Taking advantage of sober living homes (also known as SLEs or Recovery Residences or Transition Homes or Halfway Houses) as a transitional step after rehab can be a huge help to a person in early recovery. The concept behind them is to provide an alcohol and drug-free housing environment in which a person can live while they continue to work on their sobriety. But, as you can imagine, what one can find in the way of sober living homes varies greatly. Some have house managers, others are governed by the residents. Some provide random drug testing, others do not. Some require mandatory attendance at 12-step meetings, others don’t, and on it goes. As you can further imagine, living in an SLE that is not a good match can also contribute to the unraveling of a person’s sobriety, as well.
So why is there such a range of options and services? SLEs (Recovery Residences) are not licensed so there is no “standard” from which to measure how one compares to another.
In an attempt to provide some information that may be of help to those looking for this sort of transitional housing after rehab, I’d like to bring your attention to the newly (2011) formed National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR). I will introduce them by copying and pasting their Executive Summary in their White Paper, “An Introduction and Invitation to the National Association of Recovery Residences.”
Addiction is a chronic disease, not an acute health problem that is cured by a single dose of treatment. Recovery residences provide a vital service for initiating and sustaining long-term recovery and many thousands exist in the United States encompassing all levels of residential support. However, a unified national voice for recovery residences did not exist nor was there a uniform standard for recovery residences. The National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) fills these voids. Industry leaders from across the United States came together in 2010 and created a Standard that is the cornerstone of the national association. NARR is comprised of regional recovery residence associations representing all areas of the United States. Affiliation with a national association enhances professional legitimacy and strengthens advocacy. Most importantly, the NARR Standard assures those we serve that they have a safe community residence that promotes recovery. ["An Introduction and Invitation to the National Association of Recovery Residences."]
To further help you understand NAAR and the role of SLEs (Recovery Residences), I’d like to quote the first three FAQs from NARR’s A Primer on Recovery Residences (September 20, 2012):
1. What is a recovery residence?
“Recovery residence” (RR) is a broad term describing a sober, safe, and healthy living environment that promotes recovery from alcohol and other drug use and associated problems. Many thousands exist in the United States that vary in size, organization, and target population. (The exact number of recovery residences is unknown since many RRs are not regulated by government or independent organizations.) At a minimum, RRs offer peer-to-peer recovery support with some providing professionally delivered clinical services all aimed at promoting abstinence-based, long-term recovery. Recovery residences are sober living environments, meaning that residents are expected to abstain from alcohol and illegal drug use. Each credentialed recovery residence publishes policies on relapse sanctions and readmission criteria and other rules governing group living. Recovery residences may require abstinence from particular types of medications according to individual policy.
2. What is the primary purpose of a recovery residence?
The purpose of a recovery residence is to provide a safe and healthy living environment to initiate and sustain recovery—defined as abstinence from alcohol and other non-prescribed drug use and improvement in one’s physical, mental, spiritual, and social wellbeing. Individuals build resources while living in a recovery residence that will continue to support their recovery as they transition to living independently and productively in the community.
3. What services do recovery residences provide?
Recovery residences are divided into Levels of Support based on the type as well as the intensity and duration of support that they offer. Services provided span from peer-to-peer recovery support (all recovery residences) to medical and counseling services (recovery residences offering higher levels of support). The NARR Standards define minimum services for each Level of Support, but additional services may be provided at each level. Section 5 of the NARR Standards included in the Appendix details the minimum required service elements for each Level of Support.
For the remainder of this FAQ, which provides a wealth of information, please click here.
Next, I’d like to draw your attention to NARR’s Standard for Recovery Residence. This PDF shares the range and scope of services provided (or not) by Recovery Residences (SLEs) seeking the NARR certification – well worth the read.
And lastly, I would like to share a link to this article, “What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go From Here?,” appearing in the December 2010 online issue of the Journal of Pyschoactive Drugs, by Douglas L. Polcin, Ed.D., Rachael Korcha, M.A., [...], and Gantt Galloway, Pharm.D.
As the title explains, SLEs can be a soft place to land while transitioning from rehab (second stage of addiction treatment) into long-term continuing care and sustained recovery, or they can do more harm than good. This can be especially important if the person is considering returning home to their family with whom they lived prior to initiating treatment for the reasons shared in this post, “The Dance of the Family Disease of Addiction.” Often the family needs more time to get solid in their recovery, as well.
As with all stages of addiction treatment, there are options. So if you are looking for a Sober Living Home, check out these NARR resources as a place from which to start your search for the next stage of your addiction treatment.