The ABC’s of choosing the right sober living situation

What are the three (3) most important things to look for in a halfway or sober living house? Fiona Stockard weighs in here.

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Sober living is good for early recovery

Are you looking for a link from addiction treatment to a life of long term addiction recovery? A sober living situation can be just the thing that you need. More here about how to choose the right sober housing option FOR YOU. Then, we invite your feedback, comments, or questions in the section at the end.

So many choices!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been to a few halfway houses. Maybe you’re nothing like me and have been to no halfway houses! Whether you’re in active addiction, a recovering addict or alcoholic, or the loved one of someone who’s struggling with addiction, you’ll have to grapple with sober living.

It’s a difficult path to traverse for a number of reasons. First, there are so many options! There are:

  • halfway houses
  • three-quarter houses
  • sober living residences
  • transient housing
  • halfway apartments…the list goes on!

Then there are the amenities these residences “offer”. Some bill themselves as luxury and value nice furniture over a healthy environment. Some, particularly in Florida or California, say they’re on the beach. In reality, they’re ten miles from the beach!

Finally, once you’ve figured out what type of living situation is best and waded through the “amenities,” how do you know which houses are legit? As addiction treatment has exploded into a multi billion dollar industry, everyone wants a piece of the pie. This has led to all sorts of fly by night halfway houses opening their doors.

Sounds overwhelming, right? Fear not readers! I’m here to make things just a little bit easier. As a veteran sober living resident, I’m here to offer some practical and firsthand advice on how to pick the right halfway house. If my ABC guide doesn’t work, I’ll give you your money back! (Just kidding!) In all seriousness though, check for these three things. If a halfway house has them, chances are they’re a solid place to go.

A: Accountability

Any type of sober living needs to have some accountability in place. It doesn’t matter if it’s a more “advanced” situation, like a three-quarter house, or someplace you’d go right after treatment (more here what to look for in a halfway or 3/4 house). KEEP THIS IN MIND: Accountability is a must.

The simplest types of accountability are drug tests, breathalyzers, and enforcing a curfew. I’ve been in sober living situations where those were in place and I’ve been in situations where they weren’t. Guess which house I did better at?

Drug tests can get into dicey territory. Remember those fly by night places I talked about earlier? Well, some of them will run drug tests just to collect money. This, obviously, isn’t right at all. Rather, monitoring residents for signs of drug or alcohol use should be for the safety of the community. Addiction recovery happens when you are in a safe and drug free environment. Regular drug testing is a cornerstone for safety.

Following this logic, “A” could also stand for action. If someone fails a drug test, or breaks curfew, action needs to be taken and quick. It’s not enough to have accountability if nothing’s going to be done about breaking the rules!

B: Boring

Still with me? Addicts might not like the sound of this, but halfway houses should be boring!

I’ve been at sober living facilities that were like a club. Residents and staff always had music blasting, everyone was dressed up all the time, and guys and girls were in each other’s apartments. It was like all anyone cared about was having a good time.

While there’s nothing wrong with having fun, that isn’t the point of sober living! I went to a halfway house because I knew my life needed some serious changing. Did I change when I was living in the above situation? You bet your butt I didn’t. Instead, I flirted, danced, joked around and, after a pretty short period of time, got high.

A halfway house should, ideally, be a place to lay your head at the end of a long day filled with spiritual and therapeutic work. It should be a place where you know you’re safe and your roommates are sober. In other words – it should be boring!

C: Compassion

While compassion comes at the bottom of this article, I think it’s actually the most important thing any halfway house can offer. I’ve lived in houses and apartments run by those in recovery and run by businessmen. The one’s run by men and women in recovery were always, always, better.

Why is this? Because of compassion. It’s that simple. When the owners and house managers are in recovery, they know where you’re at. They know where you’re coming from, the struggles and triumphs you’re experiencing, and what it looks like if you start backsliding. To put it another way, they know what early-recovery is like.

This isn’t to say that people who aren’t in recovery, the so-called “normies,” always lack compassion. That isn’t the case at all. I’ve met men and women who’ve never abused drugs, never been where I’ve been, filled to their ears with compassion. God bless ’em.

I hope this guide helps!

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About the author
Fiona Stockard is a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute. She’s been in recovery since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping other young women achieve and maintain long-term recovery.
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