Oxford House Sober Living Support Groups

What Is Oxford House?

It is certainly a question worth asking, as Oxford Houses are not as well-known as residential or halfway houses. Oxford Houses have over 2,000 locations within the United States and also have houses in Canada and Australia. These houses operate under a non-profit 501(c)3 status and offer an alternative living arrangement for people in recovery from alcohol abuse and drug addictions. The length of stay in an Oxford House may vary but typically lasts for around a year, although there is no time limit for the length of stay.

Residential Housing and Oxford Housing

Oxford House residents will have a different experience than what the conventional recovery home has to offer. Often, residential sober living facilities will employ a full-time house manager or staff member. These individuals would be in charge of making sure residents are complying with any programmatic requirements, and will have consequences for those who do not meet the requirements. The rules in such facilities could come in the form of mandatory drug testing, curfews, or consistent employment. A house manager in a traditional residential housing setting is usually an employee within the treatment facility or a longer-term person in sobriety, perhaps alumni from the program that ultimately has clients transition into sober living facilities.

Oxford Houses will have a different setup. Oxford Houses can be viewed as recovery residences in which there is a shared desire between all residents to remain sober within the recovery community. There typically is no house manager, but rather a democratic approach to living together. While there might be a representative for an Oxford House chapter who goes to chapter meetings, this does not make them a house manager, and they are not solely responsible for everyone living in the home. Ultimately, the biggest difference is that Oxford homes are not connected to treatment facilities, and are expected to remain fully independent.

The Rules

Oxford Houses are run in a democratic fashion in which each house makes its own rules based on what is appropriate for the current tenants, and what the tenants agree to. That said, all Oxford Houses have three basic rules that every tenant must follow. These rules are:

  •     Each house needs to be able to support itself financially.
  •     The house must respect and adhere to the democratic process regarding house rules.
  •     Every resident needs to remain drug-free and alcohol-free, and if this is found to not be feasible, that person will be immediately removed from the house.

Additionally, Oxford Houses operate with rules they call traditions. These traditions are the guiding principles that a person residing within an Oxford home must follow. There are nine traditions in total, which are as follows:

  •     The primary goal of an Oxford House is to provide housing for people in recovery who want to stay in recovery.
  •     Oxford Houses are run democratically.
  •     No one will ever be asked to leave without good cause.
  •     Oxford House is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous but recognizes the value these programs can bring for continued recovery.
  •     Oxford Houses operate autonomously.
  •     Oxford Houses are financially self-supporting.
  •     Oxford Houses are not treatment facilities.
  •     One does not promote an Oxford House, rather, one uses it as an opportunity for public education.
  •     Members leaving Oxford House is in good standing are encouraged to mentor newer members.

Elected Officers

In addition to these basic rules and traditions, Oxford Houses require the residents to elect officers to take on responsibilities of selected roles. These roles include:

  •     President — Works with all other roles and represents the house at Chapter meetings
  •     Treasurer — Responsible for the overall well-being of financial management within the house
  •     Secretary — Administrative duties such as organization of resident applications and contracts
  •     Comptroller — Oversees tenant financial balances and assists treasurer in reporting
  •     Coordinator — Oversees daily tenant assignments, and keeps house stocked with essential supplies
  •     Housing Service Committee Representative — Spreads the word of the Oxford House to the community

All these positions are required at an Oxford House, though each house is free to add more if desired and needed. People in these positions are allowed to serve six-month terms, however, these terms cannot be consecutive.


There is certainly a difference in cost when it comes to Oxford Houses and treatment-based sober living facilities. In some instances, traditional sober living facilities are a step down from inpatient rehabilitation services and are paid either through insurance claims or self-pay. Self-pay charges can become costly, though in some cases certain facilities may offer scholarships.

Oxford Houses operate differently. The structure used mimics that of a more traditional living arrangement. Costs of living will vary depending upon location, as rent is higher or lower depending on geographical area. It is expected that members should be responsible for an equal share of household expenditures. This means that if there are eight people living in the Oxford home, each of them will be responsible for 1/8 of the rent, cable bill, utilities, household supplies, and so on. The cost per person can go up and down based on the number of people living in the home. The Oxford home website has a helpful calculator to help calculate the amount. Typically speaking, the average is about $400 to $500 a month. This amount is considerably lower when compared to traditional sober living facilities.

Why It Works

There is no one size fits all treatment for those recovering from substance abuse. While sober living facilities might work for some, that does not necessarily mean everyone is appropriate for the more intensive structural environment that traditional sober living facilities offer. That does not mean, however, that Oxford Houses do not have their own fair share of challenges.

If you are utilizing an Oxford House, the most important thing is that you have a strong desire to remain sober. While at an Oxford House, you will be able to learn how to manage a household successfully. While every Oxford House may have its own rules, it will probably not have randomized drug testing and curfews. These houses are operating under the assumption that a person is trying to launch themselves successfully into recovery. When the time comes for you to live independently, many living environments are not going to require drug testing or require that you are home at a certain time. Oxford Houses are helping people learn life skills that are required for successful independent living.

