12-Step Program vs. Sober Living Program: What’s the Difference?

Both can be important components of recovery.

After rehab, there are many types of recovery support programs and various ways you can get help to stay sober. What’s helpful for another person may not be best for you, so it’s important to consider what each type of program offers, and what best suits your recovery needs and lifestyle. The 12-Step Program is popular among people in recovery, as are sober living programs. But what’s the difference between the two types of recovery support programs and which is best for you? In this blog, we’ll compare a 12-Step Programs vs. sober living program to help you find an answer.

What is the 12-Step Program for addiction?

The 12-Step Program was developed and first used by Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a 12-step plan that helps people overcome substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors. That basic premise of the program is that healing cannot occur without the help of one’s Higher Power, which can be God or anything else outside of yourself that motivates you to keep going. Within the 12-Step Program, people encourage and help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from addictive substances. 

Some people struggle with the 12-Step Program because they interpret it to be religious. However, the program is for everyone, regardless of their faith or their choice to abstain from religion. However, because of this, many people participate in alternative, secular mutual support groups instead. Regardless, 12-Step facilitation therapy remains a highly recommended and frequently-used program among treatment centers. According to the 2021 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 65 percent of treatment facilities report using it.1

What are the 12-Steps?

The 12 Steps are:2

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Please click on each step above for a deeper explanation of each one.

Related post: What to Expect At Your First AA Meeting

Benefits and characteristics of the 12-Step Program

12-Step Programs for addiction and other behaviors are distinguished by the following characteristics: 

  • Regular meetings: 12-Step Programs are most well-known for their outpatient support group meetings. These occur regularly and people in recovery often attend them one or several times each week. There are various types of meetings and each follows their own structure. However, attendees don’t just live out the principles of the program within those meetings. They carry the life lessons and skills they receive into everyday life, which helps them stay sober.
  • Sponsor program: Another key aspect of the 12-Step Program is mentorship and menteeship. With the AA sponsor program, newly sober individuals are paired with ones who have more experience in recovery and have already completed the 12 Steps. Once individuals have committed to the program long enough and have successfully maintained their sobriety, they can also become sponsors.
  • Continuous support: With the support and accountability provided through the 12-Step Program, it can help you stay sober and establish a strong support system of sober individuals.

What is a sober living program?

Sober living programs are structured support programs for people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Individuals who are enrolled in these programs live in sober living homes, which are group homes or apartment complexes with others in recovery. All sober living homes are different but most have strict rules and procedures that ensure the safety of all residents who live there. These established rules help maintain the structure of the home and ensure that all individuals who live there have a safe and sober place to live.

Many people who complete detox and rehab continue their treatment with a sober living program, as it provides a natural step down into the next phase of treatment and recovery support. Most sober living homes charge a monthly fee (similar to rent) and insurance doesn’t typically cover the cost of sober homes. Residents can stay at a sober living home as long as they need to, as long as they continue to abide by the rules and pay their monthly fee to live there. 

Benefits and characteristics of a sober living program

Although every sober living program and home is different, these are common characteristics of them:

  • Structured accountability and rules: Sober homes are less structured than rehabs, but they still have many rules residents must follow, such as meeting curfew, attending recovery meetings, submitting to regular drug and alcohol screening, and maintaining complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. This highly structured environment helps residents maintain accountability with their peers and sober home managers while also having a good amount of autonomy and independence, compared to what they have in rehab.
  • Holistic recovery support: Sober living homes provide a wide selection of recovery support services, from access to individual therapy to certified peer recovery support programs, individualized recovery programs, regular drug and alcohol screening, educational planning, volunteer placement, and employment assistance.
  • A sober community: Residents of sober living homes live alongside other men or women in recovery every single day. This prevents loneliness and isolation and provides a strong sense of camaraderie and companionship that can support and sustain sobriety, even on the hardest days. Most sober homes are also run by staff who live on-site regularly and are available to provide support and assistance to residents who need it.

12-Step Program vs. Sober Living Program: Which is right for me?

To summarize, comparing the 12-Step Program vs. a sober living program isn’t necessarily like comparing apples to apples. No one can tell you which type of program is right for you. If you want, treatment professionals at a rehab center can provide expert recommendations. But often, the answer is both! The 12-Step Program and sober living homes both offer extensive support and structure for people in recovery. If you need help to stay sober after detox and rehab or following a recent relapse, pursuing both is ideal.

Typically, 12-Step Program attendance offers more long-term support than a sober living home, although you can continue living at a sober home for as long as you need. But once you’re ready to transition back home or to your own place, you can still continue to attend 12-Step meetings. In fact, it’s typically recommended! 

Related post: What Is the AA Success Rate?

Get recovery support today

If you or a loved one needs help to stay sober, but you’re not sure what level of support is best for you, call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes at (512) 580-3131 or contact us online. We offer an intensive outpatient program, Certified Peer Recovery Support Program, 12-Step-based individualized support programs, and sober living Austin TX, Houston, TX and Colorado Springs, CO. We’d love to be a part of your recovery journey! Call to get started today.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35313/2020_NSSATS_FINAL.pdf 
  2. https://www.aa.org/the-twelve-steps 

Take Action Today

We Are Ready to Assist You

Call us now and begin healing at (51) 236-35914 or you can fill out form below and we will contact you shortly.

Or text us and we will call you right back.

What Makes Us Different

  • Why Choose Eudaimonia for Your Sober Living Experience?
  • Recovery-Focused Lifestyle
  • Individualized Care
  • Homes for Everyone
  • On-Site Support Staff
  • Family Support

Call Now ButtonRooms Available – Apply Now!