The concept of Sober Living Housing goes back almost 200 years. Its foundation was forged as some of America’s earliest leaders began to notice an increase in social problems that paralleled distillery production and alcohol intake. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and George Washington agreed that temperance—moderation in alcohol consumption—should become the new standard. Prominent doctors of the time were also busy studying and publishing the effects of alcohol on the human body and mind.
As need for support and a greater understanding of the issue of dependency evolved, individual awareness of this problem grew. Ironically, it was during a regular visit in a tavern in 1840 that a group of colleagues and friends began a discourse that eventually led to the start of “The Washington Temperance Society.” These “Washingtonians” supported each other based on the belief that mutual discussion, understanding, and refuge would produce lasting sober effects for their brotherhood. Boarding houses and Halls were utilized to provide basic daily living needs until men could care for themselves.
FACT: Sober Living Houses operate on the premise of mutual and voluntary peer support to reach sobriety and stay sober.
The Washingtonians quickly grew in number and effect to about 600,000, with Abraham Lincoln even applauding their cause. In an address, he stated, “They know they are not demons, nor even the worst of men. They know that generally, they are kind, generous, and charitable, even beyond the example of their more staid and sober neighbors.” Despite these endorsements, social issues began to fragment the society, and they essentially disappeared from the addiction treatment landscape.
In the 1930s, a wonderful thing happened that would forever alter the process of recovery. Bill Wilson was an unemployable drunk, living off of the kindness of family. This situation continued, until Wilson attended a meeting of The Oxford Group, who believed in changing the world one person at a time. He saw his addiction with clarity, and felt inspired to become sober. With the help of this group and others, he abstained.
It was at Wilson’s 5 month mark, however, that temptation to drink became very weighty, and he knew that, if he didn’t do something fast, he would backslide. He knew instinctively that the only way to stay sober was to help another alcoholic in their journey. After reaching out to friends and family, Wilson was put in the path of Dr. Robert Smith. Together, these men are the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Fact: Sober Living Homes institute programs and help people live their lives based on the 12 Steps philosophies that are a foundational part of Alcoholics Anonymous.
With the heritage of the Washingtonians and groups like AA came the birth of various types of recovery housing. Some examples include: 12 Step Houses, Halfway Houses, Recovery Homes, Oxford Houses, Sober Living Homes, Treatment Centers, and Board and Care Houses. Each of these is distinct and worthy, and provides a particular response for specific needs. Some have court-mandated residency, others provide licensed treatment options, and there is even the Oxford House, whose self-governance model is the perfect example of democracy in action.
Sober Living Homes in California combine the strength of leadership with the pride of self-guidance and peer connection. Typically, Homes have managers, assistant managers, and owners, along with a clear set of rules that residents are required to live by if they wish to remain. However, people come to Sober Living Homes by their own will—they are not court-appointed. These Homes provide a safe and healthy environment for people with dependency issues to fully embrace the 12 Steps, while benefiting from the structure of programs and the support of thriving peer groups. Sober Living Homes’ roots in the Washingtonians and Alcoholics Anonymous shine through in this model, emphasizing the great importance of helping one another…friend to friend.Share post