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Heroin addiction is changing the landscape of young America. Ask virtually any young man or woman graduating high school and they will surely tell you they either know someone addicted to heroin or sadly, someone who’s life was ended too soon as a result of this insidious addiction. The newest studies are clearly indicating that young Americas obsession with this addiction are on the rise and that it has crossed demographic boundaries that in the past contained this drug primarily to the most underprivileged communities. How did this happen? The evidence is undeniable that heroin addiction found it’s way into suburban communities with the rise of powerful prescription opioid based pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone, dilaudid, hydrocodone and others. The effect and sensation of these drugs on the young body and mind mimic that of heroin essentially exactly the same. As prescriptions for these drugs became widely accepted in the medical community as an appropriate and effective way to treat short term and chronic pain, suburban America’s medicine cabinets became full with high-grade and incredibly addictive opiates. This provided the perfect bridge for those who would likely never have been willing to take the enormous and justly stigmatized jump from pot smoking and or drinking, into the world of opiate use. The draw to these powerful drugs lies in the notion that since they are widely prescribed by medical professionals that they “must be safe.” It makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t a young adult think this? According to a recent publication, “Many (young) people move to heroin after abusing painkillers simply because of the ease of attaining it and the cheaper price.” The connection is clear. So how is heroin addiction changing the face of Alcoholics Anonymous?

I remember a little bit more than 11 years ago, the first time someone suggested to me that I may have a problem with drugs and alcohol and that I should consider attending a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I remember what diner I was in and most significantly I remember exactly what I was thinking when I heard those words and exactly how I felt. I was angry, offended and defiant. Fast-forward a number of months later, after several crashed vehicles, an arrest for DUI and many blowout fights with family and friends, my family intervened. It was time for some good healthy professionally directed tough love. Accept help, or leave. I accepted help.

When I arrived at alcoholics anonymous, with a head full of prodigious and under the delusion that I didn’t have a problem, I was shocked. Virtually everything that I could have possibly thought about AA was wrong with one exception. I thought AA was for “old people.” I was 21 years old in a room full of mostly 40-60 year old men and women. I tried desperately to attach to this as a reason for why I didn’t belong there. I was unsuccessful. It quickly become obvious to me that I had far more in common with these people than I did differences.

Fast-forward 11 years. Heroin addiction today is in full swing and the rooms of alcoholics anonymous are booming with young men and women in recovery. Most of these young men and women are recovering from their addiction to heroin. The notion that a drug addict and an alcoholic are in some way different from one another is no longer accepted. The method by which someone self medicates the underlying condition of the restlessness, irritability and discontentedness, that drives all addictive behaviors, is inconsequential. Unsurprisingly, the path to recovery that is effective in treating alcoholism can be applied to equally as effectively to heroin addiction as well. However, there is a caveat.

Due to the nature of the young age of the average heroin addict there remains a significant gap in life skills compared to many older addicts and alcoholics. Many of those who have entered recovery at a later age have held jobs, raised families and provided for themselves financially. Many of these young addicts have not acquired the life survival skills and necessary tools for self-sufficiency that will carry them through their recovery. Left to their own devices most of these young addicts struggle significantly with basic life skills such as; cooking for themselves, maintaining a healthy sleep/wake schedule, punctuality, consistent employment, money management and more. This gap has lead to an overwhelming need for an increase in the level of attention and hands on guidance these young addicts need.  A well run, well-staffed structured sober living home can provide this experience.

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Our belief is that for these young addicts, most sober livings or recovery homes just won’t be effective. The notion that your average 19-30 year old young person seeking recovery will be able maintain the level of discipline, motivation and desperation required to maintain sobriety is one of naivety or inexperience. We’re not saying this is 100% always true, but the majority of the time it will be. An effective San Diego sober living home must provide guidance and accountability in the many areas where these men and women need support. We feel that a no-nonsense approach to structure in the areas of 12 step recovery, employment, use of time, physical fitness, money management and service to others must be laid out and maintained to truly affect better outcomes. Most of our sober living residents at our San Diego homes have attended numerous treatment centers and recovery houses promising a “structured” program, yet upon arrival discovered they were just like all the rest. No accountability, no community, little or no drug testing and loose policy towards relapse.  It baffles us that these sober living homes and facility’s can stay open year after year. If you or your loved one has experienced this we hope to have the opportunity to speak with you about how we can help.

Shoreline Sober Living San Diego is a 12 step based, structured sober living home where accountability, peer feedback, brotherhood and love for others is fostered. If you feel that we may be able to help you we encourage you to reach out to us.

Robert W

Founder, Shoreline Sober Living San Diego