When I pull into my driveway after work, there is a sense of serenity and joy.  The stressors of the day often fade before the garage door even opens.  My home is not the house: it is defined by my family and the love and support we share.  For many individuals after inpatient treatment for Substance Use Disorder(s), there is no home to return to, or it is the same one which played a significant role fueling their substance use.

 

Man lying down on the floor after a drug overdose

One of the first acronyms someone in early recovery might hear is SOBER (Son of a B****, Everything’s Real). It can be a time of terror and uncertainty, extreme loneliness, and not knowing who to turn to for support.  Paying bills, making appointments, job applications and many other day-to-day tasks can be overwhelming.  Without proper support, the danger of relapse is significant and may lead to tragedy and death.

Katherine Thom, in her SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) article, Recovery Homes Help People in Early Recovery, offers hope.  She begins by quoting Lori Criss, Associate Director of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers, who explains why the phrase, “People, Places and Things” has so much influence in the recovery community. “Who we spend our time with, where we go, and the things we surround ourselves with all impact who we are and the decisions that we make. Many times, people in early recovery have to give up everything they’ve known… because those people, places, and things put them at risk for relapse or continued use. Early recovery can be painful and isolating. Recovery housing can fill that void with a safe place, compassionate people, and a life full of purpose and fun that doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs,” says Criss (Thom, 2013).

The idea is not a new one.  It is gaining traction nationally and here in Vermont.  And there is a desperate need to expand access.  Recovery homes are an effective and reasonably priced option.  They provide a safe environment that empowers residents on their journey of recovery.  Empowerment through support to achieve independence is what we as parents try to provide for our children.  And the sober home model offers that second chance where one can redefine their life, make a difference, view one’s contribution as valuable, and consequently, feel valuable.

According to Thom, Criss is proposing private-public partnerships to create more recovery homes which offer services for lower socio-economic individuals with Substance Use Disorder(s). Criss suggests, “A responsive system will provide access to affordable, mainstream housing where people can be safely housed and supported in recovery at their own pace. The strength of recovery-focused housing is its ability to provide ongoing peer support while promoting sobriety in a natural home environment” (Thom, 2013).

No one willingly chooses a life dominated by substance use, just as no one willingly agrees to the return of cancer after treatment.  We should embrace and treat those striving for a life of recovery as the truly remarkable and deserving survivors they are.  Substance Use Disorder is not a choice.  It is an illness, period!

Unintentionally, I take for granted just how privileged I am.  It is something everyone should have and what every home should feel like.

Learn about the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) at: National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) Their mission is “To support persons in recovery from addiction by improving their access to quality recovery residences through standards, support services, placement, education, research and advocacy.”

And learn about the Vermont Association of Recovery Residences at: https://narronline.org/cm-business/vermont-association-of-recovery-residences/

Reference

Thom, K. (2013).  Recovery Homes Help People in Early Recovery.  SAMSHA.  Retrieved October 16, 2017 from: https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/recovery-homes-help-people

Ron Stankevich MSW, MSA, AAP

Ron is the Social Impact Coordinator for Aspenti Health. In his role, he has helped to develop innovative and values-added visioning and strategy to implement and support outreach programs that positively impact our patients, providers, and the broader ecosystem of the prevention, treatment and recovery communities we serve. He has implemented our Social Mission and collaborates with community leaders on best practice for initiatives designed to support vulnerable populations. Ron is an Apprentice Addiction Professional and holds two advanced degrees: Master of Social Work, University of Vermont, and Master of Science in Administration, Saint Michael’s College. He is a member of the VFOR Board of Directors and a committee member for the Local Intergency Team, VAMHAR’s Friends of Recovery Vermont, and the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance workforce development team.