- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - Living in addiction is living in the midst of constant chaos. Sometimes the only way out of chaos is to give yourself over to the structured environment of a recovery house.

Residents in Oxford Houses in southeast Wisconsin have found a refuge from that chaos.

“It’s that total lack of chaos that’s not there anymore,” Deric Curtis, a member of Oxford House-Ayers, told the Kenosha News (https://bit.ly/1laBU4s ). “It’s a very structured environment and a lot of us didn’t have that before.”

In its 40th year, the Oxford House program is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. There are about 22 Oxford Houses in Wisconsin, but only two chapters in the state.

Each house is home to six to 15 individuals.

The Kenosha/Racine Chapter of Oxford Houses formed in early 2014. It comprises three houses in southeast Wisconsin: the women’s facility - Oxford House-Lena in Kenosha, and the men’s residences, Oxford House-Ayers in Kenosha and Oxford House-Joe Prott in Racine.

Living in an Oxford House means being responsible for your share of living expenses, working a recovery program, doing household chores and working as a cohesive member of the house.

The concept has been amazingly successful. During 2014, more than 31,000 individuals in the U.S. have lived in an Oxford House for some or part of the year and about 80 percent remained clean and sober.

Sabrina Jurik explained that choosing to live in an Oxford House is something a person has to want for themselves.

Like many who have passed through the doors of Oxford House-Lena, Jurik had been through the cycle of drug use, incarceration and rehab.

“If people choose to come here for some reason other than to recover, it’s just prolonging when they are going to go back out (and relapse). Unfortunately that happens, it’s life,” Jurik said.

“But for me, I had to really want it from the inside, not for any reasons outside in society. There can be all these programs and amazing stable structured environment as a democratic process: I work the 12 steps and I do the sponsor thing. If for some reason I’m not OK with it and I don’t want to do it, none of this would make me do it, unless I genuinely from the heart know that this is a new life that I want.”

One of the greatest struggles for any Oxford House, Lena alumna Jane Davis said, is those who do not truly want recovery.

“They want a place a live, they want to look good to drug court parole officers, but they’re not really in recovery. We used to call it sober living and now we call it sober living recovering housing. (We) had to get the word ‘recovery’ in there.”

Those who use the residence as a flop house don’t last long.

“You’ll weed yourself out. It doesn’t take long for the house to figure out what’s going on,” Curtis said. “You can put a bunch of addicts in a room and if one is trying to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes, we’ve all been there so we kind of know the games.”

At the Ayers house, the residents have very strong feelings about the integrity of their house.

“That’s our safe place. A lot us didn’t have that before and it’s home,” Curtis said.

Oxford Houses have three basic requirements:

-Residents must abstain from alcohol and illicit drug use

-The house must be democratically self-run

-The house must be financially self-supported

Being self-supporting is a point of pride with residents.

“Nobody helps us pay for anything, we are all productive members of society,” said Lori Karaway, Kenosha-Racine chapter president and a Lena resident. “I think that’s huge because we’re all addicts and we’ve all been costing society a lot of money as we go in and out of jail, in and out of treatment.”

To aid with their ongoing recovery, residents must be in a 12-step or other recognized recovery program.

Oxford House rules are crystal clear on absolute sobriety because one housemate’s relapse threatens the recovery of all.

The house must expel any resident who returns to using alcohol or drugs and offenders must leave the house within the hour of losing all privileges, Karaway said.


Information from: Kenosha News, https://www.kenoshanews.com

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