Oxford House has as its primary goal the provision of housing and rehabilitative support for the alcoholic or drug addict who wants to stop drinking or using and stay stopped.
By the time many of us had stopped drinking, we had lost jobs; we had lost families, and some of us either had no place to live or no place to live which was not an invitation to start drinking again. Oxford House was founded not only to put a roof over our head, but also to create a home where the disease of alcoholism was understood and the need for the alcoholic to stay away from the first drink was emphasized. Oxford House is group housing. The bond that holds the group together is the desire to stop drinking and stay stopped. Modest rooms and living facilities can become luxurious suites when viewed from an environment of alcoholics working together for comfortable sobriety.
When we stopped drinking, we began to realize that in order to stay stopped, our lives would need to change. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous provided a framework for us to change physically, mentally, and spiritually. The degree to which we were able to successfully change our lives had a direct relationship to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Many of us soon learned, however, that living alone or living among our old drinking companions made it more difficult to practice the principles necessary for continued sobriety.
Some of us had lived for a time in alcoholic and drug rehabilitation facilities. Those facilities provided us with shelter, food, and therapy for understanding alcoholism. Initially, the structure and supervision of such facilities were acceptable because physically and mentally, we were exhausted. Later, some of us were to move into half-way houses which provided shelter, food, and supervision. As our recovery progressed, the supervision and dependency on a halfway house created dissatisfaction. The dissatisfaction was in part the realization that we were shirking responsibility for our own lives and in part a resentment of authority. The third factor affecting us both in the rehabilitation facilities and the halfway houses was the realization that the duration of our stay must be limited because space must be made for others in need of help.
Oxford House grew out of the need for many of us to begin a new life without fear of backsliding because of loneliness or renewed dependency on former drinking companions. Throughout its tradition, Oxford House has combined the concepts of self-support and responsibility with a fellowship having the common purpose of continued and comfortable sobriety. Oxford House must always have as its Primary goal the provision of housing and rehabilitative support for the alcoholic who wants to stop drinking and stay stopped and the drug addict who wants to stop using drugs and stay stopped.
All Oxford Houses are run on a democratic basis. Our officers are but trusted servants serving continuous periods of no longer than six months in any one office.
During the last days of our drinking or using drugs, most of us ceased to function as responsible individuals. We were not only dependent upon alcohol and/or drugs, but were also dependent on many others for continuing our alcoholic and/or drug addicted ways. When we stopped drinking or using drugs, we began to realize just how dependent we had become. For those of us who had been in institutions or halfway houses, resentments against authority were common.
A major part of the Oxford House philosophy is that dependency is best overcome through an acceptance of responsibility. In Oxford House, each member equally shares the responsibility for the running of the House and upholding the Oxford House tradition. All aspects of Oxford House operations, from the acquisition of the house to the acceptance or dismissal of members, is carried out under democratic procedures. Each member has one vote and majority rule applies except that 80% of the members must agree in accepting new persons for membership.
During our drinking and drug use years, and even before, many of us found it difficult to accept authority. Many individuals in society are able to abide by the strict letter of any rule, regulation , or law. Alcoholics and drug addicts seem to have a tendency to test and retest the validity of any real, potential, or imagined restriction on their behavior. As alcoholics and drug addicts, we became experts at outwitting “the system.” As recovering alcoholics and recovering drug addicts, it has become important for us to learn how to live, without the use of alcohol or drugs, within a society– which relies on a wide variety of rules.
By running Oxford House on a democratic basis, members of Oxford House become able to accept the authority of the group because the group is a peer group. Each member has an equal voice in the group and each has an opportunity to relearn responsibility and to accept decisions once they are made.
The opportunity for a house to democratically function requires periodic meetings within the house — at least once a week. Such meetings should be used to resolve any operational or personality problems facing the house.
Any group, in order to function effectively, needs leaders. Misguided leaders can create dependency and usurp self-responsibility. Oxford House should rely on democratically chosen leaders, but the leaders must always be but trusted servants. To discourage an excessive dependence on leaders, it is a principle of Oxford House that no member should serve in the same office for a continuous period of longer than six months.
No member of an Oxford House is ever asked to leave without cause — a dismissal vote by the membership because of drinking, drug use, or disruptive behavior.
During early recovery for alcoholism and drug addiction, some members had to leave an institution in order to make room for an alcoholic or drug addict just beginning the recovery process. Other members were asked to leave halfway houses in order to make room for a recovering alcoholic or recovering drug addict who was ready to move into a halfway house. Only the very fortunate are able to make such a transition upon demand. Each individual recovers from alcoholism or drug addiction at a different pace. All too often, an abrupt transition from a protected environment to an environment which places considerable glamour on the use of alcohol and drugs causes a return to alcoholic drinking or addictive drug use.
