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
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:
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.