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Posted: Jul 13, 2006 09:30

Sober Living By The Sea

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Newport Beach, California
Nanette Zumwalt, Business Development

Program Review By: Larry Stednitz, April 31, 2006

Sober Living by the Sea offers a wide variety of programming, thus it is not as easily understood as a program that has but one mission. The program offers services to those addicted to alcohol and drugs, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other dual-diagnoses issues. Some of the programs are stand alones, and others integrate common treatment components. Although some of the services offered at Sober Living by the Sea are designed for adults, many of the clients are young adults.

Sober Living by the Sea is located among some of the most expensive real estate in the country and its programs and buildings are spread throughout a few blocks of Newport Beach, CA. Upon arrival, my initial thought was that this seaside community would be an easy place to acquire alcohol and drugs at the drop of a hat. Before I finished my tour, it became apparent to me that it provides a variety of cultural and recreational activities, and more importantly is the physical location of these programs that serve to create a community amongst the clients. To me it appeared that if a person wanted to live a life free of substances, this area would be a steady reminder of what a sober life has to offer!
Southern California has near perfect weather year-round, and this area provides volleyball, surf fishing, surfing, bicycling, rollerblading, sailing, and daily workouts and its all within just a few steps from the beach. The program is suitable for a young adult who is committed to his or her recovery. Clients from 18 to 28 comprise the largest group, but every age is well represented.

Sober Living by the Sea is a 90-day extended care residential treatment facility with an average stay of six months. Founded 20 years ago by Carl and Barbara Mosen, Sober Living by the Sea offers an entire continuum of services for substance abuse treatment as well as an eating disorder program for women. The program consists of three phases of extended care. Sober Living is a 12-step model program, which treats all aspects of a client's life. The client care team includes psychiatrists, physicians, psychologists, chemical dependency and eating disorders counselors, as well as marriage and family therapists. The majority of staff have completed their own treatment. At the core of Sober Living, lies the belief that chemical dependency is a progressive disease that ultimately results in mental and physical deterioration. Sober Living by the Sea believes that many clients also struggle with co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses and treats all clients with this in mind.

The program has an extensive menu of services designed to meet the varied needs of their clients. These exhaustive services include relapse prevention, family therapy, education, stress management groups, groups for anger and trauma management, life skills training, group, individual and family therapies, AA and NA. Regardless of whether they are in the early stages of treatment or have advanced into the last phase of the program, the clients follow a very tight schedule throughout the week. The schedule is packed from 5:30 in the morning until 9:30 in the evening. Saturday and Sunday are also tightly scheduled, but the clients get up later in the morning. A typical day includes morning meditation, AA meeting, chores, physical exercise, group process and a variety of relevant lectures.

As part of the residential treatment programming, a client may enroll in the Transition, Education, Action, Career, Help (T.E.A.C.H.) educational program, while they are in treatment. T.E.A.C.H. addresses an important aspect of life and clients achieve success by completing high school through a GED certificate or enrolling in higher education. Sober Living utilizes Motivational Enhancement Interviewing approaches that enable the patients in the program to explore with a counselor his or her interests, and assists them with enrollment in Saddleback Community College and University of California at Irvine. In other instances, the clients attend private colleges in the area. While in school, the program follows the clients/ students closely and works hand-in-hand with the selected school. Many young people struggling with the issues involved in substance abuse need the extra attention, monitoring and mentoring to be successful. Through this aspect of the program, the patients develop the excitement and hope that education offers them for the future.

Sober Living by the Sea is a complex and comprehensive system of care. There are several stand-alone programs within the Sober Living by the Sea system. Celebrate Recovery is a Christian based track with the larger program for those clients wanting a Christian foundation. Sunrise Ranch, located in Riverside, CA, provides a gender specific primary residential center for men. The Rose is a gender specific primary residential center for women and Reflections is a program designed for persons over 40. Additionally, Sober Living integrates a sentencing track called Alternatives. This residential program is an alternative sentencing program for non-violent related cases such as DUI's. This component can also work with clients who live at home. The family program is a very strong and important component to the healing that happens at Sober Living by the Sea.

Located in an attractive, well-furnished home, called the Victorian House, is Sober Living by the Sea's eating disorder program. The program does not accept medically unstable women. It provides extensive programming including meditation, feeling group, goal establishment, body image, self-defeating behaviors, lectures, assertion training, relationships group, 12-step groups, spirituality, yoga, art therapy, relapse prevention, guest speakers, individual, group and family therapies, as well as other treatment modalities. Nutritional education and counseling, monitored meals, menu planning, and restaurant outings are also important aspects of the eating disorder program.

While visiting, I spent time with one of the program's substance abuse clients. He discussed with me the wide variety of drugs and alcohol that he was using prior to coming to Sober Living. He had attempted several times to stay clean, but to no avail. He was enthusiastic about the feeling of community that he experienced in the program. It was obvious that he was well into his treatment and he had developed close and meaningful relationships with his peers. I saw other clients going in and out of various meetings, animated and engaged in the process.

Sober Living by the Sea holds licensure and certification from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

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