Self-Help for Sobriety Without Relapse
One of the biggest challenges of getting sober is staying that way. The wrong environment and a lack of support can easily lead to relapse.
That’s where an organization like Oxford House aims to help. It exists for one simple reason: to give recovering addicts a place to live.
It started in 1975, when founder Paul Molloy and a dozen recovering addicts learned the Maryland halfway house they lived in was about to be shuttered. They teamed together to rent and run it themselves. United, they had one common goal: to stay sober.
They made a few changes from the halfway house’s rules too. No one would have to leave after a six-month stay. They realized that for some people, six months was too soon. Many, once they left the safety of the halfway house, tended to relapse within 30 days.
Today, Oxford House has grown to a nationwide network, with more than 2,700 Oxford Houses providing safe and sober places for their 40,000-plus residents.
Oxford Houses are single-family homes. Residents are either all men, all women, or women with their children. No couples are allowed.
The houses are democratically self-run, with rotating leadership. Residents can stay as long as they need. Some stay a few weeks; others live there for years. The rules are simple. There’s no mandatory move-out date so long as they:
- Pay their weekly rent.
- Obey the house rules.
- Abstain from drugs and alcohol.
There is no doctor or counselor on site, which drives down cost. (The average rent is about $100 a week.) Residents also do chores around the house to maintain it.
The Oxford House formula has a better-than-average track record because the residents are working toward the same goal: maintaining sobriety. It’s easier for that to happen when a recovering addict surrounds him or herself with other sober people, instead of falling back in with a crowd that may lead them to relapse.
If someone begins abusing substances again, that’s their eviction notice.
Any recovering addict can apply for a spot at any Oxford House, whether they’ve lived in one before or not. They’ll be interviewed by current residents.
If there is an opening at an Oxford House, 80% of the house members approve a person’s application, then allow the person to move into the house. If they’re rejected, they may apply at other Oxford Houses. A person need not be sober for a certain amount of time, they simply need to be abstinent.
If there is no Oxford House in the area, groups of recovering individuals are invited to start their own chapter. They simply need to find a place to rent that can house at least six residents and apply for a charter from Oxford House.
For the first six months, the house will be under a probationary period. Once they show they can abide by the rules, they’ll be granted permanent status.