When my treatment center suggested that I move into a halfway house, the first thing I said was, “Fat chance.” Even the name halfway house sounded ridiculous, like I’d only be halfway alive—a sober zombie. I didn’t want anybody telling me what to do: join the rat race, do your chores, pee in this cup, go to a meeting. Even though I knew, “the only thing you need to change is everything,” I still didn’t want to change.
Naturally, I tried to fight against the structure of my halfway house when I first got there—hiding in my room from the other girls, my clothes stuffed under the bed instead of folded in my drawer, chugging 20-ounce Red Bulls and chain smoking for a buzz. However, the longer I’ve stayed, the more I feel safe and am beginning to change. For the first time, I am learning how to “adult” without my old, unhealthy comforts.
Despite all my earlier doubts, I can say that I have already taken away 5 valuable lessons living at a halfway house.
1. Daily Disciplines
At first, I thought all of the rules were nonsense, constraints imposed upon me by The Man. Yet, having to make my bed every morning proves to myself that I can complete a task. And the next one, too—whether that be brushing my teeth, buying groceries or interviewing for a job. Every time I do the dishes, wash and fold my own laundry and show up to work on time, it gets easier the next time around. I’m building trust with myself through these daily disciplines and am seeing myself becoming a capable, responsible human being.
2. The Value of a Support Network
In active addiction, I isolated myself and maintained the charade of my so-called normal life. Living in halfway, I have redeveloped my social skills, from simple hellos and how-are-yous to truly listening to another person speak to being present and laughing wholeheartedly. I have always been a private person, but sober living has shown me the value of letting people in and no longer burying my emotions. Even on the days when I don’t want to go to a meeting—when I’d rather hide inside of a Netflix episode—I find myself there and sharing. Whether it’s a sober living home, a meeting room or a personal sober support network, there is power in our collective struggle. From the perspective of a reformed hermit crab, there is safety in numbers. I just had to come out of my shell to find it.
3. Emotional Intelligence
Without a doubt, my support network keeps me in check. When I’m feeling down, my roommates see it on my face. When I’m restless or having a craving, my home group notices it in my body language. When I first got clean, the extent of my emotional intelligence was saying “I’m tired” or “My stomach hurts” when I looked sad. Then, 20 minutes later, I’d be crying. In a sober community, I’ve had to practice telling people how I feel, which requires me to pay attention to it in the first place. Even on a day when I’m just angry that the rest of the world goes on drinking and using when I’ve stop, I have to let it out. And, go figure, I actually feel better after I say it, or write it, or draw it or scream it.
There are days when I feel normal(ish) and wonder how I got myself wrapped up in this halfway house business in the first place. I am grateful for the feeling of stability that I have today, but sober living has reinforced in my brain that sobriety has to be a priority. The structured lifestyle helps to balance my meetings, work, self-care, family time and social interaction—all things important to my recovery—yet none of these things can take precedence over the other. I need to take care of myself and my living space, but I can’t afford to do so if I don’t have a job. I need to have a job, but I can’t work so much that I don’t go to meetings and lose touch with my friends and family. At the end of the day, I’ve been able to see how my recovery actually keeps the rest of my life afloat.
5. A Sober Life is Possible
The biggest lesson that halfway living has taught me is that a sober life is possible. Drugs were once my crutch—I thought the experience of being high, an altered consciousness, gave my life meaning. In my halfway house though, I’ve been able to build a new life in recovery and experience 6 months of my sobriety in a safe environment. Some days, the only thing that keeps me clean is the thought that if I got high, I’d be homeless. But in the past six months, I didn’t turn into the sober-zombie that I had once feared. Instead, I’ve actually awakened to pieces of my life that I had ignored while using.
Have you seen the sky change colors at sunset, from violet to rose to marigold? Have you smelled a cantaloupe right after cutting it open? Have you felt your world with bare feet for an entire day? When I was using, I’d have told you that all of these things would be better if I was high. In sober living, I’ve seen that I had not fully experienced any of these things when I was high. I couldn’t experience all of it, I couldn’t be entirely present. The next hit always distracted me. Now here I am, clean and sober, barefooted and bright-eyed, with a full-time job, friends and a family that supports me.
Perhaps, in the end, the greatest thing I’ve learned from halfway livingis how to live wholeheartedly. If you or someone you know is seeking help with addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.