffer a relapse as soon as you're back home from rehab. Or if it hasn't happened yet, you may feel that it's imminent. However, you feel you can't go back to a addiction treatment program. So, you check into a sober living to sober up and get continued support to stay that way.

Those in Outpatient Rehab

Some people will sign up for outpatient rehab, but find they're constantly distracted. That's because their home environment is filled with triggers and temptations. So, they move into a sober living where they house residents and they commute to the outpatient facility from there. The Options Recovery Services (ORS) located in Berkley, California runs sober homes for outpatient rehab clients.

These are specifically low-income people who don't have a stable or supportive home environment. They join the house from a homeless shelter. But they must have been attending the nearby outpatient facility and achieved some level of sobriety, before entering the house. The sober living is usually located near the facility.

Those Referred by The Courts

Some residents may be referred by the criminal justice system as an alternative to going to jail. They qualify for this court-ordered program if their crime was non-violent and was linked to drug or alcohol addiction. Research shows that 25 percent of transitional home residents come via the criminal justice system. A further 23 percent come via family or friends, 20 percent via self-referral and 13 percent through inpatient programs.

Are Sober Living Houses Licensed?

Sober living houses do not offer formal treatment so they are not monitored or licensed by the Department of Health. However, many homes are affiliated with associations or coalitions that oversee, safety, health, and quality and are commitment to a model of recovery that's peer oriented and encourages 12-step group engagement.

In California, where the sober living houses originated, these associations include the Sober Living Network (SLN) which has over 500 affiliates, and the California Association of Addiction Recovery Resources (CAARR) with more than 24 affiliates.

Many other sober living houses outside California follow the 'Oxford House' sober living model. The Oxford houses are the most common types of sober homes in the U.S. Other sober living home associations include, the New Jersey Alliance of Recovery Residences and the Florida Association of Recovery Residences.

However, there are many sober living homes that are not affiliated with any oversight bodies and they operate unchecked.

How are the Sober Living Homes Run?

Houses associated with CAARR, SLN, the Oxford House model, and other oversight bodies, insist that residents be involved in the running of the house. So, the houses will have residents' councils or a similar system where residents elect officials from among themselves to run the house for a specific time period. This peer empowerment approach is regarded as the basis of the success of the homes.

Other homes are run by the owner. These include The Clean and Sober Transitional Living (CSTL) homes located in Sacramento, California. However, CSTL houses still have Residents' Councils that they defer to in decision-making so that they can adhere as much as possible, to the peer-oriented model of recovery.

Still other units are run by a house manager - often a former addict who's been in recovery for a while, has control of his sobriety, and can relate to the residents' struggles. ORS homes for the destitute and low income, normally rely on the house manager to enforce the rules. There are typically no residents' councils to help enforce the rules.

Are There Free Sober Living Homes?

The privately-owned sober living homes are not free. Most residents work so they can pay their own way. Some units have sliding fee scales based on income.

However, some residents may enter the house unemployed and without money to pay for rent and other fees.

In this case, family and friends could help out, or residents could apply for grants and scholarships from funds such as the Natalie Cribari Drug Awareness Fund that nonprofits operate, specifically for sober living. Some homes offer scholarships of their own.

Residents may also qualify for bank loans if they have good credit history. Finding employment may not be difficult. The home often uses its connections with local businesses to get them hired.

At the ORS homes for the low-income and destitute, most residents will be eligible for Natalie Cribari Drug Awareness Fund from the government. This will help them pay their fees at the sober living home.

What are Sober Living Homes Regulations?

A sober house is not a formal treatment center like an inpatient rehab facility. It's less restrictive and intense but has enough structure, routine, and rules to keep you on track with your recovery while gradually reintegrating you into your old life.

Rules vary from house to house but generally, they include:

  • Committing to staying sober, being accountable and non-violent
  • Following a curfew
  • Doing chores
  • Paying rent, buying groceries
  • Contributing to house maintenance fees
  • Attending in-house group sessions with peers
  • Regularly attending off-campus 12-step programs such as alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous
  • Going to work, vocational school or an outpatient program
  • Looking for a job if you're not involved in an outside activity
  • Submitting to random alcohol and drug testing to show continuing sobriety
  • Penalties for breaching the rules range from a fine to outright expulsion. The latter usually happens when a client starts using alcohol or drugs again.

    Are the Sober Living Homes Effective?

    Living in a sober home does not automatically assure success. In fact, relapses do occur. But the more you follow the house rules, the more you enhance your chances of success as research has shown. A 6-month study of CSTL and ORS sober homes in California, revealed that 40 percent of clients had abstained completely during the 6-month period under consideration, while 24 percent had done so most of that time.

    Further studies showed that there was little difference in the abstinence rates at either the 12-month follow-up mark or the 18-month follow-up mark. Social support and involvement in 12-step programs such as alcoholics anonymous were seen as contributing to improved outcomes.

    However, while clients referred from the criminal justice system registered outcomes similar to the voluntary residents, they did not do as well as they did in terms of finding and keeping a job and avoiding being arrested.

    What is the Difference Between a Halfway House and a Sober Living House?

    The houses are similar in that they both provide a drug and alcohol-free living environment for people trying to recover from addiction. There are important differences, however:

  • Halfway house clients must leave the house after a stay of between 1 and 6 months and whether or not they are ready to face the world. Sober living clients may stay as long as they wish.
  • Halfway houses are funded by the state or treatment centers while many sober units are privately owned
  • Halfway residents must all be involved in a formal drug or alcohol treatment program, or have recently taken part in one, prior to entry. This is not the usual requirement at the sober living homes. Those run by the ORS do require patients to be attending an outpatient program before entry.
  • Sober living homes do not have formal treatment programs, but halfway houses have rehab treatment programs that run through the day.
  • How do I Choose a Sober Living Facility?

    Many sober homes belong to associations that monitor their affairs but there may still be differences in quality and service. A number of homes are not monitored at all. This may not affect their services. However, there are homes that are said to be run purely for profit with recovering residents not being given the support they need.

    So, when thinking of entering a sober house, here are some points to consider:

  • Do thorough research and compare facilities.
  • Check whether the facility is affiliated with a regulatory body.
  • Study the rules and see if they could really help you.
  • Try to get testimonials from people who've attended the houses.
  • Check whether they are linked to any job-placement services.
  • Conclusion

    The battle to overcome addiction is a never-ending task. People are always on the lookout for ways to reduce the possibility of relapse. One way to ease back into their lives without too many disruptions is to enroll in a structured transitional home after treatment.

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