Sober Houses: Finding the Right Balance between Freedom and Supervision

Sober houses are important to many during the process of recovery. But, sober home owners have a difficult task of maintaining a balance between freedom, supervision, and patients within the home. MWM

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It has been my experience in the 20-plus years I have worked in mental health and chemical dependency, that it is a rare individual indeed who starts out in early recovery saying that they want more supervision than what they have at any given time. When I come across people who say that, they are usually the ones who also ask the question of the professional “what do I do?”, as opposed to “I got this,” or “I know that I have things to learn about myself”, instead of “Of course I know who I am and what makes me tick!” It is typically those individuals, the ones who recognize how little they know, who I would put my money on, even if I could gamble…a-hem… to have a more long-term sustained recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and complains that they had too much supervision. People typically don’t like that supervision when it’s happening and then love that they had it as they reap the benefits by way of their recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and companies that they had too much supervision”

It is in that spirit that I believe that a sober house should have restrictions so that a person knows that there are external boundaries placed on them, with an intention of helping them to eventually internalize their own sober boundaries. I believe in a zero tolerance policy inasmuch as it is not only critical that the individual knows that they will be held accountable for using, but also that there is a responsibility that all house members have to those who might still be struggling by not bringing substance, or using behaviors, into their sanctuary, which is how I see a sober house.

Likewise they cannot have guests come over inebriated. In my house I have a rule that states that if a tenant is using in the home I have the right to UA, or breathalyze, and if found to be using they need to leave the house, as in; pack up and have their stuff out as soon as the law allows. If guests are using they are not allowed back to the home. The idea here is that drugs and alcohol, in this home, are the enemy, and I will guard that portal with every ounce of right and might that I have to protect my tenants from that evil. Okay, I get that might come off a bit melodramatic, but it is conceptually accurate. I don’t see drugs and alcohol inherently evil in and of themselves, but to those of us in recovery, oh, buddy, you better believe that they are!

People in recovery should have easy access to bus routes and available jobs within walking distance of bus routes. Exercise is very important to recovery and sometimes people won’t be able to afford a gym membership, so I have an elliptical and weights indoors. I have home entertainment in the form of billiards, Foosball, board games and a deluxe entertainment system. They should have access to meetings and even treatment if things go poorly. I should point out that I would allow a tenant to stay in the home of they came to me and if they said that they used and that they didn’t come home out of respect for the rules, that they are interested in staying and working on their recovery I would not ask them to leave, but now do something different than what they were doing before vis-à-vis their recovery.

It is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there”

I think that restrictions around overnight guests are valuable inasmuch as early recovery is not the time to be developing new relationships. Even if the tenant isn’t in early recovery, or is already in a long-term relationship, it is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there. Keeping in mind that people, regardless of sobriety status, do have interpersonal relationships which they will develop and cultivate I think that allowances should be made over time when a person has shown stability in their recovery.

Finally I will bring this back around to the beginning inasmuch as I think that it is the responsibility of the home owner, or program owner, to develop and cultivate harmony in the home to the degree that they are able. This is tricky business while keeping in mind that one cannot and should not discriminate. While I have the last word, I always get the input of existing tenants. But what does the owner do if they suspect a new client is still using drugs or drinking alcohol? What if that person seems like they are going to clash with another house member? There are a lot of things to consider and a balance that needs to be, if not attained, then certainly sought after. Even if one does attain balance, given the transitory nature of sober living, one thing is sure, it will change.

 

 

About the Author:Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.42 PM

Dakota Baker is a professional in the mental health and chemical dependency world. He started Dakota Therapy in 2009, and has over 20 years of experience. Recently, he opened a sober house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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Dear Parents…

Parents play a vital role in the recovery of addiction in young adults. Our guest blogger today has years of experience with young adults and parents, and advises our readers on how to take back their parenting from addiction. MWM

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Dear Parents,

An epidemic of drug addiction with our kids today is scarier then ever! Every day on national and local news, more and more stories keep pointing to the opiate epidemic, overdoses, and addiction of our young people.  These kids have parents whose hearts are breaking and need ongoing support and strategies to take back their parenting from the addiction of their teens and young adults. I believe no parent ever intentionally wakes up each day and decides to harm their kids.  Yet, with the affects of addiction on their parenting, most of these parents find it difficult to believe that their kids really care about them and they feel overwhelmed and powerless. Many of these teens and young adults have the following in common that parents need to know: (1) remorse for what they have done to their families; (2) loneliness, sadness, rage, fear, and shame; and (3) love for their parents.  How do I know?  I surveyed 300 teens and young adults newly sober from a recovery high school and sober living programs with young adults in recovery during the past 4 years. Their responses were heart felt, wise, and important to share with parents. They want you and need you in their lives even if they show otherwise.

