What Are the Rules and Expectations of a Sober Living Program?
The Rules of a Sober Living
- Pay your bills on time
- No drug or alcohol use
- Expect to handle chores
- Attend all house meetings
- Attend support group meetings
- Get a job or volunteer when ready
- Obey house curfews
- Visitors are rarely allowed
- Respect housemates and staff
- Internet access will be limited
- Expect travel restrictions
- Expect pet bans
- Obey quiet hours
Every year, drug abuse is responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people, according to a UN Report highlighted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Treating drug abuse could cost $250 billion per year, according to that report. Clearly, every dollar spent on addiction care is precious, as every dollar has the potential to save lives and rebuild communities. And there is one way to make that dollar go even farther. When your addiction treatment program is complete, you can enroll in a sober living home as a part of an aftercare plan.
A sober living home is technically not an addiction treatment program. There are no counselors or licensed mental health professionals in most sober living homes. In most cases, these are homes that are run by people who are also in recovery. They will be your peers, and they can model recovery for you.
But a sober living home can also provide you with a template you can use at home in order to preserve your sobriety. Rules play a big part in that learning. Common rules in sober living homes involve:
When you are in recovery from an addiction, you may not have a great deal of money at your disposal. You may not be working regularly quite yet, and you may have rehab bills to pay. That is all perfectly understandable, but it is also a little beside the point. When you enroll with a sober living home, you will be expected to pay your bills on time, every time. There are no exceptions. This rule can help to remind you that you have adult responsibilities to attend to, and that your money should go toward things you need (like housing), not things you do not (like drugs).
A sober living home is designed to be a safe place that includes no drug use and abuse temptations. That means most sober living homes have a variety of rules involving what you can and cannot have with you in your room, including alcohol, pills, hair products, etc. According to published sober living rules from one sober home provider, testing can play a big part in compliance. In this home, you are required to submit to drug and alcohol tests, including tests in a laboratory. Noncompliance in this home is considered a failed test, and failed tests can be grounds for expulsion. This rule is designed to remind you of the importance of staying sober. The threat of a test could help you to avoid the temptation to experiment.
Sober homes are communal spaces, and they are designed to run a little like a family home. That means people who live in these homes are expected to handle chores. You might be asked to clean the kitchen, the bathrooms, or the main living space. You might have lawn duties or basement duties, and you might be asked to cook. These tasks can help you to stay connected to the home, and they can help you remember the rhythms involved with keeping a house up and running.
Maintaining a communal living space involves communication, and many houses enforce open communication through the use of house meetings. Published sober living rules from one sober home provider outline the need to attend a communal meeting every week. Missing this meeting could be grounds for expulsion. Meetings like this can help you learn how to solve conflicts with the people you live with, and that could help you to live in a happy way with your family when you move back home.
Support group meetings
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, support group meetings are designed to give you the opportunity to gain emotional, social, and informational support in your fight against addiction. They can be a vital part of your recovery. In a sober living home, you might be required to attend support group meetings in the home, or you might be required to show proof of attendance in community meetings.
You might still be working through an outpatient addiction program when you are living in a sober home. If so, you might be required to show proof that you are attending your meetings with your counselor. You might be asked to show a note from your doctor once per week or once per day. These check-ins can ensure you are following through with your recovery, and they can prompt you to keep your appointments, even when you feel like skipping them.
People with mental health issues prefer to work. In fact, according to an article published in Health Affairs, some 50-70 percent of people with a psychiatric illness showed a strong preference for work. Having a job allowed them to make the money they needed to support their families, and the job gave them a sense of purpose in life. A job also provides a person with a plethora of sober social activities. In a sober home, you might be required to get a job, so you can get those benefits. If you cannot find a job, you might be asked to volunteer in the community instead, so you can still make a contribution in some way.
When you are not in counseling sessions or at work, you might be required to be on the grounds of the sober living home. At night and on the weekends, you might not be allowed to leave at all. According to published research, substance abuse is much more common at night and on weekends. For example, in a study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, researchers found that alcohol abuse was most common among drivers during weekends and in the late-night hours. A curfew could keep you from those temptations.
You might feel quite open about your recovery and the steps you have taken to make a recovery come to light, but the people around you might feel the need for privacy. Some people in your home might not feel up to the demands of hosting a guest. As a result, visitors are rarely allowed in a sober living home.
Communal living with strangers is easier when everyone makes a commitment to get along, and there are rules that enforce good behavior. According to published rules from one sober home provider, people who enroll are required to avoid threats, antisocial contact, and lewdness. People who live here must treat one another with kindness and respect, and they must not do anything that could be considered harmful to another person. This rule could help you to avoid starting a fight with your neighbors, but it can also remind you of how to treat others with kindness and charity. That approach might help you to retain new friends, and you might need to lean on those friends if your sobriety is challenged.
The Internet is a big part of modern life, and you might use it to do all sorts of important things, including finding a job, doing a job, communicating with a sponsor, and learning more about addiction. But you might be required to avoid some websites during your stay in a sober home. For example, you might be asked to avoid pornographic websites. According to the American Psychological Association, some 9 percent of people who view porn find it difficult to stop viewing porn. It could be, in some cases, considered an addictive substance. Since a sober home tries to eliminate addictive substances, the home might try to eliminate porn too.
A sober lifestyle begins with a solid routine, and nothing disrupts a routine more than travel. As a result, it is not at all uncommon for sober homes to place restrictions on your ability to visit other communities, whether they are close by or far away. You might need to get a voucher from your counselor in order to travel, or you might not be able to travel at all.
Although you might love your pet dearly, an animal could trigger allergic responses in other people, and some animals become aggressive with strangers. As a result, your sober living home might ban all animals, including those you already have. See if a family member or friend can care for your pet while you are in a sober living home.
An addiction can seriously mess with your ability to fall asleep at night and wake up refreshed in the morning. You might find that you feel the urge to stay up all night, and if you do, you might find it hard to wake up on time for work in the morning. A sober home might have rules about “quiet hours,” which could mean that you are required to lower lights and keep your voice down between a certain time at night and a certain time in the morning. This rule could help to reset your sleep/wake clock, and that could help you to handle life’s responsibilities a little better.
Following these rules can clearly help you to pull together sober habits, but they are not just guidelines. Breaking these rules can mean losing your place in your sober living home. You could be expelled right away, or you could be expelled when you break the rules more than once. It pays to know what the rules are, and when you do, it pays to follow them.