Gratitude Recovery Based Program

gratitude recoveryGratitude Recovery

A Gratitude Recovery Based Program is what is really going to work? That is always the question, isn’t it? If you’re reading this you are looking for that answer. Sad to say that no one has that; not at least in any way that can be guaranteed, marketed or repeated. Still we have to make decisions. We have to try to make the best choice for ourselves and for the people we love. As an addiction professional I can say with true confidence that Sober Living is the best choice for a young person in early recovery.

View The Last House Homepage

The Last House gets Sober Living right. Community, personal accountability, fellowship, honesty, integrity and above all fun in gratitude recovery. The last house cuts through the bells and whistles that generally present a fantasy that isn’t likely to work out for most of the young people I’ve worked with.

Learning how to enjoy life on life’s terms is central aspect of emotional sobriety and this is where the Last House excels. Young men there learn life skills. They cook and clean for themselves and for one another. They talk openly and directly about what they see happening good and bad with their peers. They call each other out for bad choices. They deal with real consequences. It’s a no bullshit kind of place. Staff doesn’t coddle to residents, they keep it real and they make sure clients are moving forward even if it means taking away their iPhones or their car keys.

Most importantly they don’t allow young adults to disappear. After countless sober livings and treatment centers young people in early recovery tend to learn how to fly under the radar and get through their sober living experience without really being challenged or encouraged to change. Unfortunately too many Sober Livings and treatment center allow this to go on.

On the flip side, there is also a lot of camaraderie and fun. Competitive basketball games at the park, group hikes, barbecues at the beach, sober parties that don’t suck. All that stuff makes the tough love go down easier.

As an addiction professional it is often hard to work with clients to initiate real changes only to watch their environment reinforce self destructive behaviors and contradict the principles that we work so hard to develop in early gratitude recovery. When my clients are residents at The Last House I know they are being held accountable.

written by David Pavia LCSW

Contact us via the number 1-866-677-0090 now if you know anyone who is a victim of drug or alcohol abuse. Our knowledgeable and reliable staff will get to you promptly. Visit Our Homepage

Oops! We could not locate your form.

For more help, visit Thrive Treatment

Failure To Launch Recovery

13128_920310257990842_8433817923912739561_n
“Failure to Launch” is characterized in my own experience as a lack of connection to other humans, professional failure which gave rise to social inadequacies. The pain of this experience in my case gave rise to increased drug use and dependence on illicit narcotics in order to feel some form of connection. The dependency on drugs furthered my stagnation due to the impairment they caused and the energy needed to acquire illegal substances. At age 25, I was broke, homeless and unemployable, I had little contact with family and no friends. This cycle had continued to perpetuate itself until it could be arrested by physical detoxification and treated with healing in a community setting.

The first stage of recovery was to break the physical dependence from the drug. In my case, Opiates, which create physical dependence needed to be cleared from my system with the aid of medications that treat the symptoms of detox. It is important to note that this phase alone cannot treat the addiction, I have detoxed medically and non-medically several times. In my case, while still in detox, I was immersed into a community of other addicts who had recovered from addiction and begun meaningful lives as part of a community, they had crossed from Stagnation to Generativity. These other young men are still some of my closest friends.

I was lucky enough to find myself at The Last House Sober Living for Men in Los Angeles, a program where Integrity, honesty, accountability and friendship were the basic tenants of the community. Most other Rehabs I had been to were short term and had the reverse effect where I learned behavior that furthered my stagnation.

In my own experience, the desire to be socially accepted or “one of the guys” encouraged me to follow in the path of what these new friends of mine had done. They had jobs, friends and could buy their own cigarettes, all things I sincerely desired. Feeling socially connected was the basis for me to launch myself into a life of purpose. After gaining traction and finding my first steady job I began to show new guys in the community how I was able to find purpose. The act of “giving back” truly launched my personal growth and self esteem into a realm I had not known was possible. I was on fire, useful, employed and truly connected to my peers.

written by Chris Kirby
Director of Admissions for The Last House Sober Living for Men in Los Angeles and Thrive Treatment

Getting Sober Young

My Experience
The first time I went to a recovery meeting I had just turned 16 years old. I was already drinking and doing drugs regularly and could see that it was becoming a problem. At the time, I did not actually want to stop or change what I was doing. I went because I had a boyfriend who was sober and he insisted I come with him. I went to the meetings and identified as an alcoholic. Recovery appealed to me, I liked the fellowship, sharing about how I felt, and not feeling horrible every day. However, I hated not being about to drink or do drugs. I did not feel ready to let go of using yet. After a few months of going to meetings, I stopped and my use was back to how it had been before. The only difference, was that now I was pretty sure that I was addicted and would one day need to stop.

As my drinking and drug use got worse my parents and friends became more and more concerned for me. Eventually I ended up causing so much harm that it was clear everyone around me that I needed help. On my eighteenth birthday I checked myself into rehab. That was five years ago now and in that time there have been both difficulties and benefits that have come from getting sober when I was so young.
Difficulties
There have been things about being young in sobriety that are difficult. At first I felt like I was missing out on everything my old friends were doing. I would look at them on Facebook and see the parties they were at and I wish I could be there with them. Part of me wanted to be sober but still go to parties, bars, and clubs like I did while I was using. For my first year, I still did go to a lot of those same places with sober friends looking to still have fun in the same old ways. After a while of doing this I realized I was not really having a good time but holding on to something and wishing it did not have to change. I started realizing how much fun recovery could be when I started looking for new ways to do things.

