Sober Living by the Sea

By The Fix staff 03/26/11

This Newport Beach rehab network's three main treatment centers address everything from drinking and drug addiction to eating disorders, all in gender-segregated settings.

Sober Living by the Sea's men-only The Landing. Photo via
Location : Newport Beach, Calif.
Phone : (866) 323-5609
Price : $31,000 for 30 days (Rose and Landing); $52,000 for 60 days (Victorian); ext. care $12,000/mo.
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
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Insurance : Yes
Detox : No

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Sober Living by the Sea (SLBTS) runs several facilities in California, including women-only The Rose and The Victorian (which primarily treats eating disorders) and The Landing for men. The Rose and The Victorian can accommodate a max of six people each, whereas The Landing can host six to 10 men at a time.

In the past, the center has drawn criticism for housing addicts in the middle of hard-partying Newport Beach—but while living so close to temptation can be difficult for some, individuals with a certain mindset have found that SLBTS teaches an important lesson right off the bat: “We were always trusted and allowed a great deal of freedom,” a previous resident explained. “The message I got from this was that ... my sobriety was ultimately my responsibility.”

Former residents say one of the best things about SLBTS, especially for the women, is the sense of camaraderie. “The most memorable aspect was sharing the experience with the other women in a safe, nurturing environment,” one woman said. “I feel like I was able to do a trust fall into The Rose.”

The women’s houses offer a “fun mix” of ages and personalities, mostly students and upper-middle-class ladies. One alumnus called her five roommates the “strongest, kindest, most supportive girls I’ve ever met.” The crowd is similarly varied at The Landing, with “awesome, great guys,” from 18-and-up high-schoolers to middle-aged business owners.

These relaxed facilities tend to see minor attitude or behavioral issues, rather than major rule infractions, such as “not being on time for meetings, falling asleep in groups or sneaking onto the phone or computer during the first week,” as one alum related. Staff handles each case privately and on an individual basis. However, one past resident said that, ironically enough, extended care is not so laid-back, where staff can be “very rude” and “take things away.”

There are no doctors in residence, but the staff will take care of giving clients prescribed meds and vitamins. If you do need to see an off-site doctor, staff will help you make your appointment. SLBTS counselors are fairly permissive, but in a mostly helpful way. “The staff was gentle and caring, but that didn’t mean they’d let you get away with anything or that they could be manipulated.” A man at The Landing added that treatment “wasn’t tough love at all, unless it needed to be. The staff was open and honest, but with an, ‘If you stay on this path, nothing good will come of it’-type attitude.” However, at least one former patient felt that the staff’s permissive style “allowed for relapse.”

Residents don’t have to worry much about chores, as “daily life is more like a vacation,” according to one former client. You could have to make your bed, help load and empty the dishwasher, and do your laundry. (There are cleaning crews at The Rose and The Victorian, so chores there are lessened.) “I felt totally spoiled and it actually took me a couple of days to get used to being so pampered,” one alumnus admitted. Many patients go above and beyond, however: “We all kind of pitched in because it’s our home while we’re there and we wanted to keep it looking nice,” said one man.

There is much to keep you busy. During the day, residents are encouraged to walk on the beach or spend time meditating. Other activities include massages, Pilates, yoga, the gym, acupuncture, t’ai chi, surfing and weekend outings for shopping, sight-seeing, movies and lunch. One alumnus remarked, “I liked the pace of the day. We were kept busy enough with our groups that I didn’t get bored or feel like I wasn’t getting what I paid for, but it wasn’t so hectic that I felt overwhelmed.”

The program at SLBTS is primarily 12-step-based, with residents attending gender-specific AA and NA meetings. Alternative groups are available, such as nutrition, co-dependency, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR), hypnotherapy and art therapy. For Victorian residents, Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous (ABA) meetings take place off-site a couple of times a week.

While at least one staff member was known to carry a Bible around with her, most residents don’t see religion as a focus here. “I didn’t feel like religion was emphasized any more than ... in AA itself,” one atheist alumnus explained. That said, residents are allowed to attend religious services of any denomination on the weekends if they want to, and a relationship with a “higher power” is stressed.

The food at all three SLBTS facilities receives the highest praise from just about everyone. “The food was the best part!” one woman declared. “I can’t remember one meal I didn’t enjoy.” Another agreed, “The meals were delicious and healthy and the presentation was comparable to a high-end restaurant.”

Here's why: A gourmet chef prepares everything from quinoa to seafood (the salmon is a fave), and will customize the menu to accommodate vegetarians, organic-only eaters, people who are gluten-free and so on. One of the men was especially grateful for this, saying, “I don’t like fish. However, the chef was incredibly accommodating and would make just about anything you requested. I even got to help in preparing a few dinners with my own recipes.” There are fresh-baked cookies and healthy snacks available every afternoon, so you’ll never go hungry between meals. At The Landing, where many of the male residents aren’t exactly winning any cooking competitions, the chef will even hold cooking lessons.

During each person’s first week in treatment, phone and Internet usage is restricted to help residents settle in. After that, you can use the house phone and communal computer during free time, although social media is banned. TV is allowed in the evenings after meetings.

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