Women’s issues in addiction recovery: An INTERVIEW with Jocelyn Grant
Why women-only sober houses?
Women face unique problems that are specific to their own demographic when it comes to addiction treatment and the navigation of life in recovery. Addiction affects women differently than men, so it’s logical that treatment options need to adapt to meet these specific needs. Sober houses for women can be sympathetic to the struggles that women face after initial treatment. But are sober homes meeting the needs of women in early recovery? What are those needs, exactly?
We explore here. Then, we invite your questions or comments about women’s issues in addiction recovery in the comments section at the end.
Gender based aftercare: Important or no?
Sober living houses offer a supportive, structured, and substance free environment for people in early recovery. Residents are usually encouraged to work a support group program that includes:
- 12-Step program & sponsorship
- Employment or volunteerism
- Ongoing outpatient therapy
In fact, if a woman begins to engage in twelve-step fellowships, sober housing, individual and family therapy, spiritual growth, and constructive hobbies, she has a pretty good shot at maintaining long-term sobriety. However, many women find that they are better able to focus on their recovery in an environment with other women, which isn’t always the case when in an environment with both men and women.
A growing need for women’s sober homes
Today we speak with Jocelyn Grant, who is dedicated to the development, growth, management, and expansion of a women’s sober living community. Jocelyn works in a residential clinic with addicted individuals in the earliest stages of recovery, and is a woman in recovery herself.
Now, her next goal is to provide a structured, sober home in New Haven, CT, for women struggling with addictions. You can contribute and support her mission for opening Jocelyn’s House which is still in its crowdfunding stage. Read this interview to learn more about Jocelyn’s vision and passion, and feel free to post any additional question in the comments section at the end.
ADDICTION BLOG: Hello and thank you for joining us today, Jocelyn. For a start, can you please talk about some of the most evident gaps in addiction recovery treatments for women…what are most communities still missing in terms of aftercare for women?
JOCELYN GRANT: In my experience, the largest gaps are a lack of connection and a lack of assisted social reintegration after leaving treatment. Sober homes must provide a more hands-on approach to management, creating a warm, family-like atmosphere and encouraging women to make real connections both spiritually and socially, further developing the strategies and supports to deal with the pressures of everyday life while maintaining their sobriety. A sober house manager should be well connected in the recovery community so that they can effectively pair newcomers with multiple supports and resources.
I think that communities are still grappling with the stigma of addiction, and we can no longer afford to do this because people are dying. The sooner communities accept the magnitude of the problem, the sooner supports can be made available, allowing individuals greater access to treatment and recovery.
ADDICTION BLOG: Who can benefit from staying at a sober home after initial treatment is over? Why is it crucial to have a period of adaptation in a women’s sober living community instead of just heading home right away?
JOCELYN GRANT: Going back to the same environment is one of the most detrimental things that a newly recovering person can do. Even if the family does not use substances, there are many pressures and emotions that can trigger the urge to relapse.
Also, women need to build close relationships with new, positive friends and will find it much harder to do so if they go back home before they’ve built a healthy social foundation.
ADDICTION BLOG: Tell us more about your vision and mission for a sober home for women in your community. What do you plan this place to look like? Who can come in for continued recovery support?
JOCELYN GRANT: My recovery home will be a refuge where women can settle into a safe, structured family setting for long-term care (3 to 12 months, longer if necessary). They will receive direct care, individual counseling, and have access to daily peer support groups. There will also be group activities to encourage positive social connection.
Women are expected to have several weeks sober before moving into the recovery home, and during the initial weeks of their stay, they will be provided a more structured environment to ensure that their sobriety is maintained, as is the healthy atmosphere that has already been established within the recovery home.
ADDICTION BLOG: Let’s talk about the best practices in length of stay and tracking progress. Can women stay for as long as they want or need, or will there be a set program length? How are you looking to track progress (interviews, self-reports, psychological evaluations…) and evaluate when someone has acquired the needed tools to move on from the sober home?
JOCELYN GRANT: Length of stay must be determined on a case-by-case basis, as each woman recovers at her own individual pace and arrives under a different set of circumstances. Similarly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tracking progress.