It was also hard to be young in recovery especially because I did not know how to respond to my old friends when they asked me when I was coming home or if I would come hang out with them. I remember being in inpatient rehab and my friend telling me that as a birthday present she had gotten me a bunch of drugs. She asked when I would be back to do them with her. I was not at a place in my recovery where I was confident enough to tell her I did not want to use anymore and that I was scared to even go home. It was hard in the beginning to tell stand up for myself and resist temptation like this.

Another part of getting sober young that was difficult was having to build an entirely new life. Many older people have a family, job, or home to return to. I had none of these things. I knew I could not go back and live with my family. I was enrolled in college but I was not sure that I still wanted to go there because I was scared I was not ready to be in that environment. For the first year and a half I felt like I was flailing. I worked little jobs that I did not really like and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. Much of my recovery at that time was just devoted to trying new things and seeing what I liked enough to make a life out of.
Benefits
Although there are parts of getting young sober that are hard there are also many ways that it is beneficial and entirely worth it. I remember a few people saying to me in recovery meetings, “it must be so hard to be young in recovery.” Like I said, at times it really was. However, I also felt like I was lucky to get sober young. For people who start their journey in recovery when they are older they have to undo many more years of conditioning. When you have been drinking and using for twenty or thirty years you have to recondition yourself and relearn how to life without using. When you are like me and only drank for about five years it is easier to remember what it was like to live without using.

Another benefit of getting sober young is that you often have not lost as much as other people have. I know many people who got sober in their fifties or sixties who lost good jobs, homes, and families. Although many of us are able to cause plenty of harm and lose a lot in a few short years there is so much more to lose as time goes on. I feel grateful that the harm I caused was relatively reparable. It took a lot of time to make things right with many of my family and friends but I did not have to face bankruptcy or divorce. I appreciate myself for getting into recovery when I did because I am sure I would have faced even more loss as my use continued.

Finally, it can be beneficial to get sober young because you have so many possibilities ahead of you. As I said before it can be difficult or daunting to face these possibilities but it also means that so much is wide open. Before I got sober I had enrolled in business school. I hated math and was pretty sure that was not what I actually wanted to do. If I had actually spent four years doing that and gotten my degree in something that I hated it would have been much harder to change my direction. Luckily, I had two years in recovery before I started school to experiment and decide what direction I wanted to take my life in. When I did decide it came from a place of clarity. I now have my whole life ahead of my to truly follow my passion.
Last Thoughts
There are undoubtedly difficulties that come with getting sober young. I have had people ask me how I could possibly know I was an addict at 18. I have had people tell me that I was probably just young and would be ok if I drank now. However, as my recovery has progressed I have experienced the benefits of being sober young. I have built a new life for myself that was born out of love and not obligation or fear. I have found supportive people who do understand what it is like and have built a loving and caring community. I have never once regretted getting sober when I did.

Meditation and Recovery

recovery meditation

Meditation is one of the greatest tools we have available to us in any stage of recovery. There are many different ways to meditate, and mindfulness can be beneficial in many ways to people in recovery. When I was new in recovery, meditation was extremely difficult and it seemed rather unrealistic to actually sit in silent meditation regularly. However, meditation is a huge piece of twelve-step recovery, showing itself in the 11th step.

Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has many benefits, and it is unfair to say these are the only ones. However, these are a few benefits that I have seen from meditation in my own life and those around me. Personally, I meditate every day, and it is one piece of my recovery that I make sure to take seriously. A healthy recovery is well-rounded, and meditation is not the “silver bullet” that can cure us itself. It is just a piece of the puzzle of recovery that helps us find balance.
Patience
When we meditate regularly, one of the things we gain is patience. This patience can help us with anxiety, anger, and in moments of difficulty. Meditation helps us to slow down, and not react so strongly. We learn to respond rather than react by quieting the mind a bit and learning to go with the flow a little bit more. With some regular practice, we find that we are able to pause in moments of adversity and respond with a little more wisdom. When we have thoughts of using or of acting in a way that may not be healthy, a meditation practice can help us have patience with those thoughts and not immediately act upon them.

Clarity
When we meditate and slow the mind down a bit, we gain clarity. This is what the eleventh step is talking about when it says that we are to seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand God. Through meditation, we can gain some clarity into what our higher power’s will is for us. Whether you are a religious person, agnostic, or atheist, meditation brings some clarity to your life. In mindfulness meditation, we practice seeing what arises in the mind, noticing the thoughts, feelings, and experiences. James Baraz says, “Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different.” As we practice bringing awareness to what is going on in the mind, we are able to see more clearly the habits of the mind, what the next right step may be, and what is causing us pain and what is bringing us joy.

Relaxation
Meditation can also help us relax quite a bit. Meditation can help us relax in two ways; it can help us in daily life when experiencing adversity, and it can help us slow down before or after our day. In moments of difficulty, meditation can be a great tool for us. Meditation doesn’t always need to be a formal sitting practice (more on that later). We can pause throughout the day and take a few deep breaths. It may help us with clarity and patience. It is as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “As we go through the day we pause when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the next right thought or action.” When we take a moment to focus on the breath or notice the thoughts and feelings, we are able to respond more wisely.

Meditation may also help us relax when we sit in formal meditation. At the end of the day, meditation may can relieve the stress of the day. The tenth step in twelve-step programs encourages a daily inventory. Some people write an inventory at the end of their day, but meditation can be a useful tool for this step as well. At the end of the day, you may meditate and see what thoughts, regrets, resentments, etc. come up. We may also meditate at the beginning of the day in order to set a good tone for the day ahead. In early recovery, I meditated for ten minutes every morning, just to help calm my nerves and anxiety before facing a new day.

