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.

Guest Blog: The Process of Recovery

When Midwestern Mama’s son first went to treatment in 2011, she found online news articles about a young man who had attended the same program and had recently published a memoir about his experience. She emailed him and was pleasantly surprised to get a response. In the long years ahead, Midwestern Mama and Chad Hepler stayed in contact – ever grateful for his insights, support and encouragement all from a young man’s perspective. Today, Chad Hepler is a certified addiction counselor serving adolescents and their parents. Read what he has to say about the process of recovery.

Addiction and recovery is a process. A person does not become a rock bottom drug user overnight. It takes time. Just like the process of recovery.

This “process” is best explained by Prochaska & DiClemente’s five stages of change. In this article, I will examine the first two stages, precontemplation and contemplation, and how they relate to the teenage drug user. I will also discuss how parents survive this “process” of recovery.

The precontemplation stage is essentially denial. During this stage, the user does not believe there is a problem.

They are not considering change and generally do not care what you have to say in regards to their substance use.

A large percentage of users fall into this stage even when their life seems to be crumbling around them. This is the reason, insanity, is paired with addiction.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is painfully obvious the drug use is the problem, but the user just keeps on pushing.

There is no logical answer as to why a person continues to use, it’s simply insane. It’s doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Or as one of my patients said, “It’s doing the same thing over and over, knowing damn well, nothing will change.”

As an adolescent addiction counselor, I am faced everyday with the teenage drug user in the precontemplation stage. My goal is to move them from precontemplation to contemplation.

If I can help the teen reconsider their drug use, then I have succeeded. Nothing will mess up a good buzz more than a mindset of ambivalence.

Like they say in the rooms of AA, there’s nothing worse than a stomach full of booze and a mind full of AA. Sure, I would love to say my goal is long term recovery without a relapse, but quite frankly, that would be insane.

So how do the non-users maintain their sanity, while the drug user goes through this “process?” They work on themselves. They attend a self-help group, such as Alanon, Alateen, Naranon, and Families Anonymous. They get a sponsor, they work the steps, and they love and support their user’s recovery, not their addiction.

Chad Hepler is a Certified Addiction Counselor, working with adolescents for the last five years in a psychiatric hospital setting. He is also the author of two memoirs of his own addiction and recovery, Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin and Beyond Intervention: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery.

Nothing to Hide

We are a couple of moms creating a community of adults who care and are concerned about the young addicts in our lives. Together, we share our stories. Together, we share our truths. Though experiences, support and information, we are connected. We are together.

With kids born in the late 80s and early 90s, I didn’t jump on the social media train until a few years ago, and of course, it wasn’t even an option when they were little. Thus, they were spared from having baby pictures shared on Instagram. They were spared mommy blogging about spit up and potty training. And, they were spared from having their lives shared with “friends,” “followers” and “fans.”

The absence of social media did not equate with super private lives necessarily. Among friends and family, whether face to face or in letters and phone calls, we certainly shared plenty of details. I remember having daily, hour-long phone conversations with another mother who was part of a volunteer committee. We talked about anything and everything.

At the same time, I like to think I always had good judgment and a healthy respect for family members and family matters about what to share and what to keep within more immediate confines. Maybe that’s my generation. Maybe that’s my set of values. But maybe there’s some real merit in it, too.

When our middle kid, Our Young Addict, began having problems, I was open and honest with just about everyone, especially with teachers, coaches, counselors, neighbors, co-workers and many others. It seemed important to clue them in on our chaos and to share our experience. We had nothing to hide and only the best intentions.

More often than not, we were offered support and concern. Not everyone knew what to say or do, but everyone cared. Some people were grateful to know what was going on. Others had personal or family connections to addiction and recovery. Most were sympathetic if not empathetic.

Sure, there were some people who didn’t understand. Some thought surely I was exaggerating. Some probably were in denial about their kids. Some probably passed judgment on us and on our son. Most certainly, some got tired of getting a truthful response when they asked how we were doing or how our son was doing. They probably wanted to hear that everything was better, that he wasn’t an addict, that he had stopped using drugs, that all of this had just been a phase.

Along the way, I did turn to the internet to find information. Not only did I find volumes and volumes of information (and varying degrees of helpfulness), but I also started to find communities. You’ve read this before – this is how Our Young Addicts started; another mom and I connected as part of an online forum, exchanged our stories, and found value in sharing our experiences. We bolstered each other up. We offered each other the advice we ourselves needed to hear. We supported each other. We didn’t hold back because honesty was the key to success.

We decided that social media would be the best way to create a community with you. That’s way we launched on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. Our intent is to provide glimpses into our own experiences as encouragement for you to share yours with the rest of the community. In addition, we like to share current news and findings so each of us becomes smarter and more informed.

