What does sober living really entail?

Talk show host Wendy Williams recently confessed on her show that she had been living in a recovery house. Her brave admission came as a surprise to many, but raised an important question: What happens in sober living, and why is it so valuable to people newly entering recovery?

To find out, we asked two members of the Retreat team who have experience managing recovery houses to shed light on what they are and how they work.

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Wendy Williams Opened Up About Her Life In A Recovery Home. Here’s How You Can Be Honest Too.

I have been living in a recovery home,” the talk show host admitted to millions of viewers on her show this week.

Wendy Williams is owning her truth.

On Tuesday, Williams, 54 — a controversial talk show host is known for her no-holds-barred approach to addressing delicate subjects in front of the camera — revealed in a heartfelt, tearful statement that “for some time now, and even today and beyond, I have been living in a sober house.”

“You know me for being a very open and truthful person, and I’ve got more to the story for you,” Williams said, surrounded by members of her live studio audience.

“You know I’ve had a struggle with cocaine in my past, and I never went to a place to get treatment,” she added. “I go to several meetings all around town in the tri-state area, and I see my brothers and sisters caught up in their addiction, and look for help.”

After work, Williams explained that her “24-hour sober coach” drives her back to the recovery home where she’s been living, where there’s a strict policy of  “doors locked by 10 P.M., lights out by 10 P.M.”

Recovery homes — also known as sober living — are drug- and alcohol-free facilities that people newly in recovery temporarily use for housing before transitioning back to regular life. They provide crucial structure during those early days of recovery when patients may be vulnerable to a substance use relapse.

Being Courageous

Williams’ decision to publicly addressing her battle with substance abuse — and recent steps to get her life back on track — required enormous courage, but she’s not the only star to speak up about sobriety.

Indeed, stars like Demi Lovato and Macklemore are just a few of the others who have been open about their attempts at recovery.

In 2018, Lovato confessed that she, too, had slipped into the clutches of a relapse in the emotional single “Sober.”

Grammy-winning rapper Macklemore (“Drug Dealer”) has long been open about his history of substance abuse, once telling MTV in an interview that “I probably wouldn’t have been here,” if not for the extensive treatment that brought him back from the brink.

How To Talk About It

If you too are struggling to figure out how to address your own recovery, experts have a few helpful tips.

1. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Being honest about your recovery is “owning that, yes, this is part of who I am, and I’m willing to talk about it because, if you love me, you have to love all of me,” said Kate Ramsey, a Clinical Supervisor for Retreat at Lancaster County.

“I think what people struggle with in talking about these things is… people know my secret. ‘Will they look at me differently?’” But “your worth doesn’t lessen,” because you’re overcoming these struggles, Ramsey added.

2. Tell your story authentically. “We can’t choose having an addiction, but we can choose how we share information about it, who we let into our lives to be a support for us, and who we choose to stay outside,” Ramsey said. Express key parts of your story but remember, you don’t have to share everything.

3. You can’t control the other person’s reaction. “Once you’ve opened up… everybody’s got questions,” and you can’t manage how the person on the receiving end will take the news, Ramsey noted. But you can control how you present the details, and feel secure that the right people in your lives will show empathy and compassion.

4. Ask how you can help. If you’re on the receiving end of someone’s admission, offer to help, suggested etiquette expert Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Protocol. Simply asking “What can I do to support you?” can show your bona fide concern.

5. Don’t pry. Avoid asking overbearing questions, Swann cautioned. “There is a difference between genuine questions that lead to some sort of help or assistance or support, and questions where you’re just seeking out the gory details,” she said.

If you’re uncomfortable divulging certain details, too, you don’t have. “You say to them, ‘That’s not something that I want to share at this time,’” she concluded. “You have to be brutally honest without being brutal.”


PA’s top health official: “Addiction is a medical illness — not a moral failing.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine tells Retreat why battling the state’s substance abuse crisis is her no. 1 priority

By Reed Alexander


Pennsylvania’s top public health official has her work cut out for her.

Dr. Rachel Levine has had a long and celebrated career in medicine. A graduate of Harvard University and Tulane Medical School, the former Pennsylvania Physician-General and med school professor was elevated to her current cabinet-level post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in October 2017. Since then, she’s set her sights squarely on the state’s drug crisis.

“As we have seen nationally, in Pennsylvania, the rate of overdose deaths due to opioids has been going up so drastically over the last five to 10 years, that it was readily apparent as soon as we took office that this would have to be one of the priorities of the administration,” Levine told Retreat in an interview. It’s “symptomatic of a national crisis,” she added.

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Opioids killed almost 9000 kids and teens from 1999-2016, study says

Most of the deaths were unintentional, the report found — speaking to how dangerous these addictive substances can be.

By Reed Alexander


Nearly 9000 children and teens in the US died as a result of opioid poisoning from 1999 to 2016, says a new report published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The mortality rate attributed to opioid poisoning among youth skyrocketed by some 268.2% during that period.

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Fentanyl is now the no. 1 killer among illicit drugs: CDC report

Almost one in three deaths caused by a drug overdose in 2016 involved the lethal opioid, says a recent government report

By Reed Alexander


The synthetic opioid fentanyl was the drug involved in the greatest number of overdose-related deaths in the years from 2011 to 2016, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December. In fact, the number of fentanyl-related deaths jumped a staggering 113% per year in each of the years from 2013 to 2016, the report found.

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#SECONDCHANCES: After 20 years of alcoholism, Retreat gave me my life and my marriage back

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on gratitude. Retreat asked three alumni to author a collection of original columns explaining why our leading substance abuse treatment gave them a second chance at life. The result is our special series, #SecondChances.

