The Oxford House is a sober living program for men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Those who want to live in an Oxford House must have a complete understanding of its three foundations of sober living before they can move into one of these therapeutic recovery homes.
Here’s more about the three foundations of Oxford Houses, along with information on how to find one of these recovery centers in your area.
What Is the Oxford House?
An Oxford House is any sober living home operating under the Oxford House Model. The Oxford House Model is a specific set of criteria that a recovery home must meet to qualify as an Oxford House.
The first Oxford House was established in 1975 in Montgomery County, Maryland. Thirteen men in recovery from alcohol addiction had been living in a sober living home that was closing due to local budget constraints. Instead of moving out, these men decided to rent the building using their own funds and run it on their own using their own set of rules and criteria.
Together, these 13 men developed the Oxford House Model and established the first Oxford House. The first change they made to the existing model under which they lived was lifting the limit of a six-month stay. They knew that many people needed longer than six months to recover from addiction, and the relapse rate was higher among these individuals if they left the sober living community before they were ready.
Today, there are an estimated 3,000 Oxford House facilities in the United States. These facilities operate under Oxford House Inc., a non-profit, tax-exempt, publicly supported umbrella organization for the national network of Oxford Houses.
What Are the Three Foundations of Oxford House Sober Living?
The Oxford House Model is based on three philosophies or foundations. These foundations are applied to every Oxford House in operation.
1. The House Must Be Self-Run on a Democratic Basis
Every Oxford House is run on a self-supporting system managed by its own residents. This means there are no supervisors, managers, or directors employed by Oxford House, Inc., or who live off-site and visit the home daily to watch over residents. Instead, these homes are self-run by residents who elect officers to serve six-month terms.
The democratic model of Oxford Houses is similar to that practiced by college fraternities and sororities. This helps ensure all residents have an equal voice in the management of the home, and that there are fewer opportunities in which favoritism or prejudice can be practiced.
Every Oxford House elects its own president, treasurer, secretary, comptroller, and coordinator.
The president is usually responsible for calling and presiding over emergency house meetings, such as when a resident is suspected of using drugs and alcohol. The president is also responsible for interviewing prospective new residents.
The secretary manages vital records for an Oxford House, such as resident applications, contracts, and interview schedules. The treasurer and comptroller are responsible for collecting rent, helping residents with bill payments, and managing house funds. The coordinator is responsible for scheduling and assigning daily and weekly chores that keep the house and its surrounding land clean.
2. The House Must Be Financially Self-Supported
All Oxford Houses are built on the principle of self-help, including where money and finances are concerned. All these sober living homes must operate without debt using funds from the people who live there. This “self-supported” philosophy helps Oxford House residents learn to become more responsible, which is critical for those recovering from addiction transitioning back to an independent lifestyle.
In many instances, an Oxford Home has fixed expenses so residents can adequately manage their finances without worrying about unplanned or unexpected costs. This usually includes expenses related to food, supplies, electricity, gas, oil, water, and cable TV. Residents who want “extras” like special food deliveries or Pay-Per-View cable packages must pay for these extras themselves.
3. Any Resident Who Drinks Alcohol or Uses Drugs Must Be Immediately Expelled
Staying sober is regarded as the most important foundation of Oxford House sober living. One relapse can trigger a domino effect that could lead to all residents relapsing back to drug and alcohol use, especially if these substances are easily accessible and available in the Oxford House.
According to the Oxford House Model, a member suspected of relapsing must be confronted immediately by other residents. The president will hold an emergency meeting during which residents will discuss the behaviors of the resident suspected of relapsing. If the majority of residents believe that the person is using drugs or alcohol, that person will be asked to leave immediately.
Relapse is a normal part of recovery from addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rate for substance use disorders is 40% to 60%, lower than other chronic health conditions, including asthma and high blood pressure.
Oxford House residents who relapse usually need additional or different treatments that help them get back on track with recovery. After leaving their Oxford Houses, those who relapse can transition back into a residential or inpatient rehab facility to repeat detox and receive other behavioral therapies that address the root causes of their substance use disorders.
Who Can Live in an Oxford House?
Any man or woman recovering from drug or alcohol addiction can apply to live in an Oxford House.
First, you must find an Oxford House in which you want to live. Then, you must contact that home directly to schedule an interview. You will be asked to bring your application with you and may be interviewed by some or all residents in the Oxford House who determine whether you’re a good fit for that particular home.
The Oxford House membership application is relatively straightforward. You will be asked to provide personal information such as your age, address, and income, as well as detailed information about your history of drug and alcohol use. Members will inquire about your participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) support group meetings and about any medications or treatments you are currently receiving.
