Mistake #1:

Choosing a transitional sober living home without a structured program. A structured environment which holds the residents accountable for their actions is necessary for individuals in early recovery.  One key component of our program is to keep the clients on a fixed schedule.  A regular schedule should remain in place once the individual has transitioned to a sober living home.  Something as simple as waking up and having your bed made by 7:30 AM is an important way to build a healthy routine for life.  Adding a daily chore assignment, allows the individual to be accountable for making a contribution to the overall ‘health’ of the house.  It should be required that all residents have a commitment of at least 30 hours each week to a job, school, out-patient treatment or volunteer work.  Instilling a sense of responsibility helps the residents to become functioning members of society.  A structured home should also do random drug testing each week for their residents.  This creates an additional layer of accountability for the individual with their sobriety.  Lastly, the program should be 12 Step based.  The teachings that are contained within the 12 steps provide a healthy foundation for those in early recovery.  12 Step meetings are a key part of each individual’s daily work towards a long-term recovery path.


Mistake #2:

A low price isn’t always a deal: A sober living home that charges a low price typically is not able to have a full-time experienced house manager living on the premises.  Low cost homes may instead use a senior resident as their ‘manager.’  These individuals can have as little as 90 days of sobriety.  The net result is a low level of accountability and supervision at the home.  Homes with a low price point are often not well-maintained.  They can be filthy and infested with various types of pests.  Overcrowding has also plagued this type of home.  The owner will often pack people in at unsafe and unhealthy levels.  Requiring the residents to provide their own meals is also a way to keep the costs down.  Addicts have generally survived eating junk food (if anything at all) and will usually continue down that same path if forced to purchase their own food.  Lastly, many of the bargain sober living homes are located in ‘bad neighborhoods.’  This places their residents in an environment of drugs and other substances that need to be avoided during early recovery.


Mistake #3:

Choosing a sober living home based upon a single telephone call. Do your homework when searching for a sober living home.  Continuing-care therapists from the treatment center are usually a good source for well-qualified homes. These individuals have typically done a fair amount of research and established relationships with reputable sober living homes in the area.  Do not allow yourself to be ‘closed’ during an initial phone call.  What may sound amazing over the phone, may in reality be nothing more than a strong sales pitch.  Always use the initial call to simply gather information.  Always have at least 3 questions ready to be asked during your conversation.  When possible, always try to compare a number of homes before reaching a final decision.


Mistake #4:

Choosing a transitional recovery home that does not include meals or provide guidance on meal selection and nutrition. Most addicts come into early sobriety malnourished.  They have usually become accustomed to a steady diet of fast food.  Addiction recovery is about establishing new healthy habits.  Nutrition needs to play an important role in an overall recovery program.  The house should make available healthy meals for consumption and have no junk food for snacking.  Nutritional education on what constitutes a ‘balanced’ meal should be a part of the house’s program.  There should be an understanding of the role that a healthy mind and body play in early sobriety.  Food serves as the fuel for the body and making wise meal choices can help to repair some of the damage that occurred during addiction.


Mistake #5:

Choosing a sober living home that is not a member of a local recovery organization. Here in Arizona, we have AzRHA (Arizona Recovery Housing Association).  In order to be a member of AzRHA, a sober living home must meet certain quality standards. The sober living home will undergo a rigorous inspection of all aspects of the business prior to being accepted into AzRHA.  Other parts of the country may have their own organizations that help to maintain a high level of quality care for sober living home residents.  Be sure to ask about what organizations they belong to in the community.


Mistake #6:

Choosing a sober living home without getting reference comments from other clients/families. What do past clients have to say about their experiences at the sober living home?  What do their loved ones have to say regarding their observations?  Speaking with current or past clients is a great way to confirm the experiences of others during their stay.  Be sure to have at least 3 questions ready to ask the individuals when speaking with them.  This is an extra step, but well worth the time invested to gather the necessary information for your decision.


Mistake #7:

Choosing a sober living home that is not gender specific. Studies have shown that men and women experience addiction differently.  Each sex has their own specific reasons for turning to drugs and alcohol.  Individuals in early recovery need to avoid any unnecessary distractions.

Coed houses have historically been a place where residents tend to focus on members of the opposite sex as opposed to doing the necessary work for their own recovery. Gender specific homes allow for a healthy fellowship to flourish amongst its residents.


Mistake #8:

Choosing a sober living home based upon location alone. There is more to selecting a home than just having a desirable zip code.  It is important that the house be located close to 12 Step meeting places.  The house should also be near a method of public transportation for those that are not able to drive themselves.  Be sure that the house is situated a reasonable distance from most of the locations that will be traveled to each week.  There should be many points that are used in order to select the right sober living home.  Is it 12 Step based?  Is there a full time experienced manager living on the premises?  Do they provide healthy meals?  Is there a sense of structure to their overall program?  Being prepared and seeking answers to the right questions will help you to make the best decision in this important step down the path of long-term recovery.


An educational service provided by Camelback Recovery LLC, specialist in sober living communiities. www.camelbackrecovery.com. 602.751.4866.