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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Women & Sober Living

By Meena Khattak

When I got out of 28 days of inpatient treatment, life as I knew it — was pretty much the way I left it, a mess. My life, family, home, choices and everything in my environment still reflected the chaos I had lived in as the result of my alcoholism and addiction. Unfortunately for me, 28 days of inpatient had been lovely and I highly recommend it to this day, but was by no means the quick fix I sought. 
My family relationships and finances were a wreck, and most frightening was the level of delusion and denial I was in. During discharge from treatment, my counselors set up aftercare plans. We went through a standard discharge packet with names and phone numbers of people I planned to call if I got into trouble. There was a schedule form for my planned activities and meetings and I was enrolled in an Intensive Outpatient Program. 
I don’t know if I truly intended to follow through and call those people, and whether or not I planned to make it to this or that meeting, but once I had my car and a little bit of cash it was only a matter of time before I was off and running again. I didn’t know how to make the right choices in regards to people, places, and things. 

Within six weeks of my discharge from rehab, I was arrested for the first time in my life. I went on a binge resulting in 3 arrests, the loss of custody of my children, and a couple of overdoses before I was done. I was broken. Everyone in my life thought I was lost to the disease of addiction forever. Sadly, I thought so too. 
Yet today I am clacking away on my laptop at my favorite downtown coffee shop, which I can be found doing at least 3 times a week as I am finishing up my Master’s in Addiction Counseling. I have lots of papers to write and I need the peace and quiet as I own a successful business and have full custody of my 2 children. I often look at my journey to recovery and ask: how did that happen? 
I believe it is a multitude of factors and a lot of luck that contributed, but I will say that after a 9 month run post-rehab, I made it into a Sober Living facility. I hated every minute of it, but there I began to learn how to live. It certainly wasn’t perfect and I had this notion, for about 3 months of my 4 month stay, that if I could just get some of my stuff back, get my family to trust me, and deal with all my legal consequences I would be able to casually drink and use, “like a normal person.” I was still delusional, but I was separated from the trappings of my drinking and using life and this pseudo alternative drug culture I had wrapped myself in. I was forced to be uncomfortable living with other women, make friends with them, and be accountable with drug tests and 12 –step recovery meetings. I was made to get a sponsor and start working the steps. In treatment there simply isn’t time to learn this type of information much less process it. When you’re in treatment, you are dealing with the acute symptoms of withdrawal and when someone is talking about a sponsor and a book it doesn’t seem real. 

Now I’m an advocate for Sober Living after inpatient treatment because I believe that it works and it makes sense. The education and separation from substances begins in treatment and can be extended with a stay in Sober Living. The bubble of treatment is there, but one can experience the tests that “real life” inevitably brings in a supportive environment with people going through the same trials and triumphs. When I was in treatment a few years ago referral to Recovery Housing or Sober Living wasn’t emphasized and there wasn’t an abundance of great options. Today it is a little different, but I think women in particular have a specific set of circumstances that don’t allow them to hear the Sober Living option. We certainly want to get right back into our lives, to be a mother, a sister, an aunt, and a daughter. The arguments with the Sober Living option for women usually have the following points:

  • I have to go home.
  • I have to go home to take care of my cat/dog/child/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/plant/anything but myself.
  • I have a sponsor/a schedule/ a meeting list/ a Higher Power. 
  • I have to get back to work. 
  • I just spent 30/60/90 days in treatment.
  • I just can’t afford it.
  • Sober living just isn’t an option. 
  • Are you kidding?

Jokes aside, men and women have a unique set of circumstances, I believe that gender-specific sober living is what works. Men and women use for a variety of different reasons, and gender-specific sober livings are able to address the individual needs of its members. Women in a gender-specific home have the advantage of being able to learn the value of building relationships with other females. We see a lot of broken women who, for most of their lives, unfortunately felt value only through the perspective of the male gaze. All-female sober living allows residents, often for the first time, to focus on themselves and figure out what it is that they truly need and desire out of this life. 
Never mind that statistics show that within one year from discharge of inpatient treatment more than 90 percent of people will relapse. What we find is that the majority of our clients who choose the Sober Living option are not on their first attempt at abstinence. It is not because they don’t want to stay clean when they get out of treatment; it is because essentially they don’t know how. Sober Livings are set up to show you how to remain abstinent through a variety of different programs that vary. If you choose to go, do your research for what will work for you. Do an honest assessment of your needs and I believe if you do, chances are you will find that you can’t stay stopped on your own. 
Recently I was at an alumni meeting of the inpatient treatment facility I attended before my relapse. Twelve alumni were present along with eight current patients. The topic was: “What did you do after you got out of treatment?” I was the first person called on and I looked around the room and said, “What do the majority of alumni here have in common?” I pointed and named each one of the alumni who had been to sober living. Out of the group, 10 have more than a year of sobriety and eight had gone to sober living. That’s powerful. 
 I didn’t leave sober living knowing it all, just like I didn’t leave treatment having this recovery thing figured out. I’m still learning every day,  and now have the chance to be a mother, friend, sister, daughter, and partner. It isn’t a cure-all, but if you want to know how to stay clean and sober, a Sober Living home can show you how.