Studies have shown that one in every four Americans is affected by the disease of addiction. Whether you are an addict or addiction has affected someone you care about, the ripple effects of this disease are endless. So many addicts don’t survive this terrible disease, but if you’ve landed on this page, you’re one of the lucky ones.
As a recovering addict, I am acutely aware that I suffer from a disease from which there is no known cure. After five years of working the steps in a 12-step program, however, I have also learned, to my great relief, that it can be arrested and recovery is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work.
Addiction is not contagious, but it does affect more people than the addict alone. It destroys careers, relationships, marriages, families, and friendships. Like cancer, the disease of addiction is no one’s fault, but unlike cancer, it is looked at as a moral defect and addicts experience so much shame and guilt that sometimes it prevents them from seeking the help we know they need. When you’re in the throes of addiction, that’s probably the most difficult time to reach out for help if you don’t already have a support system in place.
It’s not your fault if you’re an addict and you are not responsible for your disease. You are, however, responsible for your recovery. If you’ve taken the ultimate step to get clean, congratulations! I know from experience that the only thing harder than getting clean, however, is staying clean and ultimately, living clean. The most important thing about living clean is that you’re alive to do it! For addicts, that concept is nothing short of a miracle. The good news is, every addict can recover and live a full and rewarding life.
Once you’ve done the hard work of detox and inpatient care, it’s time to take the next step in your recovery journey. Whether this is an intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP), a recovery house, a 12-step program, a sober living home, or (preferably) a combination of all of the above, the important thing is to find a support system.
Sometimes it’s harder to know what questions to ask, let alone find the answers to all of those questions. To help make this process a little smoother, we’ve put together some frequently asked questions about the process of finding support after detox or rehab.
It is sometimes said that “recovery is a continuous process that never ends.” For some individuals with a substance use disorder, it takes time for this to sink in. Completing rehab doesn’t mean that recovery is fully achieved. The hard truth is, addicts are never recovered. We are constantly recovering. Recovery is a lifelong journey. The sooner the addict and those who care about them realize this concept, the better.
One of the first, and sometimes most difficult things recovering addicts need to do is stay away from “People, Places, and Things.” This means it’s critical to avoid the relationships, settings, and reminders that were a part of our lives during active addiction. Changing the people in our lives could be as simple as blocking certain people from our social media to as extreme as breaking up with a partner or divorcing a spouse. Changing places might also be very complicated. This might entail moving out of an apartment you share with a using addict, avoiding certain restaurants where alcohol is served or even changing a job if the atmosphere is toxic to your recovery. These changes might be overwhelmingly difficult, but recovery must come first. No matter how hard it might be to make adjustments to the places we live, work or socialize, making these changes is a critical step towards healing. Changing things encompasses pretty much everything else. You might need to throw away ashtrays, lighters, old photos, glasses or even certain clothing. If it’s something that triggers you, that’s a thing you need to eliminate. There’s simply not a thing more important than your recovery.
Now that you understand the concept behind changing “People, Places & Things,” one of the most critical things you need to consider when you leave rehab is where you will live. There are several options available.
Once you’ve done the hard work of detox and inpatient care, it’s time to take the next step in your recovery journey. This next step may involve moving to a new place if your current living situation is not conducive to recovery. If, for example, you live with a roommate who smokes weed, or parents who drink, you probably might want to explore new living arrangements, if possible. Getting an apartment might sound fun and exciting, but it’s not always the affordable or sensible solution. Ultimately, you need to do what’s best for you. Whether you decide to live at home and attend regular 12-step meetings (it’s suggested that newly recovering addicts attend a meeting every day for the first 90 days, referred to as “doing a 90 in 90,”), or move to a recovery residence, the important thing is to find the best solution for you.
Recovery houses are facilities that provide safe housing and supportive, structured living conditions for people exiting drug rehabilitation programs. They serve as a transitional environment between such programs and mainstream society.
The term ‘halfway house’ has come to mean different things in different parts of the country. In Pennsylvania, for example, a halfway house is a structured residential treatment center, whereas in Florida it might be a transitional residence following treatment.
The language used to describe the residential milieu is misleading, confusing, and can have negative connotations.
The good news is the industry has evolved to become far more professional and intentional in its language, primarily through the efforts of the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR). What was once known as a halfway house, recovery house, transitional house or sober living home now falls under the general heading of “recovery residence.”
Recovery residence is a broad term that encompasses the full range of recovery housing and services and programs offered in the homes – from the short-term peer-based to clinically oriented extended care.
NARR defines recovery residence as a “sober, safe, and healthy living environment that promotes recovery from alcohol and other drug use and associated problems.”
A good recovery residence provides a community-based environment to initiate and sustain recovery, requiring complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol, with a focus on the improvement of the residents’ physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being.
Recovery residences are categorized under different levels based on the type as well as the intensity and duration of support they offer. The provided residential services span from peer-based community models to medical and counseling services in recovery residences offering higher levels of support. The level titles and descriptions are designed to be simple, descriptive and intuitive. Higher residential levels describe higher levels of service and structure. Clarifying recovery residence levels allows the consumer to find the level of residence most appropriate for their needs.
Level 1 recovery residences offer supportive housing in a community-based peer environment. These recovery residences are commonly known as sober homes or recovery houses and are most often found in single family residences. Oversight of residents is peer-based within the home with residents being accountable to each other. The primary criterion for this living environment is a willingness to be abstinent of mood altering substances. 12-step meeting attendance is encouraged or required. Weekly house meetings are a standard component, where chores and overall house rules are discussed as a group.
