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Houses helping men maintain a sober life

TNS Regional News • Dec 29, 2013 at 8:07 AM

The homes are about security, companionship and accountability. They are about understanding what it means to dump alcohol and drugs from your life because they will destroy you and to acknowledge that you need support to make that happen.

In the past year, the state; Franklin County’s Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board, or ADAMH; and the nonprofit House of Hope have worked together to open two houses dedicated to promoting the recovery of men who have gained their sobriety and want to hold onto it.

A house in Victorian Village opened this past spring; the other, on the Near East Side, opened in November.

Each is home to five men in recovery. The men are expected to work, pay rent and attend four meetings a week, plus a house meeting. They agree to do chores and respect curfews.

“A lot of my family still drinks, so that would be difficult for me,” said Brandon Fetherolf, who lives in the Victorian Village house and has been in recovery housing since 2012 (he lived in House of Hope’s Steven’s House previously).

Fetherolf, 32, is in college and majors in addiction studies. He has a job and is on the verge of moving into his own place after benefiting from the transition in a supportive living environment.

One of his roommates, Matthew, who did not want his last name used, said he feels well-equipped in the home to keep himself healthy and put his life back together.

Without it, “I will get myself in trouble,” he said. “I think we need more places like this. I really, really do.”

Both men were homeless at times while using, and both have been through residential treatment.

Richard Mason, recovery residence coordinator for House of Hope, said that an ideal home provides autonomy and accountability in concert. Men are welcome to stay out later than curfew if it’s planned and agreed upon; they can spend nights elsewhere, too.

But they’re out if they use drugs and alcohol or buck other house rules. Some live in recovery houses for months, others for years.

Living in that type of environment has helped Floyd Townsend, a 42-year-old resident of the Near East Side house, earn back the respect of family, including his ex-wife and twin 11-year-olds, he said.

“For me, it’s safe right now. I still consider myself really early in sobriety,” said Townsend, who recently celebrated a year free of alcohol and prescription drugs.

“I’d lost everything that was important to me.”

On Christmas morning, he watched his daughter and son open gifts. On Thanksgiving, a sister who had said she never wanted to see him again welcomed him at her table.

Townsend said the advice and ear of those who’ve been in recovery for a longer time have been important for him. For example, he often leans on Nathan Rogers, the house manager, who will have been sober for four years in January.

Rogers, 36, said he would likely be in jail, or dead, without a sober environment.

The concept of recovery housing isn’t new, but the state’s involvement (and $500,000 investment in the houses in Franklin County) is, and it comes from a recognition that the model serves those in recovery well and increases exponentially the chances that they will stay clean.

Many previously existing sober houses have their roots in Alcoholics Anonymous and don’t have government support, said Susan Lewis Kaylor, chief administrative officer for ADAMH.

Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services director Tracy Plouck said she hopes for more money to support additional recovery housing throughout the state.

An analysis by the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers found that recovery housing is particularly important for low-income individuals and that there are nowhere near enough of these houses available statewide.

“People need a safe home to support them on their recovery,” Plouck said. “This is a really affordable investment. Folks are working, they’re sober, they’re supporting each other.”


By Misti Crane - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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