Sober Housing

Georgia Jones (Photo by Sarah Whiting)

When I was growing up in the 1990s, the disease of addiction was not something we spoke about in our family. We normalized it. We lived by the code of the invisible rule: what’s done in the house stays in the house. Years later I realized that turning a blind eye and keeping silent perpetuate dysfunction. 

As a teen, I abused alcohol and was on the fast track to an addiction. I was awakened by parenthood. As a teenage mom of two, the odds were already stacked against me. I didn’t like the idea of struggling with an alcohol addiction as well. I was dedicated to ensuring my children had an opportunity to a life that the disease of addiction took away from me. 

Since then, my entire professional career has been dedicated to housing. This included working at housing advocacy organizations, homeless shelters, housing for women leaving sex trafficking, Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS), adult foster care, and transitional housing for mothers and the reentry prison population.

One day my sister suggested I turn my home into a sober home. Given my personal history with addiction, and my vast experience in the housing field, it was an easy decision for me.

I now own three sober homes in the Twin Cities, called Central Village Housing (CVH), which has served hundreds of women since 2015. 

What is Sober Housing? 

Sober housing provides a non-institutional residential environment for residents who agree to abide by rules and regulations, and who strive to encourage recovery and a lifetime of sobriety. These rules include prohibition of alcohol and drug use, except for prescription medications obtained and used under medical supervision.

Recovery is the ongoing process of overcoming active alcoholism or other drug addictions. The goal is to reduce or eliminate problems associated with chemical use. 

People in recovery make a commitment to improve or maintain their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. 

The Healing Cycle 

Most of the residents are transitioning from a highly structured inpatient treatment setting. These are women who have demonstrated a change in behavior, and at least 30 days of sobriety. To have continued success they still need structure and accountability. We call this the baby-step process — slowly easing into the least restrictive living environment. 

Making the transition to independent housing too soon can be a setup for failure. Many of the women are unable to go back to family and relationships, due to broken trust. It is unlikely that women will succeed in outpatient if they do not have stable, sober housing that provides a system of safety and accountability. 

We work with residents as they grow and learn new behaviors. However, we have a zero-use policy. This means any amount of use on or off the property will result in the resident exiting the house, to protect other residents. They are welcome to seek housing again after having at least 30 days of sobriety.
To enter the house community, we complete a trauma-informed screening that is a “getting to know you” interview. CVH has a set of eligibility criteria, but it’s much more than meeting the minimum criteria. We assess where clients are, in terms of readiness for change. 

Sober housing typically doesn’t work well for someone who doesn’t want to be in sober housing, nor does it work for someone who is just looking for a place of shelter. CVH does not provide a program of therapy or other services. Our mission is to provide a quality living environment for women who are ambitious about recovery. 

Family Challenges 

My son started to experiment with drugs and alcohol in his mid-teens. I never saw it coming. His use became unmanageable and quickly turned into the disease of addiction. It was heart-breaking to ask my son to leave the very home that serves as a sober home today, but I had to do it — for him, and for my daughter who looked up to him. 

My son’s struggle with addiction caused him to fall on hard times repeatedly. As a mother, you want to be there for your child, but addiction requires a different type of love. I had to find a new way to show him love and support. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. To know your under-age son is possibly lost and confused, not knowing where he is laying his head, is a terrible feeling. 

When I think about the type of environment and quality of living I strive to cultivate at Central Village Housing, I think about what type of sober house I would want my own son to live in.