Wake-up is at 8:00, and for most, the next thing is coffee and fellowship. The first community event is the morning recovery meeting. which occurs Monday – Friday at 9 o’clock. After that, everyone goes back to their respective Oak Tree homes to do chores, and get ready for their day. For some that look like work, IOP, or community-based activities.
We typically go to a 12:30 12-step meeting as a group, and once we return from that, it is lunch and fellowship. There’s also a lot of activity throughout the day in terms of going to the gym. And there’s a local park which we use for disc golf, football, and Wiffle ball games. During the evenings, some of the senior residents are getting home from work and there is more fellowship. After dinner, many of the guys go back out to another 12-step meeting.
There’s always a lot of congregating in the later evening, from nine to whenever they get to bed, usually around 11 or 12. This is a pretty typical day for someone in their first 45 days. This schedule of life soon begins to fill up in terms of school or a job. Each person’s schedule varies to some degree. And sometimes school and jobs override some of the group meetings and events that take place at Oak Tree.
On weekends, there are a lot of family visits and activities, such as movies, golf, and whatever else might be going on. So, life at Oak Tree is a structured day, and in particular for the first 45 days.
Nothing is contractual. We do ask for a 90-day commitment because we feel that’s the minimum amount of time it takes to get a better understanding of our program and begin to incorporate it into a lifestyle. We also believe that a majority of residents will have reached a maximum benefit after 6 months at the Oak Tree. Typically anything beyond that results in enabling the resident to become complacent. This also prevents families from spending excessive amounts of money to just “house” their son, with no or little clinical benefit.
Yes. A lot of guys at Oak Tree have cars. We typically recommend an initial period of a few weeks to a month for a client to settle in before having their car. This is a decision that can be made together by family and Oak Tree staff. All that we ask with vehicles is that the guys drive safely and that they are good at communicating where they’re going and when they’ll be back. Transportation is actually encouraged. It promotes the ability to get to meetings and it’s a huge asset in the employment area, both in finding a job and then getting back and forth to work on time. We want the Oak Tree experience to be as reflective as possible of the life they are going to have when they leave. Most of the guys intend to have a car in the future, so we want them to experience this while they are here.
Yes. A lot of guys are really anxious to work when they first arrive, but typically we hold them back for the initial 45 days. We want them to build relationships within the fellowship of the Oak Tree. This is essential. We build these relationships first so that when they begin to work they are less likely to be negatively influenced by their co-workers. I think part-time employment is the best way to go initially – 20 to 30 hours a week. Third-shift jobs are not allowed. It tends to take our residents too far away from the security and support offered at the Oak Tree.
Yes. We assist residents in building resumes and other professional documents to be used in the employment search. We also have many existing relationships with local employers across a range of fields.
Absolutely. when a significant other visits the property, they’re only allowed to hang out in the common areas – the living rooms or the patios or garage lounges. They are never allowed in the bedrooms. And there is absolutely no sexual activity allowed on the property. It causes too much conflict and stress within the house.
Most importantly, bring clothes suitable for the time of year and bring a variety. We do have storage space if someone needs it. Personal toiletries are not provided by Oak Tree and should be purchased by the resident. A working mobile phone is a requirement for checking in, building a recovery network, and employment. Laptops and tablets are good too. We have high-speed internet and wireless in all the houses. Guys often bring bikes or other recreation/sporting equipment and some bring musical instruments. We want them to make Oak Tree their home.
People who have been convicted or have pending violent crimes, any charges of arson or any sort of sexual misconduct are not eligible for admission to Oak Tree Recovery Homes. However, many of our residents do have other charges, it just goes with the population we are working with. There are residents who have either pending or convicted drug charges or the things that go along with that, like larceny, public intoxication, and DWIs. Oak Tree routinely provides legal documentation for court as well as probation reporting. As a result, most get favorable outcomes in their legal charges provided they remain in recovery.
Typically, our residents are within the 18-35 range. Exceptions are occasionally made for a person over 35 who shows willingness, that we think we can help, and is a good match for the current community.
Eighteen years old.