Tips to Get Started
Meditation can be overwhelming. The thought of sitting in silence and focusing on the breath is scary for some of us. I know it was (and still is sometimes) for me. Many addicts have very active minds, especially in early sobriety. This makes meditation difficult, but also makes it very fruitful. Here are a few tips that I have found help when beginning to investigate a meditation practice.

Short Periods
When you begin to check out a sitting meditation practice, it’s okay to start with short meditation periods! When I started, I thought I had to sit for 20 or 30 minutes, as that was what I heard that others were doing. However, meditating for that long was incredibly overwhelming and not really beneficial for me. Try starting with 10 minutes, 5 minutes, or even 1 minute. Get a feel for meditation and see if you can build up to longer times. Keep in mind that longer meditations are not necessarily better for you if you are new, and the short periods can really make a difference!

Sit Regularly
In my personal experience, having a regular routine is very helpful when trying to get sober. Set a time every day that you are going to meditate. It may be in the morning, before bed, or at some point in the middle of the day. Find what works for you. Remembering that you don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes at a time, find 5 minutes during your day that you can consistently dedicate to meditation. When we meditate regularly, we are able to build upon our practice and grow. Make a commitment to yourself to meditate every day for the next week or month, and see what happens.

Pause in Daily Life
As we touched on before, meditation is not just in formal sitting practice. We can meditate during the day in brief moments. Find some time to pause during your daily life and take a few deep breaths. Slowing down for brief moments like this helps us bring continuity to our meditation practice and remind ourselves to bring awareness to what is going on. This is a great tool when we are angry, in resentment, anxious, or overwhelmed. All you have to do is stop and take a few deep breaths. I had a sponsor instruct me to take three deep breaths at one point during the day, so I set a reminder on my phone. Every afternoon, the alarm would go off and remind me to take three deep breaths. Pausing helped me face my anger and anxiety and connect with my higher power. The practice of taking a few deep breaths definitely played an important role in keeping me sober. When the thoughts of using came up, I took a few deep breaths and just let it go, knowing what the result of using would be.

Meditation has been an amazing tool in my personal recovery. I also sponsor many young men with whom I have seen meditation play an important role. I think one of the most important things to remember with meditation (or any practice in recovery) is that we have to find what works for us. Sit in a way that works for you, let go of judgements about what meditation “should” be, and take care of yourself!

Our Family’s Journey

sober living los angeles

OUR FAMILY’S JOURNEY

On February 5, 2013 I began my journey into emotional sobriety. I was beaten down by the horrible, cunning, baffling and powerful disease of alcohol and drugs. I had been in the program of AA and Al-Anon before but had not completely gotten honest with myself. When I was pregnant with my second child in 1994 I admitted I was alcoholic, but as soon as I gave birth I decided that was just hormonal emotions talking and that I was fine. I guess I wasn’t finished making my story. Even after being arrested for possible DUI in 2010, I convinced myself that I wasn’t drunk I was just in a hurry to get home. I was able to get out of the charge by serving community service and meeting with a probation officer for 12 months. I even convinced my probation officer that I should go to Al-anon instead of AA. I wasn’t the one with the problem! This is a disease of lies. Flash -forward to February of 2013; my Al-anon sponsor suggested that I go to some open AA meetings (I think she suspected I was one of them). It wasn’t until April 16, 2013 that I finally had the courage to walk into the AA room and say, Hi, I’m Becky and I’m an alcoholic. I was skeptical but deep down I knew I had a problem. The woman sitting next to me suggested that I read the first page of PART II (it doesn’t have a page number) of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “They realized that repeated lack of drinking control, when they really wanted control, was the fatal symptom that spelled problem drinking. This, plus mounting emotional disturbances, convinced them that compulsive alcoholism already had them; that complete ruin would be only a question of time.” Boy howdy, did that ever hit home. I finally let go absolutely and began working the steps. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I began focusing on my own recovery and quit playing GOD!!! The Al-Anon room started working when I got honest and was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober. I started taking care of myself by not accepting unacceptable behavior. My oldest son, JJ, was back at home using heavy drugs and my husband was drinking but I was remaining sober thanks to AA and Al-Anon. It was a struggle but I kept going to meetings, working the steps with my sponsor and reading daily from the literature of the programs. I began to have courage. Horrible events were happening all around me – numerous 911 calls, JJ’s best friend fatally overdosing on heroin, fights between siblings and fights with my husband. The final 911 call lead to my husband’s arrest and JJ leaving the house with an old girlfriend that appeared in our yard like an angel. She agreed to take him away. When Jay was released from jail (he had detoxed in solitary confinement), he immediately went to a meeting at our home group and has not had a drink since. My husband and I decided to legally evict JJ from the house and we gave him an ultimatum: you either go to a rehab facility, or live on the streets. One of the AA promises is that we intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us. We gave him two nights in a hotel to give him time to figure out what he would do. In the mean time, I googled a rehab center in Sacramento CA. We put JJ on a Greyhound bus with a suitcase of clothes. Although he told us that he was able to use in the rehab center, a sobriety seed was planted and from there he found a sober living house in LA. He moved in and shortly after got a nightshift job at Home Depot, which lead to a little drug use. My son did not have the structure and discipline he needed to get sober. Someone from the house had a connection with The Last House and said it had more structure where he would be held accountable. Luckily (I believe it was a God thing) JJ was able to get right in!
Words cannot explain how grateful I am for this sober living program. I love the name, The Last House, because it truly is… The Last House! The dedicated staff and the way it is run WORKS!!!!!! This is a family disease and I am so grateful that I was called by a staff member on a regular basis to fill me in on the progression of our son’s recovery . While my husband and I were home working on our journey of a new way of life, it was so comforting to know that our son was learning how to live life on life’s terms as well. In October of last year we visited JJ at The Last House and were able to meet the staff and tour the house. The house manager was so kind as to suggest places in town to sight see and we were able to sit down with the house director, Andy, and visit. There were a couple of things I wanted to do on our visit. See the Hollywood sign and watch the sun go down from the Santa Monica Pier. Guess what? JJ took me to do both! Our family has healed and I will forever be grateful for this wonderful program that The Last House has offered us! As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “No situation is too difficult and no unhappiness too great to be overcome.” This month, I am proud and so very grateful to say JJ has graduated from The Last House. I never will forget the phone call I got just a few weeks ago from JJ. He called to tell me he was graduating in a week. I heard sniffles in the background and I said, “are you ok?” and JJ said with a tearful voice, “ I did it, mom. I can’t believe I actually finished something for the first time in my life”.

