Since its creation in 1975, Oxford House sober living has made a mark in the world of recovery. Oxford House is an alternative to traditional halfway houses or residential sober living facilities. Oxford Houses differ from traditional residential treatment facilities in that they provide an opportunity for sober living but are neither attached to any treatment center nor is there a house manager or employee who oversees the day-to-day operations of the house.
You may often think of a recovery home as a place for alcoholics and drug users to reside while learning and adapting to your new life based on recovery. Those who have lived in an Oxford House will agree that it has the same main goal overall. The difference is that Oxford House residents must possess a large amount of self-efficacy to stay clean and sober. Unlike a more traditional treatment center, there is no treatment component attached turn Oxford House.
What Makes Success
In its most basic terms, people are what make an Oxford House a success. Oxford homes are run independently and have no ties with traditional treatment facilities. Additionally, while all Oxford homes understand the importance of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), they are not linked to these self-help groups in any financial or professional capacity.
People residing within the home have to be able to work together and rely on each other to make an Oxford home successful. Oxford Houses are run in a democratic fashion, which allows the house to make the best decisions based on the needs of its members at any given time. This is not to say the residents do not encounter challenges along the way, but many people find comfort in knowing that their fellow residents will not be telling them what to do. Rather, they are responsible for themselves and for what is best for the house.
Traditions help guide the house in its policy and procedural setup. This is particularly helpful when first starting an Oxford home. Of course, rules can change over time, but when drafting any of these policies, the Oxford House must incorporate the following traditions:
• The primary goal of an Oxford House is to offer housing and support to people with alcohol or substance abuse problems who want to maintain sobriety.
• All Oxford homes will be run democratically.
• No resident will ever be asked to leave without cause, and even then, it will be done with a dismissal vote of all members.
• Oxford House is not affiliated with AA or NA, though members are encouraged to actively participate in those organizations.
• Each Oxford House is responsible for its own autonomy.
• Each Oxford House is financially self-supporting.
• Oxford House will never be the treatment facility and will not employ a professional manager.
• Any discussion of an Oxford home with the outside population should be done from an educational and public health viewpoint, not as a promotion.
• Successful members who transition out of the Oxford House are encouraged to offer mentorship to current residents.
Because Oxford homes are not affiliated with treatment centers, the cost affiliated with living in a home can be substantially less than what would be expected when living in a traditional recovery house or treatment facility. This can be cost-effective for people getting started with living independently and needing to stick to a budget.
This is a fantastic opportunity, but it also comes with a large amount of responsibility. Many people starting in recovery may find they have difficulty with learning how to manage a budget. This is where an Oxford home can be helpful, as you can use the people and resources around you to get the help needed to learn how to successfully pay monthly bills.
This setup works straightforwardly — a person will be responsible for their fair share of the rent, utilities, phone, cable, and any other shared household expenditures. There also needs to be an understanding that the amount you may have to pay can change based upon the number of residents currently in the home. For example, if there are six people in the home, one person will be expected to pay 1/6 of the bills. If the next month ten people are living in the home, you would be expected to pay 1/10 of the household bills.
Another helpful thing to know is that rent prices will be subjective, as Oxford homes can be anywhere in the country, and real estate costs will vary from community to community and state to state. Speaking very generally, estimates can range from about $400 to $500 a month. The Oxford House website has even been kind enough to provide a calculator to help you plan and budget finances.
How to Start an Oxford House
An Oxford House has a unique structure in that one can exist virtually anywhere. The purpose of the Oxford House is to allow you to rent a space in a good neighborhood so you can adapt to a clean living environment and possibly remove yourself from a previous unhealthy setting and living situation. For a house to get started, the founding members must find a landlord willing to rent knowing that the home will be an Oxford House. If this agreement can be arranged, the founding members will name the Oxford House — for example, they may call it Oxford House, Main Street. In this example, the founding members will then sign the lease as Oxford House, Main Street, rather than as individual people signing since members will constantly be transitioning in and out of the home.
The costs required to start up a new Oxford House can be substantially higher than the cost to simply live in an established Oxford home. Some states offer loans of up to $4,000 to help Oxford homes get started. These loans can pay the first month and security deposit that is typically needed to rent a home. Most of these loans are required to be paid back in small amounts within 24 months.
