A Practical Guide to Sober Living in Canada

Living with substance use disorder is not easy, as anyone experiencing it will tell you.

Finding complete, practical information with regards to sober living can seem overwhelming and difficult, especially if you don’t have the support of family or friends.

However, achieving sober living has endless benefits, including better health, better relationships, better job opportunities, and more

In short, recovery may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort to get your life back on track. 

Read on for more information on sober living, and a guide to resources and information to help you get started with recovery.

What is Sober Living?

When someone is talking about sober living, they mean living without the feeling or need to use substances to feel “normal” or effectively navigate everyday life. 

While most people take sober living for granted, according to The Canadian Mental Health Association, it’s estimated that approximately 21% of the total population in Canada (about 6 million people) will meet the criteria for addiction in their lifetime.

Substance use disorders, particularly with drugs, continue to be a growing concern in Canada. Death from opioid overdose is of particular concern, with the highest death rates being in Alberta and British Columbia.

As substance use disorders or people with drug addiction become more and more rampant among Canadians, the need for a focus on sober living environments and sober living initiatives continues to grow. 

What is a Sober Living House?

A sober living house is an alcohol and drug-free facility that focuses on creating and maintaining a safe and secure environment where persons living with substance use disorders can get help. These facilities provide structured living, usually with supervision, to give the person living with addiction the best chance of recovery.

You may be asking yourself, “how can I find sober living near me?” Luckily, Canada Drug Rehab provides a searchable database where you can find sober living resources in your area.

Sober living homes are staffed with credentialed healthcare professionals that are dedicated to helping people recover from substance use disorder through various forms of therapy, such as group therapy sessions, individual counselling, and more.

The typical amenities that a sober living house provides are ones that are focused on relaxation and recovery. For instance, the Sunshine Coast Health Center in British Columbia has private rooms, a TV lounge, a pool, and a multipurpose room for music and games.

You might think that a sober living house is only for someone who has hit “rock bottom” or is completely destitute due to their substance use disorder, but that simply isn’t true.

Sober living homes also take in individuals that are gainfully employed, go to school, own their own business, or otherwise are seemingly “normal” from the outside looking in. These individuals typically seek out a sober living house because they recognize that they have a problem and want to get help before things get worse.

Cost of Sober Living Homes

cost of sober living homes

While a sober living house seems like a great idea for helping someone with substance use disorder, there are often financial constraints that prevent individuals with the greatest need from receiving the care they deserve.

Government or Publicly Funded Sober Living Houses

There are typically a number of publicly funded sober living houses available in each province. These facilities usually do not have a cost and are covered under the province’s healthcare plan. 

In terms of facilities, there is usually a mix of sober living houses run directly by a province’s healthcare system (such as Alberta Health Services) as well as non-profit and charitable organizations that operate on donations and volunteers. All facilities have to abide by the province’s standards for healthcare if they want to provide addiction services.

While government-funded sober living houses no doubt help countless Canadians with their addiction, they can be difficult to access. Because of the large number of people needing assistance, publicly funded sober living houses can be difficult to get into, often with waiting lists that mean it could take several months or even years for an individual to be accepted.

In addition, government-funded sober living facilities often have a one-size-fits-all approach to care, meaning that if the rules, methods, and support don’t work for you, then your only other option is to seek out a private facility with individualized care.

Private Sober Living Houses

On the other hand, private sober living houses offer patients more flexibility and choice when it comes to addiction treatment. Private sober living houses have costs ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per month of treatment. Some facilities, like the Aurora Recovery Centre in Gimli, Manitoba, offer financing options to help you pay for treatment.

However, cost remains a huge barrier for most individuals who need access to addictions treatment in Canada. Likely due to this barrier, private sober living houses often have intake available where you can start treatment right away.

Private sober living houses can also offer a wide range of treatment options and services for your specific needs. Some facilities are gender-specific, and some offer more intensive treatment options like Hypnotherapy. 

With most private sober living houses, the treatment options can be individualized to work for you, while government-funded facilities usually only provide one type of care.

4 Treatment Settings to Consider Before Seeking Sober Living Homes

treatment settings before sober living

When you’re trying to start your own road to recovery, it can feel overwhelming. Trying to figure out if you’re ready to seek treatment, and what kind of treatment is right for you can seem like a daunting task.

While sober living houses are a great treatment option, it is typically the best for people who have lived with substance use disorder for a long time and have complex treatment needs as a result.

