How Do Sober Living Houses Work?

Sober living is an important part of the continuum of care when someone is overcoming substance use struggles, learning to re-integrate into life, and looking to build a strong community. The New Life House approach to sober living is dramatically different from most for a number of reasons, including an emphasis on age-specific housing, a robust and active alumni community, robust support for developing life skills, and ongoing programming surrounding everything from vocational and job support to academic guidance. The New Life House model involves the family and helps our residents develop lifelong relationships and skills that allow them to be successful long after they have left our doors.

What is Sober Living?

A good sober living house for young adults will have a couple of key components that assist them as they transition into independent living. First of all, having a strong supporting mental health component is crucial for young adults, supported by a robust clinical team. Next, having a structured life skills component allows for a gradual transition to independence. Learning to move towards independence is a key component of any effective sober living but it is important to do this incrementally while providing an opportunity to safely practice new skills. Additionally, a strong peer community and staff keep them accountable and help them reach full independent living without drugs or alcohol but also with a focus on their mental health and overall well-being.

Sober living is designed for anyone who:

  • Is ready to begin acquiring the skills necessary to be successful in independent living
  • Stepping down from a wilderness, intensive inpatient, or primary care program for substance use disorders
  • Has not been able to remain mentally healthy and abstinent from drugs and alcohol independently
  • Is looking for a peer-specific community that is designed to meet individual needs
  • Is looking for robust clinical support while progressing and building their life
  • Wants to rebuild family relationships while developing autonomy
  • Is ready to get serious about personal development, chasing down dreams, and finding purpose

Sober living houses, or SLHs, provide continuing care after intensive treatment programs but New Life House also serves men who have never been to a primary treatment facility. Because of the high degree of support, programming, structure, and wrap-around clinical care that New Life House offers, many families will elect to have their sons start with New Life House as they begin their mental health and recovery journey. Often time SLEs (sober living environments) also go by names like “transitional living” or “recovery residence programs.” Sober living houses are not halfway houses, and New Life House is highly differentiated from traditional sober living because of the amount of programming and structure that its residents get to take advantage of.

Levels of Support

Different sober living houses will provide different levels of support and guidance for their residents. Many traditional sober livings are simply an environment where someone can go to sleep, live, and get drug tested once a week. This is the most common level of structure and in our experience is ineffective for the type of residents that we work with. Next, there are a number of sober living houses that claim to be “structured sober livings”, where there is some light house scheduling, potentially a weekly house meeting, and some general guidelines that residents are required to follow. While this is a step in the right direction, again, for New Life House residents, this model is generally not sufficient.

New Life House is a true structured recovery community. From the very ground up, our program is designed to provide a level of support and guidance that allow young men to begin learning and practicing a range of skills that will allow them to be successfully independent. This means addressing their mental health and engaging in in-depth mentorship and programming that imparts skills and residents a chance to practice them. Everything from interpersonal relationships, meal preparation, financial management, vocational and academic support, time management, and more – are all of the key components that are necessary to not just overcome anxiety, depression, and substance use, but to live a balanced and healthy life.

New Life House is focused on doing a lot more than just preventing someone from using drugs and alcohol.

How Do Sober Living Houses Work Day-to-Day?

On a day-to-day level, New Life House provides a schedule, programming, and peer engagement that helps facilitate the development of all of the aforementioned skills. There are daily chores, therapy, clinical groups, life skills groups, free time, exercise, and recreation. In the evenings, the residents participate in outside events, the local young people’s recovery community, 12-step meetings, and fun group activities.

Residents also attend to work, school, and other personal pursuits. The goal of New Life House is for sober living residents to gradually and methodically reach a point where their lives are functioning in a relatively autonomous manner, with the safety of a sober environment. Outpatient programs are also part of the equation, with clinical treatment services taking up a good chunk of time during the early stages of the program.

A Typical Day at a Sober Living House

To understand how a sober living community works, walking through a daily routine can be a helpful exercise. Mornings at New Life House start with a morning meditation. All of the residents will have breakfast with one another, and begin their day with a substantial amount of support, unlike most sober living homes. Many residents will then participate in chores, exercise, or a number of other activities, based on their daily schedule. For house members in early recovery, there will be substance abuse treatment, as well as mental health treatment that takes place through the private New Life House program at Clear Recovery Center. This formal treatment is helpful, as addressing mental health is a key focus at New Life House.

Once house members reach the vocational phase, they’ll go to work as scheduled. They are able to take advantage of the accountability that the program provides, and the staff is aware of all comings and goings, as well as available to assist with any difficult situations that come up. Our sober living environment provides the benefit of not just sober housing, but an engaged and attentive community that provides support and mentorship through every step of the journey.

