ARTICLE OVERVIEW: When you leave drug treatment, it’s vital you bridge your recovery to the real world. A great way to do so is by finding a sober living home. But where to start? In this article, we review your choices for sober living in Massachusetts and the state laws that regulate these homes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Federal and State Laws
- Sober Living in Massachusetts
- Halfway and ¾ Houses
- House Rules
- What Sober Living is Really Like
- Day-to-Day Life
- Finding a Sober Living Home
- How to Report a Sober House
Federal and State Laws
Sober living can help you in the first months or years of addiction recovery. A sober living home provides a structured environment. Most sober homes have rules in place for all residents. This way, you can be safe as you start to adjust back to life in the real world.
Plus, sober houses provide you with a support system of like-minded people. But as you do your research, you’re going to want to make yourself aware of some basic federal and state laws. These are set into place to make sure your living accommodations are both safe and run properly.
The two federal laws surrounding sober living are:
1. The American with Disabilities Act, the ADA.
Under this law, disability includes those struggling with addiction and mental health.
In terms of sober living accommodations, this law protects the right for “reasonable arrangements” to be made for those with a disability either through the state, city, or homeowner. 
2. The Fair Housing Act, the FHA.
This law gives EVERYONE the right to find recovery housing. Those who provide sober living homes cannot discriminate against people based on their national origin, religion, gender, family status, or disability. Under this law, disability includes those struggling with addiction and mental health. 
Massachusetts’s state laws surrounding sober living homes are:
1. Bill H. 1828
Passed in July 2014, this bill offers sober living homes within Massachusetts the opportunity to have both a monitoring and voluntary certification. Though this bill doesn’t require sober living homes to be certified in the state, it encourages the certification process. Under this regulation, treatment services, state agencies, and officers in the position of releasing, paroling, or discharging a criminal CANNOT refer to a sober living home which isn’t certified. 
NOTE: Sober living homes who are registered and certified within the State of Massachusetts tend to be offer reputable services. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to only seek out certified sober living options.
2. General Law, Chapter 111E, Section 7
Under this law, sober living homes are not allowed to provide halfway house, treatment facility, or detoxification services. 
3. General Law, Section 18A
Sober living homes seeking accreditation must meet the following standards:
a. Maintain the best practices found within the industry and provide a safe, healthy, and effective recovery environment.
b. Be evaluated in their ability to assist people in achieving long-term recovery.
c. Prepare proper training for operators and staff and guarantee satisfactory completion of this training.
d. Keep their residents defended when it comes unreasonable and unfair practices in terms of setting and collecting rent payments.
e. Warrant a good standing with local, state, and federal laws and regulations, including those in regards to building, maximum occupancy, fire safety, and sanitation codes. 
Sober Living in Massachusetts
Before you even look for a sober living home, you must determine whether or not you’re ready to change your life. Those who make a successful recovery from addiction don’t do so simply because they go to a treatment facility and “fix themselves”. People who live without drinking or drugs do so because they have the right mindset and dedication to lifelong recovery. 
If you have the right attitude in addiction recovery, then you can benefit from finding yourself a sober living home.
Unlike treatment, you will not be under constant monitoring and supervision if you live in a sober home. The purpose of this type of housing is to create a bridge between treatment and everyday life. The goal is for you to develop self-discipline and work towards a healthier, drug-free life. But what can you expect from a good home?
You will have to develop certain responsibilities, such as getting work, going back to school, or volunteering in your community. You will required to pay rent and follow a strict set of house rules. This includes regular cleaning activities and a curfew. And you’ll be planning for a future which wasn’t possible while you struggled with addiction.
NOTE: You don’t need to be enrolled in a treatment facility in order to qualify for most sober living homes in Massachusetts. All you need is the right mind set.
Halfway and ¾ Houses in Massachusetts
Some terms you’re going to find as you do research on sober living homes are “halfway houses” and “¾ houses”. What’s the difference between the terms? Generally, halfway or three-quarter way houses differ in two ways. First, management may require you to either complete rehab OR be actively enrolled in rehab. Second, this type of housing is usually government funded.
