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[ Opinion ]

Not All Sober Living Homes Are Bad

There has been some stories in the news lately about Sober Living Homes (SLH’s). Much of this press has been negative. Well, actually, I have never read a positive story about SLH’s. 

Most of the stories revolve around drug use within the homes, overdose deaths, and public complaints. Now, many states are cracking down on SLH’s and legislation is on the way to regulate them.

I lived in a SLH for two and a half years. I managed this SLH for two years. I can tell you much of what does and does not happen in a SLH. I can also give you my opinion on wether they should be regulated. 

First, I want to tell you my opinion of SLH’s. I think SLH’s are the future for recovery. They aren’t perfect, but when they are managed properly they can be life savers. 

When you get out of rehab you are faced with people, places and things. People meaning: you need to avoid those people who you drank and did drugs with. Places meaning: familiar places that can trigger you. Things meaning: outside influences. In an SLH you have none of these. There are no familiar things and this is a good thing. You have a new start. You are surrounded with new people who are looking to stay sober, just like yourself. You have rules and you will be tested for accountability.

Unlike rehab, I saw many more success stories in SLH’s. I say this, because I failed to stay sober after my first two rehab’s. I went home to familiar people, places and things and relapsed. When I went to live in an SLH I had the structure I needed and was able to stay sober.

So what does happen in a SLH?  If you come to a SLH with the right frame of mind, you can work on your sobriety with your sponsor. You have the support of the manager and your house mates. You are held accountable for your actions and your behavior. Many who come to SLH’s take advance of these things and leave a changed sober person.

If you come to an SLH with the wrong attitude you will likely relapse and get kicked out. Does that mean they got caught using? Yup! But they could have been kicked out for not attending meetings, or breaking the rules also. You must have the right mindset to get sober. An SLH can provide you with everything you need to stay sober, but this is up to you.

People do relapse and use in the house on rare occasions. On very rare occasions they die. So this means they aren’t regulated properly right! No! People die from drug overdoses all over the country everyday. What this means is, not everyone is serious about staying sober. There is no test you can give someone upon admitting them, that will tell you they are  serious about staying sober. Some come under false pretenses or they were forced to come.

Look, as a manager, I did my best to keep people from screwing around in the house and I was pretty good at it. I also missed some things. Let’s be realistic, you can’t have perfection when addiction is involved. All the clients in the house knew this and ignored the failures in others. The house culture was progress not perfection. Quite frankly, it has to be that way. 

So, if SLH’s were regulated more they would be safer. SLH’s are as safe as they can possibly be without being a jail. How would regulating them make a difference? Actually, I don’t know. Maybe some training in administering medication for overdoses would help, but isn’t that what 911 is for?  

You would have to live in a SLH to understand how important they are to maintaining sobriety. The bond you build with the other recovering people is so important to recovery. You are no longer isolated or hanging with the wrong people. You have someone to talk to when you are feeling sketchy and this person understands just what you are going through. 

If you are planning to go to an SLH ask questions before you sign up. Ask to talk to the manager. Ask how they handle testing and relapses. Ask how many times they do room checks. Talk to some of the clients and ask how they like it there. If they won’t allow you to talk to the clients separately be skeptical. 

Check for cleanliness, inspect bathrooms and the beds. Ask about the chores and what is expected of you. Check the refrigerators and the cabinets where food is stored.

There are many great SLH’s out there, far more than the few bad ones. 

Please go to a Sober Living Home, it just might save your life. 

Robert Apple