One of the questions asked to the teens and young adults was:

“Dear Parents, I wish you knew this about me-“

 

  • I did my best and tried to be stable, but couldn’t.
  • I wish you knew how much I have suffered.  Sometimes I feel that they only saw my maladaptive behavior as an attack against them rather than a cry for help or an act of desperation.
  • I’m trapped in a vicious cycle of using because I can’t gain trust and I’ve given up.
  • I have really struggled.
  • I deeply regret hurting them.
  • I love them and never wanted to hurt them with my addiction.

 

 

Who are these kids?

Many of these teens and young adults have been through treatment anywhere from one to nine times. Drugs of choice range from alcohol to marijuana to street drugs, prescription drugs, designer drugs, opiates, and heroin. Many of them have been bullied in grade school, middle school, and high school. Quite a few of them have been sexually or physically abused. Developmentally, many experience delays socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Through the years, I have worked directly and indirectly with thousands of adolescents and young adults all over the country. Their stories are heartfelt and telling. Many are children of addicts, many are in recovery, and many have co-occurring mental health challenges. Most of them don’t know how to step out from active addiction and remain sober. Many of these children have mental health challenges that went untreated or were unsuccessfully treated. These include depression, anxiety, severe mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Many of these children mask untreated mental health issues with addiction to ease their pain. Most of the teenagers and young adults have dual diagnoses of chemical dependency with coexisting mental health challenges.

“How did addiction affect your relationship with your parents?”

 

  • When I was depressed, I totally shut down and blocked my parents out, which caused them to try harder.
  • They lost trust in me, and I’m not sure when it will ever be back
  • They were scared I would kill myself
  • I completely disappointed them

 

Different Children, Similar Messages

No matter where these children come from, no matter their substances of choice, and no matter their ages, the message to their parents is the same:

  • Be present with me physically and emotionally.
  • Build a relationship with me.
  • Console me if I am having a problem.
  • Do absolutely everything to stay together and not get divorced.
  • Don’t let your mental health problems wreck your family’s life.
  • Don’t try to buy me with things or trips.

  • Give me more attention.
  • 
Have family dinners and get to know me.
  • Help me know I’m not a bad person.
  • 
Listen to my point of view. 
Make sure I know that I can tell you anything without judgment.
  • Show me that you love me.
  • Take time to learn how I think and feel.

 

Addiction/mental health challenges often suck the life out of parents due to their enmeshment, and inability to know how to detach and make difficult decisions. To take charge again in their families, parents need support during that first year of recovery when there are so many new challenges.  Family programs only begin the journey. Parents have years of habits of parenting that maintained an addicted family system.  The 5 steps below teach parents how to shift their family, empower their parenting and not let addiction be in charge again. There are very few ongoing programs after treatment that  support parents directly.

From my research and interviews with parents, the following 5 steps of foundational parenting were instrumental in teaching parents to regain their parenting, and restructure their relationships with their kids. Parents who were part of groups, weekend programs, coaching, regained hope and strength to heal their parenting and in turn their families. Identifying concrete action steps or strategies that can be used in their relationship with their kids, gives parents something tangible that can be practiced at home daily.

 

The following 5 steps of Foundational Parenting, teaches parents to:

  • Practice being present with their children
  • Develop emotional attunement
  • Act and respond non judgmentally with their children
  • Create sacred family time and recreate rituals
  • Clarify values, rules and boundaries-natural/logical consequences

Healthy parenting is vital for a child’s continued sobriety. A healthy parenting approach does not allow for a child’s moods or actions to cause reactions that escalate into a destructive situation. The addiction or threat of a relapse is no longer permitted to rule the home, depleting the parents’ energy and power. When parents are clear about their values and expectations and adhere to them, children can push and test, but healthy parenting doesn’t allow this to influence them into bending the rules. In this way, children know that parents “mean what they say and say what they mean.”

One parent so eloquently shared this message after a year of working on these 5 steps, “I can finally own my emotions, our family values and create a family where addiction no longer rules our life.”  Recovering teens and young adults need parents on board to provide a healthy family to help them sustain their recovery and deal more effectively with the ongoing high rate of relapse.  Parents also need support during the first year of their loved ones recovery to help them maintain healthy parenting and healthy family.

