The 100 Best U.S. Cities for Living Sober

Looking for a change of scenery in recovery? A comprehensive new ranking reveals the top American cities for living sober. Some might surprise you

October 28, 2022
Madison, Wisconsin, downtown

When we talk about creating a healthy environment for recovery, we often think of people first: surrounding yourself with family, friends, counselors, recovery peers, treatment professionals and support groups that can guide and encourage you along the way. But your literal environment — where you live, work and spend your free time — matters too.

It may not be in the cards for you to change that entirely. But a comprehensive new survey of U.S. cities from Diabetic.org has identified some attractive possibilities if it is. The organization has published a ranking of the 100 best American cities for living sober, based on 26 different criteria.

Each city was evaluated according to three primary factors, defined by multiple metrics: sobriety infrastructure and opportunity, including the number of recovery homestreatment centers and SAMSHA-listed health treatment services; temptation, including the number of bars and illicit drug users; and community and activity, including the number of parks and nonprofit organizations. (The statistics are adjusted for population, either as a percentage or a number per 100,000 people.)

Madison, Wisconsin, took top honors as the best city for sober life, earning an 83.73 score out of 100 in the survey’s methodology. The Badger State’s capital placed high in the sobriety infrastructure category due to its robust number of Narcotics Anonymous meetings and SAMSHA-listed health treatment centers. It also shined in the community category, with an abundance of parks and opportunities to volunteer.

Having a sense of community can be crucial to maintaining sobriety, and second-ranked Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (83.59), welcomes anyone wanting to live a sober life. Despite a modest population of just over 50,000 people, Harrisburg has more Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and affordable housing arrangements than many U.S. cities that are significantly bigger.

A focus on affordable housing put Durham, North Carolina (75.21), comfortably in third place on the list. Nearly 80% of the city’s residents voted yes in 2019 to a $95 million bond for affordable housing; the city’s comprehensive housing strategy will create 1,600 new housing units and preserve 800 others.

When it comes to minimizing temptation, Provo, Utah (No. 8; 71.76), is certainly one of the most sober places of the U.S. The largely Mormon city only has three bars for its 115,000 residents, contributing to its exceptionally low alcohol consumption rates. The home to Brigham Young University also has fewer overdose deaths than most U.S. cities.

Below are the survey’s top 20 U.S. cities for sober living. Check out the full list of 100 cities ranked by Diabetic.org, find out if your hometown made the list, and — just maybe — get inspired about where sober life could take you next.

  1. Madison, Wisconsin (83.73)
  2. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (83.59)
  3. Durham, North Carolina (75.21)
  4. Des Moines, Iowa (74.97)
  5. Indianapolis, Indiana (72.45)
  6. Richmond, Virginia (72.21)
  7. Winston-Salem, North Carolina (71.84)
  8. Provo, Utah (71.76)
  9. Toledo, Ohio (71.54)
  10. Bridgeport, Connecticut (71.35)
  11. Washington, D.C. (71.22)
  12. Baltimore, Maryland (70.72)
  13. Minneapolis, Minnesota (70.69)
  14. Ogden, Utah (70.59)
  15. Jackson, Mississippi (70.15)
  16. Omaha, Nebraska (69.68)
  17. Albany, New York (69.40)
  18. San Francisco, California (69.23)
  19. Salt Lake City, Utah (69.14)
  20. New Haven, Connecticut (68.74)

Read more about what makes a city ideal for living sober in Diabetic.org’s feature.

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