One of the things that Mid Atlantic Mom and I feel strongly about is finding a balance between honesty, transparency and identity. Our sons are in their twenties now. They are legally adults. They have a right to their privacy and that includes their identities. That is why I do not use my name or my son’s name. It’s out of respect for his past, present and future. But that is also why I tell it like it is what we’re experiencing, what it’s like. The anonymity … It’s not for fear of shame or stigma. It’s not for keeping a secret. It’s for what I call being appropriately anonymous. That’s why we use the monikers – Midwestern Mama and Mid Atlantic Mom.

Our stories, not just mine and Mid Atlantic Mom’s, all of ours collectively, are vitally important. These stories create community regardless of whether the young person you’re concerned about is just trying out drugs or alcohol, is using recreationally, is abusing regularly, is progressing toward addiction and or more substances, is experiencing consequences, is in treatment, is in relapses, is in recovery, is struggling or thriving. Our stories are our truth and our truth is our connection.

Midwestern Mama

The New Normal

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One month into treatment, Midwestern Mama contemplates the new normal for her son and family.

The first time I heard the descriptor “The New Normal,” it was in economic terms referring to how families were faring in 2009. I understand that more recently there was a short-lived television series with this title about gender and families.

Whatever its origin and original intent, it’s an expression that seems to capture our family’s connection to addiction and recovery. Ironically, this coincides with the timing when it first manifested for us. Since then, we’ve accepted and adapted to many new normals. If you’ve been reading this blog or any of my other writings, patterns emerging as the new normal and the next new normal and the next one after that … these have been the mainstay of our family experience.

More recently, we’ve been party to yet another new normal – treatment and recovery. At the end of 2013 and early part of 2014, we got a preview of what this might entail. Then, in a blink, it all unraveled. Our son’s immediate and lower-than-ever-before relapse hit. It hit hard, for all of us.

We met this new normal with the same resolve as times past, yet something was very different, and thankfully so.

So what is it like to parent a young adult who is earnestly participating in treatment and recovery? It’s far from anything we’ve experienced to date. Will it be the be-all, end -all? I can’t answer that, but I do know it is laying the strongest foundation for ongoing and future success than we’ve seen. The experts are just as good as the experts we’ve been fortunate to work with in the past, but this time it seems to be the right experts at the right time.

What’s different? Our son. He truly seems to want this. Not for us, but for himself. It’s not something we could have made him want, although we’ve certainly tried to influence, encourage and support it. I encourage every parent to keep trying, no matter what but to not drive yourself nuts when it doesn’t turn out like you want it to. In due time, in due time.

So what else is different? He is slowly and selectively reconnecting with former friends who are not addicts and who he’s been honest with and that support his efforts without being in his face about it. These friends accept it and applaud him, but not in a way that makes him feel self conscious. Having a social component has given him a positive outlet for his energy and interests. Too much treatment, too much recovery, is an overload. Having an outlet to just be a 22-year-old is extremely important.

What else? Suboxone, a medication that curbs cravings, negates the ability to get high, and offsets withdrawal symptoms for opiate use. It’s not without its downside, but for now the upside seems to be worth it. (Downsides: It’s daily trips to the clinic for at least the first 90 days before he can get take-home doses. This eliminates being able to go out of town for family vacation this summer. It means having transportation available. It causes constipation, which of course, the heroin did too. It initially messed with his sleep pattern. It generally requires a long-term commitment. There’s conflicting research on the benefits and precautions, but overall, it seems to be just what he needs now and is making an immediate and noticeable difference.)

Our new normal impacts the whole family, but it is such a welcome change. We have a long way to go to reestablish trust, communication and to support our son toward independence, but for now I just hope he can stick with it. Each day with it, is a day stronger. For all of us.

We’ve been waiting and praying for The New Normal. Now we are here, embracing this stage and optimistic for the next new normal and the one after that. I guess that’s normal, too.

As parents and families, we are often ready long before our young addicts are ready. In my own exploration and effort to understand addiction, I was encouraged by many of the writings of Buddha. In particular, the blessing of a good guide and for the readiness and willingness to let the guide to their job, while I did mine. Until I was ready, it was going nowhere. When I got ready, WOW!

It seems the same enlightenment is starting to happen for my son.

Midwestern Mama

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Buddha

Ready or not, here I come

Tomorrow morning I will pick up my son at treatment. Due to complications with finding an available half way house, his 28 day treatment has lasted 42 days. I am great for the extra days. He is ready for a new routine. He would like to return to complete freedom but is far from ready. The half way house will provide transition. Ready or not, this is the next chapter. In an upcoming post I will share my impressions.