THANK YOU, LAST HOUSE. MY FAMILY IS FINALLY HEALTHY!!!!!!!

– Becky K

sober living los angeles

Los Angeles is a Great Place to get Sober

Los Angeles is known for many things: the glamor of the film industry, beautiful beaches, and traffic. In the recovery world, Los Angeles is also known as one of the greatest places to get sober in the country. With thousands of recovery meetings, tons of people getting sober, and beautiful weather, Los Angeles offers great opportunities to find lasting recovery from addictions. When I got sober myself in the area, I quickly realized that I was lucky. There really is nowhere like L.A. to get sober. Although we may get sober anywhere if we are truly ready, getting sober in Los Angeles is a great blessing.

I got sober myself in West Los Angeles, moving to town to go to treatment. I didn’t know anyone in the city, did not even really want to get sober, and planned on returning home to Oregon immediately after treatment. Instead, I moved into a sober living here in Los Angeles, built some amazing friendships with fellow recovering addicts, and settled here. I found men’s meetings, non twelve-step meetings, a great therapist, and a love for sunshine and beaches. Although I could have never pictured myself here, I am deeply grateful today that I had the opportunity to get sober here in Los Angeles, finding a lasting recovery with support from a great community.

Recovery Meetings

One of the reasons Los Angeles is such a great place in which to get sober is the amount of recovery meetings available. Los Angeles is home to over 4,500 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings alone. Getting sober here in Southern California means you have the opportunity to find a recovery that works for you. As a progressive city, L.A. offers the most current and new recovery models, keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in the recovery world. Facing a drug or alcohol addiction here means you don’t ever have to do it alone. There are meetings around the clock, and there always seems to be a meeting closeby. I know that when I need to connect with others, I can almost always find a meeting that is happening soon and nearby.

Sober Living in Los Angeles

There are so many people getting sober here in Southern California. There is a great variety of sober addicts, from musicians and artists to hipsters and businesspeople. When we decide to take action against our drug addiction or alcoholism, we absolutely need help facing our addiction. In addition, we often need help getting accustomed to living sober. In Los Angeles, there are sober people everywhere! Regardless of what you want to do with your life, you can find sober people in your industry, with similar interests, and that will support you in your daily life. All of the colleges and universities have recovery meetings on campus, employers are more understanding of recovery than most places, and your companions you meet in treatment and at meetings can help you find the life you are hoping to build. When people come to Los Angeles in search of recovery, the find that they are not alone. Building a new life in recovery isn’t easy, and the help of a supportive community is priceless.

A Sober Community

Because Los Angeles has become a hub for recovery, there is an amazing recovering community. With an active young person’s community, social events, and many opportunities to connect with others, you have the chance to build relationships with people who will support you along the path. Community is an important part of most spiritual paths, and many recent studies have found great benefits to engaging with a community in recovery from many illnesses. The recovery community offered in Los Angeles is unparalleled, and it can be felt in any recovery meeting. I have participated in sober hiking groups, connecting with new friends in recovery. For my first few years of sobriety, I attended a weekly sober bowling night. I have gone to sports games with sober groups. With the amount of recovering people in Los Angeles, there is always a community to connect with.

Beautiful Weather

This may seem like a silly point to make, but it really is a great offering of Los Angeles. The weather is mild year-round, with sunshine most days of the year. The beautiful weather is good for the mind. Addicts get to spend time outside, at the beach, hiking, and in the sunshine. The weather encourages people to get outside and get moving, which is essential for healthy recovery. Living sober in Los Angeles gives us the gift of being outside year-round.

All things considered, Los Angeles is an incredibly unique place to recover from addiction. It’s not uncommon to see people you know in recovery around town. Sobriety is like a not-so-secret culture that pervades Los Angeles life. There’s a good reason that Los Angeles is the holy land for addiction recovery. It’s beautiful, relaxed, and accepting of the issues surrounding drug addiction and alcoholism. And as more people realize Los Angeles is the right place for them to get sober, the community only strengthens.

Sober Example For Brother

 

12341610_1041180115903855_174052337432262888_n

“MY name is Miles S., and  I am 28 years old. I have 14 months clean and sober and have just graduated the last house program.  Today, I get to be a sober example to my brother.

