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Today, I heard from an old friend. Someone who used to be sober but relapsed over 2 years ago. She is 48 hours into her detox, so dopesick she can’t even sit up in a chair. I remember what those early hours of sobriety looked like for me. How quickly we forget the anguish and suffering that used to be the only steady part of our lives.

I spent years knowing I had lost control while still holding onto the shred of hope that I could somehow “make it work”. An early death was something I had resigned to before even reaching the age of 18. I knew drugs and alcohol were going to kill me. The deep, insatiable desire for them came on almost immediately after I began using. My obsession with them would override everything; days, weeks and months would disappear before my eyes. Early on, I might have been able to moderate my consumption of substances but I had no desire to. Sometimes I would substitute using people, food or money to make up for the drugs I couldn’t get. But as my alcoholism grew over time, those things no longer worked on their own. I found myself having to act out in unhealthy ways regardless if I was strung out or not; and mostly, I was strung out.

The shame, emotional pain, confusion and rage made normal life impossible. Even if I was able to attain a “normal” life, enjoyment of it would have been unthinkable. If I could have seen into the future at the life I have today, I just wouldn’t have believed it. I knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t make it on my own. I needed help. I needed something other than my own ideas. That is what lead me to the rooms of 12-step meetings.

The tricky nature of alcoholism is its ability to confound and baffle people who know the alcoholic almost as much as the alcoholic themselves. I have been in a place of desperation countless times before I got myself to a meeting. I just didn’t know what was possible on the other side of alcoholism. I didn’t know that once I had admitted to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic, that I had already begun the process of transforming my life. There is freedom in admitting complete defeat. I just have to remain willing and open to new direction and experiences. This is a daily action for me, a step that I take every day with the knowledge that a spiritual solution is the only option for an alcoholic like me.

  1. They are all in bad neighborhoods

While sober living homes can range in locations usually matching an individuals budget, they are not all in bad neighborhoods. Some do resemble the dark and dilapidated areas addicts turn to when they are getting high but the majority are in stable and comfortable areas. People may be surprised when driving through nicer communities in their local town to learn that the well kept home down the street actually houses a group of men or women looking to better their lives.

  1. The homes are run down and poorly kept

This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that the homes are in questionable neighborhoods. The aim of any reputable sober living home is to provide the same or better quality and comfort than the addict had at home. Imagine trying to begin a new chapter in your life and better yourself only to call a place home that resembles the condemned house that you used to pick up your drugs at. For this reason and many more, sober living homes make it a special point to provide homes with amenities and creature comforts found in higher end homes today. It is not uncommon to be greeted by hardwood floors, Travertine tile, marble counter tops, and plush leather furnishings.

  1. Sober Living is not necessary after treatment

On the contrary, sober living is one of the few ways to set up an individual in recovery for success. It is still up to the individual to do the leg work but sober living homes provide the stable and structured environment one needs to successfully transition back into their day-to-day life. While a 30, 60, or 90 inpatient program would represent the triage and emergency services a patient would receive after a horrible accident. Sober living is akin to the follow up visits and continuing care after a patient has been stabilized. A sober living home allows men and women who are still in a critical early point of recovery to rejoin life while still having the accountability needed for long term success.

  1. They are unregulated

Many people believe that sober living homes are unregulated, or even worse, fraudulent money making schemes. While a simple Google search can reveal the dark side of “sober living homes”, it is important to remember that the true facilities are operating to help those suffering from addiction. Yes, they are businesses and need to make a profit to continue to help the future recovering alcoholics and addicts, but they do not do so at the sake of their current clients. Sober living homes, depending upon the state they lie in, are subject to regulation through zoning laws, state housing departments, state and municipal healthcare regulations and regulation specific to sober living communities and homes. While it would be nice to say every home is operating for benevolent reasons, it is important to research the home your loved one chooses to continue their journey in sobriety. The best place to start is the inpatient treatment facility your loved one is currently undergoing treatment at; the counselors and staff will know which places have good or poor reputations.

  1. They are havens for continued drug use.

Like most things in life you get what you pay for. If it is cheap, it is cheap for a reason. A sober living home is exactly that; a home where each of clients is guaranteed to be able to come home and not be tempted by the same environment they had just left. Each home has their own rules for what happens in the event of relapse and be sure to discuss this with the director of the home. Rules can vary from speaking with their counselor to ensure it does not happen again, to being asked to leave the home temporarily until the individual is able to test clean of all drugs, to asking any individual to leave the home in the event of any drug use.  Companies that have been in business even for a short time will have seen cases of relapse and will have plans to handle each case accordingly.

