Sober living homes are recovery residences that allow tenants the personal freedom to go to work, school, or job retraining programs while applying skills learned in rehabilitation programs to create a new, drug-free lifestyle. To support recovery and reduce the risk of relapse, sober living homes do not allow any drugs or alcohol on the premises. In some instances, even prescription medicines are not allowed, and many sober living homes require routine drug testing for residents.

Essentially, the maintenance of a sober, supportive environment means that sober living homes have rules that residents must follow. As state regulations and nonprofit accreditations change, more sober living homes have standard rules, tenant rights, and supervisor responsibilities as well.

Sober Living Home Rules through History

The concept behind sober living homes dates back to the 1830s when organizations like the Y (formerly the YMCA and the YWCA) and the Salvation Army provided alcohol- and drug-free environments for young adults to safely sleep in, inexpensively or for free. These organizations were part of the Temperance Movement, which believed consistent alcohol abuse was a large cultural problem and prevented adults from maintaining responsibilities to their families. By the end of World War II, more people had moved into urban areas, creating a greater need for housing in general and stronger temptation from easy-to-find drugs. Finally, in the 1970s, halfway houses were started as transitional housing options between alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, which were often residential, and the outside world.

Modern sober living homes are derived from either the Florida Model or the Clean and Sober Transitional Living (CSTL) model. The Florida Model allows for more personal freedom while living in a sober environment while the CSTL model delineates phases residents go through, so they maintain a continuum of care while focusing on long-term sobriety.

  1. Phase I: Residents have required chores, must attend several support group meetings per week, and return before the curfew. They also must submit to random drug and alcohol testing.
  2. Phase II: Random drug and alcohol tests are still required; however, residents may pay for a private room if they wish or share a room with only one other roommate. They have increased autonomy and do not have to attend as many support group meetings.

As sober houses become more popular and proliferate, not all homes will use these systems. However, they all have some rules in common.

What Are Common Rules at a Sober Living Home?

    Rules for tenants living in a sober home may include:

  • Pay rent on time.
  • Keep provided appliances, furniture, fixtures, and other items sanitary and safe.
  • Use the premises only for residential purposes.
  • No illegal activities may occur on the premises.
  • Perform personal chores, such as cooking and cleaning regularly.
  • Do not deface or damage community property or shared spaces.
  • Do not disturb other residents.
  • Abide by curfews, and sign in and out.
  • Sleep at the residence at least five nights per week.
  • Attend the required number of support group meetings, either on or off the premises.
  • Get a sponsor.
  • Attend therapy sessions for mental health.
  • Attend house meetings.
  • Maintain employment, attend school, or attend job retraining programs.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not consume mind-altering substances.
  • Participate in drug screenings.
  • Be accountable when off the premises.

Safety at Sober Living Homes

Residents may not possess drugs or alcohol, and their visitors – typically family and close friends – may not bring these substances in, either. Residents may bring in food, and more sober homes are allowing residents with chronic health problems or specific recovery medications to bring in prescriptions; however, prescription drugs are closely monitored.

When considering sober living homes, find a residence with state licenses, nonprofit accreditations, and appropriate health certifications. To find the right sober living home, ask administrators, case managers, social workers, therapists, or physicians in a rehabilitation program for referrals. It’s important to find a good fit and strong support when navigating life in the vulnerable stage of early recovery.