What are a halfway or ¾ houses government-funded? As crime rates for non-violent drug offenders rises, many states are looking to develop treatment options for criminals. Therefore, you may find yourself living with people ordered to be there by the court. 
Besides those two factors, halfway houses and ¾ houses work identically to other sober living options. They provide a drug-free environment and a support system of people in the same boat as you. NOTE: Just because there’s less supervision than in a rehab setting, this doesn’t mean there’s none at all. You may required to submit to random drug tests and, if you fail these tests, you’ll be asked to leave the home.
When you first enter a sober home, you’ll have a set of rules laid out before you. It’s important you understand these rules and follow them. The purpose of the house rules is to help you grow up a little. As you develop self-discipline, you also increase self-esteem.
House rules vary depending on the sober living home. It’s in your best interest to ask your landlord what these rules are in order to get a clear sense of them.
Common rules found in Massachusetts sober living homes include:
- No alcohol or drug possession or use is allowed, on or off premises. In order to make sure this rule is followed, you may be subjected to take frequent drug tests often at random. If you refuse to take or fail one, you can be automatically discharged from the home.
- To main a 100% drug-free environment, some sober living homes don’t allow specific types of mouthwash and/or cooking ingredients, such as vanilla.
- You MUST attend the meetings set up by your sober living home. The purpose of these meetings is to check in with everyone and manage any emotional difficulties. You can view these meetings as a group therapy session. In addition to therapy, you’ll also be assigned chores and have the ability to ask questions concerning the sober living home.
- There will be a strict curfew to follow. The only time this curfew is waived is if certain commitments, such as school or work, run late into the night. However, if you get the house’s curfew waived, expect a drug test. This helps keep everyone safe.
- Schedules and assignment. Often, you’ll have a wake up time and a lights out time. This is to help everyone in the environment begin to establish normal routines. Sometimes, sober living homes set in place a bathroom scheduling. This is to allow everyone the opportunity to shower and brush their teeth. You’ll also be assigned chores which you must follow. These can include cleaning the house or prepping meals.
- A reputable sober living home asks its residents to develop a list of personal treatment goals. In order to do so, you’ll meet with a staff member and work these things out. As time progresses, you’ll be evaluated on these goals. You’ll most likely be required to be active in 12-step meetings. Though some homes provide this themselves, you might have to go out into the community and become involved in one.
- Any cigarette smoking or vaping must take place in a designated smoking location.
- Sexual contact of any kind is forbidden on premises and with another resident.
- If you’re caught stealing from the house or destroying the property, you can be discharged and be properly penalized through the legal system. Likewise, if you engage in violent activity, there will be consequences.
- Rent and other fees must be paid on time.
- No pets are allowed, although some sober living homes allow for self-help pets.
- No gambling.
When you enter a sober living home, you may be surprised how strictly these rules are enforced. Yet, you can trust that these rules are set in place for the best. Management wants the best for you and other residents. By following these rules, you prepare your brain and body for how you must behave in the real world.
What Massachusetts Sober Living is Really Like
Sober living is similar to college or staying at a hostel in the sense that you’re living with strangers. The only difference is these strangers are all facing addiction, just like you. What can you expect?
First, you can expect roommates or housemates to be people to be of the same gender. You can also expect to get to know them very well. Over time, you develop a support system with one another. Since everyone in the house is following the same schedule, you’ll probably have a similar routine. Many people find themselves doing the following activities at the same times every day:
- Waking up
- Attending group therapy
- Attending 12-step meetings
- Eating meals
- Going to bed
Admittedly, it may be difficult for you to first adjust to new accommodations. Living under the same roof with people you don’t know is not easy. However, once you spend enough time at your sober living home, you’re going to find it has many more positive outcomes. 
