Sober Living in NJ needs an overhaul | Time for a change
As the nation is facing an epidemic what does sober living in NJ and other states really need? During an unrelenting and outright decimation of an entire generation. This concept is overwhelming when it truly considered at its core. According to the New York Times, there were 72,000 overdose deaths that occurred in 2017 (Sanger-Katz, 2018). This figure is greater than the losses incurred throughout the entirety of the Vietnam War. One might think this to be a dramatic example- to compare substance abuse to war. Make no mistake about it, today’s younger generations are at war. A war for their very lives, as sober living houses continue to open and continue to expect these young adults to get a job and fend for themselves after just a few days clean.
This example may seem far fetched. It may appear to be a problem, but it is occurring so regularly that one can become numb to it. That is, until it happens to someone you love. When a loved one such as a significant other, or even a child, develops the symptoms of substance use disorder, it can be an emotional roller coaster. The revolving door of sober living in NJ becomes relentless and even worse in other states like Florida and California. Having hopes rise to only be crushed again and again as families are told “this sober living is better” but with no real evidence that it is nothing more then a bed to sleep in. Worse yet, for those who became casualties- leaving behind families who have no answer, no closure, and no peace. This is an epidemic that affects everyone. Whether they are aware or not.
This is especially devastating to the young people growing up in the middle of this crisis. Young adults who have been emotionally stunted by the onset of substance abuse. Young people who have limited to no coping skills in conjunction with emotional immaturity that leads to the only escape they understand and can see via the substance. These young people are set up for failure with the manner in which treatment is currently delivered. They are medically stabilized, given education, therapy, and services for usually 28 days (if they are lucky) and are steeped down to usually a half rate sober living and outpatient services.
When these young people transition to these lower levels of care, they are expected perform in a manner they may simply not be capable of. To attend 3 hour group therapy sessions, usually for 3 days a week, in which they are asked to “talk about their feelings” when they cant even understand nor identify how they feel. So they carry out the request with as much motivation as they are capable of mustering in the emotionally taxed state that they are in without the comfort of a substance. However, this accounts for nine hours in a week. What of the rest of their time? How are they to conduct themselves when in most instances, they have limited to no life skills. They can’t budget, they can’t cook (hot dogs and grilled cheese does not count), they have never held a decent job. In essence, they are expected to do all these things that they’ve never learned to do, which leaves them in a state of perpetual hopelessness and by default, perpetual relapse. These young people act like its okay, like everything is going well, but inside, they begin to obsess over the release that came from using the substance. Take a trip to the local sober living and you will see new nikes, fresh hair cuts, young adults hanging out, bathrooms that have not been cleaned, dirty dishes, and fridges that are empty because eating at the local Wawa is all they know.
Sober living homes in NJ are missing these components, which is a significant issue for young males age 18-34 years old. In most cases, they have not developed the necessary life skills to be independent. Many of them began using substances in early adolescence, sometimes pre adolescence! This population is unfortunately left to fend for themselves and often fall through the cracks, leading to a steady increase in the number of fatalities. How is it that these young men, with all of the potential in the world, continually keep falling short. How is it that for the first time in the nation’s history, the leading cause of death in individuals thirty years of age and under is overdose (Sanger-Katz, 2018)? The answer is obvious- that we are approaching substance abuse treatment for this population in the wrong way!
The way sober living in NJ and other states should be
This is where a new perspective on approach needs to be explored. A perspective in which, not only is the treatment for substance abuse addressed, but also these areas of critical life development. An integrated approach of not only clinical treatment, but also 12-step, occupational skills, life skills, and old fashion independence training. An approach that incorporates physical activity. One that encompasses each and every area that needs addressing in this specific population. This is where a program is needed that accounts for each of these variables. A true structured sober living that is integrated with each of the clinical, medical, and occupational agencies that are necessary to address each of the problematic facets. A program that is vested on the foundation of the spiritual principles of the twelve steps. Individualized and tailored to suit each individual that crosses the threshold. Staff that has been trained and specializes in the addressing of each of these needs. Not just staff, but individuals with personal experience as well. This personal experience creates an internal empathy and passion that cannot be counterfeited.
At first glance, such a program would be out of reach for anyone but the upper elite, those with unlimited financial resources as an integrated approach such as this must be tremendously costly. However, despite any thoughts to the contrary, there is such a program with a reasonable and affordable cost. This program helps to fill the cracks that the current treatment approach leaves gaping. This program admits boys and graduates men. This program covers each of the missing variables and remains true to its 12-step roots. This program has become a life changing experience to many. It is a sober living in NJ and the program is Surfside Structured Sober Living.
Sanger-Katz, M. (2018, August 15). Bleak New Estimates in Drug Epidemic: A Record 72,000 Overdose Deaths in 2017. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/upshot/opioids-overdose-deaths-rising-fentanyl.html