There is no reason to believe that society as a whole had the responsibility to provide long-term housing within a protected environment for the alcoholic and drug addict. However, there is every reason to believe that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts can do for themselves that which society as a whole has no responsibility to do for them. Oxford House is built on the premise of expanding in order to meet the needs of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. This principle contrasts sharply with the principle of providing the alcoholic or drug addict with assistance for a limited time period in order to make room for a more recently recovering alcoholic or drug addict.
One of the greatest threats to the sobriety of a recovering alcoholic or drug addict is loneliness. At a time when we acquired a serious desire to stop drinking or using drugs, many of us had lost our families and friends because of our alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Too often, newly recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are faced with the necessity of living alone and of relying solely on contacts with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to stay sober. Some are able to keep from drinking in spite of the loneliness with which they were faced. Others are not so fortunate. The alcoholic or drug addict alone begins to compare himself to those members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous who still have family and friends. Loneliness and self-pity soon lead such individuals back to alcoholic drinking or drug use. With Oxford House there is no need for a recovering individual to live in an environment dominated by loneliness.
The only members who will ever be asked to leave an Oxford House are those who return to drinking, using drugs, or have disruptive behavior, including the nonpayment of rent. No Oxford House can tolerate the use of alcohol or drugs by one of its members because that threatens the sobriety of all of the members. Neither can an Oxford House function if some do not pay their fair share of the costs.
It is obvious why Oxford House must strongly protect the sobriety of its other members by asking the drinking member or member using drugs to leave. The line between an Oxford House of recovering alcoholics or drug addicts and an Oxford House of active alcoholics or drug addicts is a thin one. A member’s tenure is absolutely secure in an Oxford House as long as he does not drink or use drugs and keeps his rent up to date and is not disruptive.
Oxford House is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, organizationally or financially, but Oxford House members realize that only active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous offers assurance of continued sobriety.
Every Oxford House member attributes his sobriety to Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous. Each Oxford House member, as an individual, considers himself a member of AA and/or NA. Without that, sobriety would be short-lived.
As individual members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Oxford House members are keenly aware of the Sixth Tradition of AA which is:
“An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest Problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”
In deference to that tradition, Oxford House has never sought nor obtained sponsorship from any AA or NA group. Oxford House members value the Sixth Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous (and Narcotics Anonymous) too greatly for themselves to try to get either movement deeply involved in the organizing, financing, or sponsorship of any Oxford House. However, Oxford House members firmly believe that the Oxford House concept can expand as an independent entity, while fully utilizing the benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous.
In fact, Oxford House creates an environment whereby each member can more fully realize the benefits available from active AA or NA membership. A house full of sober, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts invites informal AA or NA “meetings after the meeting” and each day finds many informal AA or NA meetings before individual members each go off to their regular AA or NA meeting. An underlying principle of Oxford House is that each individual member has the ability to be responsible for himself. Living within an Oxford House provides both the opportunity and motivation for all residents to regularly attend AA and/or NA meetings. The example of Oxford House members going to AA or NA meetings on their own is contagious. It has been the experience of Oxford House that participation in AA and NA is extremely high in an environment where one individual can see another individual, with the same disease, reaping great benefits from AA and/or NA participation.
As an organization Oxford House is not part of AA or NA. However, the members of Oxford House have found only by being active in AA and/or NA have they found comfortable, long-term sobriety — for themselves and the Oxford House in which they live.
Each Oxford House should be autonomous except in matters affecting other houses or Oxford House, Inc., as a whole.
Each Oxford House is self-supporting and self-run. The members of an Oxford House assume full responsibility for the operation of the House. The House is theirs and in no way is it part of any other organization. The rent that is charged the members is determined by the members themselves in a democratic fashion. The rules which govern the house are for the most part also made by those who live in a particular Oxford House Such autonomy is essential for the Oxford House system to work.
The reason that each Oxford House is independent arises from the very practical consideration that those who are closest to a situation are best able to manage it. If an Oxford House follows the democratic principles and traditions of Oxford House, Inc., it should have no difficulty in running smoothly. Those democratic principles will also enable the members of a particular Oxford House to take pride in their new found responsibility.
