A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT (RTC) AND SOBER LIVING
I arrived at Silver Hill on July 6, 2008. I was done. Alcohol and drugs had hijacked my brain. I needed serious treatment. I spent the next 33 days at Silver Hill and started my recovery. First, I spent five days in a medical detox where doctors and nurses started to wean my body off of alcohol and drugs. I was monitored 24/7 by medical staff to make sure I didn’t have a seizure (symptom of alcohol withdrawal) or other negative symptoms.
After five days, I went to the men’s 28-day house where I started a month-long educational healing process where I lived with eight to 12 other guys on any given day. The house felt like my fraternity house from college, minus the alcohol. There was a lot of laughing and connection over our pasts. This was the start of what is today my favorite part of recovery: the fellowship.
During my 28 days there, I spent time in classes learning about the disease of addiction. We spent time in groups with other patients talking about our feelings. I spent time with my therapist talking about how I’d gotten to this point in my life, and where did I want to go next. I spent time in the gym, reading, eating and relaxing.
I remember it fondly. I was safe. I was starting to recover.
I also had NO access to alcohol or drugs. I was safe from myself. I couldn’t pop into the bar. I couldn’t grab a beer for the train. I couldn’t call my dealer. I was removed from all of my people, places and things that usually created an urge or a craving to drink or take drugs.
In our groups we talked about what we might do if, or when, we had an urge to use. In fact, we learned about tools that we might employ to help us out if we were close to falling back.
We never had a chance to employ any of those tools since we were never outside of the bubble of treatment. It was all theoretical.
The most important thing that happened for me in treatment was that I was introduced to AA. I also went to treatment in my neighboring town, so I was introduced to the local recovery community that I would be able to access the moment I left treatment. I did just that.
If I had gone to treatment in Michigan, I wouldn’t know anything about the recovery scene in Connecticut.
Sober Living homes are residential homes where people in recovery live together. There are all different kinds of sober living homes all across the country. There is probably one in your town and if there isn’t, there will be.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT SOBER HOMES IS
- They are not treatment centers.
- There are no doctors or nurses or therapists on site.
- Residents in most sober livings come and go as they please. There may or may not be a curfew.
Residents in sober living homes go to jobs, see their families regularly, go on work trips, go on family vacations, see friends, go to dinner and play tennis.
They are living their lives. They are just doing it while living in a house with other people in recovery who are also living their lives, enjoying the fellowship and comradery that exists between people who used to have an alcohol or other drug problem and now don’t.
WHY IS SOBER LIVING SUCH AN IMPORTANT STEP IN THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY?
As mentioned above, when I was in treatment, I learned so much about recovery. I learned many tools that could possibly help me if I felt compelled to drink. But I never got to try them out.
While living in sober living, residents are living their lives, so they get to practice all of the tools learned while in the bubble of treatment. They go to work and may be yelled at by a customer or a boss. They walk past that bar they used to pop into for a quick one. They go to that restaurant where the waiter knows your drink order and has it ready for you before you even ask for it. They get to go to that family gathering where everyone says they’re supportive, but they are all still all drinking.
Real life stuff happens in early recovery.
And then they get to come back to their sober living home and hang out with people going through the same stuff. It’s safe. There isn’t any alcohol or drugs. They are with peers, and this is a chance to establish new healthy relationships in early recovery.
At the Lighthouse we call going through these types of real life experiences gaining sober reference. The first time I went to a professional sporting event and didn’t drink, that became my sober reference (I then knew how I would feel; not just theorize about it). The first time I walked past the bar that I had gone to for 10 years and didn’t stop in, I created a sober reference. My most recent memory of walking past did NOT involve stopping for a drink. Doing things like this while having the ability to walk into The Lighthouse (or any sober house) and talk about it with your crew is HUGE. Knowing that they were expecting you home without drinking also helps.
It takes a while to create these new habits. For me, it was extremely important to be around other guys who had gone through early recovery successfully (stick with the winners). Living in a sober living makes connecting with others easier because they’re in the same house!
Most often, the path into recovery starts (and ends) in a clinical setting, whether it’s a residential stay or an Intensive Outpatient program (IOP). Too often, Sober Living homes are not considered as an option. What we have seen at The Lighthouse is that living with us while getting comfortable in your new recovery skin can be extremely beneficial and, in many cases, be the right amount of support in early days.