Crystal Lake, IL’s Sober Living House is a place that individuals recovering from substance abuse and addiction can call home, because home is where you feel safe and supported. The Sober Living House isn’t just a place where you can fulfill the basic need for a roof over your head—it’s a place where you can access employment assistance services, as well as guidance navigating the legal and healthcare systems. It’s also a place where you can participate in outings and social events that keep you engaged and help you build ties to the community.
How did this start—and where is it headed?
Getting Our Start
The idea for the Sober Living House has been around for a long time, and it’s something that’s been on our radar ever since we started our original organization, New Directions Addiction Recovery Services (NDARS). We knew that there’s a constant need for such a service, and that the lack of it is a huge problem in the community, but didn’t have the resources to tackle the issue head-on.
The catalyst that finally spurred us to pursue the project was a leadership program in McHenry County that we were participating in. As part of the leadership course, we were allowed to observe drug court at the county courthouse. While there, we asked the judge questions about what he thought could be done to best assist the recovery community.
He explained that the biggest need was for wider availability of resources, in particular structured housing such as sober living housing.
Hearing this, another participant in the class approached us with an opportunity. As it turned out, she worked for the Foglia Family Foundation, a respected Chicago-based independent foundation. Together, we scheduled a meeting and began making plans to bring this idea to fruition.
The road ahead wasn’t a straight shot though, and it took a great deal of planning and effort to get the Sober Living House in place.
Opening Our Doors
With a grant from the Foglia Family Foundation, we purchased and converted a house, and then applied for rezoning so that we could use it for our intended purpose. Unexpectedly, the zoning commission struck down our proposal, stating that we should find a different neighborhood.
After working with the commission to find a second property in what they considered a more appropriate neighborhood, we submitted another proposal. This time it received a split 3-3 vote, owing to continued reservations around the idea of creating a home in the community for recovering drug users. Still, the split vote allowed us to go forward with the process and bring our proposal to the city council.
Without the zoning commission’s recommendation though, we had to fight hard to get our way. Luckily, we had a great ally: Crystal Lake’s very own Mayor Shepley. The mayor gave an impassioned speech, standing up not just for us but for the recovery community as a whole. As he said, anyone denying that we have a drug problem in the area isn’t looking very closely, and we as a community “are not in a position to turn a blind eye” to the heroin epidemic for example that is hitting Illinois especially hard.
Owing in large part to the Mayor’s stand, this time we achieved a 5-2 vote, and the Crystal Lake City Council awarded us the permit to open the Sober Living House at 131 Ellsworth Street!
Now that the Sober Living House has its doors open for those in need, we can press forward with our mission: facilitating continued successful recovery from substance abuse and addiction by providing a safe, stable, and supportive home environment where residents have constant access to whatever services and assistance they might need.
This assistance includes 12-step meetings, employment services, and help obtaining healthcare, navigating the criminal justice system, paying outstanding fines, and getting a driver’s license back. On top of all that, we put a lot of effort into keeping our residents socially engaged. We go on outings to a sober bar called The Other Side run by NDARS, as well as to movies, bowling alleys, and more.
The environment at the Sober Living House truly is like a family. We eat family meals together, keep the house in order together, and make progress in recovery together. That’s because this is more than just a place to stay—it’s a place where you can feel valued, like you belong. It’s a reminder that you matter, and that you deserve a comfortable and loving home, the same as anyone else.
So if you’re in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, give us a call. We’ll help you find solid footing in your own recovery, and in the future we’re determined to keep on finding new ways to support the recovery community.