Prior to my arrival to last house I used drugs for 14 years straight. My drug of choice was Meth and was a needle IV user. My life was unmanageable and I was homeless. I was so dependent on meth. I put meth before my family and friends. I lost the Job my apartment, and car. I was hopeless. Coming into last house saved my life. When I first arrived there I was scared for change I was scared that I would never be able to get high again. That’s all I wanted was to get high. But when I arrived at last house I saw people who have been in the house for a while I saw people who were happy and I wanted that. I wanted to have my life back I wanted to have my family back in my life. I was put on restriction. I did not like restriction at first; I hated it because I had to do what other told me to do instead of doing what I wanted to do. I would always do what I wanted when I was out there, but having someone else tell me what I could and could not do really helped me get humble and realize that I really do need to start listening to what others are saying because they are just trying to help me. My best thinking got me where I was and that was with nothing. I was required to plan out my day each day which I have never done in my life. I was required to go to 2 AA meetings a day and get a sponsor (a sponsor is someone who you call every day and that takes you through the 12 steps of the AA program). I was to hold others accountable and hold myself accountable. I was required to do chores every day. Before recovery I did not ever clean my own place or pick up after myself. This helped me respect the place I lived in and respect others that live with me by not being a slob. At first I would half measure my chores and not care but then after a while I ended up taking pride in my chores and doing my best. The house structure was key in my sobriety I would have not have been able to stay sober without it. I would not have lasted this long if it wasn’t for the rules of the house. The house helped me work a program and taught me have to live. They would pull me up when they noticed me lacking on my step work or helped me when they noticed my behaviors being off. My favorite part of the house is being able to come home each day to a house full of guys that care about you. I called the house my safe zone. I also love the dinners and groups we have in the house. Dinner is 3 times a week were we discuss our behaviors in the house and provide feedback to others in the house that need help with situations that they are going through. There was so much I gained from those groups. Before coming to this house I had no way of knowing how to stay sober at all. I was able to accomplish so much while being a resident in the house and the house gave me the tools I needed to help me accomplish those things. I was able to go back to work in the house and suit up and show up on time to work. I never was able to hold down a job. I was able to take classes in the house to get my insurance license and ended up passing and getting my insurance license! I was able to get my Driver’s license back when in the house and was able to go home to see my family for the holidays and was able to stay clean and sober while going to see my family. Being in the house I was able to work the 12 steps of the AA program and that changed my perception on life and really changed me on who I was as a person. I was able to see my part in situations I have gone through in the past. My life has changed so much this past year I am a different person from when I first walked through these doors. I was able to do it by just listening to what others have to say to me and not running on my own thinking. I it was good to have the time in the house to invest in myself and to take care of myself. This house has really taught me a new way of life. Today I work full time as an insurance agent and also work in recovery as well. I still go to AA meetings once a day and I work a program. I am involved with the house. I work with others in the house in being there for the new guys that come through the house. This house is all about brotherhood it is my second family and I will never forget what this house has done for me and the gifts I have received from being in this house. I am happy today and have feelings today. I love being able to go and be a part of my families lives. Being able to be a positive role model to my youngest brother means the world to me. Drugs had a hold of me and I was ok with that until I found a new way of life. I do not have urges to use today I do not have the craving to use and that is a miracle in its own.

Thank you last house for saving my life!”

Miles S. – alumni of The Last House

A Story of Hope and Transformation

IMG_9517

A Story of Hope and Transformation

My name is Tanner R. and I am twenty-three years old and have been a resident at the last house for just under eleven months. I am currently employed as an office manager at a dui education program. The job entails me maintaining and a running the front office, taking payments and auditing files. I am a full time employee with health and dental benefits and have earned the trust and respect of my fellow employees. I say all this not to brag or boast about my life, simply to help you get an understanding of what my life looks like today. In the story I am about to tell you will see how this is completely different to how I used to live. I owe a great deal of this to The Last House. All that I have learned about life, my self, and the program of alcoholics anonyms has been gained in my residency there.

 

There is not really a perfect way to explain what makes me the addict that I am but there is a set of beliefs that I gained as a child and thru my teen years. I believe that all the events and the way that I perceived them were the perfect brewery for my alcoholism. No pun intended.

 

Just before I entered The Last House I was living in San Diego in my car. I was a daily heroin user and saw no end to my addiction. I had nowhere to go no family left to turn to for a warm or help. I lied and stole at every opportunity I had. I was a grown man with no principles no moral code and no hope. Don’t get me wrong I had plenty of fun times in the beginning but those times had long since passed. My addiction had me in its grips. One day after heavy use I got an invitation from my brother to go live with him in his R.V. and work for him at his company. I had thought that this would change things for me moving away from the city I used to love that I thought was the problem. Later I found out what this was. In the program we refer to it as “geographical”. Things continued from there not getting any better. I continued lying and stealing from my brother a man who held his hand out to me. One day while on the job I used heroin and left a rig and a cooker behind for his co-owner to find, this was the beginning of my journey into recovery. The jig was up, word had gotten back to my brother. When I got home that night he laid into me and told me that I had to make a decision. I could A. leave his motor home and continue down this path, or B. I could get honest with and ask for the help that everyone but I knew I needed. That night I made the best decision of my life to seek help.

 

My journey in recovery started at a sober living called Genesis House. The place was fantastic for the first time in a long time I had a bed to call my own and a shower to use. I firmly believe that it was exactly what I needed at that time but the financial burden it placed on my dad made it clear that thirty days was as long as I could stay there. I believe this to be a very important part of my recovery where yet again I was faced with a decision go back to San Diego where I was almost certain to fall right back into my old habits or find a place within the price range given and go there. This marked the first time I had made a choice based on my own feelings and not what others saw fit for me. After two days and multiple phone calls the therapist at my I.O.P. recommended a place to me, it just so happened to be The Last House. Armed with a number and the determination to stay sober I made the call the next day Clayton picked me up and I toured the houses.