So, what happens as you go about your day in a sober home in Massachusetts? Not all sober living homes work the same. In fact, you’ll probably find that each one comes with their own distinct scheduling. In order to find out more about how YOUR sober living home works on a day-to-day basis, you’ll want to ask your landlord or manager for details.
Common scheduling in a drug-free home in Massachusetts can include morning, afternoon, and evening routines. The day-to-day is often supervised by staff to keep you accountable. For example, if you forget to make your bed, you’ll be reminded by a call or a note. Some of the most common activities in sober homes are as follows:
The morning offers you a bit of time to clean up and get ready for your day. You’ll be expected to make your bed and keep your room tidy. Additionally, you may have a specific time for when you can use the bathroom. During this time, you’ll also be required to complete one or more of the common house chores assigned to you. NOTE: Make sure you keep on top of your chores as there can be repercussions if you don’t.
Once you’re ready for the day, you’ll have to head to your place of work, school, or volunteer position. When residents first enter a sober living home, they usually don’t have a job. If this is your case, you’ll be required to actively seek one out during this time. NOTE: A key factor in preventing relapse is finding and maintaining a job .
Your work will most likely continue into the afternoon. Furthermore, you might have other responsibilities to complete such as school or doctor’s appointments. NOTE: When you schedule a doctor’s appointment, counseling meeting, or are assigned community service, you’ll want to do so during this time.
Upon returning home, some residents may gather together or travel to a self-help meeting. These are done so either as a group or on an individual basis. This is a great time for this activity as everyone will have gone about most of their day. If any emotional stress has arisen, it’s important to speak up about it during this time. Sometimes, mandatory group therapy is offered, usually once per week. NOTE: One of the biggest causes of substance abuse is problems of mental health. In order to prevent relapse, it’s important to learn how to treat your mental health through conversation and other forms of therapy. 
After dinner, you’ll have some time for yourself. You can do with this time as you please as long as house rules are followed. Whether you’d like to spend it alone reading a good book or with other playing a board game, this is YOUR TIME. NOTE: Most sober living homes will have a time for when the lights go out. This tends to be around midnight.
Finding a Sober Living Home
In order to find a sober house in the State of Massachusetts, you’ll want to look towards a few resources. These are set in place to provide you with the most reputable homes in the state. Some of the key resources include:
A self-run, self-supported recovery house program which follows Massachusetts proper licensing laws. Most homes hold up 6 to 11 individuals, either all men or all women, and even have houses which support women with children. For a list of Oxford Homes in MA, visit their website.
If you are currently in a treatment program, have an addiction counselor, or going to a mental health professional, they may know of sober living homes in your area. It’s important to request a referral BEFORE leaving a treatment facility as you’ll want to make sure there’s room in the sober living house the day your treatment ends.
This website offers a list of Massachusetts transitional housing vacancies. NOTE: You’ll want to separately research each home you come across on this list as not all are reputable sober living options.
As mentioned in Federal and State Laws (see above), a sober living home in Massachusetts DOES NOT need a license in order to run. However, those suggested by the state DO HAVE licenses. You’ll want to reach out to sober living homes will licenses as it better ensures your safety, the sanitation of the space, and their ability to help you beat drug abuse .
How to Report a Sober House
If you are led to believe your sober living home is committing a crime, fraud, or has improper management, there’s help available. You’ll want to contact Massachusetts Office of Attorney General . The numbers are as follows:
Speak with a Consumer Specialist available 10 AM to 4 PM EST, Monday through Friday: (617) 727-8400
Call in Boston: (617) 727-2200
Call in New Bedford: (508) 990-9700
Call in Springfield: (413) 784-1240
Call in Worcester: (508) 792-7600
TTY: (617) 727-4765
You may also email constituent services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still have questions or concerns about your options for housing in Massachusetts? Feel free to ask them in the comments section below. We also invite comments with more information on sober living options in the state. We try to reply to each legitimate question in a prompt and personal manner.