Jesse Sandler is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for people in addiction recovery. He works at a dual-diagnosis intensive outpatient program and has a small private practice in Los Angeles. Most recently, Jesse created MySoberRoommate, a new online community for sober people to find like-minded roommates (www.MySoberRoommate.com). Aware of the role that one’s living environment plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and frustrated that his clients had nowhere to search for and connect with sober roommates, Jesse decided to make one. He believes that through hard work, commitment, and hope, people can and do get better. You can reach Jesse at [email protected]
Hello, and welcome to Ready for Recovery. I'm your host, Sarah, and today our guest on the show is Jesse Sandler. Jesse is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for people recovering from addiction, and he created a great resource for people in recovery that we're going to learn a lot more about today in more detail called MySoberRoommate.com. I'd like to welcome him on the show, and we're really glad to have you here, Jesse.
Thank you for having me.
Yeah, thanks again for taking time out of your busy day to come talk to me about this really important topic about having a sober roommate.
To start, would you mind telling us a little bit more about your background how you got started in the addiction recovery field?
Sure, absolutely. Like you said, I'm a licensed clinical social worker. I live out in Los Angeles. I went to the University of Michigan, studied psychology there, and when I moved back to California I decided I wanted to pursue something in the field of psychology. I went and got my social work degree. After graduating I started working at UCLA in the inpatient psych hospital. From there I made a couple friends who were starting and IOP, an intensive outpatient program, for people in recovery. I started working there and basically have been there ever since. It's been since about 2013. It's been extremely rewarding, extremely challenging but it's awesome work. I also have a couple family members who are in recovery as well, so it's very close to my heart.
I didn't know that. That’s awesome and you're able to help your family who are in recovery, too, and really keep them on that track.
What would be the hardest part of your job that you might experience day in and day out?
I would say the hardest part of my job is seeing people struggle to get better. I think in working with people in recovery, seeing people relapse and seeing people lose hope. That's probably the most challenging part of my job but as part of my job as a social worker is to really be there and sit with them and help people get through those moments of hopelessness and helplessness so they can regain that strength and foster that ability to continue to move forward.
So when you helping those people that have just relapsed, that’s what makes your job so fulfilling, like you were mentioning before?
Yeah. It's one of the hardest parts, but one of the most rewarding parts seeing people actually overcome the struggle and put together some time sober where they start to really feel like themselves again, can really start to thrive in their lives. That's definitely the most rewarding part.
Let's transition to the website that you created, MySoberRoommate.com. I really love this idea because having a sober roommate, the roommate's able to keep that person accountable for continuing a life in recovery. What inspired you to start the website?
As I was mentioning before, I work in an intensive outpatient program with young adults in recovery, and a lot of the clients I work with are actually living in sober livings currently or are transitioning out, and oftentimes when I'm helping my clients find the next step after the transitional living, they were having trouble finding sober roommates. We'd sit in my office and we'd go on the internet and we'd look for sober roommates and it was nearly impossible to find like-minded people to move in with, so I decided to create MySoberRoommate.com.
Yeah, I can imagine especially someone, like I'm a college-aged student, if I was in recovery, early recovery, and then I'm trying to find a roommate for college, there's only, there's not a lot of options out there.
Yeah. Not at all and it's actually been pretty cool since we started the website in June, there's been actually many college recovery programs that have reached out to us and been in articles about college-age recovery and how they can use My Sober Roommate to find other sober college students.
Yeah, that's just so important. While transitioning after treatment how important do you personally feel it is to live with the other person who is sober? I know it is very important, but what are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, there's a couple things. First of all in my experience, living with another sober roommate is so important because A, it does keep you accountable, and B, it keeps you from isolating. The people I've worked with, the ones who have decided to move out and live alone often times have relapsed. Or the ones who have definitely moved out and lived with other people who are using, definitely relapse.
There's just this need to, especially in the beginning stages of recovery to live with people who are like-minded and on the same path.
Definitely. You talked about the five pillars of recovery — I did my research — being sleep, hygiene, exercise, intake and social. So you were mentioning keeping accountability and if they were living alone that relapse is definitely a possibility. How do you feel MySoberRoommate.com can aid in that final pillar of being social?
Yeah, thank you for doing your research on the five pillars. Those five things, those five foundational behaviors, I like people to focus on in the beginning stages. Like you said, the fifth pillar being social it's crucial. I think using MySoberRoommate.com to find a sober roommate can definitely help with that social pillar because you're going to be spending time with people who are committed to the same lifestyle that you are. Part of the social pillar is making sure that you're spending time with and being with people who help lift you up and don't pull you down.
Again, super important for recovery. Walk me through the website. I created my own account just to get a feel for it, and I just want you to go into the website, some more details of how someone can join and how someone can find a sober roommate on your website.
Of course. You go to MySoberRoommate.com. When you get to the homepage you'll see two buttons that say I need a room or I have a room to fill. So if you're a sober person and your roommate just moved out and you have a room to fill you'd click the “I have the room to fill” button. That will take you to the registration page where you put in your email address. All of your information is going to be secure. Then when you create a profile, you'll be able to go to the search page where you can search based on people who are looking for a room or need a room. And also you can search based on city and based on gender, based on sobriety time. It basically, we use our search features to bring back results of people that will fit the exact criteria that you're looking for.