That said, we will be collaborating with a local outpatient agency, which will provide both group and individual counseling (and this will enable progress to be tracked, whether this information is made available via release to the sober house will be determined by the client and her clinician).
The girls will also be encouraged to start sponsoring others through the 12 steps before they leave, as this will ensure true connection and deepen their commitment to their own recovery.
Women will be expected to attend 12-step meetings daily until they obtain full-time employment, and five meetings per week thereafter. Regardless of employment status, all women must report each week to house management to check-in and report their progress regarding step work and sponsorship.
ADDICTION BLOG: You will be opening in New Haven, CT. Where did you see the need for a sober living home for women in your area?
JOCELYN GRANT: There is a critical need for more structured and monitored sober living environments in the New Haven area, particularly for women who have a history of chronic relapse. Women struggling with addiction need long-term, compassionate, quality care.
While 30-day programs are a great start, they don’t provide women the opportunity to form the healthy supports and social connections they need in the real world.
In Connecticut, all of the long-term programs have shortened substantially. Insurance no longer covers long-term care as it used to, and treatment programs that used to be 18-months are now just 3-4 months. While quality sober homes do exist, the numbers are few and far between. The sober homes that succeed have management with strong, long-term sobriety, and an ability to grow and maintain a healthy, sober, structured atmosphere.
There is an addiction epidemic in Connecticut, and it is not slowing down. There were about 2,000 drug overdose deaths in Connecticut between 2012 and 2015.
Accidental drug overdoses were responsible fro 917 deaths in 2016. That’s a 25 percent increase in drug-related deaths since the previous year. In order to reduce these numbers, we must make a radical shift in the way we treat those struggling with addiction and those looking to recover.
ADDICTION BLOG: What is the program schedule like? How will women’s daily schedules be structured?
JOCELYN GRANT: “Idle time is the devil’s playground.”
When women first enter the house, the earlier part of the day will be devoted to structured groups, and the second part of the day will be geared towards seeking employment. Regardless of employment status, women will attend 12-step meetings in the evenings. Residents will be encouraged to stay physically active and engage in structured social activities.
ADDICTION BLOG: You are in recovery yourself. What are some positive experiences in your own recovery that you draw upon in your vision of building this sober home for women?
JOCELYN GRANT: Through sponsorship I have learned how to be of true help to others who are suffering; I have helped others grow spiritually, and in turn, I have grown spiritually myself. To help in this way brings me true joy in my heart, and I am so grateful for the 12-step program.
ADDICTION BLOG: How you do plan to provide the services that are missing, but are needed for newly recovering women? How can others do the same?
JOCELYN GRANT: Often times, newly recovering women do not yet have the skills or ability to access the resources necessary to achieve self-sufficiency. The drugs and alcohol that they once depended on for confidence in social situations is no longer an option, and most women struggle with serious social anxiety and find it difficult to make connections in early sobriety.
Therefore, we will be providing women with hands on support as they are introduced back into these often challenging situations. We will also be providing women access to vocational training workshops, while stressing the importance of attending and initiation social events within the recovery community.
Of equal importance is that is the girls begin sponsoring others through the 12-steps before they transition out of the home. This will ensure that they have formed meaningful connections with others in the recovery community.
To ensure that the needs of the women are met, and quality of service is maintained, I highly recommend that house managers have been through the 12-steps, have an active role in the local recovery community, and have a heart for service.
ADDICTION BLOG: How much would it cost for a woman to stay in your recovery home? Will you offer scholarships, sliding scale fees, or accept health insurance for those that cannot afford to pay the full amount of a long-term stay?
JOCELYN GRANT: We will have sliding scale options to meet the needs of as many women as possible. We intend to have monthly fundraisers to help raise money for scholarships.
ADDICTION BLOG: You found your purpose in effectively helping others in recovery. Will you be offering the same opportunity for sober women that want to pay it forward to other women in early recovery? And, will you be offering aftercare for women once they leave the sober house?
JOCELYN GRANT: When women have transitioned out of the home successfully, they will be encouraged to attend meetings at the house and may continue to receive clinical services as long as indicated. Women who have fully transitioned out of the home and want to be of service will have the opportunity to volunteer and potentially obtain employment as well.