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How a Non-Gender Sober Living Space Can Be a Lifeline to Recovery

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday February 16, 2021

How a Non-Gender Sober Living Space Can Be a Lifeline to Recovery
  (Source:Getty Images)

Harrowing reports reveal COVID-19's impact on the LGBTQ community. From increased anxiety and depression to disparities in healthcare access, the past year indicates that, despite progress, reaching our most vulnerable populations continues to challenge healthcare provides. And for those facing alcohol and substance abuse, lack of access can be deadly.

Those who identify as something other than binary or cisgender often hit roadblocks when seeking help, faced with the ignorance and potential discrimination that can derail detox efforts in a sober living space. Groundbreaking treatment center Recovery Unplugged, known for its inclusive and welcoming treatment programs, has gone one step further, opening one of the few non-gender sober living spaces in the country.

Located in northern Virginia, the PHP (partial hospitalization program) four-bedroom house can host up to eight clients at a time, creating a supportive environment to do the tough work of getting clean.

Betsi Kreshover, Recovery Unplugged's Northeast Outreach Manager, is part of the LGBTQ community and is tasked with building relationships in the region among community and healthcare providers, medical facilities and family members to help get those in need into treatment. During her nearly three-year tenure, she's witnessed the devastation caused by addiction firsthand but has also seen the life-changing transformation that sobriety can bring. An authentic, judgment-free living space is a fundamental part of that journey.

Inclusivity is More Than Just a Word on a Brochure
Recovery Unplugged's Northern Virginia treatment center.  

Inclusivity is More Than Just a Word on a Brochure

For those in recovery, PHP is a critical step toward staying clean long-term. The non-gender house, along with a men-only house next door, is just a five-minute drive from Recovery Unplugged's treatment center, which incorporates music as a core therapeutic method. Staff transport clients to and from meetings, along with in-house presence seven days per week.

Throughout the 30- to 45-day stay, clients live in a home where they begin to rebuild life skills as well as days clean. It was back in October 2019 that Recovery Unplugged's leadership team recognized a sizaable gap in access for LGBTQ clients desperate for a safe space to let go of their addictions and embrace their authentic selves. Converting one of the houses into a non-gender sober living space was a natural progression for a company at the forefront of addiction treatment.

"We have remained true and committed to aligning ourselves with the LGBTQ community," says Kreshover. "Years ago, we saw an influx of clients identified within this population coming to us for treatment. While we don't believe in having different treatments tracks based on gender identity, religion, age, etc. — our philosophy is more inclusive and geared toward building connections — we wanted to make sure that we were providing the best quality care for everyone coming to Recovery Unplugged."


Kreshover references how an intake form alone can make or break an addict's willingness to seek help. Industry-wide gaps in behavior can't be masked by the word "inclusivity" if a gender non-conforming client must choose between "male" or "female" on an application, forcing them into a binary identity.

"It's been gratifying," says Kreshover of the impact Recovery Unplugged has made with the LGBTQ population. "I identify as someone from the LGBTQ community, and it's important to talk about this. Recovery Unplugged is a safe place to feel comfortable and be treated with dignity. We're here to help clients learn about themselves and develop tools to improve their lives."

Recovery Unplugged ensures that staff remains in compliance with their various credentialed certifications as well as the company's best practices. With locations in Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia, Recovery Unplugged continues to gain national recognition for its innovation, including a newly opened Vibe Room in Austin, Texas. The soundproof chamber with a high-end sound system includes special speakers built into the floor. When exposed to these frequencies, Joseph Gorordo, Vice President of Business Development, says, "The human brain reacts by basically relaxing. It decreases cortisol hormones, it decreases stress response and increases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which can help you feel more safe, secure and loved." The company has also participated in a clinical trial for a new, wearable device called "the Sparrow" that helps detox clients off opiates through transcranial stimulation.

From technological advancements to tapping into the human heart, Recovery Unplugged knows that nobody can do it alone. And if you're emerging from a traumatic situation that denies your sense of self, getting clean can be that much harder, particularly during this time of isolation.

"I've been getting more calls, having more conversations and seeing a larger volume of patients," says Kreshover. "Our country's addiction epidemic isn't going away, and for marginalized groups already struggling, it's that much worse."

But Kreshover also speaks of addiction's opposite: connection. Those in active addiction often search for connection in unhealthy, self-destructive ways. The non-gender living space, which may simultaneously house cisgender, hetero-identifying clients, creates a place to break down barriers not only about oneself but also about how we see others, creating what Kreshover calls "powerful bonds that are crucial to early recovery."

Are you or someone you love struggling with drugs or alcohol? Recovery Unplugged offers LGBTQ-welcoming substance abuse treatment. Visit recoveryunplugged.com or call 855-909-8818.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.

How Music Medicine Heals

This story is part of our special report titled How Music Medicine Heals. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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