The story of Mike Devlin is not new, but it’s a story that most male addicts and men in recovery can relate to.
Mike’s addiction started in high school. As an athlete who had experienced a few injuries, he was prescribed painkillers and that’s how it all began. Painkillers eventually led to heroin to cocaine and to the regular use of alcohol. And those drugs made him feel good about himself. He felt strong, intelligent, and more a part of his circle of friends. Rather than feeling unaccepted or ashamed, drugs made him feel like a man.
By the time he got to college, he was living a double life. He was using and selling drugs while away in college, but when he returned home, he was keeping it all undercover.
When Mike was 24, he admits that he didn’t know who he was. Although he had moments of making a move towards sober living, he continued to use. Although he wanted to clean up his life, he continued to sell drugs. Although he wanted to believe the part of him that wanted to participate in a sober living program, and finally be done with drugs, there was another part of himself that said, “Well, if I get off opiates, I can still drink.” Or, “well, if I get off cocaine, I can still smoke marijuana.”
Mike was caught in the cycle of addiction, and ultimately found himself in a grungy hotel room one night flat broke. He realized he was swimming in shame and guilt, and although he was using the drugs to escape from those feelings, they were following him like a dark shadow. The next morning, Mike was getting texts from friends and family asking whether he was okay and wondering where he was.
He finally decided to surrender and join a residential addiction treatment program. When he arrived to be admitted, he actually felt okay. He wasn’t afraid or angry. He was doing what he needed to do. He was finally taking care of himself. When he was done with the treatment, he felt horrible though. The drugs had worn off and he was finally facing himself. But he knew it was part of the process. He knew it was the way to long-term sober living.
Once he left the residential program, he couldn’t stay in his home town. He needed to live at a sober living home with people who were just like him, but in another city. He knew he needed the company of others who were struggling with addiction. He lived in a men’s sober living home where there were other males fighting the same self-battle. There, he felt comfortable to share his story of addiction and choice to recover.
Certainly, the advantage of men’s sober living homes is that men can build relationships with other men who are struggling with the same life concerns. Many men benefit greatly from the social network that naturally form in sober living homes. They can feel safe to discuss the experiences they’ve faced and concentrate on their sobriety. Having an environment in which men do not need to worry about social approval or the impression they are making on others can facilitate focusing on what’s important during recovery.
Research shows that men who reside at a sober living home in a structured environment after treatment have a greater chance of staying sober. Men who continue to remain in a structured environment after detoxification and residential treatment for at least 30 to 60 days will be more likely to transition back into society without relapse.
As the field of drug counseling improves year after year and with the significant amount of research on addiction, more and more studies reveal that men and women experience addiction and recovery differently. Both genders are driven to drink or use drugs for different reasons and both turn to sober living treatment at different times in their addiction. For Mike Devlin, the desire to use came out of a need to feel like a man, but in the end, getting sober was the way he reached his masculinity.
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