Stairway to Freedom Sober Living Blog

It's Never Too Late to Start Living a Sober Life

If you made a New Year's Resolution that you were going to get sober, and it's May and you haven't done it yet, don't give up. It's never too late to make a change, and begin a sober lifestyle. It doesn't matter what day of the year, week, or month it is, or how long you've been saying you're going to change and haven't. It doesn't matter whether you feel like you've wasted your chance to get sober this year, because you haven't. You always have a choice, and you can choose, today, to begin a sober life. When you do that, and you get sober, then it's time for you to find a new path in life, and rebuild what you may have lost in the past.

Sober Living Options in Chicago

After you get treatment you may not be sure where to go or what you're going to do next. Fortunately, when it comes to sober living in Chicago, there are many places you can go. That means you'll be in good company, and around others who have been through similar struggles and succeeded at winning their battles, too. You can get a lot of support and encouragement from people like that, especially when it comes to halfway houses and other locations where recovering addicts move from treatment programs and struggle to a better life and a fresh start. You can be one of those people who moves on and lives a good, sober, happy life.

Housing is Important During and After Recovery

If you're involved in a program that offers in-patient treatment you'll have somewhere to stay, while outpatient programs can sometimes be more difficult. But the housing after treatment is also vital. In some cases it can be hard to find a place when you're coming from treatment and on the road to recovery. But you do have options for sober living. Chicago is a great city full of opportunities, and when you can stay in a good halfway house with other people who also want to succeed and be healthy and sober, you can make friends, find new options for employment, and move into a happier life that's free of past addictions.

It's About the Support, As Well

While housing is very important, it's not the only thing you need. Having support services matters, too. You will want and need ongoing support to help reduce your chances of relapse. That support can also help you avoid issues with employment and other concerns, and may help you find ways to earn income, volunteer to help others, or do other rewarding projects that will keep you busy and help you feel fulfilled. Having something to do each day that matters to you is one of the best ways to keep your mind on the present and the future, instead of focusing too much on the past.

Don't Forget the Joy in Helping Others

When you work with support services and stay in transitional housing such as a halfway house, plenty of options arise for you to help other people who are in your same situation or who are just trying to find their footing after going through treatment. When you can help people who need it most, you'll find that your life is generally more rewarding. That's a great way to focus your efforts on sober living, and understand how much value you have to the world. There are talents and gifts that only you can give, and by offering those to others you bring more joy to their lives and to yours.

Don't give up on getting and staying sober, and don't give up on finding the support you need and a safe place to stay. When you focus on moving forward and not looking back, you can see a brighter, better future for yourself that's free of addiction and full of possibilities.

5 Ways to Nurture a Healthy Social Life Throughout Recovery

The road to recovery can often feel like a long and lonely one. You may have alienated yourself from friends and loved ones. Or perhaps, you find it’s difficult to be around them now that you've chosen sobriety. Not only that, you've been forced to cut ties with people who might have encouraged your addiction or who are encouraging it now. Who’s left?

Making new friends is already a sometimes challenging venture, but even more so when you can’t just be friends with the same people you once easily took to, or who took to you. Beginning, or rekindling, ahealthy social life is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself on the journey to sobriety. And the good news is that, while bars are a common place for friends to meet, there are options well beyond these places.

1. Recovery Groups

One of the best sources of support you'll find on your journey is being with others who are also recovering from alcohol addiction. They've been where you are, or maybe they are where you are right now. They're likely seeking the same thing you are – social activities that don't require you to spend your evenings trying to avoid drinking situations. Having a common goal is a big reason people stick together, so seek these groups out because you can at least count on the fact that you’ve got common goals.

2. Try a New Hobby

Think of something that's always interested you, that you never had time for before because you were, well, doing other things. Have you wanted to give knitting or crocheting a go? What about breaking out the brushes and easel to take up painting? Maybe you’ve finally mustered up the courage to try horseback riding, scuba diving, or mushroom foraging. Look into clubs and organizations in your area that cater to these hobbies. If you can’t find a club, then start one yourself. Whatever you new hobby is, the focus will be more on the hobby itself, which will keep your mind and body engaged in positive ways.

