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Does Sober Living Work

Does Sober Living Work? An In-Depth Explanation

Those who struggle from drug addiction are fully aware of the steep challenges encountered during the rehabilitation process. It is never a natural process that frequently turns futile due to its arduous nature.

Individuals who fall deep into the clutches of addiction are commonly placed under inpatient care, where they receive round-the-clock treatment from professionals. On the other hand, outpatient treatment is given to those whose conditions are manageable enough.

The middle ground between the two is a sober living program. In this set-up, patients are situated in what’s referred to as “halfway houses” in which they receive treatment. However, they do not get the full-blown treatment provided by inpatient facilities.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what a sober living program is, why patients and their families opt for this kind of treatment arrangement for drug rehabilitation, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.

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What happens in a sober living home?

The best way to answer this question is by comparing it to a kid learning to ride a bicycle for the first time. He or she starts with training wheels, and once they learn how to balance and pedal, the wheels are taken off.

Similarly, a sober living home provides that middle ground for patients coming off an inpatient facility. It is a place where they immerse themselves in a clean, drug-free environment, but without the watchful eye of a therapist. It helps in the process of easing themselves back into normal life, outside of the confines of a rehabilitation facility.

A sober living home offers the same structure as inpatient establishments, including recovery meetings. Regular drug tests are also conducted as part of the aftercare program.

But it is not to be mistaken as a vacation home, as strict regulations are also employed. Illicit substances are prohibited, so are overnight visitors.

Sober living homes aren’t cost-free, as well. Patients are required to pay a certain amount for rent and other corresponding fees. They are also made to do house chores.

Why do patients opt for sober living homes?

In most cases, patients who choose to enter themselves into sober living homes are those who feel they still need rehabilitation after inpatient treatment. In some cases, people fresh off a drug rehabilitation facility have nowhere to go home to.

Worse, some of them have been abandoned by family members who’ve given up on them a long time prior.

These are the patients who long for the support system to prevent themselves from relapse and to go back into the unpleasant life they once led. They don’t have that healthy living environment to turn back to.

Most sober living homes require patients to remain in the establishment for a period of three months. However, it will be up to them to prolong their stay if needed, or they wish to.

Related article: Sober Living: Is It Worth It?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sober living homes?

Now to answer the question of if sober living homes actually work for patients undergoing drug rehabilitation. We’ll do this by weighing the pros and cons of this form of treatment.

Most findings show positive results. During the six-month period when the study was conducted, patients were able to practice abstinence for the same amount of time. After 18 months, most patients had already checked out of sober living homes.

The same study also concluded that the best amount of time in a sober living home is 160-250 days. Given this length of stay, fewer relapses were recorded. Patients also showed signs of excellent mental health, better employment rates, and lesser arrests.

The disadvantages, on the other hand, are far outweighed than the pros, but all of these are variable. There’s possible mismanagement from the owners, which may end up disastrous for patients at their most vulnerable time.

Another issue would be the level of “freedom” they’ll get to enjoy in a sober living home, at least compared to an inpatient set-up. Granting this small leeway may push some of them back to old, unfavourable habits that may easily lead to relapse.

But the major drawback of a sober living home is that it’s not suitable for everyone. There may be a handful of people who aren’t able to adapt well in a living space with fellow recovering addicts. If that’s the case, they may need to extend their stay in an inpatient facility.

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How can patients reap the full benefits of a sober living home?

Drug rehabilitation does not happen overnight. It entails a tedious process that comes with several steps before full recovery is attained. And just like in an inpatient facility, the time spent in a sober living home is a valid measure of success.

Simply put, the longer patients stay in the home, the better are their chances for 100 percent recuperation. They’ll need to kill their detrimental habits and develop healthier ones, which takes time.

Sober living homes offer behavioural therapy sessions as a means to prevent these wrong routines from forming altogether. Consistency is critical, just like how it’s needed for antibiotics to kill off a disease.

Related article: A Helpful and Effective Guide to Sober Living

What are the factors to consider when choosing a sober living home?

Every patient’s needs will vary from one individual to another, but here are the general things to look at when choosing a sober living home.


You’ve likely spent a small fortune during your inpatient stay already, and you’d want to lessen expenses as much as possible. Before signing up for a home, take a look at the overall costs involved and if you can afford them.

Related article: How Much Does Sober Living Cost in Toronto?

Look over the fine print of any agreements in place, like a security deposit requirement, for instance. Having this form of treatment should be helpful and not add more burden.


The idea of living in a sober living home is to free oneself from the clutches of drug addiction, but with a little more independence. With that being said, location plays a crucial role in making a choice.

For one, be sure that the facility is located away from a bar or pub, or any place that can be a trigger for a recovering addict to relapse. A serene environment amongst trees and nature is also ideal for helping speed up the recovery process.


Extra amenities aren’t exactly needed, as long as it won’t add too much to the overall costs. Having regular yoga and meditation classes, for example, is a huge plus.

Just remember that these services come with an extra price tag. Take these into consideration before you make a final decision.


A good sober living home must have a solid structure in place. It should be able to provide a healthy environment for recovering addicts to heal themselves one step at a time.

While patients are given some freedom, there should be a balance with the structure it implements. Attending therapy sessions and 12-step meetings must be encouraged at all times.

Length of Stay

Another factor to consider is the amount of time required for a patient to stay in the home. A good six months would be ideal, as long as they’ve complied with house rules.

Ultimately, the length of stay will depend on the condition of each individual.

Related article: Sober Activities to Enjoy When Recovering from Drug Addiction

What are the red flags to watch out for?

Entering an inept sober living home may only be detrimental to a patient. To avoid worse repercussions, here are some red flags to watch out for.

Offers of Free Services

Unfortunately, even some reputable living homes try to attract patients by claiming their services are free of charge. It is a clear red flag that no one should fall for.

Unless it’s government-funded, treatment in a sober living home comes with a price. In Toronto, for example, the minimum amount is around $500 per month, while the highest is at $12,000.

Lack of Admission Requirements

A sober living home should at least require patients to avoid consuming prohibited substances. They should have a 12-step program in place as part of an aftercare program.

That being said, the non-existence of these necessary pre-requisites is a major red flag to look out for.

Lack of Drug-Testing Procedures

Regular drug-testing is another necessity, and that also goes without saying. Not having one is a warning sign that the home isn’t giving that much importance to the recovery of their patients.

A respectable sober living home conducts mandatory drug tests and toxicology exams. Even medical marijuana use requires prior approval from upper management.


For a recovering addict, sober living home treatment can be the perfect gateway from confinement back into society.

Patients must adhere to house rules and attend the 12-step programs religiously to boost their chances for recovery. At the same time, homes must employ a balance of structure and freedom as part of their services.

To answer the question, yes, sober living homes do work for recovering addicts. Just keep in mind that success is a two-way street, and can only be achieved if both parties do their part.

Related article: Sober Living: Benefits for Addicts Looking for Long-Term Sobriety