The charter of each Oxford House requires that an Oxford House meet certain minimum requirements of Oxford House, Inc. First of all, no Oxford House may permit individuals to remain as members if those individuals are drinking or using drugs. Second, an Oxford House must follow the democratic principles in running the house. Third, an Oxford House must, in essence be a good member of the community by obeying the laws and paying its bills.
Failure to adhere to any of these three requirements would bring the entire Oxford House concept into question. Therefore, it is important that each Oxford House meet these minimum responsibilities in order for its charter to be continued. Oxford Houses are both autonomous and self-supporting. All Oxford Houses have been careful to avoid undo dependence on government or other outside funds.
At the Oxford House World Convention held annually, Oxford Houses throughout the country vote for representatives to the World Council. The World Council is comprised of 12 members, 9 of which presently live in an Oxford House, 3 who are alumni. Members are elected each year at the Oxford House World Convention. The primary mission of the Oxford House World Council is to facilitate adherence to Oxford House Traditions’ concept and system of operations, by providing effective means of communication and mission focus between the various organizational structures of Oxford House as a whole. In carrying out its mission the Council always keeps a focus on expansion of the network of individual Oxford Houses, to provide all recovering alcoholics and drug addictions the opportunity to develop comfortable sobriety without relapse.
Each Oxford House should be financially self-supporting although financially secure houses may, with approval or encouragement of Oxford House, Inc., provide new or financially needy houses a loan for a term not to exceed one year.
Oxford House was built on the unique concept that its members should try to expand the number of beds available — rather than turn existing members out of the house after a set period of time. In carrying out that concept, Oxford House-Silver Spring, shortly after it was six months old, put up over $1,200 in order to start Oxford House-Washington. Later Oxford House-Washington did the same for the start-up of another House. From the beginning, existing Oxford Houses helped new ones get started. Once a new House got on its feet, it pays back the older Houses, which had loaned it money, and stands ready to help another new House.
When an Oxford House first starts, it is generally necessary for the members to pay a slightly higher rent than what they pay once the House is established. There are two reasons for this pattern. First, there are start-up costs associated with the beginning of any new house such as security deposits, supplies and furnishings Second, when a House first starts it takes some time to fill all the beds. As all the available beds in a House become full the members can decide whether to lower the rent or begin to develop a small surplus. As a practical matter, most houses choose to have a surplus of one month’s expenses. Once having obtained that surplus, it then decides whether to lower the rent or to accumulate money for the beginning of a new house — or to do both.
Starting new Houses through the mutual assistance of existing Oxford Houses is a tradition because each House was started with the help of existing Houses and tends to pass on to others that which they received. Once more applications are received than there are beds available, the members of any Oxford House will begin to look around for another suitable house. When they find such a house they will bring it up with the other existing Houses and if there is a consensus they will attempt to find the start up money and members to fill the new house. Often several members of an existing House will move into the new House to provide a core group of new members who already know how an Oxford House works.
Oxford House, Inc. acts as the coordinating body for providing charters for the opening of new Oxford Houses. It also acts as the coordinating body to help individual houses to organize mutually supportive chapters. Through chapters individual houses are able to share their experience, strength and hope with each other to assure compliance with the Oxford House concept and its respected standardized system of operations.
Numerous Oxford Houses have been opened since 1975. Some operate for several years and then, because of expiration of a lease, dissatisfaction with the facilities, or simply the finding of a better location, the members of a particular House will move into a new location. Other Houses often help that type of move as well as the brand new House. In both cases, financial assistance is in the form of a loan having a pay back schedule, not to exceed one year, defined up front. (Since 1989, many new Oxford Houses have taken advantage of state revolving loan programs.
Repayment from those start-up loans assures the continuation of the revolving fund to enable other new houses to get started — just as repayment of loans to chapters permits the same resources to be used again and again.
For example, the landlord and phone company may require a security deposit and, while furnishings are generally donated, members will often have to rent a truck in order to pick them up. There may also be a need to buy more “staples” such as flour, sugar, coffee, etc. when a House starts up.
Oxford House should remain forever non-professional, although individual members may be encouraged to utilize outside professionals whenever such utilization is likely to enhance recovery from alcoholism.
It is inconsistent with the Oxford House system of democratic rule to have a professional manager of Oxford House. Likewise, it is inconsistent with the Oxford House concept to have a requirement placed on members to utilize the services of psychiatrists, doctors, or even the program of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous except in very special circumstances.
Within an Oxford House group, it is not unusual to find some members who have problems which cannot be dealt with by the group. In those situations, it is not uncommon for the Oxford House members, at a meeting, to strongly suggest that a fellow member seek professional help. In those situations where a member’s behavior is disruptive to the group as a whole, the member may be required to seek such professional help or more self-help meetings in order to avoid being dismissed from Oxford House.