3. Become More Active

Consider starting or overhauling your current fitness regimen. If solo activities aren’t your thing, find club sports in your community. There tend to be organized sports happening all year long. There are team sports like basketball, soccer and flag football. If you like a nice mix of solo and social, try cycling, running, or walking groups. Getting more exercise will increase your endorphins, and thus make you feel better on a regular basis. If you haven’t been active, it will be a bonus if you’re able to tone up or shed extra weight in the process.

4. Religious Groups

Church might never have been your cup of tea before, and it doesn't have to be now. Keep in mind, however, that many religious groups—from small groups and classes at a church, to volunteer opportunities—are specifically designed to bring people together and encourage relationships. As an added bonus, many of these groups have policies prohibiting alcohol, so you won’t have to be stressed out about the possibility of it showing up.

5. Reach Out to Long-Lost and Former Friends

It may be awkward at first to reach out to people who knew you before you became an alcoholic, or even more so to those who you damaged your relationship with during your addiction. Reaching out to them now, however, is a great way to start rebuilding those friendships. In many cases, they might not know how and when to reach out to you. You can even invite them to join you for new activities, or morning gatherings for coffee or tea. Start off slow. Depending on the nature of your relationship and the reasons you lost touch, you might need to ease into it so both parties are comfortable.

Early in your journey to sobriety, you may find that it's difficult to find social activities that you don't associate with drinking. Game nights with friends, concerts, and sporting events were all drinking opportunities in the past, right? Over time, however, you'll rebuild your social circle, change your associations, and discover that there's a whole new world awaiting you.

If you need help on your journey to sobriety or want to learn more about how to make better choices, contact us today to learn how we can help.


4 Mobile Apps for Addiction Recovery Success

In any facet of life where people need support, a clever developer somewhere has made an app to help them. Ever since Apple's 2009 "There's An App for That" campaign, it seems developers have gone overboard making apps for everything from helping you find the nearest restaurant to avoiding creepy clowns. (Seriously. There's an app for that.)

As silly as some of them may seem, mobile apps can also be a great tool for support in recovery. Recovery from addiction requires a lot of support, oftentimes when we least expect it. Triggers are around us everywhere. Highway exits on the road, songs on the radio, people all around us pushing our buttons. Triggers can catch us suddenly and by surprise.

We might be unsuspecting, but we don't have to be unprepared. Here are four mobile apps to help you in recovery. Load these apps on your smartphone to take them with you on the go. Use them at home, and access them anytime you need a little (or a lot) of extra support.

1. SoberTool

Platform: iOS and Android

Price: Free

SoberTool uses proven techniques to help you stay sober by providing immediate support when you need it. It helps train you to effectively use coping skills in daily life. SoberTool increases motivation by counting the days you've been sober and also calculating the money you've saved. Relapse prevention support is provided through:

  • Rewards for the time you have stayed sober
  • Daily motivational messages
  • A search engine attuned to recovery needs. Type in a single word to describe your current feelings. It will lead you to solutions to help cope with those feelings and avoid relapse.
  • A tool to deal with cravings. Answer simple questions and follow prompts to find a reading to help you in the present moment.
  • A supportive and welcoming community. You are never alone with SoberTool. Anonymously share and receive support from others on its community forum.

SoberTool was developed by a Harvard-educated Licensed Chemical Dependency and Certified Alcoholism Counselor, who is also 27 years sober, along with a team from The Ohio State University.

2. Sober Grid

Platform: iOS and Android

Price: Free

Sober Grid offers a community of peer support through people focused on recovery. People join Sober Grid to access sober support and to help others. Sober Grid features a "Burning Desire" button you can use to let other sober people know you need help. "The Grid" is a GPS locator that helps you find other sober people nearby. It's an excellent tool for travel and for connecting with other people in your area for support. Sober Grid also features a global newsfeed (think Facebook) where people can communicate and share posts with others.

3. Squirrel Recovery

Platform: Android

Price: Free

Squirrel Recovery Addiction App is a way to set up a recovery circle with a group of sober support people of your choosing. Your recovery circle can include 10 people. You can be proactive by programming the app to check in with you at predetermined times when you are likely to use. At these trigger times, the app asks you questions about your mood. People in your recovery circle see your answers and can respond with support and encouragement when you need it most. If you need immediate help, you can press a "Panic" button. Squirrel Recovery also keeps track of sober days, gives "coins" for milestones, and sends you motivational quotes.

