Sober Living has Different Forms
The first type of sober living I attempted as an eighteen-year-old. I had been discharged from a detoxification unit and entered a six-bedroom home containing approximately twenty-five men of all ages. There were no urine samples taken—all that was requested of me was my first month’s rent. Furthermore, there was no curfew which was enforced nor any structure or accountability to attend 12-step meetings. In the backyard was a ripped weight bench and an overgrown lawn which housed a broken-down car missing a door. I have come to know these types as housing structures that will allow you to share a small room with four other men in bunkbeds, provided you make a rent payment before the due date—a glorified rooming house. These types are owned by one person. Some are not even as close to as bad as what I experienced but the truth is there are many out there set up the same….no rules or regulations.
Another type of sober living are Oxford Houses. These are an additional type of sober living that should be more structured, employing a self-run self-supported recovery setting. For the Northeast region there are 3 formal staff that spread their time among hundreds of houses; New Jersey alone has well over 100 houses. The residents vote on matters of admission and discharge, amongst other important topics, like if someone uses should they get kicked out. While the Oxford housing structure holds potential for success, the downfalls for young adults are great. This may be due to the lack of 12-step application or lack of authority and true mentorship. Often, the president of the home is seldom present due to employment or relationship status. Rather than becoming role models, the residents return to their old behaviors of codependency in relationships or become workaholics. If chores are not completed, the resident may receive a fine or another type of penalty/demerit. As stated previously, Oxford housing carries great potential; however, it is common for the house to become a “Frat house” rather than a supportive, constructive environment. The main issue is that it is almost impossible to know if a house is “healthy” or not unless you personally know someone living in the home. Many Oxford Houses in Atlantic County are behind in bills and struggle to keep sober individuals in the house.
Lastly, Structured sober living houses are yet another option in sober living. These, like the other options are also on a spectrum. Structured sober living houses employ staff; some only have one or two people that may check in on a few houses each day and others could have live in house managers, operation managers, and recovery specialists. Structured sober living homes employ a variety of tactics to aid in the addict or alcoholic to adjust back into life. The better houses are more like formal programs that offer frequent drug screening, a rigorous schedule, consistent accountability, positive role models and staff, and phase progression set this type of sober living apart. Positioning someone in early recovery directly into a house where they are expected to attain immediate employment and expecting them to become self-supporting and responsible adults is a set-up for failure. Conversely, gradually teaching a recovering addict to prepare meals, properly clean a home, create a quality resume, communicate with employers, and attain employment is much more likely to result in successful long-term sobriety in recovery.
Sober living in New Jersey comes in many forms. It is very important one does their due diligence before selecting a home to move into. It is illegal to offer free sober living in NJ if the person attends a specific addiction treatment center. It is also important to note that sometimes families confuse housing for partial care or intensive outpatient for sober living. The difference is that someone can stay in Sober Living as long as they may need; if someone is living in housing for partial care or intensive outpatient they will need to move out once their insurance is used up at the treatment center. New Jersey Sober Living is regulated by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The DCA has a “Class F” license that needs to be issued to the operator to determine appropriate safety is in place. The first of the above mentioned options and the third must be licensed.
For questions about specific options of different sober living houses in NJ call 609.709.4205