What Is a Sober Living House?

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Last Updated - 10/19/2023

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Updated 10/19/2023

What Is a Sober Living House?

While some may have heard the term “sober house,” others might not know what it means. Is it just a random place where sober people live? When do sober people go there, and how does it work? This article will explore what a sober house is, how it works and what to expect if you will live in one.

What Is a Sober Living House?

Sober living houses, also known as sober living or sober homes, are sober living environments where people in recovery from substance use disorders live together. These facilities are normally certified or governed by Sober Living Coalitions or networks and structured around 12-step programs and ideologies. Sober houses bridge the gap between addiction treatment and returning home. The structure and support that sober housing provides help those new to recovery keep sobriety as their top priority.

Sober living homes often have the following features and requirements:

  • Residents must participate in 12-step meetings or some other form of group therapy.
  • Random drug testing is required for those living on-site.
  • Residents may be required to subject themselves to searches for drugs and paraphernalia.
  • Some sober homes are operated as outpatient treatment centers, providing medical care on-site and access to psychiatric nurses and clinical social workers who staff the sober home.
  • There is often a set of general rules and a house manager who enforces them.
  • Bedrooms may be shared or private, but living areas and the kitchen are shared among residents.
  • Community meals and shared chores are common.

Sober housing isn’t meant to be a permanent living situation but rather a temporary transition period that allows people in recovery to find a balance between their new lives and sobriety.

Halfway Houses vs. Sober-Living Houses

People often use the term “halfway house” to refer to sober living homes, but differences exist between the two. Residents of sober living homes have usually voluntarily decided to live in such a home after completing a rehab program.

On the other hand, halfway houses are affiliated with the criminal justice system. These facilities serve as a transition for individuals who have just been released from prison and into the probation system.

Halfway houses are typically residential facilities near urban communities that allow a person to have some structure after leaving prison. While in a halfway house, offenders generally are allowed to leave for work and have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Sober House Rules

Sober living environments have some basic rules to ensure everyone’s top priority is recovery. A sober house isn’t as strict as a residential treatment center, but guidelines help keep everyone sober, safe and healthy. These rules aren’t meant to make your life hard but to maintain a comfortable and drug and alcohol-free environment for everyone. Some sober house rules include:

  • No drug and alcohol use by residents or their guests.
  • Residents agree to random drug tests or other tests confirming their non-using status.
  • Many sober houses require you to abide by a curfew and get permission for overnight stays outside the house.
  • Violence, personal threats and offensive language are prohibited.
  • Personal items, certain medications and clothing promoting drug use are not permitted.
  • Residents must attend 12-step or group support meetings of some kind.
  • Intimate relationships between residents are not permitted.
  • Participation in mandatory house meetings is required.
  • Residents are presented with a written agreement that sets out the rules and regulations of the sober house.

Benefits of a Sober House

Transitional living during early sobriety can increase the likelihood of long-term success in sobriety. Studies have also shown that stable, sober living environments can lead to longer periods of abstinence, higher rates of employment and fewer legal issues.

Additional benefits of sober living arrangements include:

  • Mutual support among peers who are also engaged in recovery
  • A sense of stability that is absent in active addiction
  • Enhanced safety and security
  • Opportunity to show responsibility
  • Assistance with developing money management skills
  • Linkage to resources, such as job training, education options and support groups

Addiction treatment can set you on the pathway to sobriety, but a sober house can keep you on that road. Sober housing can be the transition you need between starting over and staying sober.

How Long Should Residents Stay in a Sober Living Home?

The time a person needs to stay in a sober living home can depend on their unique situation, such as the severity of their addiction and what other resources they can access in their community. Some people may have access to safe, sober housing with a family member, whereas others who do not have family support may need to spend more time in a sober living house.

While a person’s time in sober living can vary widely, research suggests the average stay is relatively short-term. In one recent study, 62.2% of women living in sober houses stayed for under three months. Those who had financial problems and were older tended to stay longer, suggesting that personal factors can influence the length of stay.

For the best outcomes, residents should stay in a sober living home until they have established another form of safe housing where they can remain committed to recovery. It is also important to have access to other resources, such as counseling and support groups, when leaving sober living.

How Much Does Sober Living Cost?

Most sober living houses charge fees to residents to cover their room and board. The monthly cost can vary widely, depending on the features of the sober living home and its location. Sober living homes in urban areas are likely more costly than those in smaller, rural communities, and homes offering luxurious amenities will also be more expensive.

A study of sober living homes in Los Angeles found that the average monthly cost was $650, and most homes charged under $1,400 a month. Some charged as little as $300 in monthly fees, whereas others came with exorbitant monthly costs, as high as $10,000 a month.

These average monthly figures can change with inflation, and high-cost homes running $10,000 per month may not reflect the average in other communities. These higher-cost homes are likely those tailored to the needs of celebrities.

Choosing the Right Sober Home

If you’re considering a sober living home, selecting a quality facility that meets your needs is important. It’s helpful to look for the following features in a sober living facility:

  • Rules that require residents to remain drug-free.
  • Residents are provided with access to support group meetings.
  • There are clear policies in place related to chores, monthly fees and the use of common living areas.
  •  The sober home has received some sort of professional certification or accreditation.

If you’re having trouble finding sober living, it can be helpful to talk to your addiction treatment provider about resources in your area.

Learn more about our addiction treatment programs and transitional living today.

View Sources

Hamilton, Zachary; Campbell, Christopher. “Uncommonly Observed: The Impact of New Jersey’s Halfway House System.“>Uncommon[…]House System.” Criminal Justice and Behavior, 2014. Accessed September 1, 2023.

Polcin, Douglas; Korcha, Rachael; Bond, Jason; Galloway, Gantt. “Sober Living Houses for Alcohol and Drug Dependence: 18-Month Outcomes“>Sober Li[…]onth Outcomes.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, June 2010. Accessed September 1, 2023.

Edwards, Katie; Ullman, Sarah; Siller, Laura; Murphy, Sharon; Harvey; Ronald; Wheeler, Lorey. “What relates to length of stay in a sober living home among women with histories of victimization and addiction? A longitudinal analysis.“>What rel[…]nal analysis.” Journal of Community Psychology, July 2022. Accessed September 1, 2023.

Mericle, Amy; Karriker-Jaffe, Katherine; Gupta, Shalika; Sheridan, David; Polcin, Doug. “Distribution and Neighborhood Correlates of Sober Living House Locations in Los Angeles.“>Distribu[…] Los Angeles.” American Journal of Community Psychology, September 2016. Accessed September 1, 2023.


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