 

About the Author:

unnamed-1.jpgBarbara Krovitz-Neren, MA- coaches parents of teens and young adults who are chemically dependent or have mental health challenges and consults with programs to enhance parent involvement in recovery using her foundational parenting model.   She has been a youth and parenting advocate for more than thirty-five years. As a pioneer in the addiction prevention field, she has created dynamic programs that have impacted more than 50,000 youth, adolescents, and young adults around the country. Barbara has trained individuals in school districts, community social service agencies, and parent groups, both nationally and internationally. She was also one of the founding board members of the National Association of Children of Alcoholics. Her work on behalf of children and families has earned her numerous awards over the years. The 5-Step Foundational Parenting Program is the culmination of her life’s work in her new book, “Parenting the Addicted Teen, a 5 Step Foundational Program.” Published by Central Recovery Press.  Release date, July, 2017.

 

 

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 2)

Continuing our guest blog from last week, Adam writes about his personal journey to receiving help. MWM.

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A Treatise on Human Thought (or thoughts on thinking about it like my twitter handle 🙂.

A friend told me to see a therapist. I mulled the idea over until finally I mustered the courage and went to my dad and said “I think I need to see someone.”

He looked at me lovingly and said “of course, Adam, we love you, we will absolutely get you a therapist, you’re probably going through a phase, but we can certainly get you some help.”

What did I hear though? “you are probably going through a phase” so I kept to it and I abused substances as a way to cope with my pain, lack of feeling, and lack of purpose. Finally, I had a true-rock bottom moment and my parents intervened and I got help.

I looked back on the mental health system and thought, why

Years later, my father and I reconciled this disconnected moment when I came to him in a time of need and I felt he was asking me to toughen up. He explained that the trepidation I sensed was ultimately from his very real fear that he was not providing enough to me as a father. To him, me getting professional help meant he did something wrong or wasn’t a good enough father for me.

That was of course never the case, he gave me everything I could have wanted and more. I was never thinking about him or my mother and their inadequacies as parents, I was wholly consumed with my own negativity, self-hatred, and helplessness.

It was neither of our faults which can be hard for a parent to hear and probably accept”

However, both of our insecurities prevented us from connecting in a constructive way to get me the support I needed at a vulnerable time. It was neither of our faults which can be hard for a parent to hear and probably accept…it’s not your fault. I wish I could communicate that point more strongly…

After I got help, I started to tell my story. That story was one of struggle, dissatisfaction, confusion, isolation, emotional trepidation, fear, and uncertainty. And often times, I couldn’t even get more than two or three sentences in that direction before the other person blurted out how they felt the same!

I realized something was going on here. Something was happening with young people that were causing them to feel these emotions with few constructive ways to address this issue.

So I set out to change that. I developed Marbles, an iOS and android mobile phone app that allows people free 24/7 anonymous mental and emotional health support to be a tool for people to montior their mental and emotional health and reach out for support any time they may need it, 100% troll and stigma free.

suffering,

I’m lucky though. I got help.

However, not every undergraduate student is so lucky. In the United States, there are 1,100 collegiate suicides every year. Half of that group never tell anyone.

I was part of that half.

I struggled reaching out for help because I didn’t know where to go and I didn’t know what was “normal” or real distress that I needed help with vs. what I should just “deal with.”

Rates of mental health diagnoses are rising year over year. College students’ who’ve seriously considered attempting suicide rose to a staggering 33.2 percent, up from 23.8 percent just 5 years ago.

The tendancy to use suicide as an alternative for our mental health struggles

That’s why we created Marbles.

 

 

About the Author:

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Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support. 

 

 

 

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 1)

Current social, extracurricular, and educational climates are stressful and harmful to our youth. This week’s guest blogger provides a heartfelt and insightful piece. -MWM

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When I was a junior at the University of Minnesota, I struggled with depression and suicide. On the surface, nobody would would have guessed…I was going to school, had some good career prospects, a seemingly fulfilling social life…but I was silently suffering. And every day I contemplated whether or not continuing life was worth it.

It was a slow slip into this hole and I didn’t know what to do, I had never had these thoughts or feelings before, and I had never talked to anyone about them. (watch me explain more here in this TEDx talk)

It took me awhile to get professional help, but when I did, I realized I was not the only one. When telling my friends, I could only get about 2 or 3 sentences into my story before they would blurt out how much they were hurting too (nearly 1 in 3 college students meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness). So I started making videos about people sharing their mental health stories (now over 50,000 views!).

I realized there was something going on with young people as I was not the only one who felt this way.

Over the years, I’ve been fighting to de-stigmatize mental health and support by public speaking at high schools, churches, and other youth orgs. I volunteer as a peer-to-peer mental health group support leader for NAMIMN.org, and am developing ways for people to improve their mental and emotional health. Our latest project is called Marbles. It’s an iOS and android app for people to monitor mental health and find anonymous support, 100% troll and stigma-free.

Many of these anonymous posts and conversations have similar themes and come from people of all ages, but we know the average age of our users is around 24 years old.