What happened next is what I have come to see as my higher power working in my life. I was on the tour of the houses and Clayton and me began talking about our families. He had asked me where my family was from so I gave him the rundown about my mom and her roots but when I got to my dad and the mention of Jacumba came up he stated that his family used to own a ranch in that town. This may not seem to weird to some people but if you knew anything at all about Jacumba you would understand how strange it was. I proceeded to call my dad and ask if he knew the Ketchums and much to my surprise my dad named off all of Claytons aunts and uncles and that he knew his grandparents. At this point my decision had been made for me. I needed no more reason than that to pick The Last House. That day was the day that I began to firmly believe that something greater than my self was working in my life and marked my stay at The Last House. Every time I have gone thru hardship in my recovery or felt like giving up I have remember that moment and that this is where I was meant to be.

 

My stay in the last house has been no cakewalk. When I first arrived at the last house I was a manipulator, a liar, and borderline insane. Over my stay I have put my self thru the ringer all the while building a foundation that I believe will help for the rest of my life. This whole concept was foreign to me a place where we wrote essays for leaving out cups, had groups where people got give feedback to other residents and share there perspectives on what was going on I had seen nothing like it in my life. As I settled in these things became like second nature to me though. I began learning that all the rules had purpose, we residents hold each other accountable and that’s what makes this place work. I remember the first time I was receiving feedback and the amount of anger I felt. I remember thinking that all that was being said to me was because they didn’t like me in hindsight I see that they were just sharing there experience and trying to help me grow and learn. Things got easier I was on restriction had free time to relax if only I knew how and had time to get started on my steps. My housemates on official would take me to meetings with them to the store and out to have fun. They showed me a new way of life and that being sober is not only okay but it is fun.

 

The time came when I had to get a job and start being self-sufficient. I had just got off restriction and began working my life had gotten bigger. This was a time in the last house that I see to be the most important. I was in the midst of learning how to balance my responsibilities something I had never done before. I was so angry at everything during this period getting essay after essay in turn getting angrier and angrier. Thank god for my brothers around me they cared enough about me to call me out when I was feeling sorry for my self or lying to my self saying I couldn’t do it. This time in my sobriety was one of the hardest times I have gone thru in the past 11 months. I truly believe that without this house and the people in it I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I had people show up for me and care about me. Thru the support of my friends in the house I was able to make it thru this. I was able to see how childish my behavior was. I was learning to become a man by having a mirror held up to my self so that I could change who I was. This house has taught me how to show up for people.  Today, I am gainfully employed at Thrive Treatment.

 

For that I will be eternally grateful.

written by senior resident Tanner R.

Recovery Story of Father and Son

father and son

Recovery Story of Father and Son

In March of 2011, my family was faced with a mind-blowing declaration from our son, Zack, when he confided to me and my wife, Debbie, that he had a serious substance abuse problem. Zack, who was 20 years old at the time, evidently was caught up in the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is plaguing Staten Island and he could not free himself from the grips of drug addiction.

It all came down one afternoon when Debbie realized that most of our good jewelry was gone – nowhere to be found. I ran home from work and immediately called 911 to report the robbery, not knowing that the thief was actually standing in front of me – my own kid. In the midst of the chaos, I guess Zack came to the realization that his silent world of drug use was about to blow up in his face with the strong possibility of an arrest, so he finally came forward and confessed his actions. For good or for bad, I called-off the police, and then tried to put the pieces together to see what the hell was going on.

I wondered – how could this be? How could he do this to us? We had enough problems to deal with – money, mortgage, and our own health issues, let alone trying to manage with our younger son’s severe disabilities for the last 18 years. We thought our “normal” son had it pretty good for a handsome 20-year-old guy living in New York. He was not for want of anything. Even though we were struggling financially, when he needed or just wanted something, somehow we managed to get it for him. We enjoyed providing for him and seeing him happy. He had parents that loved him and protected him, and he had our complete trust. Zack also had full access to everything we owned as a family – the house, the cars, the yard, and even an in-ground pool. With lots of friends, who were always welcome in our home, our basement was the “hang-out” to play video games and to hold band practice; our thinking was that we knew where he was – under our own roof – safe and out of trouble.

Zack is fairly intelligent and is also a very talented musician. He easily earned good grades in school, and then had the opportunity to fulfill his passion for music and attend college to secure a career in the music industry, which we fully supported. All we asked of him was to “do the right thing” – take care of your responsibilities and then enjoy life – good things will come if you just give it some effort. Unfortunately, all that was afforded to him wasn’t enough, and eventually his addiction, his disease, took control of his life and nothing else mattered to him except how to get his hands on more pills and at any expense, no matter who he hurt or what the consequences were to himself or to anyone else.

In hindsight, it should have been obvious to recognize what was festering around us. Under our careful watch, the signs were all there, but we did not pick up on them or perhaps, weren’t ready to face the reality. However, we were aware that Zack was very shy and uncomfortable in certain social settings. And, his behavior patterns were typically self-centered, compulsive, and obsessive. He also had a very negative attitude towards society and pessimistic feelings about life in general. But, we also knew that Zack smoked weed –a lot of weed, and he couldn’t wake up for nothing in the morning or the afternoon, or even late afternoon. And, he couldn’t hold a part-time job for any length of time, nor could he bear to travel to the city to go to his classes – an audio technology curriculum that was supposed to be his dream. Yet, he was able stay up to all hours of the night and managed to do the things that he wanted to do – like hanging-out with his friends, playing his guitar, playing video games, smoking weed, and sleeping. We just figured that he was who he was – a difficult teenager. Then again, you would think that the money you thought you put down “right there” or the ring or the watch you thought you misplaced would show up eventually but really never did would bring our attention to a problem here, but then you start second guessing yourself, thinking that a rational explanation would surface.