More importantly, if a sober living has a good reputation, it enjoys it for a reason. They have built it over time and through the ability to foster success stories. They work with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds in the toughest and most mentally challenging moments of their lives to show them a better way to live. One of the reason they are so successful is because the best homes are truly that, a safe home for your loved one.

The first time I took an inventory of myself, it was because I had to. I was in a treatment program. A judge had sentenced me there “for as long as it takes.” The treatment staff wasn’t going to let me out until I sat down and took a look at myself.

“A searching and fearless moral inventory” is what Step Four of Alcoholics Anonymous recommends. I was over- whelmed by the process. All I saw was this big blur of myself. I started writing about one small aspect of myself that I was able to recognize. Within minutes, I saw more. This inventory process took on a life of its own.

What was I aware of about myself that was a problem? What was bugging me most, the thing about myself I least wanted any other human being to know? What was the thing I least wanted to admit to myself? What did I fear and whom did I resent?

We were supposed to also inventory the good qualities about ourselves. I couldn’t find any of those.

“You’re persistent,” the clergy person at treatment said. I hung onto that asset for years. I thought it was my only good quality.

It’s an interesting phenomenon – how quick and easy it is to see qualities we like in other people. It’s also a snap to see what we don’t like in other people, qualities that we think they should change. Taking other people’s inventories is a breeze. Taking our own is hard work.

The year was 1982. My husband (at the time) wanted to go to Las Vegas. I wanted him to stay home, but I didn’t know how to express how I felt. About the third night he was gone, I felt that anxiety in my gut. I knew he was out of control, drinking again. I had a party planned for the next morning. I was throwing an open house for a neighbor graduating from college. Eighty people were due to show up. My husband was supposed to be home to help.

I didn’t clean my house. I didn’t prepare the food. I sat calling him in Vegas, dialing a number over and over again for eight straight hours. “What he’s doing is crazy,” I kept thinking. “What he’s doing is wrong and nuts.”

About ten o’clock that night, I saw the light. “Eighty people are coming to my home tomorrow, and here I sit, dialing a number that will not be answered? He might be out of control,” I thought, “but what I’m doing is crazy.”

Sometimes we need to take our own inventory to get out of an uncomfortable stuck place, to look at patterns and see what’s going on. Other times, looking at our own behaviors gives us the freedom to finally have and live our lives. Taking our own inventory doesn’t have to be a big gruesome job – although sometimes it is. Rather, it can be a way to stop pointing our finger at others and take responsibility for ourselves.

“We admitted we were powerless…”

Accepting that we cannot control other people’s behavior is a huge step. We want what is best for them, don’t we? Can’t they see that? What we didn’t understand before finding this program was that each individual is on a unique journey. What appears to us the best course to follow may not provide the lessons another person is here to learn.

And it may be dawning on us that one of our key lessons is how to give up trying to control someone else. Sometimes we believe we can control others because our goading or shaming gets them to give in and go along with our demands. However, we’re really not in control. We are still powerless over them, and any time they want to make that clear, they will.

Accepting our powerlessness isn’t a hopeless feeling at all, once we understand it. It offers us profound relief from the burden of responsibility for another person’s life. In time this freedom will make us joyful.

Being in charge of only me today makes my day seem so much easier.

The next section of Camelback Recovery’s educational piece, the Consumer Awareness Guide, is in the works. Here are the 5 Costly Misconceptions of Sober Living Homes:

  1. A structured environment is not necessary at this stage of recovery.
  2. I (Me, Myself, and I) will know when I am ready to move out of the sober living home.
  3. All sober living homes are the same.
  4. The highest priced homes with all of the bells and whistles are the best.
  5. Price is the only consideration when choosing a sober living home.

Keep your eye out for the full version of this section.


Choosing a good sober living house is an important step for those that are in early addiction recovery.  Many of the individuals/families we speak with come to us with many misconceptions regarding sober living homes and the services they provide.  Finding the correct level of care can be a challenge with the staggering number of companies out there to choose from.  Our desire with this document is to clarify the top four areas of misunderstanding that we regularly deal with during the selection process.  Here are four common misconceptions regarding sober living homes:

  1. Sober Living Homes Are Just Like Rehabs

Rehabilitation centers perform a very specific service for their patients.  They are generally staffed by treatment professionals, which include doctors and therapists.  Rehabs generally provide 24 hour care with the patients remaining onsite for most of their stay.  By having doctors on staff, they are able to prescribe and modify medications for their patients.  Many rehabs also have the ability to medically detox patients from the substances that have been abused.

