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Skip Murphy's Structured Sober Living
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Treating drug addiction with more drugs, is sort of like treating the alcoholic with alcohol. Let know how that works out for ya.

What to look for, when choosing a sober living facility?

When it comes choosing a sober living facility for your drug and alcohol treatment aftercare, it is important to do thorough research before making a decision.  It seems that every other month or so there is a new sober house popping up in the Portland area. These houses will vary in a multitude of ways, including what services are provided, how the homes are managed, what type of philosophy or programming they follow, the amount of staff available to clients, and of course, in cost. 

There is a misconception that “if my loved one lives in a sober house, they will stay sober”. Our many years of experience in working with addicts and alcoholics have taught us otherwise. Not only is it important to do your research on the aftercare program itself, you have to assess whether or not your loved one is invested in recovery and in the particular philosophy of treatment offered at the house. Without willingness and participation from the individual, it will be impossible to achieve recovery. 

For example, if the sober living facility follows a 12-step philosophy only, and your loved one is not interested in working the 12-steps, the resident might feel like he doesn’t belong there. It may be tough to formulate relationships with his housemates, and we all know how loneliness plays out for somebody recently discharged from in-patient treatment. It is never a good thing. 

In other cases, individuals may present with significant trauma from their past or have a co-occurring disorder. This must be considered when choosing a sober living home as they do not all offer the appropriate amount of support for these situations. Consider all the individual needs of the loved one looking for help and chose a sober living program that has the ability to address each of these areas. Some sober living homes may not provide extra services on-site, but they may be able to set the individual up with local and community resources in order to provide this additional support. 

Medical conditions are also of concern when making your choice for aftercare. Many individuals enter into treatment and recovery with conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis C or HIV, or may need some form of medication management. Ask the sober living home if they have a medical director available to assist and provide support in such cases. 

It is the responsibility of the loved one and family or other support network to find the best fit for drug and alcohol treatment possible. The majority of treatment programs are quite good at foreseeing additional concerns that are common of addicts and alcoholics, but they cant treat or help with concerns that they don’t know exist. 

Be transparent. Ask questions. Don’t feel like you are taking up too much time or being a burden when doing your research. Treatment programs and sober living homes can be a huge financial commitment and you want to make sure you find the best fit possible. There is no question too small to ask. 

Here are a few additional items to touch upon in conversation with the drug and alcohol program you may be considering.  Do employees staff the house or is it a peer run model? Peer run homes can be very strong and successful, but they can also be very unhealthy if those who live there do not maintain their own recovery. It is nearly impossible for an addict or alcoholic to recover when surrounded by sick people. 

Do the staff in the home or program have any educational background or credentials? How many years of experience do they have in working with addicts and alcoholics?
Additionally, do they have any experience in working with those who may have a co-occurring illness or a history of trauma? Do they have knowledge of multiple treatment modalities and know how to utilize them appropriately to meet the needs of the client?
How about drug testing? Does the facility that you are considering drug test their residents? If so, how often? Who performs the drug testing? Are they scheduled or random? Are they CLIA waived tests? Most importantly, what protocols are set in place if a drug test does come back positive?

Another topic that is important to question is the staff turnover rates for the program or sober house that you are considering. Being a house manager of a sober living home can be very draining and may result in burnout very quickly if the staff do not have their own appropriate supports in place. Having long term staff at a program demonstrates a number of principles important for the newly sober individual to see. Responsibility, accountability, commitment, discipline, and the importance of self care are just a few of these lessons that are demonstrated through the actions of healthy, long term staff members. 

Take some time to write down the questions that are important for you to ask as they related to you loved one. You may end up with a program that offers more services than you feel like you need, but the goal is to stop the cycle of relapse once and for all, and provide the best foundation possible on which to construct a new life. This opportunity should provide the addict or alcoholic with the necessary skills to finally learn how to live life sober, and set them on a path to which they may then offer a helping hand to the next person who still suffers from this vicious disease. 

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