While there is no paid staff at this level of support, there is often an overseeing operator who facilitates admissions and discharges to the home, and is available if there are house issues that cannot be resolved internally. There are no in-house services offered at this level, except the benefit of living in a supportive community.
These peer-run facilities are best utilized by the individual who has physically and psychologically stabilized for a period of time from substance use, and would benefit from a sober environment that enables them to implement personal recovery in a safe community. They are appropriate for individuals who are self-reliant and committed to recovery. This level of support is the most cost- contained with optional payment plans available. Length of stay varies from 30 days to several years. Insurance will normally not cover a stay in this type of housing.
Level two residences are characterized by a community-based environment supervised by a senior resident, house manager, or staff member. This supervisor monitors operations and enforces structure. There is an emphasis on community and accountability that manifests in a culture of peer support.
The living environment can be any type of dwelling, but most commonly is a single family residence with shared bedrooms. Like level one, this setting often proves to be quite cost effective with length of stay varying from one week to several years. Some degree of ‘programming’ is offered in-house and support groups, such as NA, might come into the home to hold a meeting.
This level is appropriate for the individual with some intrinsic motivation who would benefit from a nominal level of structure and support. The model is desirable in that it allows for an increased ability to access services over a longer period of time due to the affordability of the service models.
Level three residences are noted for their practical, rehabilitative approach. They provide an increased level of structure and oversight, and often utilize a clinical component such as outpatient or aftercare services from a collaborative entity. This level offers life skill-oriented programming in-house or in cooperation with other service providers. Guidance is provided for the development of life skill and recovery sustaining activities, i.e. employment, self-help, physical health, etc. Case management and clinical services are contracted in, or accessed in the outside community.
The residence itself can be quite varied – from an individual dwelling, to apartments or townhomes, or perhaps a large dorm-like structure.
This level is appropriate for the individual who needs a higher degree of structure and support, perhaps coming out of a stabilizing residential treatment center.
This type of recovery residence provides peer-based services plus life skills and clinical programming. It is most often aligned or attached with a licensed treatment provider, and overseen by an appropriately credentialed and qualified management team. This level is characterized by a high degree of daily structure. Licensed and credentialed staff members provide in-house program services.
The residential facility is typically part of the continuum of care for an overseeing rehab institution. All types of residences and occupancy numbers can be found at this level, depending on the program. Average stays vary from several weeks to several months, depending on the acuity of the individual. Emphasis is placed on equipping the individual for the next phase of recovery, be that another residential level, or independent living.
Fees and demographics associated with this residential level vary considerably. This is the only level that may be covered by health insurance.
Most recovery living facilities require an assessment before entry. They may ask for medical records to make sure you are healthy and ready to live a clean lifestyle. They may require that you first complete an inpatient or outpatient program or that you are currently enrolled in formal treatment. Most give drug screens before entry and during your stay. All of these questions and tests are for your health and safety.
How long you stay depends on your individual recovery progress, needs and the specific house rules. Some facilities limit how long you can stay. Others do not. Don’t rush any aspect of treatment. Find a facility that will meet your needs. Stays vary from 30 days to several years depending on the type of residence, locale and amenities and services provided.
As with all aspects of recovery residency, rules vary from house to house. Most will require random drug screenings and continued participation in support group meetings or individual therapy. They generally have a zero-tolerance policy that comes with encouragement and support for returning to treatment if a relapse should happen. Some homes may also have curfews or ask residents to participate in certain household chores.
There are several 12-step programs, including Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. While AA, the original 12-step program, focuses on the disease of alcoholism, NA’s focus is on the disease of addiction, as opposed to focusing on any specific substance.
NA is a non-profit fellowship made up of recovering addicts who come together regularly at meetings to help each other stay clean. Narcotics Anonymous is a program of complete abstinence, but the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using, so anyone is welcome to attend meetings, even active users, as long as the desire to stop is there. NA is a 12-step program, very similar in concept to AA, but the focus is on the disease, rather than the drug. The program emphasizes the “therapeutic value of one addict another,” which is why it is suggested that newcomers join a homegroup, get a sponsor and do their best to attend 90 meetings in the first 90 days.
No. As explained in the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, “There are no dues or fees attached to NA…. (it is) not affiliated with any other organizations, (they) have no initiation fees or dues, no pledges to sign, no promises to make to anyone.”
NA is not connected to any religion. Anyone may join regardless of religion or lack of religion.
Before getting clean, most of us could not manage our own lives. We found it impossible to live like “normal” people do. Many of us placed our drug use before our loved ones, friends and our careers. Once the fog of active addiction cleared, our minds become better able to focus on what matters in our lives, but there may have been so much damage done to ourselves and our relationships that it’s difficult to navigate the waters of living clean alone. As suggested, it is best to stay away from former people, places and things, so what is there left to do? Instead of living a life of solitude (we don’t have to become monks because we’re abstinent from drugs), NA offers newly clean addicts a place to go to meet like minded people.
Whether you choose NA or AA, recovery house or living with family after rehab, the important thing is that you never stop working on your recovery and you put your recovery before anything else.
As much as it seems noble to try to make up for the wreckage we created once we get clean by placing the needs of our children, spouses, jobs or parents before our recovery. But the opposite is actually true.
If you aren’t sure if you’re an addict, or if you are a recovering addict seeking information on the 12-step program of Narcotics Anonymous, please call the NA Phone line (800) 549-7730 or visit the NA website @ https://www.na.org/meetingsearch/ to find a meeting in your area. There are also thousands of zoom meetings going on every day.