How good intentions became intentionally-designed sober living
When I started my first sober living in Rancho Cordova back in 1987, I interviewed potential residents to move into shared housing with people that they did not know. Sometimes, the outcome was very unsuccessful and unacceptable, sort of like a really bad blind date. Then, I ran across this house for sale on Madison Avenue, and that is where I cooked up the secret sauce for Clean & Sober Transitional Living.
My intention was to have people live in the “Phase 1” house first so I would get to know them better before transitioning them to Phase 2 living. And that idea took off because of the many benefits of the two-phase system. Yes, Phase 1 gives us an opportunity to get to know people and personalities. It also allows us to fully “vet” residents and make sure they are ready to move into a less structured environment. And it immerses people in the recovery community, with support and wisdom just across the dinner table or in the house next door. It gives residents a chance to meet many other residents and perhaps “click” with future roommates. And it worked in ways I couldn’t even imagine! The Phase 2 side of the house has shown to have a tremendous success rate with sustained sobriety of 90% to 95% (as best as I can track it.)
Along the way, I also learned the power that peer influence has on recovery. Members in the community exert a subtle - or not so subtle - pressure on each other to act with honesty. Part of it is that people don’t want to be discovered in a lie. “I can’t find a sponsor!” is a hollow cry when your roommates know that you haven’t even been looking. People would rather move out than look a neighbor in the eye and lie through their teeth. So they strive to be truthful, or they move out. Community has a great power to keep each other honest and in integrity, and we’ve built upon that power in structuring our Peer Panel, which is elected “by the people, for the people. “
I had no idea how many houses would become available to me for Phase 1 housing. Who knew that, one by one, our neighbors on Madison Avenue would knock on my door and ask me to consider buying their homes? That built “the block” of recovery, and I do know this: The sheer size of our community, plus the two-phase approach, is a powerful one-two punch that helps our residents build strong and resilient recoveries.