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Sober living is a transitional tool to get you from full-time inpatient therapy into independent living. But what happens if you relapse in sober living?

Since a sober living home is meant to be a controlled, safe and substance-free living environment, if you’re using drugs or alcohol, you can’t remain there. Leaving the sober living home is not meant as a form of punishment, but rather to keep other residents supported and safe from triggers and temptations.

What Happens After Relapse in Sober Living

All residents participate in random urinalysis testing, so if you’re using drugs or alcohol while living in a sober living home, it won’t be concealed for very long. For your own well-being and the well-being of other residents, it’s best to be honest as soon as you relapse. If relapse is suspected, you’ll be offered a chance to admit to your use, and a urine test will be conducted. If you deny relapsing and the urine sample tests positive, you’ll be immediately terminated from the sober living program.

If you admit your use, you’ll be required to leave the property for a short, predetermined length of time, typically about 72 hours. In many sober living programs, when you return you’ll appear before a committee of peer residents and staff, and this committee decides if you’ll be permitted to stay. If you’re allowed to stay, you’ll likely be required to comply with consequences for the relapse. This may include attending 12-step meetings every day for 90 days or community service.1

Grounds for immediate termination from a sober living home include using alcohol or drugs on the property, taking a fellow resident out to use substances, violence, and sexual misconduct.

If you do relapse in sober living, don’t give up. Use the information that leads to your relapse to avoid relapse in the future. What caused a return to substance use is incorporated into your next round of addiction treatment to help prevent future relapses.

What Happens If You’re Asked to Leave a Sober Living Home

If you’ve experienced a relapse and are asked to leave a sober living home, you’ll need to re-enter some form of substance abuse treatment. Once in rehab, you’ll receive quality medical attention and assessments. If needed, you can safely detox from substances.

Remember that a relapse doesn’t represent failure. It’s a learning opportunity that reveals missing recovery skills, and immediately re-engaging in therapy will help you address ways in which to strengthen your sobriety moving forward.

Choosing a Sober Living Home

For the best chances of success at maintaining abstinence in a sober living environment, consider a sober living home that’s affiliated with a reputable addiction treatment center. Independent and loosely run sober living homes have lax rules and minimal supervision that could make relapse more likely.

It’s important to choose a sober living environment that mandates random testing. Explore the specific requirements for how many individuals may live in a house, whether the home is co-ed or gender-specific, how private the rooms are and what type of neighborhood the sober living home is located in to make the best choice for you.2 Once you’ve selected the sober living program that’s right for you, reinforce your commitment to sobriety by attending therapy and 12-step meetings regularly.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2556949/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677754/
What Happens If You Relapse in Sober Living?
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