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Halfway houses: What are they?

To determine if someone should be go to a halfway house, it is first necessary to ask the question, “What are halfway houses?” A halfway house is transitional housing for someone recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. People can come to halfway houses from a variety of places, including prisons, homelessness or treatment centers. Often, halfway houses require that their prospective residents undergo breathalyzer or drug screening tests to determine that they are clean, because many halfway houses are not equipped to handle the medical manifestations of withdrawal.

Many times, halfway houses are managed by former residents of halfway houses who have a good understanding of what it takes to stay in recovery. Much of the success of a recovering addict hinges on first determining their primary addiction — whether it is alcohol or drugs. If their primary addiction is alcohol, they should be attending meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and if their primary addiction is drugs, they should be attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. The reasoning is simple: If someone is addicted to alcohol, they will be able to better identify with alcoholics, and if someone is addicted to drugs, they will be better able to identify with drug addicts. The people who usually respond well to halfway house environments are those with addictions to drugs, alcohol, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Halfway houses are a step below inpatient treatment and may be used when someone is in an outpatient treatment program. They can help an addict bridge their treatment from living in an inpatient facility to living in a world filled with temptations. The halfway house will enable an addict to find the support to continue their recovery while living outside the strict environment of the inpatient facility. The addict living in a halfway house will find support from others in a similar situation along with the requirement that they remain in recovery. If the addict were released from an inpatient facility directly into the community without aid and support, it would be much easier to return to their previous addictive behaviors.

Generally speaking, the structure of a halfway house is much greater than an addict would receive if they returned to the community from the strict regimens of the inpatient facility. In a halfway house, you are able to work and/or go to school but will be monitored for your efforts at attending the meetings necessary for your recovery.

What Are Some of the Typical Rules of a Halfway House?

 A halfway house will have a number of rules designed to make sure the residents have the best opportunity to transition from inpatient therapy to the community without relapsing into old patterns of addiction.

Some of the rules include:

  1. Halfway houses will often require residents to conduct job searches, go to job interviews and find employment. The sense of purpose as well as the structure evident in seeking and obtaining employment is an important step in the recovery process.
  2. Residents of halfway houses must stay clean and refrain from bringing any type of alcohol or drugs into the house.
  3. Halfway house residents are expected to participate in chores that are assigned to them and complete these tasks in a timely manner.
  4. Halfway houses generally have a curfew that must be followed by the residents.

If a resident does not follow the rules of the halfway house, they might be given warnings or be asked to leave the home for repeated violations.

When to Use a Halfway House

 Studies have shown that those who live in halfway houses after inpatient therapy and rehab are more likely to be successful in the long-term as far as maintaining recovery. Additionally, those who live in a halfway house environment are more likely to stay in recovery by participating in groups such as AA and NA.

The structure found in a halfway house — curfew, employment or job searches, continued drug and alcohol screening — is very beneficial to someone who has just left the highly structured inpatient environment. This support will make it much more likely that the addict will continue their recovery than if they were simply trying to do it on their own after release from rehab. The structure of the halfway house is also perfect for those who are leaving rehab and are afraid of being released from rehab for fear they will fall back into their old addictive patterns.

The halfway house is a perfect place that can be a step back into the real world without all the additional responsibilities of paying bills and being financially solvent right away. You can devote more focus on maintaining your recovery while not having to worry about the financial stressors that might send you back into your old addictive behaviors.

Some halfway houses will offer drug treatment as well as 12-step meetings. It is especially helpful if these meetings and treatments are offered on-site where you will be getting support from the other residents and those who run the halfway houses urging you to attend your treatment and support meetings.

Another benefit of a halfway house is that if the addict is someone who historically will relapse, a halfway house offers the support of peers, the accountability of having to maintain recovery, structure and coping strategies that will all contribute to recovery.

Should I Use a Halfway House?

 One of the most significant benefits of living in a halfway house is you will be living with those who will help motivate you to achieve recovery. These people will also help you learn other ways to occupy your time that you may have previously spent in your addictive behaviors. They will teach you better skills for social interaction as well as give you both employment and life skills.

The healthy habits you learn by bonding with people in a similar circumstance as yours will enable you to continue your work at recovery in a supportive, nurturing environment. You will be able to practice the new lifestyle with new habits and hobbies without having to do it alone.

Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not to live at a halfway house is up to you. To best decide what is right for you and for your recovery, you will need to talk with the addiction specialists at your inpatient facility to help you with the decision about where you should go as your next step in recovery once you are released from the inpatient facility.

Benefits of Halfway Houses

 Consider this scenario: You have just spent many weeks inside a rehab or drug treatment center detoxing and recovering. But how will you continue when you get out of the drug treatment center? You are going back to your home and are fearful that even if you stay away from the acquaintances who encouraged and participated with you in your addictive behavior, you may still revert and end up where you started before detox.

So you and your counselors at the drug treatment center have developed a plan. Your counselors don’t want you to experience the added stressors that will be in place if you return home, so they want you to go to a halfway house.

The halfway house is designed to help you transition back into your previous life without using drugs and enable you to make this transition within the safe confines of the halfway house. You will be surrounded by the support of peers, some of whom are in a similar situation to yours, as well as leaders who have been in your shoes in the past. All of these people will be able to help you learn coping strategies so when you are again faced with the emotional challenges and stress of your everyday life after the halfway house, you will focus on your coping strategies and not turn to drugs and alcohol as you did in the past.