Mental Health

Alcoholics and drug users (or, in more clinical terms, people with substance use and/or alcohol use disorders) who have co-occurring mental health disorders can be defined as someone with a dual diagnosis condition. The prevalence of people that meet these criteria is quite high within the recovery community. This is an important detail you should be aware of, since whether you may have a dual diagnosis condition, there is an extremely high likelihood that you will interact with Oxford House roommates who have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.

If you meet the criteria for dual diagnosis, you may wonder if an Oxford House is appropriate to fit your needs. A recent study supplied some good news on this: it was shown that people with dual diagnosis needs tend to do well in a setting that is supportive of recovery. Essentially, if someone with this condition surrounds themselves with positive, supportive, and pro-social people, the likelihood of successful recovery increases.

If you are considering applying to live in an Oxford House, it is important to consider if there is an ability to manage a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring condition without clinical intervention on site. Many people with co-occurring disorders learn to manage their symptoms and not only survive but thrive within recovery. These outcomes, however, are not always successful without professional intervention. Oxford Houses do not require for you to be in treatment to be a tenant, however, they do expect you to be functional in recovery. If you are struggling with any component of a dual diagnosis, it is worth looking into potential treatment options outside of Oxford House.



Who Is Eligible?

Now that you may have more insight into what an Oxford House is, you may ask a question about the requirements to move into one. How do you get into an Oxford House, and are there certain criteria that need to be met?

Oxford Houses offer a variety of options, however, a person must be at least 18 years old to be considered for residency within a home. Oxford Houses expect that any new residents are sober and have a desire to remain sober when entering the home. Many people enter the home after a 28-day rehab program or a detox program, however, it is not a steadfast requirement, and people may come into Oxford House from a variety of situations.

Due to the complexities that can arise when having a co-ed format for living conditions, Oxford homes are usually separated in terms of gender. There are Oxford homes for men, Oxford homes for women, and Oxford homes for women with children. The latter option is a good opportunity for women in recovery who are trying to launch themselves while being responsible for taking care of their children. These homes have additional rules that must be followed, some of which include:

  •     A member can have no more than 2 children
  •     There will be an extra charge per week per child
  •     No sexual activity with children present
  •     No significant other may spend the night
  •     Parent is responsible for child’s behavior at all times


While an Oxford House offers many advantages compared to a traditional residential recovery facility, it is also important to be mindful that this arrangement might not be beneficial for everyone.

A person going into an Oxford House is going to need a strong desire and support system to help maintain recovery goals. Considering this is not a treatment facility, there will need to be a lot of self-directed goals. Treatment might not be required or appropriate for everyone in the home, but it would be strongly encouraged for all residents to at least get an evaluation if moving into the Oxford House was not due to a recommendation from a treatment facility.

Statistically speaking, there is a high chance for relapse if a person does not have a strong support system and necessary tools to help them in their recovery journey. Most of the time, these components will be addressed in a clinical setting. Studies show that individuals seeking treatment have roughly half of a relapse rate of those who do not seek treatment. If seeking professional treatment is not feasible, residents of the Oxford House should at least have some connection to the recovery community. To accomplish that objective, the Oxford House traditions encourage the use of self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), SMART Recovery, and others.


In addition to other aspects of alcohol and drug abuse, it is important to specifically talk about opiates, considering the current national epidemic of opiate addiction. With respect to Oxford Houses, there may be mixed feelings across members regarding medicated assistant treatment (MAT) for opiate use disorder. The medications used in MAT treatment might include Methadone, Suboxone, Naltrexone, or Vivitrol. To become residents of an Oxford House, tenants or members need to be voted in by the existing residents, who may not always have uniform views of such substances. Studies have shown that people utilizing MAT options have had difficulty entering into Oxford homes due to the strict no usage policy.

Is it Right for Me?

With all the information discussed in this article, it is hoped that you may have a better understanding of what an Oxford House is, who It serves, what its rules are, the associated costs, and other features of this arrangement.

If you or a loved one are contemplating if an Oxford home is right for you, you should consider some key points before making that decision. A person entering an Oxford home, whether it is you or a loved one, will need to look at their relationship with drugs and alcohol, and to honestly answer several questions. Do you have an extensive drug abuse or alcohol use history? Have you completed a treatment program before, and if so, were you successful? Is there enough support for you if not in a traditional treatment facility?

Another thing you should look at is your previous success with independent living situations. Have you or your loved one been successful while being responsible for bills and upkeep of a home? It is also important to look at your job history. Oxford homes expect their members to be employed in order to pay for their stay. Do you expect to be able to maintain a steady job, and, if not already employed, will you be able to find one?

Oxford homes are ultimately for people who are in a stage of recovery where they can meet these needs and responsibilities. If you think that you may find meeting these needs and responsibilities difficult, it may be a sign to explore if traditional treatment options might be more beneficial.

When Oxford Is Not Enough

Oxford homes are a wonderful cost-effective way to join a community of like-minded people in recovery. There are times when therapeutic clinical treatment may be necessary for living independently. Contact us today for more information about finding support groups near you.


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