Halfway houses, often referred to as sober homes, recovery residences or transitional living homes, can be an important step in one’s recovery from substance use disorders. They can also sideline it. Today’s guest author, Parker Sean, tackles this subject, explaining, “In my recovery journey, I have seen and heard many horror stories about “flophouse” style residences that do not encourage sobriety. I have lived in halfway houses in the past, most recently finding myself in one that has a tremendous success rate at helping people maintain a sober lifestyle. From working in the industry, I can see the influx of subpar sober homes is both dangerous to the addict and harmful to the entire community.”
Parker is a frequent guest author on various sites sharing his pragmatic, yet introspective take on substance abuse recovery bridges the gap between science and firsthand experience. He is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Ambrosia Treatment Center in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
7 Things Every Halfway House MUST Have by Parker Sean
For anyone who struggles with addiction, completing a program at a treatment facility is a huge step in the right direction. In treatment individuals will learn things about themselves and gain the tools to remain sober in the real world. But then comes the big question, then what? Inpatient treatment doesn’t last forever, and it’s known that many people with dependence issues relapse immediately after leaving treatment if they do not have a proper plan of action. Therefore, it’s vital that an aftercare procedure is in place before the subject steps out of the recovery facility.
Enter the halfway house. They are known by many different names: sober homes, recovery residences, transitional living, but they all have one thing in common: it is a place to live in a sober environment. As the stopping point between rehab and the real world, this step in the recovery process is an often overlooked, but necessary step for those who struggle with the disease of addiction.
The term halfway house has become somewhat of a dirty word in recent years. Horror stories are abundant, giving recovery residences a bad reputation as roach-infested flop-houses. For some, it can turn into a difficult and stressful selection process, but the important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The following checklist contains vital characteristics that any good sober home will have. Use it wisely.
1. Is the halfway house really a sober environment? This one might sound obvious, and it should be. But the disappointing fact is that many recovery houses don’t enforce the rules as they should. And the number one rule in any structured, sober environment should be “If you get high, you can’t live here.” This should include any mind or mood altering substance, not just the ones listed on the 12 panel urine tests at the local pharmacy. It is extremely difficult, if not almost impossible to stay sober in an environment where people are using.
2. Is it certified? Depending on the state you live in, there are several certifications that halfway houses can attain from various associations. Unfortunately, these accreditations are suggested, but not required to open and run a recovery home. A great example of one of these associations to check for is FARR (Florida Association of Recovery Residences). FARR sets the bar high in Florida. They physically inspect each house to check for items ranging from cleanliness to having the proper amount of fire extinguishers. Not every state has an organization like FARR, but many have an equivalent.
3. Where is it located? To be fair, there are good halfway houses in all different kinds of neighborhoods, and just because a house is located in nice area does not make it a good place to get sober. The important thing to remember is “Do I feel safe?” A recovery home located in a bad neighborhood can be okay for some, and extremely triggering for others. If temptation is around every corner, it may be wise to look somewhere else. Also, are jobs available in the area? Are meetings located close by? These are all important questions to ask, especially if transportation is an issue.
4. Is there structure, accountability and responsibility? Recovery goes way beyond abstinence. It’s a complete lifestyle change, and these changes start at home. Most recovery homes have a house manager to keep things in order, establish rules and make sure everyone does their part in taking care of things around the house. Many houses have extra requirements such as having a sponsor, working a 12-step program, and being home in time for a curfew. While these rules may seem strict or unnecessary, the idea is to build a foundation for a manageable, successful life. Discontinuing old habits that went along with using drugs or drinking does wonders to keep people who live here maintain long-term sobriety.
5. Is it clean? No one wants to live in a dirty home. A community that takes pride in keeping things neat and orderly is a quick indicator that residents that are respectful and courteous to one other. Halfway houses are notorious for being unkempt, which can be a breeding ground for both germs and resentments, so a lot can be said about a clean one. If the individuals who live in the house are willing to go the extra mile when it comes to chores, there is a good chance they will go the extra mile to extend a helping hand to the newcomer.
6. Is the halfway house associated with a treatment center, intensive outpatient program or other sober homes?
There are plenty of pros and cons on either side of the coin. Sober living environments that are affiliated or owned by entrepreneurs in the substance abuse treatment industry tend to come with more resources. But be very weary of those that offer free or discounted rent if they can charge resident’s insurance companies while they are there. First of all, it is illegal, and the residence runs the risk of being shut down, which causes some major headaches. Also, getting a job and paying rent is a fast track to real life, and that’s why these places exist in the first place.
7. What are the other residents like? Attitudes and behaviors are everything in sobriety. Since anyone is likely emulate the people they interact with, try to find a structured recovery house with residents that are focused on their recovery. Maintaining a healthy and sober lifestyle can be overwhelming at first, so a community with camaraderie and friendship is an unbelievably valuable asset.
Is it realistic to think that sober living environments will pass every one of these tests with flying colors? Probably not. If possible, tour the community before moving in. A simple walkthrough will reveal how the place operates on a day-to-day basis.
Remember, these residences serve the purpose of providing a smooth transition from a treatment environment to the real world as a place that fosters growth in both sobriety and life in general. With these tools and some preparation, a transitional living home can be the next step in the rewarding journey of recovery. Just remember, not all halfway houses are created equal.