One can only be dismissed from an Oxford House because of drinking, using drugs, non-payment of rent, or disruptive behavior. Members should be careful not to abuse the dismissal process. Every opportunity should be given to a member who needs professional help to see that he obtains it.
Nearly all members of Oxford House utilize the AA and/or NA program in order to obtain and keep a comfortable sobriety. However, an Oxford House relies primarily upon example for assuring a high percentage of AA and/or NA attendance from its members. As a general rule formal AA or NA meetings are not held in an Oxford House member who has maintained comfortable sobriety in an Oxford House makes it a practice to attend a lot of AA and/or NA meetings on a regular basis. If a house member does not regularly attend AA or NA meetings, the house may — as a group conscience — decide that an individual residence should attend a set number of meetings each week for both the individual’s well-being and the well-being of others who live in the house.
Individuals living in each of the Oxford Houses have also been responsible for starting many new groups of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous having meetings near an Oxford House. This not only helps those individuals to become more involved in AA or NA, and thereby reap greater individual benefits, but also helps to build strong bonds between local AA and NA groups and Oxford House.
Propagation of the Oxford House, Inc. concept should always be conceived as public education rather than promotion. Principles should always be placed before personalities.
Those who have benefited from an Oxford House have acquired enthusiasm for the Oxford House concept. In their enthusiasm, they have been anxious to share Oxford House with any recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who want to establish an Oxford House in their community.
Every Oxford House member stands ready to explain the workings of his House and the benefits derived there to anyone anywhere. No personal gain is derived from any Oxford House promotion. It should also be pointed out that Oxford House, Inc. in no way gains from the creation of new Oxford Houses. It has been formed as a non-profit corporation and will continue to operate as one both according to the letter and spirit of the law.
It is not easy to spread the word of a new concept or an old concept with a new twist. Propagation, or spreading the word, of the Oxford House concept is given the highest priority by the members of Oxford House.
Before spreading the word, an individual Oxford House should make certain that it is sufficiently established to undertake public discussion of it goals and mission. The best sales pitch for spreading the word about Oxford House is simply the establishment of a sound Oxford House and a straightforward discussion of what it is, how it works and why it is needed.
As with any group or organization, there will be some individuals who will be so impressed with the Oxford House concept that they will become “super salesmen.” Each super salesman should be keenly aware that the Oxford House concept is one based on principles rather than personalities. The situation should be avoided whereby certain individuals will begin to equate their persuasive qualities with the Oxford House concept.
The concept and the standardized, democratic, self-supported Oxford House system of operations itself are far more persuasive than any individual. Be honest and straightforward when sharing the Oxford House concept with others.
The Oxford House concept is a sound one, based on sound principles, and has demonstrated its worth with an established track record. We should spread the word about Oxford House, but be wary of individuals who place their own personalities before the principles that made Oxford House work. Oxford Houses are dedicated to recovery and group support; not individual gain.
Members who leave an Oxford House in good standing are encouraged to become associate members and offer friendship, support, and example to newer members.
While no one is ever asked to leave an Oxford House without cause, some individuals will simply outgrow living in an Oxford House. They will return to their families; they may start new families; they may simply move into another living situation.
Once a member has left an Oxford House, he should be encouraged to become an associate member. An associate member may or may not pay dues according to whatever rules a local Oxford House establishes. The associate member should be encouraged to attend meetings, but a local house may decide that his voting privileges are somewhat less than those who live in the House. Such a restriction of voting privileges makes sense and should not discourage members who leave in good standing from becoming associate members.
Gratitude is a feeling that most alcoholics acquire sometime during their recovery process. Often, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts find it difficult to adequately express their gratitude. The associate member of Oxford House is in the enviable position of being able to be of service in an environment in which he has total understanding. The associate member can offer friendship, support, and an example to the active members of an Oxford House.
Moreover, the associate member can often provide assistance in forming new Oxford Houses or in recruiting new members who want to live in an Oxford House. Above all the associate member serves as an example of one who lived in an Oxford House and “made it.”
All Oxford Houses should encourage members who leave in good standing to maintain a continuous link with their Oxford House experience. The welcome mat should be out to any associate member and contacts between associate members and active members should be encouraged.
To the extent possible each Oxford House should keep Oxford House, Inc. up-to-date with the current address of Associate Members, who have left the House in good standing, so that they can receive the “Oxford Grape” and other Oxford House newsletters.