Once the home is established, the founding members will then create their charter so they can be connected to the Oxford home network. Then, they would create their rules and begin working within the Oxford model. Since recovery is self-paced, founding members usually end up vacating the home in a staggered fashion. This is helpful because it allows for new members to understand and work within the Oxford House format by learning from older residents.
Oxford homes typically try and find good neighborhoods to move into. The definition of “good” is subjective, but generally, Oxford homes are trying to operate in neighborhoods with low crime rates that are not known for substance abuse problems. This allows residents to better prepare themselves for integration into mainstream communities as opposed to the communities that may have previously been a trouble area for them. It gives people the chance to remove themselves from bad situations and away from neighborhoods that could be potential triggers to relapse.
Oxford Houses are not just a place for everyone to show up and have a place to sleep. Some expectations and responsibilities are required to be met if you want to maintain residency within the home. Not only are there contractual obligations, but there are also elected officers. Elected officers are people who take on specific roles that every Oxford House must-have. They include:
• President — Works with all other roles to help them be successful.
• Treasurer — Responsible for ensuring funds are secured, and the financial well-being of the house is maintained.
• Secretary — Performs administrative duties such as administrative paperwork for residents, website updates, and managing the house email account.
• Comptroller — Oversees member balances and assists treasurer with the creation of monthly financial reports.
• Coordinator — Makes sure the day-to-day operation of the house is running smoothly, including responsibilities such as ensuring the house rules are being met and that the house is stocked with essential items.
• Housing Service Committee Representative — Provides information to the public about the Oxford House, distributes flyers, and troubleshoots problems.
These positions can be held by a member within the house for six months at a time. The members of the house elected to these positions are welcome to serve again, but they cannot serve two terms consecutively. Officers within these roles often find themselves in a position that requires more responsibility than the other residents, and as you can see some positions have more responsibilities than others.
People in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse issues may find they spent a large proportion of their time seeking substances as opposed to having purposeful meaning in life. Oftentimes these behaviors can lead to depressive feelings and a lack of self-worth. Many people who have been through the Oxford House experience have expressed they have a new found purpose in their lives and recovery in general.
A common theme for people who were successful in an Oxford home is that they have developed sober living lifestyles that help them be successful in their recovery from addiction. Successful residents often find themselves leaning into their new living arrangement which promotes self-efficacy, which in turn can lead to improved self-esteem. When residents start feeling better about themselves, they might start setting goals including appointment to an elected officer position or working towards a position with more responsibility. Setting and completing these types of goals can start a positive feedback loop which helps foster successful recovery.
Mentorship and Support
Being newly sober can present challenges because the possibility for relapse can be high, especially without support. One key thing about living in an Oxford home is knowing that every person in the residence has gone through or is going through a shared experience of working in recovery. Having this support is extremely beneficial, especially in early recovery.
During and even after their stays in an Oxford House, many people find an opportunity to both mentor residents and to start other Oxford homes within different communities. Mentorship serves a great role for both the person mentoring and the person benefiting from the mentoring. Many people who were successful in recovery find that mentoring helps them stay active within their own sobriety and view it as a way to give back to people and their communities.
Is it Right for Me?
Oxford Houses are wonderful alternatives to conventional residential treatment settings. One thing that should be remembered is that an Oxford House does not take the place of therapy. Support and mentorship are very valuable and important things to have while in recovery. Even if you find yourself struggling, you should not resign to feelings of failure or not being worthy. Many people living in Oxford homes still seek professional treatment. There are many different treatment options available, including intensive outpatient and outpatient programs. An outpatient treatment episode paired with an Oxford House can lead to incredibly successful outcomes.
Some might find themselves asking whether an Oxford home is enough, and is treatment necessary? Some things to consider include:
• Higher difficulty remaining sober
• Multiple treatment episodes with continued relapse
• Untreated depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health disorders
• Currently using or in need of detoxification services
It is vital to be realistic about the living conditions in an Oxford home. You will have multiple roommates, and these roommates will change as they transition into and out of the house. This living arrangement might be perfectly fine for some, while others might have difficulty living in a home where transition and change happen frequently.
Available Treatment Services
If you have decided to take the next step in your addiction recovery and mental health journey, The Haven offers comprehensive treatment and diagnosis services to help support a successful recovery. Contact us today for more information.