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VH1 has a series called Sober House, a place where celebrity addicts live in order to learn how to live a life of sobriety after rehab. While the show is better known for its drama, antics and lack of success, sober houses are real and there are thousands of them in America. Once a person completes standard rehabilitation, they can choose (or do so due to court order) to live in a group home that is monitored by counselors who ensure the residents stay away from drugs, alcohol or whatever their addiction is.
Residents hold down jobs and live a relatively normal life. Sober houses are generally considered a good way to transition from rehab to living a regular life on the outside. Occupants support each other, continue individual/group therapy and are carefully monitored for sobriety. There is often a zero tolerance policy for falling off the wagon. One bad choice and a person is out.
A new trend is emerging: a place called a “wet house” (as opposed to a “dry” sober house). This is where active addicts can stay – and drink – with little monitoring. Because they would otherwise be living under bridges and on the streets, these refuges are seen as better than nothing. Counseling is available but not mandatory. Some residents want the help in getting sober; others merely want shelter and a clean place to live. They receive a very small stipend every month to use as they wish. Most use it for personal items, snacks and the like – and spend the rest on alcohol.
These houses have come under fire for not insisting on sobriety. Residents are not held accountable for their actions, they argue – and get to live in a home for free with a small allowance thereby rewarding the addict for his behavior. But others talk about the reality that not every alcoholic is going to get sober and that it’s better to keep them off the streets. A study conducted by the University of Washington showed that these houses cost the tax payer half of what homeless alcoholics cost in terms of health care, jail time and rehab. Supporters say that wet houses are not dens of inequity; rather they are calm places for addicts to live, rather than face life on the streets.