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Halfway House vs. Sober Living

Where you live and how you feel in your environment are essential for functioning optimally in everyday life. Your environment significantly contributes to your mental health and your ability to cope with difficult situations. Having a safe space where you feel supported, strong, and secure is crucial in early recovery from substance abuse. Sober living is encouraged early on in the sobriety process, after treatment, but before returning home. Because sober living is transitional housing, it is often mistaken for “halfway housing.” Though both shelters have the same goal of getting people back on their feet before returning to the real world, they are not the same.

How Sober Living Benefits Recovery

Many people become dependent on drugs and alcohol because of the environment they were raised in. Their ability to cope is influenced by how and where they were raised, as well as what they were exposed to during their childhood. Without a healthy foundation to approach what life throws their way, many people abuse drugs and alcohol as a way of adapting. Those suffering from addiction are advised not to return to the same environment where their unhealthy habits began. When individuals are in recovery, they have the opportunity to develop healthy coping skills. It’s a shame when these people return home and revert to their old habits because the treatment structure is no longer in place. Residing in a sober living home ensures that newly developed sobriety strategies do not go awry.

Sober-living facilities are positive places where those who recently finished inpatient rehabilitation treatment, attended an outpatient program or left jail can reside with continued support. Individuals who live in these facilities are held accountable and are not tempted to use drugs or alcohol by their housemates. Because emotional and environmental triggers are minimized, the risk of relapse is reduced.

Difference Between a Halfway House and Sober Living

Sober living facilities first appeared in the 1830s, when religious organizations established hotels with strict no-alcohol policies. “Dry homes” became places where those in recovery could live for continued support and accountability. While residents in halfway houses usually have to stay for a certain amount of time, sober living has no such restrictions. Having the freedom of time allows individuals in recovery to focus on reintegrating back into society without worrying about finding a permanent home.

One distinct difference between halfway houses and sober living is that the initial establishment of halfway houses was for criminals. In the 1700s, criminals in England were put in halfway houses in hopes of recovering back to society, and it also satisfied delivering rehabilitation to those with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Soon enough, the United States followed England’s lead and introduced halfway houses for individuals released from prison. Today, the United States has halfway houses to assist those who were incarcerated and need help transitioning to their return to society. Halfway houses help prevent homelessness among the former criminal population. Some halfway houses also provide shelter to individuals progressing from inpatient treatment at an addiction recovery center to life in sobriety within society. For these people, their drug or alcohol addiction had gotten them into legal trouble, and they were ordered to stay in a halfway house for a certain amount of time before proving their willingness and ability to remain abstinent and unthreatening to society. Halfway houses are mostly state-sponsored and many are overseen by government agencies.

Because halfway houses are government-run and typically used for court-ordered stays, the living situation may be less than ideal compared to sober living facilities where residents pay rent. The halfway houses are often fully occupied and set up like a dormitory. Sober living is organized like a private residence with privileges to privacy and space. Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs discussed how sober living spaces mimic comfortable homes because “the fees from residents sustain certain privileges”. The luxury level of sober living spaces varies across the country, depending on the cost of the rent. The most important aspect of any living space is that it encourages growth, recovery, and accountability.

How Sober Living Homes Work

Some sober living homes do not require ongoing treatment or proof of recovery through attendance at 12-step meetings, but many do. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, our sober living spaces are associated with our outpatient treatment. Clients are required to attend therapy groups, 12-step meetings, mandatory house meetings, develop a relationship with a sponsor, and are held accountable for how they schedule their free time. At mandatory house meetings, rules are reinforced and roommate issues are remedied. The most important rule in sober living is that no alcohol or drugs are consumed.

Living in a sober environment provides the added benefit of being surrounded by people you can relate to, people who are going through the same thing and have the same goal of remaining abstinent and committed to a sober lifestyle. Unlike inpatient treatment, residents in sober living have the flexibility to determine what they want to do in their free time and even get a job. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, our sober living residents are encouraged to find work to set up a strong foundation where they can provide a positive lifestyle for themselves in the future. Community is key in recovery, and living with individuals with a common goal makes early sobriety possible.

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