What’s the bottom line? Overall, a lot of people feel worthless.

And…it’s not anyone’s fault.

It’s only our responsibility to reconcile. Below is a list of some reasons that a person, particularly a millennial young person, could feel worthless. At the end, I give a few tips as to how to overcome that sense of worthlessness:

An overemphasis on outcomes

The grade has become more important than learning how to learn or the score has become more important than how hard we try in the game.

We tie our sense of self-worth to our performance on tests, in games, our careers, relationships, everything. So, when we encounter inevitable failure, it’s crushing to our bubble-wrapped sense of value and self-worth instead of viewed as a learning opportunity from which to make better choices.

Thus, people avoid situations that could lead to failure and personal growth is inhibited. We are protected from failure in many ways by helicopter parents, more rules — across the board, school, politics, relationships, athletics, getting into college — there are just more written and unwritten rules for young people to abide by, and the stakes are way higher than they used to be.

Parents tried their best to help because they saw the stakes were now higher for their children, and like all things, this involvement is also double edged sword.

Too little has consequences and too much has consequences, and there’s never a correct amount. It’s only after someone crosses a line do they realize a line was crossed…and if you or they don’t cross the line, well then nobody knows where the line is! So please, forgive yourself.

The devaluation of hard work

People think it’s cool to be naturally gifted. The American Idol generation grew up celebrating people who seemingly out of nowhere become instant stars. And most American Idols never even amounted to that much! But that’s not what we saw growing up. We observed over the course of a 30 minute feel-good television program how problems arose, somebody apologized, and everybody was happy by 7:28pm.

Grit and resiliency were never celebrated. There was never a story about the person who studied for 2 hours every night for above average grades, it was all about the gifted athletes, socialites, and scholars who naturally rise to the top and overcome a miniscule bout with adversity.

Even “cool” kids in school were the ones who looked like they never did anything. As a high school senior I was embarrassed to say that I studied for my AP calculus 2 test because if I tied my friend’s score, but I admitted to him that I studied, that meant I was dummer…that I was less than him.

Worthy achievement seemed to be a mixture of good looks, perfect parents, supportive friends, and a quirky and inspiring mentor — none of which are actually accessible for an average 15 year old from Omaha!

But in these formative adolescent years, the messages of what it took to be successful, popular, and therefore worthy, were almost the complete antithesis of what it actually takes to have a fulfilling life.

The wrong goal

All this contributes to young people having the wrong goal, and we are still reconciling with this one. Never once did anyone tell me to seek out activities, hopefully one that pays you for it, that fulfill my life. The closest anyone came was “find something that makes you happy.”

Happiness is the wrong goal though because in happiness, there is no room for sadness, struggle, disgust, fear, hopelessness, failure, frustration, confusion, anger, and whatever else that are natural emotions we all feel.

We thought it wasn’t ok to feel bad.

So, we teach ourselves to emotionally inhibit, avoid, and numb ourselves from those emotions. How? Any distraction we can find — drugs (legal and illegal), alcohol, self-harm, suicide, social media, porn, gossip, bullying, achievement, etc.

We learned to push our own emotions, our own feeling interpretations from the world, away in favor of more “desireable ones.”

It’s been the deepest, darkest, and most hopeless times when I’ve realized what’s really inside me, others, and what’s important.

But it’s not a very fun commercial to watch Adam huddled in his room alone, tears streaming down his face, overwhelmed, thinking about dropping out, filled with guilt and shame.

No…meaningful progress and worthiness appears to be beautiful people cheersing outside on a sunny day.

Yes, that certainly can be what success looks like, but it’s about balance. All I’m saying here is we are out of balance. Too much of the aforementioned ingredients. Too much self-interest, not enough compassion.

Too much salt, not enough diversity. We may benefit from a little sweetness…some savory…maybe a hint of spice in our soup of life, our own personal marinade as my friend Kenny calls it.

What can we do about it?

It’s pretty simple, do all the usual stuff, spend time in nature, eat well, exercise, be with family, celebrate one another, forgive. And, get to know yourself.

Figure out what luggage you are bringing to the situation and relationship. Instead of focusing on other people’s luggage, get to know your own.

What’s the best way to recognize your luggage? Spend time with it, just it.

Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and listen to your thoughts. Some call it mindfulness, some call it meditation, call it what you want, just listen. Listen to the luggage of your thoughts.

Simply observe what happens. Continuously let go of the thought-creation side of you, just listen to the luggage of your thoughts…listen to which suitcases the thoughts are stored in.

And if you don’t know how to do that…maybe someone on Marbles does.

Thank you,

Adam

Part two of Adam’s blog will air next week. His post will enlighten us about his personal journey towards recovery. 

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About the Author:  

Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.