Sober Living Environment - First Step Sober House

- 01.13

Sober living environments (SLEs) are facilities used by people recovering from substance abuse, which serve as an interim environment between rehab and their future lives. SLEs grew out of a need to have safe and supportive places in which people could live while they were in recovery. They are primarily meant to provide housing for people who have just come out of rehab (or recovery centers) and need a place to live that is structured and supporting for those in recovery. However, it is not necessary to come from rehab.

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The SLE (sober living environment) movement began on the West Coast in the United States and has spread around the country.

SLEs provide much more than other transitional living environments. Many of them are structured around 12-step programs and sound recovery methodologies. Many are also certified or governed by Sober Living Coalitions or Networks. Residents are often required to participate in 12-step meetings, take drug tests and show demonstrably that they are taking important steps to long lasting recovery.

Sober living is seen in greater detail in Sober House, a spinoff of Celebrity Rehab, which documents alumni of Celebrity Rehab as they enter such facilities. VH1, which airs both shows, describes sober living thus:

A sober living house is an interim step on the path to sobriety where people recovering from addiction can live in a supervised and sober environment with structure and rules, i.e. mandatory curfews, chores and therapeutic meetings. This can, however, invite corruption when certain people who have never had a position of authority before decide to play God. In this show, celebrity addicts, most of whom have spent the better part of their lives in the throes of addiction, will learn how to essentially start their lives over from the ground up. In many cases, successfully maintaining sobriety requires patients to alter everything about their previous lives when they were actively addicted to alcohol and other drugs. This could include changing jobs, eliminating friends and even abandoning loved ones who are deemed toxic to their sobriety.

Most sober livings are not co-ed, though plenty do exist. And some SLE's are Sober Colleges, which means they are centered solely around helping young people recover, and operate much like a sober dormitory. Many sober livings are also intensive outpatient treatment centers; which means that they provide a degree of medical care on-site. Often these homes are staffed in shifts by psychiatric nurses and licensed clinical social workers so that the residents (guests) can have 24hr supervision and centralized recovery care without the stress of cleaning or cooking.

Photos for First Step Sober Living | Yelp

Resident requirements

Each individual SLE will have different requirements for the residents, but many will have these typical requirements:

  1. No drugs, alcohol, violence, or overnight guests
  2. Active participation in recovery meetings
  3. Random drug & alcohol tests
  4. On-time guest fee payments
  5. Involvement in either work, school, or an outpatient program
  6. General acceptance by peer group at the SLE
Photos for First Step Sober Living | Yelp


SLEs have been shown to improve sustained recovery when utilized in conjunction of 12 step programs. As a whole, experienced addiction treatment providers agree that remaining in sober living/aftercare following treatment can result in substantially improved results. One of the key factors has to do with level of structure, however. Residences utilizing a higher level of structure tend to see dramatically improved results in terms of long-term sobriety.

In some cases, sober living homes will contract with licensed drug rehab centers and therapists as a means for providing an even greater level of care. These types of sober livings do tend to charge higher fees, however, they are often able to provide a very affordable alternative to what would otherwise constitute high-priced inpatient treatment. The term "Florida Model" has recently emerged as a descriptor for such types of sober livings. While the term originated in Florida, the vast majority of these higher end locations tend to be in areas like Malibu and West Los Angeles, CA.

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