We need to find a good sober home for my son and we don’t know where to start. What should we be looking for?
My son has been in treatment for almost ninety days. We are so optimistic but still don’t feel like him coming home is in his best interest or ours. We decided that he would need to have a year of continued sobriety before we would discuss home as an option. We have heard so many awful stories about recovery or sober homes that we aren’t sure how to go about finding a good one. Can you help?
Sober or recovery housing is often unregulated. Some states seem to be trying to change this, but even in states where there is an association, they are often not enough. The National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR, https://narronline.org/) lists the twenty-six states that have boards overseeing recovery housing and the other states that are in the process of developing oversight.
NARR has information and a code of ethics that can help you get an idea of what you should be looking for when choosing a sober house. Being affiliated with one of these states’ organizations is by no means a guarantee that you will be choosing a good house, but when a recovery residence chooses to be a part of a governing organization, the likelihood of it trying to adhere to a higher standard is greater.
It is reasonable to ask to tour the house before choosing it. When I look for a sober house, I ask for references from other parents. I also request to see where in the house Narcan is available. I suggest checking to see if there have been frequent neighborhood complaints or visits to the house by police and emergency medical services. Ask if the house has rules and what the consequences are for breaking a rule. Do they assign chores? Is there a weekly house meeting? How frequently do they drug-test, and is it done occasionally without notice? Will they do a quick-screen urine drug test without notice? Do they require that all residents work or attend school? Is there a mandatory number of meetings a person must attend to remain in the house?
I’m a firm believer that the first year of recovery is best done in a structured, supported atmosphere among others who are working on their recovery. The right house gives our loved ones their best opportunity for success, so choosing carefully and thoughtfully is of the utmost importance. If at all possible, involve your son in the process. If he is motivated, he may be your best resource. Knowing that finding a good house is a process that will happen while he is in treatment, you should also involve his treatment team. The combination of everyone working together to find the best fit and your ability to check on the suggestions gives your son a better chance of finding a house that is the right fit for him.
Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.
Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan, and NAADAC-approved FAST: Family-Focused Addiction Support Training. You can learn more about her at www.maureencavanagh.net
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