Sober Living Homes are designed to provide transitional care once an individual has been detoxed and received some of the treatments available at a rehab if possible.  The main purpose of sober living is to be that next logical step in an individual’s recovery process.  The home should provide a safe and structured environment for its residents to be able to do the work needed to maintain their sobriety.  This could include returning to their jobs, going to school, doing outpatient therapy or volunteering their services with a worthy organization.  Good sober living homes require that their residents attend 12 Step meeting daily and work with a sponsor.  The combination of these activities will help to build a strong foundation for long-term recovery.

  1. Coed Sober Living Homes Are A Better Option For Residents

Early recovery can be a very confusing time for individuals trying to stay sober.  These first few months can be filled with both anxiety and a range of raw emotions which can make for some uncomfortable moments.  Recovery is work and some people struggle with the amount that is required each day.  Having individuals of the opposite sex living in the same house can quickly become an unnecessary distraction from early recovery work.  Getting caught up in any type of relationship with the opposite sex during this time will usually have disastrous results for both parties.  A good sober living home will provide a gender-specific environment for the safety of their residents.  There is plenty of time in the future for new relationships.  Gender-specific sober living homes care enough to protect their residents from these types of relationships in the early stages of recovery.

  1. Sober Living Residents Should Prepare Their Own Meals

During addiction, nutrition was not an area of concern for most addicts.  Unhealthy eating habits were established and maintained during this time.  Recovery is a time to start learning new healthy habits that will benefit the individual.  Many sober living residents do not have the knowledge or skills to be able to buy and prepare nutritious meals.  Most will simply return to a daily diet of fast food.  Quality sober living homes not only provide meals for their residents, but are very aware of the nutritional benefit of the food that is prepared.  Recovery requires that old habits be broken and healthier ones put in their place.

  1. Living In A Sober Living Home Is Like Living In A Sober Hotel

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The objective of a quality sober living house should not be to do everything for its residents similar to a hotel.  Individuals come to a sober living community to do the work required to support their recovery.  The key word is ‘work.’  Addicts have spent their time in addiction being accountable to no one.  Real recovery is all about acceptance and accountability.  The best way to teach an individual to be accountable is place them in a structured environment where they have a schedule and tasks to complete.  This is no different than what the outside world is going to expect from them.  Each day should start with something as simple as being up at a certain time and making sure your bed is made.  Becoming a responsible adult has to start somewhere, why not with making your bed each day?  Sober living homes should strive to prepare their residents to become self-sufficient during their stay.  Homes that claim to pamper their residents are really doing their clients a disservice.  Structure and accountability are key building blocks to long-term recovery.


“Sojourn” by Camelback, the new 16-bed sober living community, is now open.  Exclusively for men, this sprawling property offers the finest in comfort and luxury amenities. We have an amazing outdoor BBQ and fireplace right around the corner from our crystal clear swimming pool. We have 4 patio areas to choose from, green grass for outdoor sports, and spacious bedrooms. This will be your home away from home. Come home to Sojourn. Call Tim Westbrook for details 602.751.4866.

Find additional pictures at https://www.facebook.com/CamelbackSoberLiving/

Mistake #1:

Choosing a transitional sober living home without a structured program. A structured environment which holds the residents accountable for their actions is necessary for individuals in early recovery.  One key component of our program is to keep the clients on a fixed schedule.  A regular schedule should remain in place once the individual has transitioned to a sober living home.  Something as simple as waking up and having your bed made by 7:30 AM is an important way to build a healthy routine for life.  Adding a daily chore assignment, allows the individual to be accountable for making a contribution to the overall ‘health’ of the house.  It should be required that all residents have a commitment of at least 30 hours each week to a job, school, out-patient treatment or volunteer work.  Instilling a sense of responsibility helps the residents to become functioning members of society.  A structured home should also do random drug testing each week for their residents.  This creates an additional layer of accountability for the individual with their sobriety.  Lastly, the program should be 12 Step based.  The teachings that are contained within the 12 steps provide a healthy foundation for those in early recovery.  12 Step meetings are a key part of each individual’s daily work towards a long-term recovery path.


