Sober Living Environment: What to Look For

When the time comes for you to leave a residential recovery program, you will have a few different options. You could go back to living where you were before you went into rehabilitation. Or you might decide to live with friends or family while you get back on your feet. Some people choose to live somewhere else entirely. A good way to take steps toward achieving full independence without putting yourself in a new or foreign environment where you might be likely to relapse is to move into a sober living environment. Read on to learn more about these environments and what you should look for when choosing the one that is best for you.

Schedules vs. Independence

Every sober living environment is going to have some type of structure, but whether it is bare-bones or more scheduled depends on the environment itself. For example, most will tell residents what time they must get up in the morning. People living in sober living environments should not sleep the day away. In some environments, there might be exceptions for individuals who work at night; in others, there will not be exceptions. There will also generally be a curfew.

The residence you choose might have scheduled meal times where everyone comes together at a certain time to eat. There might also be house meetings that you must attend. Group outings are sometimes offered as an option. In addition, shower use might be scheduled, particularly if you live in a home that has several people who must all get ready for work or therapy at the same time. Chores might also be scheduled. Think about what level of independence versus structure you want and look for a sober living environment that will meet your needs.

Rules and Guidelines

Just as every environment will have some type of structure or schedule to adhere to, there will also be rules and guidelines that you might find too restrictive, not restrictive enough, or just right. Keep in mind that a sober living environment is meant to be a stepping-stone toward completely independent living. Someone just out of rehab might require more stringent rules than someone who has been out of rehab for several months. So keep that in mind as you look at different places and read through their rules and guidelines.

One rule that every sober living environment will have is the requirement to be drug- and alcohol-free. You can expect random drug tests to take place at various intervals. There might be rules about visitors; you might be able to have visitors only at certain times and in the public areas of the residence, for example. You might be required to attend support group meetings or to attend your prescribed therapy sessions. All of this is designed to help you get in the habit of making good choices now so that you can continue to make good choices later, once you move out and into your own home.

It is also important to find out how long you will be allowed to live in the sober living environment. Some residences have a cutoff time, such as six months. Others will allow individuals to continue living in the environment as long as they follow the rules and stay sober. Talk to your counselors about your own personality and recovery process up to this point to determine whether a residence with a cutoff date would work to motivate you or be too much pressure at this point.


You will need to think about where you want to live, both now and in the future when you live independently. Some people prefer to live in the area where they were living before. The challenges of staying away from the people and places where you used substances will be great, but you will be able to practice self-discipline while living in a supportive environment. Other people prefer to live far away from all of those temptations in an effort to start fresh. Either way can work, and you should talk to your counselors and case manager about the different options available.

If you have a job already, you will want to be sure that you can get to it via public transportation, bicycling, or walking if you do not have a car. Also, if you have supportive family members, you might want to live near them so they can support you and help you while you are living in the sober living environment. Since your recovery will depend on your attending counseling and support group meetings, staying local to these services will help you avoid the trauma of having to start over somewhere completely new while navigating the early steps of being out of residential rehab and staying sober.


In most cases, you will need to pay rent in a sober living environment just as you would if you were living in your own apartment or house. Fees can vary substantially, so be sure to find out exactly what you will be paying for exactly which services and amenities. Utilities will generally be included. Groceries might or might not be included. There will also likely be an extra fee for most outings. Find out in advance what you can expect when it comes to cost.

Some sober living environments are paid for on a sliding scale fee basis. This means that the more money you make, the more you pay. This might be a good option if you have a low income right now.

Sober Living Environment Comfort Factors

One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is your own comfort level. When you walk into the residence, does it feel like home? Do you like the caseworkers and do you feel comfortable with the other residents? When you read through the rules and the chores, does it feel reasonable to you, or do you think you will dislike it even after you get used to it? You are responsible for your own happiness and fulfillment, so if a particular environment doesn’t feel right to you, consider looking elsewhere. With that being said, you might not find a residence that is absolutely perfect and meets all of your desires, so it is important to be reasonable and to be willing to compromise in some ways.

Talk to your mental health care providers about your transition into a sober living environment so you can make the best decision for you.


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