Yes. The curfew for the first 45 days is 10:30 pm, and after that it’s 11 pm during the week and midnight on the weekends. Very rarely do we have guys who have a problem with the curfew times, and if there are special events or other reasons, we frequently allow curfew extensions. It’s not out of the ordinary. We try not to be restrictive with the curfews. Our goal is to keep the guys safe.
Yes, most definitely. There is a form for overnight requests. Again, we’re not in the business of saying no to these guys. We want them to begin to experience life. So as long as they have a solid plan, overnights are almost always approved. Overnights during the first 45 days typically are restricted to important family events or court/ medical appointments, but after that more leeway is given on overnights because the person has built up more trust.
The guys have a tremendous amount of freedom. They have cars, they choose their own meetings, they choose their own jobs or where they’re going to school. Again, we want the responsibility of feeling that their life is based on their new recovery-based decision-making skills.
It’s primarily a 12-step program, but the 12-step program is a spiritual path to help the guys gain an understanding of a God of their own understanding or a higher power as they say in the rooms of Alcohol Anonymous. Some of the guys do attend church. And some seek spirituality through nature or other means. It is a personal choice, so nothing is discouraged and nothing is promoted other than trying to live by a set of spiritual principles. It is essential to treat those around you as you want to be treated. Typically, most of the guys at Oak Tree have come from an in-patient facility. And these facilities have a 12-step foundation. What that means is the guys have become familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The guys attend meetings, usually, one or two a day initially, where they gather with other addicts and alcoholics to process and gain experience, strength, and hope. Everyone must have a sponsor, someone who will mentor them and serve as a kind of coach who will take them through the literature that goes along with the 12-step program and the specific steps. They guide them through what we call a “surrender” process and then proceed to clean the house emotionally. The ultimate goal is to live sober for the long term. A sponsor kind holds their hand and guides them through literature and written assignments.
Most definitely. We’ve had guys engaged in all levels of the education spectrum. Some are trying to finish up their high school diploma, or pursuing a GED. Some wished to pursue training through our local technical college or attend university. Others are college graduates who are pursuing a higher level of education such as a master’s degree. So it’s encouraged. Since a school environment can sometimes be somewhat high risk, we work to identify the risks and develop a plan of action to minimize possible chances of relapse.
This is always an important aspect, especially for people in early recovery. We look at this very carefully. We do have a rule that there is no dating for the first 45 days. Dating creates more feelings and emotions than the guys can handle during the early recovery process. But after 45 days, a lot of the guys do start dating.
There are two residents in a room. The houses are set up so they don’t feel overcrowded. There are never more than six people sharing a kitchen or living room. And the bathroom situation is the same way. We don’t want guys standing in line to cook or standing in line to use the shower. We want everyone to have a bedroom they feel they can go to if they need some peace and quiet. This is essential.
All the cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, toilet paper, paper towels, other household items, Coffee, cream, and sugar are provided. Each client is responsible for buying their own groceries and preparing meals. We do have regular community meals, but not on a set schedule. The guys eat together in smaller groups daily, and no one eats alone unless by choice. These guys typically eat very well.
Typically $200 will get people started. After that, usually, $100 per week is sufficient.
Medication is allowed, as long as it’s non-narcotic and it’s something taken as ordered. Typically when someone initially gets to Oak Tree, their medication is secured in the house manager’s room and given out daily. Once we get a better feel for the resident and trust has been established, the medication is given to the resident and they take it as prescribed. We are not restrictive on medications as long as they are non-narcotic. If someone wants to try to adjust their medications while they’re living at Oak Tree, they MUST receive consent and direction from a physician. We do not accept clients on Buprenorphine or Methadone maintenance.
Yes, a minimum of 30 days. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of owners.
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The Oak Tree is a zero-tolerance house which means if someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is pursuing obtaining drugs or alcohol, they would be immediately discharged from the Oak Tree. We do have a re-entry policy where some people can earn their way back into the Oak Tree after a minimum of 30 days. The majority of houses in Asheville are zero tolerance, although there are houses in North Carolina as well as in Asheville that only have certain consequences administered or an extra restriction is given if somebody relapses. Typically people in early recovery, if they know they get a free strike to return to use will usually take advantage of it because without zero tolerance the consequences are not serious enough to deter one from using their drug of choice. The integrity and the safety of the house have to be prominent in all policies and procedures.