The three foundations of Oxford House sober living are important criteria used to screen prospective residents. Therefore, you must understand these criteria before your interview. For instance, you may be an ideal candidate for an Oxford House if you are highly motivated to stay sober and engaged with your addiction treatment program. If you are not fully committed to staying sober, you may want to consider additional treatment in a residential rehab program before moving into a sober living home.
Can Men and Women Live in the Same Oxford House?
Men and women cannot live together in the same Oxford House. There have been many situations in Oxford Houses where relationships develop between men and women to cause unnecessary complications that disrupt the operations of the home. Romantic relationships are also found to disrupt and complicate the addiction recovery process among Oxford House residents.
Many addiction treatment professionals recommend focusing on your recovery and on becoming more independent and confident in your everyday life before pursuing a relationship. Though new relationships can be exciting, they can also increase the risk of codependency, stress, anxiety, and other issues that can interfere with your treatment, sobriety, and recovery.
What Are Tips for Staying in an Oxford House Without Getting Expelled?
The number one reason for expulsion from an Oxford House is a relapse back to drug and alcohol use. You will be asked to leave an Oxford House if you are caught or suspected of using drugs and alcohol and if the majority of residents decide you should leave.
There are many steps you can take to reduce your risk for relapse. First, it’s imperative to stay engaged in your addiction treatment program, whether it involves going to regular AA or NA meetings or receiving therapy at an outpatient drug or alcohol rehab center. The other residents in your Oxford House can also help you avoid relapse by holding you accountable for your actions and spending time with you doing fun, sober activities.
Another top reason for expulsion from an Oxford House is the failure to pay bills and your portion of the rent. If you need help managing finances or paying bills, don’t hesitate to confide in the treasurer and comptroller of your Oxford House, as these individuals may be able to offer suggestions or help you make financial arrangements as necessary.
Disruptive behavior is another common reason for expulsion from an Oxford House. Disruptive behavior includes any criminal activity, such as selling drugs, shoplifting, physically assaulting someone, and stealing from other residents in your Oxford House. If you feel the urge to demonstrate disruptive behavior, consider reaching out to your counselors or treatment team at drug and alcohol rehab for therapy, help, and guidance before it leads to your being asked to leave an Oxford House.
Are Oxford Houses Effective for Addiction Recovery?
Several peer-reviewed studies funded by the National Institutes of Health have found that Oxford Houses are highly successful at helping people recover from substance abuse and addiction. People who live in these sober homes benefit from a reduced risk of relapse and long-term sobriety.
In one study, researchers followed the recovery progress of 897 Oxford House residents in 219 homes for 27 months and found that only 13% of these individuals relapsed. In another study, researchers followed 150 people who had finished their rehab programs—half of whom moved into Oxford Houses and half of whom moved into normal living situations, such as back into their family’s homes. Of those who moved into Oxford Houses, 66% were able to stay sober compared with the 33% who moved back into normal living situations.
Oxford Houses can be highly effective as long as you understand and follow the three foundations of Oxford House sober living. As long as you follow house rules, manage your financial responsibilities, and stay sober, your experience at an Oxford House is likely to be highly rewarding and fulfilling.
Should I Go to a Drug Rehab Center or an Oxford House?
An Oxford House is a sober living home for recovering alcoholics and those in recovery from drug use disorders. Staying sober is one of the three major foundations of an Oxford House. You cannot live in an Oxford House if you cannot stay sober.
If you are currently suffering from addiction and feel that an Oxford House can help you achieve and maintain sobriety, you may need professional treatment before you can move into one of these homes. A drug and alcohol rehab center use a variety of therapies that teach you how to stay sober and reduce your risk of relapse. Addiction treatment centers also provide you with education about alcoholics and drug addictions so you know what to expect when you move into an Oxford House occupied by others in recovery.
The first best step you can take is to seek treatment in a drug or alcohol rehab program. These programs offer detox and behavioral therapy to help you recover from addiction before you move into a sober living home.
Detox helps you safely withdraw from drugs and alcohol, so you face a reduced risk of complications. Detox treatments usually involve medications that reduce your symptoms and help you feel more comfortable. After detox, you can start receiving behavioral therapy to learn skills that help you stay sober.
Behavioral therapies usually focus on addressing the root cause of your addiction. For example, if you started drinking alcohol to cope with stress or depression, your treatment may involve stress management classes or mental health therapy. After your rehab program has ended, your counselors and therapists may recommend that you continue recovery at a sober living home such as an Oxford House.
How Can I Find an Oxford House Near Me?
There are several methods you can use to find an Oxford House near you. Call the Oxford House World telephone number at (301) 587-2916 or visit its official website at www.oxfordhouse.org. Or, visit the Find Support Groups website for a complete list of Oxford Houses currently operating in the United States.