Mistake #2:

A low price isn’t always a deal: A sober living home that charges a low price typically is not able to have a full-time experienced house manager living on the premises.  Low cost homes may instead use a senior resident as their ‘manager.’  These individuals can have as little as 90 days of sobriety.  The net result is a low level of accountability and supervision at the home.  Homes with a low price point are often not well-maintained.  They can be filthy and infested with various types of pests.  Overcrowding has also plagued this type of home.  The owner will often pack people in at unsafe and unhealthy levels.  Requiring the residents to provide their own meals is also a way to keep the costs down.  Addicts have generally survived eating junk food (if anything at all) and will usually continue down that same path if forced to purchase their own food.  Lastly, many of the bargain sober living homes are located in ‘bad neighborhoods.’  This places their residents in an environment of drugs and other substances that need to be avoided during early recovery.


Mistake #3:

Choosing a sober living home based upon a single telephone call. Do your homework when searching for a sober living home.  Continuing-care therapists from the treatment center are usually a good source for well-qualified homes. These individuals have typically done a fair amount of research and established relationships with reputable sober living homes in the area.  Do not allow yourself to be ‘closed’ during an initial phone call.  What may sound amazing over the phone, may in reality be nothing more than a strong sales pitch.  Always use the initial call to simply gather information.  Always have at least 3 questions ready to be asked during your conversation.  When possible, always try to compare a number of homes before reaching a final decision.


Mistake #4:

Choosing a transitional recovery home that does not include meals or provide guidance on meal selection and nutrition. Most addicts come into early sobriety malnourished.  They have usually become accustomed to a steady diet of fast food.  Addiction recovery is about establishing new healthy habits.  Nutrition needs to play an important role in an overall recovery program.  The house should make available healthy meals for consumption and have no junk food for snacking.  Nutritional education on what constitutes a ‘balanced’ meal should be a part of the house’s program.  There should be an understanding of the role that a healthy mind and body play in early sobriety.  Food serves as the fuel for the body and making wise meal choices can help to repair some of the damage that occurred during addiction.


Mistake #5:

Choosing a sober living home that is not a member of a local recovery organization. Here in Arizona, we have AzRHA (Arizona Recovery Housing Association).  In order to be a member of AzRHA, a sober living home must meet certain quality standards. The sober living home will undergo a rigorous inspection of all aspects of the business prior to being accepted into AzRHA.  Other parts of the country may have their own organizations that help to maintain a high level of quality care for sober living home residents.  Be sure to ask about what organizations they belong to in the community.


Mistake #6:

Choosing a sober living home without getting reference comments from other clients/families. What do past clients have to say about their experiences at the sober living home?  What do their loved ones have to say regarding their observations?  Speaking with current or past clients is a great way to confirm the experiences of others during their stay.  Be sure to have at least 3 questions ready to ask the individuals when speaking with them.  This is an extra step, but well worth the time invested to gather the necessary information for your decision.


Mistake #7:

Choosing a sober living home that is not gender specific. Studies have shown that men and women experience addiction differently.  Each sex has their own specific reasons for turning to drugs and alcohol.  Individuals in early recovery need to avoid any unnecessary distractions.

Coed houses have historically been a place where residents tend to focus on members of the opposite sex as opposed to doing the necessary work for their own recovery. Gender specific homes allow for a healthy fellowship to flourish amongst its residents.


Mistake #8:

Choosing a sober living home based upon location alone. There is more to selecting a home than just having a desirable zip code.  It is important that the house be located close to 12 Step meeting places.  The house should also be near a method of public transportation for those that are not able to drive themselves.  Be sure that the house is situated a reasonable distance from most of the locations that will be traveled to each week.  There should be many points that are used in order to select the right sober living home.  Is it 12 Step based?  Is there a full time experienced manager living on the premises?  Do they provide healthy meals?  Is there a sense of structure to their overall program?  Being prepared and seeking answers to the right questions will help you to make the best decision in this important step down the path of long-term recovery.


An educational service provided by Camelback Recovery LLC, specialist in sober living communiities. www.camelbackrecovery.com. 602.751.4866.

Camelback Recovery is excited to announce that we will be opening a beautiful sober living residence for women towards the end of August. The women will enjoy the same pampering amenities that Camelback has been known for during the last two plus years.  Our philosophy is to provide a nurturing environment that provides each individual with a safe and healthy home to support them in their early recovery work.  The foundation of our recovery community is based upon the 12 Steps.  The home is centrally located in the picturesque community of Arcadia (Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona).  Our location provides a close proximity to gyms, yoga studios, healthy restaurants, hiking paths and shopping malls.  Camelback Recovery has been a leader in the sober living community by offering their residents a luxurious home away from home during their stay.  For more information, contact Tim Westbrook at 602.751.4866 or tim@camelbackrecovery.com.