What is your definition of “home”? Now that I’m sober, my definition of “home” has changed dramatically from when I was living in my addictions. My “Sober Home” is more than just a place.

Before I got sober, if someone had asked me where my home was, I would have given them the address to one of the houses I lived in as a kid. It never occured to me that the definition of the word was a moving target and that I would one day come to find a new definition for myself.

I was naive and sheltered in a lot of ways.

  • When I was 5 I thought everyone had a house. Then I learned about about apartments and mobile homes.
  • When I was 8 I thought everyone had a place to live. Then I learned about homeless people.
  • When I graduated from college, I always thought I would have my own home to live. Then I had to depend on the kindness of family and friends for housing because I couldn’t afford my own.

Similarly, when I was a child, I thought my family and friends would always be there and that the problems we had were the same kind of problems everybody had. As I got older and the secrets started piling up, I saw that my family was a lot different from other families and that the things happening to me were not happening to my friends. I started to seriously question the whole idea of what a family was, who my friends really were, and if I wanted to be in this place called “home”.

The first time I remember running away from home was at 3 years-old. I wandered off and some VERY kind strangers got me “home”.

The second time I “got lost” was when a neighborhood boy and I decided to go looking for the ice cream truck. We heard its music and were convinced it was only a block away. It wasn’t. I remember ending up at some stranger’s house. They called the cops and the cops took us home. Next thing I know, my sister is sitting me down and letting me have it because she was so worried about me. She made me promise to never do that again. I was 5.

My next wandering off adventure involved a Sears department store. I believe I was 6 or so. I remember the kind man in the raincoat with the wool fedora who walked me to the mall security office when I started screaming my head off because I realized I was lost. It took a long time for my mother and brother to find me because it was an outdoor mall and I was in an office outside of the Sears.

Finally, there was the time I LEFT A NOTE telling my parents exactly where I was going and when I would be back. I was 17. THEY counted this as running away and grounded me for the full 2 months of my summer vacation. They actually thought this would DETER me from acting out. Their overreaction only pushed me much farther away. Further away from them…and “home”.

I don’t know if it was because I was the youngest and saw each of my 5 siblings leave the house one by one before me; or because I myself became skilled at getting away from the house starting at a young age; or because of all the horrible things that were happening in my house; or because I lived in three different houses growing up; all I know is that the idea of “home” was always a struggle for me.

Then, my husband and I moved across the country, far from the town where I grew up and the town where I went to high school. My family was scattered about, so I was far away from them, as well. The hardest part of the move was leaving my nieces and nephews, the few family members I was close to, and ALL of the friends in recovery that I had grown to love and depend on. I didn’t know what it was going to be like leaving the only “home” I had ever known. I had the beginnings of a “Sober Home” in Illinois and I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to recreate something like that in Washington.

For several years after moving, I would tell people I was “going home” whenever I would fly back to Illinois. It was hard to establish new roots, even though I became active in the recovery community and got a new job. My anxiety took over as did my difficulty with trusting new people. It didn’t help that I moved from a major metropolitan area to a very small, rural area. While I welcomed the change, it was also a culture shock!

It wasn’t until years later, after my husband had gone through a significant health crisis and I saw the amazing support system that surrounded us, that I realized I no longer referred to Illinois as “home”. In fact, I started to understand that “home” was no longer just a house, a state, or a town.

To me, a “Sober Home” is the place where I feel safest. This is where I can:

  • Wear zit cream
  • Ugly cry
  • Laugh obnoxiously
  • Scream with glee
  • Pig-out once in awhile
  • Sleep in
  • Eat ice cream for dinner
  • BE MYSELF!
  • Share my heart, my faith, and my Love
  • Be honest
  • Let others do all of those same things with me.

Based on this list, I am immensely grateful to say I have found a “Sober Home” with my husband.

Just like an actual house, building a lasting and true “Sober Home” does NOT come easy and takes A LOT of patience, communication, honesty, and Love to maintain. They are strong and fragile at the same time.

My other “Sober Home” is with my Higher Power – which I call Love. I can’t be wrong in this “home”. I can’t get lost or be hurt. I am safe and loved here…even if my other “Sober Home” is feeling shaky.

Then only wolf who can blow this house down is me.

In closing… I just got back from a trip to Illinois. This is after moving from there 20 years ago. The ghosts are mostly silent and I avoided the usual triggers. I didn’t see my abuser and I spent time with some of the people I am closest to in this world. I’m surprised by how sad I feel. It’s still hard to leave those I love behind in order to take care of myself.

At least I feel better knowing I’m doing this in order to live in my Sober Home.

I hope you will find the same, if you haven’t already.

Thank you.

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