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I Manage Two Sober Homes

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As a manager of two Sober Houses, both of which are MASH (Massachusetts Alliance of Sober Houses) certified, I feel that I should address some common misperceptions that exist about these "facilities." First, Sober Houses are independently managed houses, even those certified by MASH, and what this means is that every house operates with its own set of guidelines, expectations, and level of involvement on the part of management in participants' lives.


In my case, we are very careful about who we admit to our houses. They must have graduated from a DPH licensed Half-way house prior to admission, and have left the facility in good standing. They also must be capable of supporting themselves financially, and have a good record of working with others in a residential environment. We encourage MAT involvement, but we do NOT monitor its use… We feel that by this point, individuals have demonstrated that they can manage their own lives, but benefit from living with other people who are also committed to a life of recovery.

What recovery means to us is not necessarily defined by 12-Step adherence, though we have found that people who are truly committed to 12-Step concepts are usually at a place where they are actively reflecting on their life process, and working on ways to engage with respect and empathy with others attempting to do the same thing. Our house is truly independent living, and people who are not ready to start living on their own and be committed to abstinence do not fare well in our houses.

One of the most difficult challenges I face as a "landlord" who is not running a "program" is what happens when people relapse. We always give people a chance to re-engage in formal treatment, and upon completion of that phase of re-calibration, return to the house with some additional conditions attached to their re-admission. There always comes a time when this process fails, and people find themselves going through formal eviction processes, which is the worst part of trying to work with people in these environments. I feel that parents/loved-ones must understand that well-managed Sober Houses are really limited in what they can do to "manage" people's behavior, just as parents experience when their children behave in ways that cause them to ask them to leave their homes. Ultimately, true independence requires responsibility, integrity and honest communication with others. It is the MOST difficult part of living in this world, particularly when addiction is part of the picture. Just know that Sober Houses are not responsible for managing people's lives… people themselves are responsible for their actions, and just like with "normal" life experience, when people cannot act responsibly, they often lose their living situations, and the reality of "un-manageability", sadly, emerges once again.

— Allies in Recovery member 25Coronet



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. My son’s halfway and sober house experiences were disasters.

    The halfway home was run by people who professed to be licensed counselors. In reality, they were former addicts who took a Saturday course to become a “LADC1 counselor – supposedly the highest level of addiction counseling. However, the “counselor” he got was an unethical man who had a friend he met in his own rehab program who needed a bed. So he lied about my son’s behavior and got him kicked out. With witnesses who attested to my son’s treatment by his “counselor,” my son filed a formal complaint with the overseeing board. He subsequently received a phone call from the investigator to say he received the complaint, but then never heard from him again. The “counselor” continues to work at the halfway home and continues to abuse his authority over other residents. It seems my son’s dismissal is commonplace at the halfway house.

    At my son’s sober house, most of the residents were engaged in some form of substance abuse, whether steroids, alcohol or illegal drugs. My son was called a “pussy” by the other residents for remaining sober; they perceived his attempts to stay clean as a personal insult to their substance use.

    The owner of the home KNOWS about the situation (both substance abuse and mob mentality) and does nothing; he was only concerned about collecting the rent. Because there were openings in the home, he also started allowing young men who aged out of the Department of Youth Services program to live there. Within a week, there were local gang-related incidents of intimidation and violence.

    There was no reasonable recourse. Had my son reported the situation, he would have become a target. So he left. To add insult to injury, his former company sent his last paycheck to his sober home address, and one of the residents refused to give it to him. Calls to the sober house owner are not returned. He had to call his company to request a new paycheck.

    It’s very disheartening to realize that the best place for my son to be supported in his sobriety is a homeless shelter. At least there, he has someone overseeing the place and trying to get him affordable housing.

    The treatment homes for addicts are a disgrace.

    1. It is disheartening to read this post. As someone who possesses a LADC1, and has worked in the field for over 15 years, I can assure you that anyone in possession of such licensure does not receive this certification through a “saturday” course. Extensive educational experience is required, in addition to substantial clinical supervision followed by a board certification examination process. Having said that, it is also true that not all professionals are equal. Be aware that you can always validate anyone’s credentials by accessing the BSAS/DPH website, where licensed alcohol and drug counseols with valid licensed are listed.
      I wonder if the “halfway” house you are describing was a DPH licensed and contracted facility… the description you give makes me wonder if it really was. BSAS (Bureau of Substance Addiction Services) does thorough investigations with complaints it receives, and as someone who has gone through the investigation process, I can assure you that they take this process quite seriously. Much of what you allege here seems questionable, and all too often the emotions that are stirred up in early recovery/treatment cloud objective evaluation. As someone who benefited from an experience in a DPH contracted facility, and was subsequently able to go on and devote over a decade of my life working in that evnironment, I feel that it was and continues to be, a life saving experience for me. I will never claim that the experience I was fortunate enough to receive was a “disgrace.”

  2. Wish there were a way to connect with you to discuss and compare notes and especially resources to help parent/caregivers and entire families of the guests who are in your home/s. I’ve only skimmed your posts, but will read them in more detail. – Take care.

    1. Hello all, just a reminder that the private message feature is available, by clicking on a member’s username. That being said, I think that many of us could benefit from reading an exchange online, for example on this thread.