Yes, it is required by the Oak Tree. Most guys who are coming out of an in-patient facility already have set up a discharge plan with the aftercare team. Typically in a discharge plan, they have already committed to going to 90 meetings in 90 days, as well as getting a sponsor. So that’s usually already in place and I want them to honor what they said leaving in-patient. However, in reality, when they get to Oak Tree it’s not quite as stringent as that. At the Oak Tree in the first 30 days, you go to 30 meetings and obtain a sponsor in that first 30 days. After that it’s mandatory you continue with your sponsor. But if your life begins to fill up with school and employment, the requirement drops to only five meetings a week.
On-site, the number one thing is that there are live-in house managers that are in recovery, working a 12-step program, that you have constant availability of someone to go to no matter what time of day, what situation. That is an invaluable highlight of the Oak Tree, you will never be stuck in a situation or in emotion that’s triggering you to possibly use that you don’t have somebody within hands reach to talk with and process it. Not all recovery residences offer a 24/7 support system. We also have staff that lives off property who are only a phone call away if ever needed. That’s probably the biggest thing outside of the meetings, is the individual attention we provide to our residents. The ongoing support is through positive relationships that are built by people who have leadership roles.
There’s also a 45-day contract signed upon entry, which establishes supportive guidelines immediately. Then we establish recovery goals and life goals, life problems, recovery problems, and that type of stuff. The recovery goals are reviewed with them every three weeks so they can track their progress. It’s amazing to watch what a guy wrote in his first week, and how that will change after 60 days. The light bulb will go off and they see their growth. Some of the guys will access outside clinical services. Residents can have an outside therapist or go to an IOP program. It is especially encouraged to get an outside therapist if a resident appears to be struggling with core issues that may interfere with the recovery process.
It has worked for millions of people over the last 80 years. It also is readily available in the community. You can easily tap into a program that already works. We don’t have to redesign the wheel. A 12-step program is a design for life and it’s essential to engage in it. It doesn’t just apply to putting down drugs and alcohol. It begins to give them a life of freedom and choice and basically a life meaning. And that’s the beauty of it is the 12-step program; the foundation of it once somebody begins to have understanding is to begin to help others. So it contributes to so much of the environment at the Oak Tree when you have 18 guys all trying to help one another. It truly is an amazing thing to watch and be a part of.
Underlying each one of the 12 steps is the spiritual principle in fact more than one spiritual principle. So as they move out into life and don’t have the obsession to drink or drug anymore they still carry these spiritual principles into all facets of their life and become people of character and integrity which is our positive attributes no matter what age and what time in your life or what situation. So it guides these people with character.
The families will get as much support and education as they ask for. I have some families that will reach out and will do conference calls if they’re out of state or can’t get to the properties. Very often they will call and schedule a family conference call; sometimes with the resident, sometimes without. I very often will text or email families progress of their child. The family component is highly emphasized. I do have some families that won’t access that for whatever reason but it’s as much as they want will be provided. We definitely believe in a family system and think the family dynamic can be healed through the 12-step process as well. We encourage family members to go to Al-Anon.
We have a credentialed staff and there is always someone available. There’s not one guy in the house that we don’t have a relationship with. As well as, the house managers, who are also living a 12-Step program. They’re highly skilled at helping young men, so there are all sorts of individual attention.
A lot of things that we’ve just talked about are the things that I would say set me apart in terms of the individual attention that is provided on an ongoing 24/7 basis. The 12-step meetings on the property, the family support, the fellowship. It’s hard for me to describe the spirit of the community. I think a huge part of the Oak Tree is the closeness and the fellowship that is within the guys that live there. These guys look forward to coming home. There is never any sort of hostile environment. The guys love it there. They truly do. They call it their home. And I think most of the other houses probably have an environment that’s probably a little bit less-loving and the guys are left more to fend for themselves. We very much will hold the hand of these guys until they get their feet on the ground. Coming out of in-patient is difficult and if there’s not a lot of support on the front end the whole recovery process will just be too overwhelming. I think that’s one of the reasons we have so few relapses. I know statistically, we are probably in the top one or two percentile nationwide. That’s a reflection of the accountability and the communication and the support that’s given. I can’t speak for other recovery residences but I’ve been in the field for a long time, and I know the environment that’s been created at the Oak Tree is very special.