 The mentors or peers at the halfway house will not only help you with coping strategies and support you in your time of continued recovery, but they will also help you avoid being socially isolated. It’s important to stay away from the boredom that would inevitably set in if you went back to your old life immediately after rehab. If you went back to your old life determined to stay away from the associates who supported your drug abuse, you would quickly be tempted back into that environment because of boredom and a sense of isolation. The social setting of the halfway house will help prevent boredom from setting in and provide you with a social network of supportive peers.

Why Use Halfway Houses for Recovering Addicts?

 When deciding if a halfway house is right for you, consider the facts about addiction. Addiction is a progressive disease that impacts the brain. As addiction affects both the mind and body, it takes time for a patient to recover from addiction. It is not something that is immediate, and it is certainly not the type of disease or condition that can be treated with a single pill or dose of medication.

Denial is often part of the disease of addiction. Many patients tell themselves it is not necessary to think about an aftercare plan once they are released from rehab. That denial is simply a lie. This type of denial is the aspect of an addict’s character that a good halfway house can help overcome by encouraging the addict to look at their interests and talents so they can explore alternatives to the behavior that enabled them to become addicted.

And a very effective halfway house will make sure its recovering addicts are required to be engaged in some type of regular activity. This activity can include participating in education, searching for a job or engaging in regular employment.

Who Should Use a Halfway House?

 Usually, halfway houses work best for people who have just come out of recovery and are drug free. If someone is an addict but has not been to recovery or detox, it might be difficult for them to use a halfway house because halfway houses will conduct random drug tests as well as a drug test before the person can move into the halfway house.

Those who live in halfway houses must generally also be able to pay rent, purchase their own food and support themselves. They should either be looking for work or working unless they are students enrolled in an accredited school. If the residents are permanently disabled or receiving some type of governmental assistance, they may not be able to work but will usually need to provide work in the form of service work to the halfway house. The halfway house will also set a minimum number of meetings of 12-step programs for the residents to attend each week.

What Is the Difference Between a Halfway House and a Sober House?

Because many residents of halfway houses are recovering addicts, halfway houses are also called sober houses. However, there is a significant difference between halfway houses and sober houses. In the U.S., most halfway houses will provide a treatment program in conjunction with rehabilitation. These treatment programs will usually occur in the daytime along with both group and individual counseling for substance abuse. And the typical length of stay at a halfway house is between one and six months with insurance for behavioral health covering the costs of the halfway house.

Sober living houses usually don’t include rehabilitative treatment programs and only require that their residents remain in recovery. Residents will likely only need to pay for their own expenses at sober living houses.

The responsibilities you have at a halfway house and a sober living house are very similar. They will include the following:

  1. Clean up after yourself in the common areas and in the kitchen.
  2. Take the medications you have been prescribed.
  3. Make sure to keep your bedroom clean and tidy.
  4. Keep all of your appointments for both medical and behavioral health.
  5. Make sure any messages you take for the other residents get passed on to them.
  6. Attend all of the mandatory house meetings.
  7. Go to a minimum of three 12-step meetings each week.
  8. Tell the manager of the house if you will be gone overnight for any reason.

Levels of Recovery Residences

 While most halfway houses have very similar rules, there is a delineation of different levels of monitoring when it comes to halfway houses.

  • In peer-monitored or level-one halfway houses, the residents monitor one another. There is no paid staff, and there are no services in-house. The support level varies and can be anywhere from 90 days to a few years.
  • Level-two halfway houses are like a community-based model. There are supervisors in the form of a senior resident and staff member who are responsible for monitoring the residents and enforcing the structure.
  • There is a greater level of structure and monitoring in the level-three residence. There is more of a clinical element, and life skills are often offered. This level would be more suitable for an individual who requires a greater amount of support.
  • The highest level of structure is found in the level-four service provider. This level has not only peer services but also includes life skills and programs that are clinical in nature. The clinical program will usually be overseen by a licensed provider, and the management is generally credentialed in the specialty for which they have been hired. Stays vary depending upon the needs of the resident. This type of recovery will focus on getting the resident ready for the next recovery level, whether it is living in another residential-type setting or living as an individual. Managed care plans will often cover this level of recovery when they won’t cover the other levels of recovery. This level of recovery is especially helpful for those who need to have their life skills developed.

How to Recover From Addiction

 Once you are living in a halfway house and after you transition back into the community, you will need to follow some important tips to maintain your recovery. You can discuss this aftercare plan while getting treatment in an inpatient facility as well as in a halfway house so you can ensure your success as you leave these structured environments.

While attendance at a 12-step program is often mandatory at least three times a week while at a halfway house, this should be equally important upon release from the halfway house. Some recovering addicts find it is especially helpful to attend these support programs every day.

Make sure you have a sponsor and call them as frequently as you need to. Tell your sponsor about the problems and challenges you are facing. Chances are they have faced similar problems and will be able to offer you suggestion as to how to handle them.

Don’t lose your support network with your peers. Call them at least three times a week so you can remind each other the importance of recovery and encourage each other to participate in those activities that will keep you away from the addictive behavior you are trying to avoid.

Try to take good care of yourself, which means you should be getting enough rest and eating three nutritious meals each day. This behavior was likely reinforced during your stay in drug treatment and later in the halfway house. It is more difficult to make good decisions if you are not properly rested and have not been receiving good nutrition.

Try to exercise regularly, at least three times a week. Because your recovery involves all aspects of you, including your mind, body and spirit, it is important to focus on every aspect of your person. Exercise will release endorphins, which will give you a natural feeling of well-being.

Now that you know about the benefits of a halfway house, contact a provider that will be most beneficial for your particular needs. JourneyPure Emerald Coast can provide an individualized detox and treatment plan designed just for you.

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