What to Look for in a Sober Living

Chris explains what to look for in a sober living facility. He has experience living in and managing a sober living facility.

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Not sure what to look for in a sober living program? Here are some tips I have learned though my experience.

About sixty days into my ninety-day treatment plan, I found out that I was going to be in a sober living environment. This is a place for a person to stay that is battling addiction issues. I had never lived at one before, and really had no idea what to expect. A sober living environment allows you to do normal activities (work, school, friends, and being able to come and go) but keeps accountability by random drug tests and other requirements.

The sober living I attended had random drug tests, a requirement of at least three 12 step meetings a week, and a mandatory meeting every Sunday night. If you did not meet the requirements you were going to have a consequence. Consequences usually involved community service, having to go to extra meetings, or doing a deep cleaning of the house. 

Rent included all utilities, wifi, cable, three meals a day, and toiletries. All the rooms were shared with one or two people. I ended up becoming House Manager for the house. The house had a total of fourteen men in it. My total time in sober living was a year and a half. Here are a few things to look out for when it comes to a sober living environment


Sober livings can cost in the hundreds all the way up to the thousands for a month. Sober living is made to be a stepping stone to re-enter  the “real world.” Ideally, you would want to be able to pay rent, as well as build savings. It is important to keep employment into consideration. Many places have a curfew and/or mandatory meeting requirements. You want to make sure your current employer or future employer is aware of this. 

Care Needed 

Sober livings can offer an array of care options. Some have little care; You use it as a place just to sleep. Some offer meditation groups. Care provided can include medication management and even onsite counselors. Required meetings were a huge part of my sober living. Some days, I didn’t want to get out of bed. Knowing I was required to go to meetings kept me accountable and active in my recovery. Every person is on their own path of recovery, and these can be huge assets depending on you. 


This is very important. As I mentioned earlier, my sober living offered food and toiletries. This was a huge perk. Having to cook and do dishes can take up a lot of time when we are trying to learn balance in life. If they offer meals, it is good to ask if they will meet your dietary needs. If they do not, it is time to figure out a budget that can include your necessities. Entertainment is another factor. Do they offer cable, tv, wifi, board games, a pool, a pool table? We are all trying to figure out this new way of life, and boredom is a huge problem. It is a good idea to check the location for local entertainment: parks, museums, restaurants, bowling alley, hiking trails. 


What does community look like to you? Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted nor needed. I just knew I didn’t want to be alone. They have so many community-specific sober living environments: women only, men only, co-ed, LGBTQIA+, and religious-based sober living. Do a tour of the sober living. Keep an eye out for how people are treating each other. Every place will have people there for the wrong reasons, the key is always to stick with people who have the same goals as you do. 

I think the important thing in choosing a sober living is not jumping in to the first one you see. Write down your wants and needs. Most importantly, remember your recovery comes first. Everything else will crash and burn without a strong foundation of recovery. 

Sober Living Directories: 

SAMHSA Locator (Filter by Transitional Housing)

National Alliance of Recovery Residences

Sober House Directory

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Chris McMullen is an advocate for the LGBT community, sexual assault awareness, and recovery. He uses his own experience, and wisdom as a platform to help others.

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