Well, the best way to handle conflict is to address it immediately. Staff will step in to resolve it at once. If there is anything that’s going on we will bring it out individually with whoever is in conflict. And very often we’ll take it to the group and let the guys process it in the group. Inevitably there will be some personality conflicts that occur. Most people are afraid of conflict because they think that means they have done something wrong. We teach our guys to embrace it. We don’t have good days and bad days, we have good days and learning days at the Oak Tree. So these are all life experiences that are embraced and very openly communicated, and they’re quickly resolved. So it’s not something we fear as long as they talk about it.
I guess a good way to describe it in a lot of ways, is that it is like a sober fraternity house. It will have that feeling sometimes. The guys all have a common goal of staying clean and sober but also on the flip side of that, they have a common goal of enjoying life. To have fun, to laugh, to do things, to go out, to be young and adventurous. They’ll go downtown Asheville, and go to movies, hiking, sporting events, etc. together. It’s like a brotherhood almost. These guys I’ve seen them stand up for one another. I’ve seen them cry for one another. A lot of the support comes from the fellowship there. You never see guys that are left off to themselves. These guys are very welcoming, very loving, and very attentive to one another’s needs. There has never been any sort of hostile environment. No threatening behavior, aggression, hate speech, or theft is tolerated at the Oak Tree. We have the common goal of recovery and staying sober and learning how to live by spiritual principles. That’s a wonderful environment
That is from day one. We have guys in all different phases of developing independent living skills. Our house managers go in and help guys learn how to make their bed, clean their room or learn how to run a dishwasher. We’ve had guys that never had done laundry before. So it is very hands-on in the daily maintenance type stuff. We’ve worked with guys on personal hygiene before. As they move along, there is help in terms of what it is like to balance a checkbook or write a check or have an ATM card. Obviously, some of the guys are better cooks than others. So there are a lot of cooking skills that are traded amongst the guys as well as we’ve had a couple of elderly ladies come into the house and help the guys with the cooking. The guys are responsible for lawn care such as trimming bushes and planting flowers and those types things. So every aspect of taking care of a home is incorporated into the Oak Tree environment. Job skills, seeking employment, interviewing, keeping a job, etc. are taught. How to get a driver’s license? How to present yourself in an interview? The importance of being on time, how to answer the phone. Many, many life skills are acquired at the Oak Tree. It’s not something I spend a lot of time focusing on, it just happens. That’s what we are here for, it is just done on a 24/7 basis. So there are all sorts of life skills. Above and beyond everything, is how to handle feelings and how to not manage our feeling through drugs and alcohol. It’s to begin to base your decisions more on spiritual principles and doing the next right thing. Life skills are inevitable gifts of the Oak Tree. I don’t know how to say it, It’s all day every day.
When a new guy gets to the property, number one, we are there. We always make it a point when a new resident arrives to be on property to meet him and his family. We’ve had residents come on their own but typically a family member or friend is with them. Typically, most of the house managers are also there to welcome the new guy. I also announce the arrival of any new resident in the morning groups, so the guys are aware when someone is coming. So if they’re not property when that person arrives, almost everyone will come by and welcome that person. They can expect to have their luggage carried from the car and welcomed in by all residents in a short time. I then sit down with the new resident for as long as it takes to go over some of the basics of the Oak Tree. Usually, somebody will then take them to the grocery. Within the first four, or five hours they’re in a car going to a meeting or going to an on-property group of some kind. If they get there in the afternoon, they’re in a meeting that night and that following morning you’re in a group. The guys love when a newcomer comes in because it gives them an opportunity to give back. But that person should definitely not expect to come to the Oak Tree and sit in their room by themselves. They will be overwhelmed with welcoming hands and people that are there to reach out to him. Everybody is nervous when they first get to a recovery house. They don’t know anyone but I’ve never seen anyone not get through that initial nervousness usually within the first few hours. Sometimes it will take 24-48 hours but they acclimate into the population very, very quickly.