Deciding to go to a sober living house can feel like a huge step, so it’s important that you are aware of the different treatment options available to you before you decide whether a sober living house is the treatment you need.

1. Outpatient Centres

Outpatient centres are healthcare facilities available in communities, like walk-in clinics, medi-centers, mental health clinics, and addiction clinics. These facilities are often used by people with stable homes and living arrangements, and where their substance use doesn’t put them or others at serious risk. Sometimes outpatient facilities can offer structured treatment activities to keep you on track with your recovery.

2. Hospitals 

Hospitals provide immediate care for those with substance use disorders who need immediate and thorough, structured care. Hospitals also provide continuous medical care and supervision for those who need it.

3. Withdrawal Management Centres

Withdrawal management centres, also referred to detox centres, provide safe and effective care for those who are dependent on a substance and wish to safely withdraw or “detox” from continually using that substance. Because withdrawal symptoms can be severe, it’s important that you seek out medical care if you’re planning to detox. Withdrawal management centres can be in hospitals, residential treatment facilities (sober living houses), and more.

4. Individual and Group Counselling

Sometimes meeting with individuals who are experiencing the same things as you can be beneficial for your recovery process. Positive reinforcement from peers can help a lot when it comes to maintaining a drug or alcohol-free lifestyle. 

Research has shown that when individual counselling focuses on cognitive behavioural therapy and/or contingency management (where individuals receive positive reinforcement or rewards for maintaining a drug or alcohol-free lifestyle) it helps achieve positive outcomes.

How to Choose a Sober Living House

how to choose sober living house

Sober living homes offer a wide variety of treatment options, living arrangements, types of support, and price tags. 

Before choosing a sober living house, you should consider the following criteria:

  • What type of facility you are looking for, whether that be for adult men only, adult women only, co-ed, LGBTQ2S+ friendly, first nations, etc.
  • Whether you are looking at government-funded facilities or private pay facilities
  • What treatment options you’re looking for, such as residential (where you live on the premises) or semi-residential (where you spend your day at the premises but return home in the evening), peer support, individual counselling, etc.
  • The treatment philosophy of the facility and whether it aligns with your beliefs and values
  • Length of treatment, and whether aftercare support is offered

Here is a list of sober living facilities in a few of Canada’s major cities. This list was compiled using information from Canada Drug Rehab and the sober living facilities’ websites if available.

The rehab facilities chosen below follow the categories from Canada Drug Rehab, so they are divided into Government Funded, Private Pay, Youth, and whether the facility is First Nations focused or not.

Sober Living Calgary 

Calgary is a large city in Alberta with a population of around 1.6 million people. Due to its high population, and an overwhelming need for substance abuse treatment facilities, there are a variety of options available in the area. For more information, check out 

Facility Name Government Funded Private Pay Youth  First Nations Focused? Gender-specific? Admission Criteria
Alcove Addiction Recovery for Women Yes No No, clients must be 18 years and over. No Yes, women only, accepts their children as well Must be sober for 5 days, $40 assessment fee. More admission criteria.
Oxford House Yes No No, clients must be 18 years and over. No No, men and women are both accepted. Must be sober for 7 days and completed primary treatment in the last year.
Simon House  Yes Only if you are able to pay No, clients must be 18 years and over. No Yes, only men are accepted. Call them to learn more about their admissions criteria.
Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC) Grants, donations, and more are available for families in need Yes, payment amount is based on financial situation Yes No No AARC conducts thorough admission steps. Check their admissions criteria.
Sunrise Healing Lodge Yes $40 per day room and board No Yes No Must be 18 or older

alcohol and drug-free for 3 days

No Couples

Sober Living Edmonton

As Alberta’s capital city with a population of around 1.4 million people, Edmonton has a great need for substance abuse treatment facilities. The ones listed below are a sampling of what is offered.

