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Sober living houses commendable in a neighborhood [Letter]

Last weekend I watched a man put a flier on my mailbox objecting to a second sober living house opening in my quiet Columbia neighborhood. The flier referred to the house as a "franchise," as if the objection was to the golden arches being raised outside his window.

A sober living house is actually a safe, sober environment where like-minded people have goals of leading lives as responsible, productive members of society with the least amount of temptation.

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Over the last year I have had the pleasure of meeting many addicts and I can tell you that not one of them woke up one morning and said, "I think I'll become a drug addict today." An addict is no longer the homeless man living on an inner city street corner. Today's addicts are soccer moms addicted to chardonnay, college students who snort Adderall to increase their GPA, teachers addicted to prescription drugs, businessmen who shoot cocaine to give them the extra edge in their frantic world.

These are the people I have met, these are today's drug addicts, and these are the people who live in our neighborhoods. We are already surrounded by addicts.

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Some of them have the courage and strength to get help, to start a long and difficult journey. This journey often includes a sober living house. For some, the house is the crucial step that defines whether they will dedicate their life to sobriety. It gives them the hope and support to work on getting their life back.

More than one-third of all alcohol abusers and more than one-half of all drug abusers are also battling mental illness. They self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to stop the emotional pain caused by a mental illness, more often than not leading to addiction. Mental illness is a medical condition that, even in this day and age, is shameful because of the ignorant and uninformed. I wonder if the same flier would have been put on my mailbox if there were plans to open a recovery house for cancer patients in my neighborhood.

Perhaps we should worry a little less about our property values being affected by a house for recovering addicts in our neighborhood and worry more about helping the addicts who are already our neighbors. One in four Howard County families are affected by mental illness and/or substance abuse. The man who posted the flier is obviously fortunate enough not to be one of them.

Chris Schaffer

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Columbia

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