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Working in Sober Living

In my early days of working in sober living, I anticipated the glamour of “saving lives”. Young men would enter, and I imagined I would aid in transforming their life by the end of their stay. This illusion, however, was soon smashed when I learned of the real goals behind sober living; to motivate the unmotivated, to accomplish measurable goals, and to plant a seed in the mind of a young man in early recovery.

To motivate the unmotivated is not an easy task. Many of the young men who enter addiction treatment then sober living have lived much of their lives taking the easier, softer way. In a majority of cases the resident has been enabled or cared for. Some guardian, partner, or government entity has paid the bills, did the laundry, arranged appointments, etcetera. These things coupled with years of drug abuse don’t make learning how to grow up easy. The current system of addiction treatment centers do not teach these valuable skills, therefore the young adults get out of 30ish days of treatment and are lost and do not know how to function in the world without drugs or alcohol.

An addict in early recovery has yet to learn how to a get out of bed early and begin accomplishing small tasks throughout the day. As a Recovery Specialist at Surfside, it’s my duty to motivate these men to complete these small goals. There may be some ambivalence; however, each case is different. Some require an optimistic smile and gentle push for motivation, while others require a sit-down accompanied by strict accountability. Holding these young men accountable for their actions is a large part of my responsibilities working in sober living. My philosophy is simple; if residents’ poor behaviors aren’t challenged, if I fail to hold them accountable, I am doing them a disservice. To hold an addict accountable is to express my love for them—whether they agree with it or not.

To expect a young man to enter sober living as a liar, cheater, and procrastinator, on top of an addict or alcoholic, and leave cured is an expectation I will continue to be let down by. Rome wasn’t built in a day. One doesn’t pick up an algebra textbook and turn to “Chapter 12—Quadratic Equations”. That being said, with consistent support through trials and tribulations anyone that has some willingness can find true success in recovery and the world around them. Small goals—Wake up at 7:30am, make your bed, complete your chore will lead one to accomplish the larger goals—attain employment, a valid driver’s license, and ultimately, self-sustainment in recovery.

My job as a Recovery Specialist is to plant the seed. This means to provide young men with an opportunity to see what recovery has to offer. I get to show these young men an opportunity to experience the fun in recovery, the dignity and pride they will feel through accomplishing small goals, the brotherhood and friendships found within the house. To feel freedom from the bondage of self is an experience they are sure to yearn for again and again.

-John Pelikan

To learn more about John and the other staff please click HERE