Facility Name Government Funded Private Pay Youth  First Nations Focused? Gender-specific? Admission Criteria
Catholic Social Services Alpha House Yes Yes, the cost is $500 per month for men and $400 per month for women Yes, there are specific youth programs No Primarily focused on women  Varies depending on which service you require. Call for more details.
Henwood Treatment Centre Yes, for patients who qualify $40 per day No, clients must be 19+ No No Not confirmed, but appears a healthcare professional referral may be needed.
McDougall House Yes, clients who qualify receive funding from Alberta Works No No, clients must be 18+ No Yes, women only Visit their website for admissions criteria and to fill out an admissions form.
Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS) Yes No Yes, clients must be 15-24 years old No No, LGBTQ2S+ friendly Walk-in or call for admission.
Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres Adult Residential Program Yes No No, clients must be 18+ Yes No Professional referral is preferred, but self-referral can be accepted. Contact them for admissions criteria.​​

Sober Living Vancouver

sober living vancouver

As BC’s capital city with a population of around 2.6 million people, treatment for addiction is in high demand in Vancouver and area. Get more information about how to choose a treatment facility in BC through this resource.

Facility Name Government Funded Private Pay Youth  First Nations Focused? Gender-specific? Admission Criteria
City Centre Care Society Yes No No, clients must be 19+ No Yes, men only including transgender men. You must contact the VCH Central Admissions team for a referral.
MPA Society Berman House Yes No No, clients must be between 19-50 years of age. No No A referral is required, most often from VCH.
Alternate Shelter Society Valley House Yes No Yes, serves youth 12-18 years of age No No Children must be referred to by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). See the website for more details.
Circle of Eagles Lodge Society Yes No No Yes No, separate lodges are available for men and women Contact Circle of Eagles Lodge for admission requirements.
Heartwood Centre for Women Yes No No, clients must be 19+ No Yes, women and transgender women  Must have a referral from a healthcare professional.

Sober Living Toronto

Toronto, Canada has a booming population of around 6.2 million people, which highlights the need for addiction treatment resources. If you are looking for youth addiction resources, check out this blog post.

Facility Name Government Funded Private Pay Youth  First Nations Focused? Gender-specific? Admission Criteria
Bellwood Health Services Yes Yes, a fee-for-service program is also available No, clients must be 19+ No No Clients must be sober prior to admission.
Concurrent Addictions Inpatient Treatment Service Yes No Yes, youth programs are available Yes, First Nations programs are available No, programs are available for men, women, and LGBTQ2S+ individuals Physician referral required. The form can be downloaded here.
St. Michaels Homes Yes No No, clients must be 19+ No Yes, men only Requires a referral from a healthcare centre.
Street Haven at the Crossroads Emergency Shelter Yes No No, clients must be 18+ No Yes, women only Requires a referral from a healthcare professional.

Sober Living Relapse & Solutions 

During the recovery process, it’s not unusual for an individual to experience a relapse. Having a lapse while you’re trying to recover from addiction doesn’t mean you’ve failed, or that you have to start your treatment over again. Rather, it means that you just need to get back on track with your recovery.

Drug and alcohol relapse is common, but most people don’t know the difference between a lapse and a relapse. A lapse is more of a momentary slip-up where you have a beer with friends, where relapse is where you sink back into old habits and are consistently abusing substances.

If you think you’re experiencing either a lapse or relapse, then now is the time to reach out for help. Local resources are available to help you and provide you with advice and guidance to assist in getting you back on track.

Conclusion

living sober

Sober living is essential for addiction recovery. When a person who lives with substance use disorder is able to achieve sober living, they drastically improve their relationships with others and pretty much every other aspect of their lives.

Sober living environments are essential in the recovery process. If the environment around someone with an addiction is focused on sober living and eliminating the use of addictive substances, it gives the person with substance use disorder the best chance of getting back on track with their lives.

Aside from the sober living support we outlined above, there are a variety of other treatment centres available to help you: 

  • Andy Bhatti has years of addiction expertise and personal experience backed by education from the Justice Institute of British Columbia with an addiction studies certificate, nonviolent crisis intervention program, as well as other programs in the field of Intervention Skills and Training through Canadian and American studies.
  • Canada Drug Rehab and addiction services directory is a free resource that makes it easy to locate drug rehab and detox programs throughout Canada.
  • Cedars at Cobble Hill is an addiction rehab facility that specializes in providing individualized care and programs for patients experiencing drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a private mental health treatment facility that provides 24-hour medical care, including psychiatry, psychology, nutrition and fitness support, specialized bodywork, and other services. The Sunshine Coast Health Centre has a record of providing high-quality care since 1991.
  • Aurora Recovery Centre offers a variety of programs geared towards the treatment and management of addiction. Their philosophy is based on the knowledge that addiction is a treatable illness, and with the right recovery management system and expert care, individuals can recover from it.
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