And then there were the strange and unexplained aches and pains that Zack constantly complained about. He also didn’t eat well and he basically looked like crap. So, as any parents would do, we took him to several different doctors and specialists, who examined him and ordered all kinds of lab tests, (except drug abuse tests, by the way); meanwhile, Zack played along under the radar with his antics. Of course the lab results were negative, but the doctors concluded that Zack suffered from chronic depression and treated him with an anti-depression medication. It’s amazing to me that not one of those professionals picked up on signs that I now see as pointing to a possible problem with addiction, but then again neither did us, so I guess we’ll leave it to the fact that Zack, being the addict that he had become, had an incredible ability to deceive the best of them. Looking back, there were so many indications brewing that would eventually lead up to the “storm of the century” for our family.

Our first reaction on that awful night when he acknowledged to us his addiction to prescription pills was to get him help – not to kick the living crap out of him like I wanted to, not to throw him out or turn our backs to him. Of course those thoughts did cross my mind, but I knew not to go there. Sure I was devastated, distraught, angry, afraid, and even embarrassed, but at least Debbie and I had some sense to know something had to be done about this crisis and done first thing in the morning.

We knew of the YMCA Counseling Service by word-of-mouth and from our family, so we decided that that’s where he would go – very simple – the plan was that he would stop abusing the pills, go to the program for a few weeks, get cured, and get on with his life. Wrong answer! We never fathomed that he was in such a serious life or death situation.

When Zack entered the out-patient treatment program at the Y, we thought it would be quick and easy. After all, “he wasn’t that bad” compared to other people’s stories we had heard. As we know now, addiction is addiction and the journey to recovery is a slow and conscious process. Unfortunately, in the beginning phases of his treatment, Zack was stringing everyone along, leading everyone to believe he was clean and doing what he supposed to be doing, but in reality he was only fooling himself. Yes he was going to treatment, wasn’t getting high – so we thought – be he was still sneaking around and picking up drugs. After six weeks, I guess when he realized that the Y was “on to him” and getting on his case despite his several successful attempts of fooling the random drug tests, Zack decided that he was “done” with the program and that he was “good,” “That’s it – done,” as he said. However, little did he realize that for the last six weeks Debbie and I were beginning our journey to recovery too; getting stronger and stronger and more educated about addiction and our “family” disease. As was strongly suggested, we came to Nar-Anon and kept coming back.

When I first stepped into the Nar-Anon in August 2011, I thought I was there to fix my son’s addiction, but I soon learned that was there to fix myself. From the get-go, the words, “This meeting is for you” stuck in my head. I needed something for me. I was completely engulfed in the chaos and symptoms of his addiction – the lies, the manipulations, the stealing, and the false promises. My whole life was revolved around what he was doing or not doing, where he was going, and who he was with. I was even doing most of the work for his treatment – I was keeping account of his schedule, reminding him of his NA meetings, driving him to meetings, making sure he was on time , calling people for him, even yelling at him to take a shower when I wanted him to. I was not only neglecting myself and the rest of my family, but I was also driving myself crazy. In fact, I was addicted to him.

I learned after a few weeks at Nar-Anon to “Say what I mean and mean what I say”. So, when Zack chose to leave the ‘Y’ in May, Debbie and I finally had the strength and courage to give him the opportunity to make a decision – we told him you can stay in treatment and work at getting healthy, or you can decide not to stay in treatment, but you’ll then have to leave our home. “We’re not going to stand by and watch you slowly kill yourself.” That morning his choice was that he would not return to treatment, so as difficult as it was, we told him he could no longer live in our home. However, in the heat of the moment, we didn’t exactly follow through with our word; we sort of caved in at the eleventh hour as he was literally packing a bag to leave and we offered him “Plan B”. That plan was to do 90/90 (90 NA meetings in 90 days), get a sponsor, and go to one-on-one counseling. Of course he agreed, then again who wouldn’t in order to stay nice and comfortable in their own home, and so we began the next chapter of his addiction. Again, he went through the motions and did what was asked of him, doing it his way, but something was still wrong – he wasn’t doing it for himself – he wasn’t ready. As we believe everything happens for a reason, sadly he relapsed – an unfortunate reality of the disease, but this time I was prepared, and I was prepared because of Nar-Anon.

This time around, the symptoms of his addition were so obvious that we all knew what had to be done to save his life. Zack himself finally realized that in-patient treatment was what he needed and he finally surrendered in July of 2011. Ultimately, we took control of our house and made it known that active addiction will no longer have a place in our lives or in our home. We flew him out to Los Angeles with the help of my nephew, and Zack signed himself into a residential drug treatment facility. He then followed through with what was suggested to him- he humbly worked the Twelve-Step Program. After 2 months, Zack was prepared to enter a transitional living arrangement (a sober living house) in LA, called “The Last House”, and he also signed up for 2 months of intensive out-patient treatment. He successfully completed his out-patient and graduated from sober living after 8 months. When I visited him in LA, he proudly showed me his name inscribed on the house’s commemorative graduates’ plaque – Zack was one of the only three clients at that time that has completed the program in the last two years since the house opened.