People participating in group therapy for PTSD

How Do the Rules of Sober Living Houses Work?

Different SLEs have different house rules that are designed to help residents remain sober. In many sober living homes that is the only rule – a model that diminishes the benefits of sober living. New Life House takes a different approach. Rather than establish a set of rules and expect residents to follow them, we have built a system that teaches residents WHY certain processes are in place, and why each of them is so important to integrate for long-term mental health and recovery success. We don’t just tell our residents to do something, but explain why approaching life from a different way is important, and provide the hands-on guidance to navigate this new approach. This applies to not just substance use and mental health, but all of the different aspects of life that are so important in order to be successful.

Similarly, we take a gradual approach to re-integrating different aspects of independent living. For example, at the beginning of the program residents will use a house phone instead of a cell phone, to give them an opportunity for recovering addicts to disconnect from digital distractions and social media, and focus on their mental health and emotional growth. As they progress through the addiction treatment program, a cell phone is reintroduced, giving them an opportunity to practice balance. Our recovery housing takes this approach to a number of different aspects of life, which allows the guys to safely achieve independence while practicing the skills necessary for thriving on their own.

Over a period of time, all of our guys will find themselves with a full set of responsibilities. The men in New Life House are guided to building rich, full lives that they enjoy living and which are unimpeded by mental health and substance abuse.

Why People Choose a Sober Living Program

Generally, when someone is looking to join a sober living home it is because they or their family is looking for a supportive or transitional environment where they can safely acquire the skills they will need to live independently. While some are just looking for stable housing and a chance to practice ongoing sobriety, families are drawn to New Life House for different reasons.

We specialize in helping young men often classified as “failure to launch”, providing them with the necessary toolset to go out into the world successfully, and refocus the direction of their lives. Addressing much more than just drug abuse or alcohol addiction, New Life House helps young men launch, and do so in a community of their peers.

Of course, being in this type of environment makes relapse much less likely as well! One of the biggest and most attractive aspects of our program is the huge community and highly engaged alumni that continue to participate in and support the house. The residents are able to keep engaged with alumni who are out in the world, living successful, independent lives, and who love to continue to participate in the program.

What to Look For in a Sober Living House

Choosing a sober living environment is a big decision and there are a number of key features that should be considered during the search. Not every supportive environment is going to be the right fit for every person, and a variety of factors should play into the final choice.

Some of the most important things to consider when choosing a sober living house:


Without structure, programming, mental health support, and life skills development, the likelihood of a sober living house being successful for young adults is relatively slim.


One of the philosophical tenants of New Life House is the importance of age-specific programming. 18-year-old men are going through very different things than 50-year-old men, and vice versa. Many sober livings will have individuals of all ages living in the same home.

Clinical and Mental Health Support

Substance abuse does not exist in a vacuum. Taking a mental health first approach is important in order to deal with the underlying causes and conditions that lead to unhealthy substance use. New Life House is designed with this in mind.

Alumni Community

Pay attention to both the size and the engagement of any sober living house’s alumni community. A thriving sober alumni community demonstrates the success of a program. A small or disengaged alumni community can be a red flag to pay attention to. Since 1985, alumni involvement and support remain a priority and have an extremely active graduate community.

Family Support

Most check-in, check-out sober living homes are not family-first programs. New Life House’s program involves families every step of the way, with therapist-led family support meetings, regular parent communication and updates, and family-specific events that take place on a regular basis.


Location is very important for sober living because of the foundation that residents are building while in the program. If they are not able to create a sustainable community in an area with plenty of opportunities, it is going to be difficult for them to remain connected to that community and support system long after they have left the program. New Life House members enjoy an active recovery community in the South Bay of Los Angeles, filled with amazing job opportunities, great colleges, and lots of fun activities to partake in.

While other considerations can factor into their decision, these guidelines can serve as a starting point when searching for a sober living house. Just like an addiction program at outpatient treatment facilities, a sober living facility should meet the needs of the loved one you are seeking to help.

Begin Sober Living in Los Angeles Today

Hopefully, this helps answer, “How do sober living houses work?” At New Life House we are proud of our sober living homes in the Los Angeles and Redondo Beach area. Our houses provide a safe, caring, supportive, and structured environment with educational and career opportunities for our residents. We put mental health first and have phenomenal aftercare programming, as well as an amazing clinical wrap-around component providing individual and group therapy, health and wellness education, and more.

To learn more about our sober living homes or how to enroll a resident, feel free to contact us.

Last Updated on February 21, 2024


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