Recovery Matters

Why halfway houses help keep addicts clean

Life is tough, especially when you’ve had your crutch taken away. That’s why halfway houses exist: to offer the support and structure needed to rebuild your life post-addiction.


All names have been changed to protect their anonymity.


Houghton House halfway Houses.

Shaun couldn’t shake his addiction to cocaine. “I tried. Multiple times. Was in and out of rehab for as long as I can remember. Kept relapsing every time. Sometimes, after a few weeks. Sometimes, a few days. The last time, pretty much the moment I got out the gate.”

Relapsing after treatment for drugs and alcohol is relatively common. There are many Shaun’s out there.

Treatment in a rehab center may help hinder the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse. But this is largely from being confined in an in-patient programme or being regularly tested in an outpatient programme. Going back into the real world can be tough: suddenly an addict has the freedom to do what they want… just being aware of that can cause cravings for drugs or alcohol.

“It got me every time. Knowing I could call the merchant [colloquial for drug dealer] whenever. I was never accountable to anyone,” says Shaun. “Well, yeah, I was, I guess, to family, to my boss, but never immediately, never ‘right now’. Living at home, being able to cut lines [preparing powdered drugs for inhalation], with no one looking over my shoulder… [it was] too easy to get away with stuff.”

It’s not that rehabs are ineffective. Rehabs like a Houghton House use techniques considered by medical science as pivotal to addiction treatment.

Such as psychotherapy, in the form of individual and group settings – which help uncover the issues that led to addiction. Lectures give the addict an understanding of the nature of their addiction, to allow them cognisance into their self-destructive behaviors.

Rehabs also use the principle of ‘one addict helping another’, as found in various Recovery Fellowships, like Alcoholics Anonymous. This principle is about forming a community of people who aim to achieve the same goal: staying clean.

Humans are social animals: who we spend time with impacts our thoughts and, consequently, our actions. This can be destructive, as in ‘a mob mentality’, or positive, as in a charity organisation where members bring out each other’s best qualities.

A philosophy of kinship is best expressed by ‘sticking with the winners’. Simply put, if you spend time with bad influences, you’re likely to relapse on drugs or alcohol. Conversely, through developing strong bonds with recovering addicts dedicated to keeping clean, your chances of relapsing drops drastically.


“Things changed for me when I went into a halfway house,” Shaun says. “Suddenly I was in a place where I was accountable. To everyone there.”


A halfway house is a community who look out for each other and encourage each other to keep clean.

Harry, a current resident at Houghton House’s Aspen, says, “Living with other addicts [and alcoholics] who understand your plight and won’t take your bull has helped me a lot. While here, I had a [romantic] relationship end in a bad way. If it wasn’t for the guys and their support, I might have started drinking again.”

A halfway house helps in another way too: it provides firm structure to the daily lives of its residents.

Such as set times the residents have to be out the house. This ensures productivity. Especially necessary for an unemployed addict or alcoholic. It’s easy for anyone, but particularly someone with an addiction disorder, to slide into despair without structures in place. Before they know it, they’re sleeping late, not taking care of themselves, and deep in depression. But structures keep them moving one foot in front of the other. And with the continued support of the house, it isn’t long before they’ve gained traction in their lives.

Then there’s regular testing. “I have to admit, there were some dicey moments when I first got back to the big bad world,” says James. “Like, times I just wanted to call the dealer and pick up a bag of cat [a methamphetamine-like drug]. But knowing I’d come back to the okes wasted, that they’d spot me a mile away… hahaha, yeah would’ve been awkward.” Because it’s harder to deceive other addicts, and halfway houses know the most efficient way to administer tests – to prevent cheating – they’re able to provide a stronger incentive for addicts to keep clean.

This could be the one thing that keeps an addict from using drugs at their most desperate time.

So, it’s no surprise that there’s a massive disparity of clean time counts between halfway house residents and non-resident addicts. The rate of halfway house addicts still clean after six months is 68%, up from a baseline of 11%, according to a study called What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here? [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057870/]

Another reason is this support system has an authority figure who cares. A house manager, who ensures residents do the minimal amount required to stand a chance of recovering.

For instance: going to NA or AA meetings; doing step work; finding a sponsor and maintaining contact with them, etc.

Many house managers are recovering addicts themselves, with multiple years of clean time behind them. As such, they’re able to provide emotional support guided by personal experience.

“I see myself as more than just a house manager. I’m their on-site sponsor: whenever they need any help, my door is always open,” says Tamara.

This culture of kindness is one of the many reasons rehabs recommend halfway houses.

Because day-to-day, halfway house residents receive a scaffolding of support, one that finally allows them to rebuild their post-addiction lives.

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If you or a loved one wants the best chance of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, Houghton House provides two outstanding Halfway Houses – both within close proximity to their Inpatient and Outpatient facilities.

We recommend this as a continued form of reintegration back into society.

 Contact us for more info.

Office: 011 787 9142   Emergency:(after hours) 079 770 7532

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