Addiction is a chronic disease. That means that although the symptoms are manageable, it does not just ‘go away’ with time. If a person suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction, they will be dealing with it for the rest of their life.

This is why substance abuse treatment must include continuing support, even long after the ‘critical care’ is over.

Once a person leaves detox or rehab, they need to have support systems in place to ensure they successfully transition back into their life. If these systems are not in place, they could relapse quickly and end up needing more treatment, or worse.

There are great options available to help addicts during this transition. Many different living situations exist that are specifically geared toward helping addicts in recovery.

Some terms you might hear that refer to these living situations include:

  • Halfway house
  • Sober living home
  • Recovery house
  • Oxford home
  • Dry house
  • Residential reentry centers

So, what do all these terms mean, and how are they different from one another? Keep reading to find out.

What is a Halfway House?

The term ‘halfway house’ is often misused and misunderstood. Although halfway houses are similar to other sober living situations, there are some key differences that set them apart. The most defining characteristic of halfway houses is that they are funded by the government. This can be the state or federal government, or a combination. This is what sets them apart from other sober living situation types.

So, why does this matter? Unlike other sober living situations, which we will discuss later in this article, halfway houses have strict regulations. In order to receive funding from the government, these housing facilities have to follow certain state and federal guidelines.

Commonly, halfway houses have the following rules and restrictions:

  • Must provide treatment options on-site (e.g., therapy, medication management, etc.)
  • Restrictions on how long patients can stay in the house.
  • Must have care providers and managers living onsite.

In addition to these specific rules, halfway houses are usually more strict than other sober living homes. This means they have stricter rules in place about residents keeping up with treatment, looking for jobs, and participating in house meetings.

How Are Recovery Houses Different from Halfway Houses?

So, what sets recovery houses apart from halfway houses? The key difference is that recovery houses are not run or funded by the government. This means that in general, there are less strict guidelines in place in these homes.

Recovery houses might be privately owned and run by treatment centers, or they could be run by non-profit organizations. Although these houses usually require that residents be receiving outpatient treatment, they don’t tend to offer treatment services on-site. 

Recovery houses still have guidelines and rules in place to ensure that members are contributing to the household and staying on track with their sobriety. Common rules in recovery houses include:

  • Mandatory periodic drug and alcohol tests.
  • Residents must have a job or be looking for work.
  • Residents must be in outpatient care.
  • Residents must help with chores around the house.
  • Residents must have weekly meetings with other household members.

These rules and restrictions are in place to help addicts in recovery stay sober and focused on their goal of sobriety. The transition from inpatient rehab to living alone is an important time to develop good habits. This is why living in a structured environment with other addicts in recovery can be so helpful during this time.

Are All Recovery Houses the Same?

Since recovery houses are not run by the government, they largely make up their own rules. While this means that there is a wider range of quality in these houses, it also means that certain homes will have different rules and restrictions from others. 

It might make sense to work your way through multiple recovery houses. You can start with a house that is specifically set up for addicts coming straight out of rehab. Look for a home that has a lot of structure to start with. For example, some recovery houses have an on-site manager who helps keep order in the home.

As your recovery progresses, you may want to transition to a home with less restrictions. You will still be living alongside peers who are in recovery, but you will have a bit more freedom and you may even have a chance to make decisions in how the household is run.

How to Choose a Recovery House or Halfway House

When it finally comes time to choose a sober residence for yourself, you need to know how to find a good situation. If you are going to live in a halfway house, the decision has less weight. This is because these homes must all meet government standards, so they are more consistent in what they offer.

Choosing a recovery house, or sober living home, can be more difficult. Make sure to check the home out before making any commitments. Look for a house that is clean, well-organized, and generally seems to be peaceful and orderly.

Having a home recommended to you by someone you trust is usually the best way to figure out where to go. While most sober living homes adhere to strict guidelines, some are disorderly and not conducive to recovery. Choosing a great recovery house can mean the difference between going on to live a happy, sober life or relapsing.


  1. Housing and Shelter (n.d.)
  2. What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here? (2011, March 15)
  3. A Clean and Sober Place to Live (2008, June)

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