This time around his recovery was not for anyone else but himself. He is learning to practice the tools he needs to cope with life on life terms to sustain his sobriety “one day at a time.” In his early recovery, Zack continues to do his step work with his sponsor, attend his meetings regularly, make his commitments, and reach out to his people when he needs to. He decided after sober-living to stay in Los Angeles and he re-enrolled back in the same audio technology program that he attempted in NY. However, his last month in LA had been trying for all of us with Zack’s emerging health issues with his kidneys and him questioning his plans to stay in LA, we made a conscious decision that he should come back to live at home in NY -with the pros of this choice outweighing the cons. We believe that Zack is strong enough at this point in his recovery to maintain his sobriety no matter where he is geographically. With guarded optimism, I am proud to say that my son is now clean and sober for twenty-three months! His behavior, his honesty, his attitude and his actions are proof of his accomplishments. There is renewed hope for his future and his relationship with us, which is really all we ever prayed for. It was a blessing to hear him say last year that he was so grateful that we were attending Nar-Anon meetings. I am now truthfully able to tell him that, “I get it – I understand.”

I know that Nar-Anon is where I need to be every Tuesday night. It is here that I feel I am not alone. I meet other people and families that share my feelings and I realize that my story may be different, but my situation was not unique. “My people” at Nar-Anon really understand where I’m coming from – they can relate. It is so comforting to know that in our meetings we can say anything about what we are going through without being judged or criticized, while knowing that we have complete anonymity. There are some folks that are further along in the program and some with more experience with addiction, but because of their sharing, I gain more knowledge every week and become reassured in what I have to do for myself to stay healthy. Even the newcomers can shed some light by reminding me what has led me here, and it also gives me the opportunity to give a little back. It feels good to know that you might make a difference in someone else’s life. I know that there is no magic cure for this disease, but I also know that I can cope with it and I can grow at my own pace. I’m better prepared to make the decisions that are right for me. I leave every meeting in a better frame of mind than when I walked in. Others may sympathize with us, but they really have no clue. We need to be with those who are experiencing similar situations so that we can all help each other.

I cannot say enough about everyone in Nar-Anon and the information and comfort that they have imparted on me by sharing their feelings. Everyone makes themselves available beyond the meeting time for any questions and or help, or just to listen, no matter how big or small the issue. The education I’ve gained about addiction and its effects on the family are invaluable. I learned about the addict, how to respond to him instead of reacting to him, and how to try to have a good life despite with my addict is in a good place or not. I learned that Zack has to follow his own path. I cannot do it for him, for I have my own path and my own journey. Our paths can run parallel, I can love and support him, and cheer him on, but he has to make his own life choices and I must let him. If he falls, he must learn to pick himself up, seek help, work it out, and get back on track. I also have learned that I can help him, but not enable him, I can “walk” next to him in his journey, but I cannot “carry” him, and I learned that that I have to continue to concentrate on my own recovery. I now know that in order to help my son – my qualifier, my addict – who I love dearly, I have to first get my own life together, stay healthy and focused, and most importantly take care of myself. The group has given me the tools to do this and I am forever grateful.

…written by a father of one of our alumni

Why Sober Living?

california structured sober living

Why Sober Living?

I’ve often heard individuals in the recovery community say something along the lines of “once you’re ready to get sober, you’ll do it in a cardboard box if you have to.”  Why then have sober living homes become such a popular destination for people in search of sobriety?  

My quest for sobriety began well before I actually wanted to get sober, but I didn’t know it at the time.  I got my first “nudge from the judge” as an 18 year old when I was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession and underage possession of alcohol.  I was a freshman in college and doing well in other areas of my life, but the courts did mandate that I participate in 12 weeks of outpatient therapy.  My parents didn’t see this minor setback as a particularly alarming event, and I completed the required course without much difficulty. Yet, this experience didn’t deter me from proceeding further along the path I had set myself upon.  

The continuation of this lifestyle was more of a slow burn than a quick descent, though that time allowed me to become firmly entrenched in a community that I would have otherwise avoided.  I grew up listening to my grandmother say “show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.”  I never really gave her the opportunity to meet the friends I kept as my disease progressed, because they would certainly expose me as the derelict I was becoming.

Eventually, knowing I had fully succumbed to my addiction, the despair was great enough that I began to seek help.  I went to my first 12 step meeting at the behest of a loving girlfriend.  I attended 90 meetings in 90 days.  I got a sponsor.  I began to work some steps, but I still didn’t fully remove myself from the environment I had created over the many years my addiction spanned.  It didn’t take long before I had fallen back into my old ways, and this stumble became the quick descent I had avoided for so long.  

The desire to seek something more out olife was still there, though, and I began to look beyond the typical rehab facilities and short term programs that are a last resort for many.  I knew that I needed to completely remove myself from the toxic situation I had been living in and find a healthy environment that would allow me to slowly build the tools necessary for a life without drugs and alcohol.  I reached out to a friend who once found himself living in a tent on skid row.  He had completed a year long program at the Last House Sober Living in Los Angeles, and had found the lust for life the drugs had taken from him.  

I asked him why it worked, and he quickly replied that one of the most important aspects of recovery for him was being able to live amongst a supportive group of peers who were experiencing the same ups and downs of life that he was.  These other young men were able to help him navigate the trials and tribulations life threw his way.  They were able to love him before he could love himself.  They were there to congratulate him along each of the sobriety milestones he reached.  Eventually, he explained, that he became the one who was able to extend his love to other young men who came to the house seeking something more out of life.  

I was sold, and embarked upon this same journey myself.  I can speak from experience that the reward of finding one’s self is fantastic, but the gift of helping another do the same is absolutely priceless. 

-written by The Last House alumni John M.