8 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Sober Living Home

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. 602.751.4866.

Relaxing When Things Don’t go as you Planned

So, the boyfriend calls, says he’s going hiking with his buddies for a week, cancels his date with you and says he hopes you won’t be mad.

Or the bank calls and says you’re overdrawn, and you don’t know how that can be. You’ve been trying to carefully watch your deposits and checks. You’ve gone out of your way not to mess up. This can’t be right!

What do you do when life seems to force you to react? You can panic, become anxious, yell, and respond with a counterattack. But that probably won’t solve the problem. And it may turn things into a brawl.

Or you can calm down. Breathe deeply. Tell yourself to relax. Say as little as possible, if that’s possible, while you’re upset and disturbed. If a problem or disturbance that’s not fair interrupts your life, try responding by saying hmmm. Then calm down and decide what you need to do.

God, help me start sailing through life with more ease by learning to relax and let life be.

I have been out of town for a long 4-day weekend and I have a ton of things that I need to get done over the next few days. I am busy as it is and the taking the long 4-day weekend just added to the workload. I worked as diligently as possible yesterday and I was getting a lot done. However, even though I was working swiftly, I was not grounded and I was not totally thinking clearly. I left my house to run an errand and of course, right when I left the house, the sky got dark and a monsoon moved in. Once I got back home, the rain was pouring and wind was gusting. I put my phone in my pocket and ran into the house as fast as possible. Once inside, I went back to work on my computer. I was not able to find my phone and I could not figure out where I left it? Maybe I left it in the car? I couldn’t remember. So I was going to wait until the monsoon passed to go out to my car. Thirty minutes later, after the monsoon has passed, I heard a knock at my front door. A neighbor found my phone on the ground in a puddle of water. What am I going to do know?! I really need my phone. Needless to say, I am even more anxious and I need prayer and meditation, yoga, and a 12-step meeting to help me calm down. Being anxious, being reactive, and being in a state of panic never pays off. If I was calm and grounded, maybe I would not have rushed into the house so quickly and maybe I would not have dropped my phone? Maybe I would have realized that I might have dropped my phone outside and maybe I would have caught it before too late? I am feeling pretty calm and grounded now. This after doing yoga and meditating. I will also be hitting a 12-step meeting tonight. Being grounded and thinking clearly is one of my favorite things about sobriety. However, I need to remember that when things happen that can throw me for a loop, I just need to calm down, breathe, and take the next indicated action step.

Recovery is a Journey, not a Destination

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

–Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Initially, I was excited about recovery. I felt better for a while. I hate to say it, but now that I’m not at the beginning any more, everything seems worse. I feel more cynical than ever.


What you’re experiencing is part of the process of recovery. Many of us go through a “honeymoon” phase in early recovery. Our craving may feel miraculously lifted. Change feels easy, and hope replaces despair.

Then, life feels difficult again. We may perceive ourselves as having gotten worse, but that’s not accurate. What’s really happening is that, though our addictive craving has been treated, we still have our old problems, habits, and states of mind. We may be getting through the day, showing up for our work responsibilities, attending 12-step meetings, but not having much fun. We may wonder if what we’ve heard is really true – that “our worst day in recovery is better than our best day of active addiction.” We may wonder whether recovery really is the answer after all.

Our doubt makes clear to us that we have to do something. Staying where we are is too uncomfortable. We can attend a 12-Step meeting and read program literature to begin to familiarize ourselves with our next Step. For spirits in need of healing, 12-Step work leads to the next phase of recovery.

Today, I have the courage to move forward in my journey of recovery.

Working an active 12-step program of recovery is imperative to my ongoing recovery. When I first got clean and sober, I fully immersed myself into the recovery process. I started going to meetings, I got a sponsor, and I started working the steps. Further, I made lots of friends that were in recovery. My first year of sobriety, I spent most of my time doing recovery related activities. Or doing things with people that were in recovery anyways. I learned how to have fun with people in recovery. I learned to have fun without drugs and alcohol. Being sober 4 ½ years, I continue to work an active program of recovery. I go to 12-step meetings on a regular basis, I have a sponsor that I connect with almost daily, I have sponcees that I work with, I have a home group, and I have several services commitments. There are several other things I do that compliment my recovery as well. This includes morning prayer and meditation, staying connected to my Higher Power throughout day, yoga and exercise, a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. As long as I continue to work an active program of recovery and as long as I stay spiritually fit, I will not have the desire to drink or use drugs.

Why Should I go to 12-Step Meetings?

I am still amazed, after years of recovering, at how easily I can begin to talk myself out of attending meetings. I am also still amazed at how good I feel when I go.



We don’t have to stay stuck in our misery and discomfort. An immediate option is available that will help us feel better: go to a meeting, a Twelve Step support group.


Why resist what can help us feel better? Why sit in our obsession or depression when attending a meeting – even if that means an extra meeting – would help us feel better?


Too busy?


There are 168 hours in each week. Taking 1 or 2 hours a week for a meeting can maximize the potential of the remaining 166 hours. If we get into our “codependent stuff,” we can easily spend a majority of our waking hours obsessing, sitting and doing nothing, lying in bed and feeling depressed, or chasing after other people’s needs. Not taking those 2 hours for a meeting can cause us to waste the remaining hours.


Too tired?


There is nothing as invigorating as getting back on track. Going to a meeting can accomplish that.


Today, I will remember that going to meetings helps.


I always feel better after I go to a 12-step meeting. When I don’t want to go to a 12-step meeting, that means I should probably go to a meeting. For example, I got into an argument with my girlfriend the other day and she ended up storming out of my house. The thoughts in my head tell me that it’s all her fault. I think that she is being ridiculous and how dare her! Left to my own devices, I will continue to think it is all her fault. However, I went to a meeting and heard exactly what I needed to hear. I realized that the things I said were totally out of line and that I was being totally selfish and self-centered. She was not doing what I wanted her to do. Therefore, I started picking at her and making her feel bad. This was old behavior for me. I ended up feeling bad all day long the next day. I felt bad because my side of the street was not clean. Going to a meeting helped me realize my part and it helped me realize that I owed her an amends. I made an amends to her, and felt a lot better afterwards. I always hear what I need to hear when I go to a meeting.