By Michael W., 48 former Retreat patient at Lancaster County, PA

Second Chances

Back in the 1980’s, Debbie Gibson was the queen of pop.

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#SECONDCHANCES: This Thanksgiving, I’m free of the alcohol and the painkillers. That’s a lot to be thankful for

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on gratitude. Retreat asked three alumni to author a collection of original columns explaining why our leading substance abuse treatment gave them a second chance at life. The result is our special series, #SecondChances.

By Celeste W., 44, a former Retreat patient in Lancaster County, PA

Inpatient Drug Rehab Florida

This Thanksgiving, I am Free

For 14 years, I taught special education to elementary and high school students in Pennsylvania.

Little did those kids realize that, as I stood at the front of the classroom lecturing for nearly a decade and a half, I was drunk in nine out of ten of those classes.

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#CELEBRATESOBER: Retreat’s guide to navigating the holiday season in sobriety

Inpatient Mental Health Facilities

Thanksgiving in Recovery

In sleepy New Cumberland, PA, about 10 minutes outside the nearby city of Harrisburg, it was a comfortable 67°F on Thanksgiving Day 2014. For many Americans, the most pressing concern on their minds that particular November 27th was whether to dig into pumpkin, apple, or sweet potato pie. For 26-year-old Mike B., though, something entirely different was on his mind as he walked up to his mom and dad’s front door.

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The True Power of Peer Pressure

friends taking selfie at billiard pool table

The words and behaviors of others can have a huge impact on the decisions we make in life, especially in our younger years. Young adults, especially teenagers, are more likely to make decisions based on what their friends do. In fact, one study found that children are six times more likely to try alcohol if they have a friend who drinks.1

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Growing Cultural Competence with Vanina Hochman and Recovery Unscripted

Recovery Unscripted with Vanina Hochman

Vanina Hochman, Community Relations Representative of Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers, sat down for an interview with the Recovery Unscripted podcast after her recent presentation at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Her conversation with podcast host David Condos explores the idea of cultural competence in mental health care as well as some of the important concepts that can better equip listeners to reach patients with a wide array of cultural backgrounds.

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What is Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy?

lady feeding horse

These days, there are all sorts of treatments available for people recovering from addiction. Medications, group therapy, and outpatient drug rehab are all commonly used, but there are also other forms of drug addiction treatment that can make recovery feel a lot less clinical. Enter: equine-assisted therapy (EAT). Here’s what you need to know about this form of therapy and how it may be a key component on your road to recovery.

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Are Identical Twins Usually Both Addicts?

half shaved man looking at himself

Is addiction caused by the environment someone experiences throughout life? Or is addiction a problem that lies deep within one’s genetic makeup? These questions have plagued researchers for years, and the answers greatly impact how we treat addicts. Addiction caused by a lack of nurture means that coaching and therapy in drug rehabilitation may be the best answer, while addiction caused by nature may be best treated with medication.

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How to Overcome the Denial of Being a Substance Abuser

young woman showing her denial with no on her hand

Denial is a defense mechanism that allows our brains to reject the facts in order to protect ourselves from feeling too uncomfortable or unsafe. When reality hurts, our brain immediately uses denial in hopes of mitigating and avoiding the truth.

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The Connection Between Addiction and Homelessness

homeless man hand help

Homelessness is something that’s often thought to affect people who become addicted to drugs. However, substance abusers are not the only ones who become homeless. In fact, many addicts are not homeless at all, but the situation goes much deeper than the commonly accepted stigmas surrounding addiction. Let’s explore the issue of drug addiction and homelessness.

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What Is the Recidivism Rate for DUI Offenders?

drunk woman driving car at night

There is a correlation between repeat DUI offenders and alcohol abuse. This correlation has been established by various studies over the past several decades. There has also been evidence of how DUI Courts are more effective at lowering recidivism rates.

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Facts About the Psychosis-Meth Relationship

showing human brain activity

Highly addictive crystal methamphetamine, first used in World War II as a stimulant to keep soldiers awake, is today an illegal and very dangerous recreational drug. Whether injected, snorted, swallowed, or smoked, crystal meth use can cause severe psychological damage, as well as physical damage to those who use it.
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How to Deal with Grief Without Using When You Are a Recovering Addict

sad woman discover how to deal with grief

You have taken the first steps on your path to recovery and entered an alcohol and drug addiction treatment program. Everything seems to be progressing okay, with good and bad days, yet you are working hard to remain clean and sober. Then, out of nowhere, something tragic happens.

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Romance in Recovery: Should Two Recovering Addicts Date?

Sparks Romance Between People in Recovery

Making a decision about relationships during recovery can be challenging. While this is a very personal decision, many addiction treatment counselors recommend waiting a year or more before taking this step. Should you delay or dismiss a building attraction to someone you meet in drug rehab?

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Celebrating Summer Sobriety: 9 Tips for a Successful Summer in Recovery

man with backpack walking between grass

The summer can be a difficult time for individuals in recovery, leaving inpatient rehab and as stepping out into summer activities can present an immediate challenge to your sobriety. Barbecues, camping trips, beach parties, and summer weddings may all have been associated with drug or alcohol use in the past, and new strategies will be needed to navigate these hurdles.

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Is There Such a Thing as a “High-Functioning Addict” ?

High Functioning Addict

We often see references to high-functioning drug addicts in the media, and this distinction bears further scrutiny. What is meant by this label and are there different types or levels of addiction? Do these distinctions affect the need for addiction treatment centers?

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