Written By: Fiona Stockard
Do Halfway Houses Help Long-Term Sobriety?
If you’ve been in a treatment center, it’s probably been strongly suggested that you go to a halfway house afterward. If you have a loved one in treatment, you’ve probably heard the same thing. The bottom line is that halfway houses and other forms of sober living offer many benefits. They’re substance-free environments with structure. They provide alcoholics in early-sobriety a level of accountability that’s incredibly helpful. They’re usually run and staffed by people in recovery themselves. Though, does sober living help lead to long-term sobriety? Let’s find out.
The Benefits of Sober Living
• They’re a great transitional living space. In fact, the whole point of sober living is to help addicts and alcoholics move seamlessly from substance abuse treatment to the real world.
• They’re drug and alcohol-free. Residents usually sign a contract upon entering a sober house. Relapsing violates the contract and tenants are promptly kicked out. Responsible halfway houses will then work to get the resident into a treatment center or detox.
• Through this “sobriety contract,” house meetings, drug tests, breathalyzers, and community support, recovery houses offer accountability that helps those in early-sobriety.
• They offer structure. Structure is incredibly beneficial for those transitioning from rehab back to the world. Any responsible sober house will require residents to have a job, are in school, or are volunteering. Responsible sober houses also require residents to attend a certain amount of twelve-step meetings, to have a sponsor, and to be involved in step work.
• They offer week-to-week lease terms. This helps residents in early-recovery (who are usually in difficult financial situations) afford rent. Also, many recovery houses are more than willing to arrange payment plans.
• Halfway houses are often affiliated with other transitional living facilities. These are places like three-quarter houses (a less structured version of halfway houses) and general sober living houses (a house where the only rule is those living there must be sober).
The Drawbacks of Sober Living
Halfway houses, and other forms of sober living, definitely have some benefits. What about drawbacks, though? Are there reasons someone fresh from treatment shouldn’t go to one?
• I’m sure you noticed I qualified some of the above points with the word “responsible.” Not all halfway houses are responsible. Some strictly exist to make money off the newly sober. If you’re looking at sober living for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to do research and find an ethical facility. Check out N.A.R.R. (the National Association of Recovery Residences).
• Sober living is often coed. Now, it’s rare to find men and women living in the same recovery house (in fact, that’s a good example of owners/operators being irresponsible). Still, recovery houses can have a men’s section and women’s section side-by-side.
• Like any type of sobriety resource, there are people who relapse at halfway houses. In fact, the high concentration of those in early-recovery makes relapse a very real issue. If one resident uses, it’s possible others will join them. Of course, this can happen anywhere alcoholics gather, but it’s still worth being aware of.
Does Sober Living Lead to Long-Term Sobriety?
While there’s not a simple yes or no answer to this question, it’s safe to say there are many benefits to attending a halfway house.
For those in early-sobriety, sober living offers accountability, structure, a support network, and general help during a tough time. Halfway houses can also be shady and present a risk for relapse.
However, I’d say these benefits outweigh the drawbacks. If you do research, you’re won’t end up in an unethical facility. If you’re committed to staying sober (i.e. getting into the steps), you’re not going to relapse. That’s been my experience, anyway.
So, this alcoholic heartily recommends attending a halfway house or some other form of sober living. Will they ensure long-term sobriety? Nope. Will they help during a difficult and unsure time? You bet.