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Importance of Sober Living Houses

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I can tell you from years of experience in 12 step meetings, white knuckling it, and counselling, that quitting drugs and alcohol has been the easiest thing I have ever done. Staying sober, on the other hand, was one of the most difficult. A combination of physical cravings, obsessions, and environment perpetuated my relapses, to the point where I made the decision to go to treatment. It was then in treatment that moving into a sober living home was recommended to me.
Before moving to Nanaimo to go to a local treatment centre, I had no idea what a sober living house even was. Over the last 7 years of living here, though, I have seen a wide range of sober houses open and close, offering a diverse variety of services. After experiencing a few of these houses myself, I began to understand the importance of second stage and third stage housing after treatment or detox.

Accountability

This is arguably the most important part of sober living. As addicts, we have spent our entire lives manipulating our loved ones into getting what we wanted and to get people “off our backs.” The staff employed at One Life have been there and have seen it all! We are able to cut through the BS that family members and friends would not naturally be able to see. Chores are to be completed every day, recovery meetings are mandatory, and respect of ourselves and of others is our code. Our house managers and support staff do not take any lying, manipulation, or excuses when it comes to our clients’ recovery.

The houses are staffed throughout the week, and cameras are setup at all the doors to make sure everyone is at home when they say they are.

Peer accountability is another foundation at our houses. Our client’s look out for each other, and genuinely care about each other’s sobriety. We have weekly group meetings where the houses meet together, and if someone is slipping in their recovery, it is brought out in the open and talked about.

Community

The founder of One Life, Brett Johnson, can often be heard telling our clients that addiction is synonymous with loneliness, and opposite of community. Our addictions thrive when we isolate, so going home and being left to our own devices after a short time in treatment or a detox centre, is a metaphorical, and sometimes literal, death sentence. We will convince our loved ones and ourselves that we have learned our lesson and there is no way we will relapse. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case.

Sober living houses provide an in-house support group that you live with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everyone in the house is there for one reason, and that is to stay sober. The camaraderie is contagious, and life long healthy bonds are formed. I can tell you this from personal experience, as one of my roommates was the groomsman at my wedding last year, and he continues to be a rock in my support group to this day.

Learning to Have Fun Sober

As drug addicts and alcoholics, we have relied on our vices to have fun, and have centred our entire lives around them. When people first sober up, they cannot believe it is possible to have fun without their addiction. They figure they will be bored for the rest of their life. Sound familiar?

These thoughts and feelings could not be further from the truth. There is a lot of hard work that our clients put in on their recovery, but we make sure that everyone is enjoying their new life as much as possible. From dinners out, to floating on tubes down the river and from paintballing and cooking lessons to nights spent by the firepit in the backyard, there is so much fun to be had now that we made the decision to stay sober.

Looking back, anyone you ask who is successful in recovery, will laugh when you ask them if their life is as boring as they thought it would be when they first sobered up!

Learning Life Skills

Plainly put, by the time someone is desperate enough to get help from their addiction, their life skills have plummeted to the point of adolescence. A sober living house is an amazing opportunity to start to learn those skills again (or for the first time). Here is a list of some of the expectations we have of our clients:

  • Waking up before 8:30 for meditation or yoga
  • Making their bed every morning
  • Keeping their rooms clean
  • Completing their chores around the house
  • Cleaning up after themselves in the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Finding a job, volunteering, or furthering their education
  • Learning how to use public transit
  • Budgeting
  • Goal setting

Final Thoughts

Articles, studies, and journals have been written and published on the benefits of sober living houses. Not only have we read about it, but we have experienced it ourselves. Everyone who is a staff member at One Life Recovery Society has lived in a sober house at the beginning of their recovery. It set us up for success in our sobriety and helped us forge amazing bonds with men and women who we remain close to years later. We hope that you will strongly consider second stage housing in your early recovery; it will give you the best chance in your new life.