4. recoveryBox

Platform: iOS

Price: $1.99

It is normal to experience sudden urges and triggers in recovery. The trick is learning how to recognize and manage them. Of course, there's an app for that, too. By tracking and analyzing your daily behaviors, the recoveryBox app helps you identify issues and situations that are potentially dangerous to recovery.

Accountability is the focus with recoveryBox, an iOS app that uses green, yellow, and red lights as visual indicators of how well your actions are aligned with recovery goals. You track your daily life activities on a log. You get a green light and cyber high-five (“Way to go!”) for activities that support your recovery. You are cautioned with a yellow light for “Warning” behaviors, and a red light for troublesome “Acting out” actions. Your log is saved and you can email or text it to your accountability partner or counselor to increase your accountability and receive valuable feedback.

If you are looking for a sober living environment to further support and encourage you on your path to recovery, contact us. We help people rebuild their lives and create pathways to sober living.


A Brief History of Sober Living Houses & Why They're Still Important Today

At Stairway to Freedom, we believe strongly in the power of sober living houses; it's what we’re all about. And that’s why we wanted to take a moment to look back at the history of sober living houses and why they're still so important today.

Understanding Sober Living Homes

According to a scholarly article by Douglas L. Polcin and Diane Henderson, sober living houses (or SLHs) are places where people can live in a drug- and alcohol-free environment while trying to maintain abstinence. They are especially beneficial for those who are homeless, recently incarcerated, or don't have the social support to stay sober on their own.

Not everyone struggling with substance abuse has a group of people cheering them on at home, encouraging them to get sober and stay sober. So for those who lack that support at home, an SLH can provide a strong and inspiring community of other sober individuals.

Formal treatment is not generally provided in a sober living home, but residents who live in an SLH are strongly encouraged, and often even required, to participate in a 12-step program.

The History of SLHs

Polcin and Henderson explain that SLHs began in the 1830's through institutions like the YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army. Unlike today, these homes were generally run by religious groups with strong convictions about sobriety, and residents were often required to participate in religious services.

Skipping forward to the 20th century, the Post-WWII era brought with it more alcohol addiction, tighter living quarters, and bigger cities. This is also when Alcoholics Anonymous was born. During the 1970's the need for sober living homes increased because not only were drugs and alcohol problems on the rise, but existing SLHs were being pushed out of cities due to the lack of affordable housing. This made these types of havens few and far between.

Another factor that led to a greater demand for sober living homes was the increase of homelessness in the 80's and 90's. According to the article, a conservative estimate is that 40% of homeless people struggle with alcohol addiction and 15% deal with drug addiction. SLHs have the potential to help end the vicious cycle of homelessness and alcohol or substance abuse.

The second half of the 20th century did bring about several models of sober living homes, including the Oxford Houses. These houses emphasized peer support and democratic leadership. They were also self-sustaining—not run by outside organizations.

Different models have used a "manager" of sorts to collect rent and kick people out when they relapse. But today, most models agree that a "peer council" is a better route that promotes unity and teamwork.

Why SLHs Are Still So Important Today

This brings us to the discussion of the importance of SLHs today. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently conducted a five-year study of sober living homes, tracking 300 people in 20 different SLHs across the country.

Of the 300 people who initially agreed to participate in the study, 130 were available for the 6-month follow up. 40% reported they had remained abstinent for the whole 6 months, and 24% reported they were sober 5 of the 6 months. While there is obvious evidence of some relapse, living in an SLH did increase the likelihood of recovery.

Other big factors in recovery found by the study were the severity of a psychiatric condition and participation in a 12-step program. The study concluded:

"Sober living houses are an excellent example of an underutilized modality that could help provide clean and sober living environments to individuals completing residential treatment, engaging in outpatient programs, leaving incarceration, or seeking alternatives to formal treatment."

Stairway to Freedom is an organization committed to providing both men’s and women’s sober living options in Chicago. It is our mission to see people succeed on their journey to sobriety through the support provided by a sober living community. For more information on our sober living facilities, please contact us today.

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