California’s History of Supporting Sobriety

California’s History of Supporting Sobriety

California is one of the leading states in the nation and one of the leading locations in the world when it comes to innovative and abundant opportunities for drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation opportunities. There are many world-renowned organizations that originated in California and continue to call the state home to this day. The state of California also continues to be among the top states in the nation when it comes to funding and support for continued research and development for addiction research and services.

Early Drug Addiction Treatment History

Individuals around the world have been suffering from drug and alcohol addiction for thousands of years. For much of this time, drug addicts were seen as weak-willed individuals with low levels of motivation and a generally selfish demeanor. Many people who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction were entirely disowned by their family and friends and never received the support they needed to actually escape the crushing grip of their drug and/or alcohol dependence. It wasn’t until the 1800s that Benjamin Rush asserted that alcohol and drug addiction may actually be a disease and not just a result of weak character. Because of this, many sober living facilities were opened in the United States to help individuals struggling with addiction. Some of these sober living facilities, specifically the Keeley Institutes, began to add additional layers of experimentation to their “treatment plans” for individuals struggling with addiction. Dr. Keeley believed that injecting his patients with heavy metals was key to ensuring that they could recover from their addictive behaviors. His patients entered into treatment programs where they were able to focus on their whole-person wellness by getting adequate exercise, eating healthy meals, and spending time away from destructive peers and stressors of daily life. While this environment was incredibly useful in helping those struggling with chemical dependence to begin to live a life of sobriety, the injection of heavy metals into his patients was, in fact, hugely detrimental and even led to the deaths of many of his patients.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1939, shortly after the Prohibition Era in the United States had ended. The very first AA meeting took place in Los Angeles and was spearheaded by Kaye Miller. This means that the state of California is the birthplace of one of the most effective and highly attended alcoholism support groups in the world.

AA is a program designed for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction that helps addicts work through twelve steps that eventually lead to lifelong sobriety and addiction management. The program is always completely free for anyone interested in attending, and the organization prides itself on being diverse, self-supporting, and apolitical. Participants are typically offered the opportunity to meet with a sponsor or an individual who is further along in their recovery journey and can provide support and guidance to someone who is just beginning to take the first steps towards sobriety. Members of the group are able to lean on their sponsors when their cravings become intense, or life becomes so stressful that they feel compelled to begin drinking again. The Alcoholics Anonymous model has been so successful that it has been replicated to be used for individuals addicted to narcotics and heroin. There are now Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Heroin Anonymous (HA) groups that meet across the country and provide support for thousands of members.

The twelve steps of the AA model are incredibly popular and are used in many recovery and rehabilitation programs all over the world. The 12 steps, according to  Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a Decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when were were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Alcoholics Anonymous twelve-step model, at first glance, appears to be incredibly religiously based. While it is true that many participants in the AA program identify with a religious tradition, the language of the twelve steps is designed to provide the opportunity for participants to conceptualize God in whichever way is most helpful to their recovery. For some participants, this means connecting with a Christian God, while for others it is more about connecting with the humanity that is present in all human beings.

The AA organization helped to convince the American Medical Association that addiction is truly a disease and not a simple case of moral failure. The AMA did eventually assert that addiction is a medical condition in the 1950s. This admission by the AMA led to more and more recovery centers and hospitals that were willing to treat addicts with respect and dignity. For example, in 1967 the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic was opened in San Francisco and the facility provided detox and intervention services for individuals struggling with addiction.


Support for family members that are struggling with the addiction of a loved one is often overlooked or forgotten altogether, but providing support for these key individuals can help speed up the recovery process and help loved ones to better manage their own emotional health as it relates to their relative that is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is often known as a family disease because it hugely impacts the lives of not only those that have the addiction but also those that are closest to them. Individuals that are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction often find that their lives are completely taken over by their dependency. This typically leads to an increase in manipulative behavior that is most often directed towards family members and close friends. Family members often find themselves enabling continued addictive behavior because of a general lack of knowledge about addiction and a lack of ability to set strict and healthy boundaries. Children of addicted individuals tend to struggle the most because of their inability to understand why their presence alone is not enough to convince their parent to stop their destructive and alcohol use behaviors.

Clear Recovery Center has been a pioneer in providing comprehensive and meaningful support and programming for family members and children of addicted individuals. These programs help loved ones to learn about healthy boundaries, understand that the problem of another person’s addiction can only be solved by the addicted party themselves, and heal from the pain and disappointment that living with a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol can cause. Many other rehabilitation programs across the country have decided to follow suit and also provide comprehensive programming and counseling services for family members of addicted individuals.

There are also a number of excellent women’s sober livings, like Clarity House, in the South Bay of Los Angeles, an excellent part of California for getting sober.

Current Organizations

There are many organizations in the state of California that are continuing to work towards the goals of making drug and alcohol recovery treatment available and affordable for all that seek support. For example, the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP) is incredibly active in the state and has been for over 30 years. The organization provides training and advocacy for professionals in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation field and works to support the California Department of Health Care Services by registering all of the Sober Living Environments in the state. The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Problems (ADP) has also been active in the state since 1978. The organization helps to provide leadership, development, and evaluation of treatment and recovery services in the state. The organization has a $600 million annual budget and focuses on prevention, treatment, quality assurance, and information/education for the state of California when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. The ADP also provides gambling addiction programs across the state. Unfortunately, the new Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act in the state of California is resulting in a higher level of incarceration for individuals struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction. This reality is taking a toll on the ADP and individuals within the organization are continually lobbying for alternative ways to provide treatment and support to individuals struggling with addiction that doesn’t require contact with the criminal justice system.

Current Drug and Alcohol Issues

Admissions for marijuana use at drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers are continuing to rise across the country, but especially in states like California where the drug is now legal. With the increased potency and availability of marijuana, public health officials and experts in the field of recovery are beginning to scramble to provide additional information about the risk of psychological dependence on the substance to individuals who start out as casual users of the drug. Just as casual alcohol drinkers can quickly spiral into severe alcoholism without diligence and appropriate information about the potential risks, uninformed marijuana users can also become addicted to the substance.

In 2014, Proposition 47 in California made it possible for individuals found to be in possession of a “personal use” amount of any illicit substance to only be charged with a misdemeanor, regardless of the substance. This is thought by many to be helpful for looking at drug addiction as more of a disease than a moral failing, and is indicative of the overall tone of California to work at getting individuals help that need it.

Location is Everything

California’s historic commitment to quality drug and alcohol treatment programs makes the state a top-notch place to seek out world-class care for addiction of any kind. However, the state’s pioneering attitude towards understanding and treating addiction is only one piece of the intricate puzzle when it comes to selecting a location for drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment. Many individuals who begin the journey towards recovery are interested in finding a new location far away from the temptations and stressors of home in order to increase the likelihood that they will succeed when it comes to their sobriety goals. California’s reputation for having beautiful land, sea, and cityscapes along with year-round beautiful weather makes the state a popular destination for all types of individuals looking to battle their drug and alcohol dependence. California is also an incredibly diverse state that draws unique residents from across the globe. No matter what you’re interested in, what your religion is, or what type of support you need to overcome your addiction, you’re sure to find it in the beautiful state of California.

Between the consistent and long-term commitment to recovery programs in the state of California and the beautiful weather and diverse population, California is a wonderful place to begin your path towards long-term sobriety. Contact South Bay Sober Living today to continue California’s legacy and start your own in the process!