What is a Halfway House or Sober Living Home?
A halfway house, also known as a sober living home, is a type of group home that helps people with addictions work through the process of reintegrating back into society. An effective halfway house serves as a transitional point between drug and alcohol treatment and a healthy, productive life. Halfway houses are often private, for-profit entities, frequently owned and managed by treatment centers. They aren’t funded by state or local government, but they may be owned and operated by charitable organizations. Some sober living environments are typical one-family homes in residential areas, but others are housed in converted hotels or apartment buildings.
Benefits of Halfway Houses or Sober Living Homes
Addiction is a complex, chronic disease that impacts Americans in a number of very profound ways. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that in 2013, more than 9 percent of individuals age 12 and older were current users of illicit drugs, and slightly more than half reported being current drinkers. It is estimated that more than 2 million people participate in some form of drug and alcohol treatment every year. Although people progress through treatment at different rates, countless studies have indicated that recovery depends largely on treatment length. NIDA (The National Institute for Drug Abuse) says that treatment lasting less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, and many people benefit from treatment lasting as long as a year or more. Unfortunately, treatment is expensive and insurance companies are frequently unwilling to fund more than 30 days, which is rarely enough. Dr. Omar Manejwala, author of How Often do Long-Term Sober Alcoholics and Addicts Relapse,? An article published in Psychology Today, cites statistics that the chance of relapse is high during the first year after treatment, when approximately two-thirds of individuals will revert to addictive behavior. However, less than half relapse after a year of sobriety. Halfway houses, often known as sober living homes, bridge the gap between treatment and independent living by providing critical support in a drug- and alcohol-free environment. Most halfway houses accommodate residents until they have attained at least six to 12 months of sobriety, and sometimes longer. Sober living homes provide much-needed support from peers who are also committed to sobriety and working to rebuild their lives. The atmosphere in a halfway house is generally positive and residents have ample opportunities for having fun and making new friends that may last a lifetime.
Types of Sober Living Homes
Most sober living homes are open to people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, although some are available to people with behavior addictions such as sex addiction, gambling or overeating. In some cases, halfway houses are dedicated to helping people with a specific type of addiction such as alcoholism or dependence on heroin or cocaine. Halfway houses may offer individual or group therapy sessions for mental health issues or addiction, or counseling to help people learn better coping skills to deal with difficult situations, thus reducing the chance of relapse. Some sober living homes are gender-specific, while others are co-ed. Halfway houses for adolescents are also available. Although halfway houses offer more freedom than rehab, they are governed by various limits and restrictions and differ considerably in organization. Some are almost like living in a regular home environment, while others are closely managed and monitored with a high degree of structure.
- Peer-managed halfway houses – Highly motivated individuals may do well in peer-managed halfway houses, in which residents are accountable to themselves, and to one another. In this environment, residents meet frequently to determine how the house will function and how responsibilities and chores will be divided. Although this type of halfway house is democratic and largely self-managed, an outside individual may be paid to manage admissions and discharges, and to provide mediation when problems become difficult to resolve.
- Moderate structure – Halfway houses that provide a moderate level of structure are still very much a community with an emphasis on personal accountability. However, this level of structure is generally managed by an individual who monitors resident behavior and enforces house rules.
- Increased structure – This type of halfway house is generally operated by an owner or manager and staffed by a trained, credentialed team of addiction professionals. Individuals who live in this type of halfway house frequently receive assistance with medical or psychiatric issues. They may receive help with life skills, education and vocational training. A high level of structure is frequently best for people who have just completed rehab.
Rules: What is Expected at a Halfway House?
Because sober living homes are a transitional step to fully independent living, you will be expected to act responsibly. In most cases, you will pay rent and purchase your own food, much like you would do if you were living on your own. You will be expected to share chores with other residents. You may be required to hold a job or attend school during the day, and to be home at a certain time. Most sober living homes provide assistance if you need help with job applications or interviews. Although expectations vary, you may be required to attend 12-step meetings. A study by funded by the National Institute of Health indicated the social support provided by participation in a 12-Step group is a powerful predictor of a positive outcome. Living in a halfway house means you must be abstinent from drugs and alcohol. Many sober living homes will require you to undergo random or scheduled drug or breathalyzer tests to demonstrate your sobriety. You may be asked to leave if you break the rules, especially if you fail a drug test or bring drugs into the home. Breaking other house rules may result in a fine, or you may be requested to make amends if your actions affected other residents.
Who Lives in Halfway Houses?
Most people who live in halfway houses have completed formal outpatient treatment or rehab,as people who have completed treatment are more likely to succeed and gain control of their lives. However, some halfway houses may welcome people who are brand new to treatment. Halfway houses aren’t equipped to deal with withdrawal, so detox must be completed prior to move-in.
How Much Does a Halfway House Cost?
Costs vary considerably, although rent is often comparable to small apartment. If you live in a city where rents are high, you will likely pay more than if you live in a halfway house in an area with more reasonable rents. The type of neighborhood may also affect the cost. Some sober living homes accept insurance, although many insurance providers don’t consider halfway house to be a qualifying medical treatment. If you have insurance, it’s up to you to determine what is covered, and to learn what is required regarding co-pays and deductibles. Many halfway houses offer payment plans or financing. Some, especially those operated by community or charitable organizations, may offer scholarships in certain situations. Although it isn’t common, sliding scales may be available. According to NARR (National Association of Recovery Residences), entry into a halfway house generally requires only an application and/or personal interview. Most require advance rent payment for a week or month. You can leave a halfway house at any time, unless your situation is court-mandated. However, you’ll probably lose your deposit and/or that month’s rent if you leave before the agreed-upon time.
Disadvantages to Halfway Houses
Although halfway houses provide many advantages, there are certain drawbacks as well. For example, most halfway houses limit how long residents can stay. Some residents may be asked to leave at the end of that time period, even if they don’t feel fully prepared for independent living. In some cases, sober living homes require residents to be active participants in formal treatment. Sometimes, individuals hope to avoid formal treatment for various reasons – often when they just need help after a relapse but feel they don’t need to repeat full-fledged treatment.
How to Choose a Good Halfway House or Sober Living Home
If you are in treatment or rehab, your treatment provider can suggest halfway houses that are most suitable for your situation. You can also ask friends or relatives who have been in treatment. Look for a halfway house in a good neighborhood, away from areas where drugs are readily available. The National Association of Recovery Residents reports that successful halfway houses are often located in stable, working class neighborhoods. The house should be in close proximity to work or school, and to 12-Step meetings, outpatient treatment, medical care or other required services. If you don’t drive, it’s important that public transportation is nearby. It also is a good sign if the sober living home requires random drug tests from the residents. Although this may seem inconvenient and unnecessary, remember that not everyone is serious about staying clean and sober, and this type of testing helps weed out those who are not committed to recovery.
Will a Sober Living Home Work for Me?
This is a question that only you can answer, although many individuals benefit greatly from the strong support system and sober environment that a halfway house can provide. If you are committed to working hard on your recovery, chances are good that a sober living environment will help you get back on your feet.