That's awesome. When I was looking on, under the criteria, I think it was less than six months sober and then one to two years sober, but I really like the option where you had “I'm not in sobriety but I don't drink or do drugs” option because some people, they may not be in recovery and they want to have that environment that they're suited toward without drugs or alcohol. I thought that was really nice addition in there.
Yeah, definitely because there's a pretty large percentage of the population that just isn't in recovery but does not drink or do drugs. For example I have a family member who's a personal trainer and he lives a very healthy lifestyle, and he'd be a great roommate for someone who was in early recovery.
Is it about equal when people are offering, like I have a room to fill? Or I'm looking for a sober roommate? What do you think the ratio is between the two?
I'd say it's probably about 80 percent of the people on the site that are looking for a room but as one of the options you can click a box that says I'm open to meeting someone and finding a new place together.
It will bring back search results of other people who are just, who you could just meet up and go get coffee, see if you click with that person. If you do, then you guys can find a place together to move in.
Awesome, I didn't know that.
I was looking at other people's profiles in my area, and I felt like people were really honest about their recovery and really up front about their goals and what they want to accomplish. I really like that it's not only like you're trying to find a sober roommate but it's just the community on your website is even just encouraging more positivity in recovery.
Absolutely, absolutely. One of the things I really wanted was to try to work on decreasing the stigma about addiction, and part of the layout of the website and the look of it is very health oriented and wellness oriented. A lot of the people who've joined are trying to live that lifestyle. It's pretty cool.
I see on your website you guys cover the United States, Canada, Australia and I think I might have seen on Twitter you guys just added the UK, too? Correct me if I'm wrong.
Yeah. A few days ago.
Yeah. We've gotten many emails from people around the world actually wanting this to, this website to be available in their area. We got an email from someone in Brazil but we don't really have the infrastructure to build a Portuguese website at this point.
Once we do we'll probably expand there but yeah. In the English speaking countries around the world we are available.
Awesome. Say like a city in the United States, they don't have anything listed in their area, how can someone find a sober roommate in their own area or create it?
Let's say you go on the website and you are looking for your area and you don't find it, you can send an email to [email protected], and we can add the area that day.
Aside from people trying to find an area and it not being listed, which is a really fix just sending an email, are there problems that people are finding the site when they're using or when they're trying to find a sober roommate?
We haven't really gotten that many complaints from people. I think it's pretty self-explanatory, pretty straight forward. We worked really hard on building the website so it's really user friendly, and for the most part people seem to be using it pretty well.
Yeah, it definitely feels very social and there's a message box at the top, so it's really easy to message someone and have your whole list of messages and then just find more people in your area. It's pretty straight forward.
Like you said the messaging feature, that was one of the most important things that we added to the website was we wanted to make sure — because recovery is something that's very personal for a lot of people — we wanted to make sure that you're not required to give all of your personal information before you're ready to. So you can message with people in the website and you don't need to give your email address or phone number or anything until you're ready to do so.
Yeah and also with profile pictures, too. I was seeing not everyone listed their profile, so you could click on their profile and then message them from there and then get more information, too. I felt like it was very, you're not forced — because some website you're forced to upload a photo and all this information where for this you weren't necessarily forced to upload a photo or go into all the detail about what you want in a roommate.
Do you have any tips for people who are just getting out of treatment and are looking for things to help them maintain their recovery?
For sure. Like we mentioned a little bit earlier, the five pillars, making sure that almost every day you're able to focus on your sleep, your hygiene, your exercise, what you're putting in your body, which is intake, and your social. If you're able to check those boxes, I would say nine times, if not 10 times out of 10, people tend to do well.
Just taking care of yourself with getting enough sleep, which some people are like, I can rely on a couple hours of sleep because I've always been getting used to that where it's like no, it's super important to eat healthy and get sleep and all of those other things.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Caffeine is a big part of that when it comes to intake. A lot of times especially in early recovery people tend to switch to coffee or energy drinks but it's really important to be aware of not drinking Red Bull late in the day because that will affect your sleep.
Definitely, yeah. I myself need to stop doing that.
It's hard. It's a hard one to break, but it's important.
Yeah, definitely important. I'm sure you get a lot of emails. Of the emails that you get, have you gotten an email about a success story, like a thank you for creating this website from someone that has used your site and their story has really stuck out with you?
Yeah, we've actually got many thank you's for the website and for the service that it provides. It's totally free for people, too. I think that's important for people remember and understand that they're not going to have to pay anything to be part of My Sober Roommate. One of the stories that sticks out is actually an old co-worker of mine from UCLA has a private practice, and I told him about My Sober Roommate and he actually mentioned it to one of his clients. His client met his now roommate on there and they're doing extremely well.
Awesome and how long have they been living together, do you happen to know?
They've been living together since September.
Wow, awesome. And the website was created in June so that's ...
Super awesome. Thank you so much for talking to us about your expertise and your passion behind MySoberRoommate.com. I really appreciated getting to know a little bit more about the website and about your tips and advice for people in early recovery or long-term recovery. Could you tell people again where to reach you personally and your website or where to get more information in general?
Sure. You can reach me at [email protected] That's J-E-S-S-E. Or you can get more information about the website. Go to the frequently asked questions part on the website at the very bottom if you go to MySoberRoommate.com.
Awesome. Hopefully people will reach out to you and learn more about this awesome resource for people in recovery. Thank you so much, Jesse, again for taking the time to talk with me on the show.
Thank you very much.
Yeah, no problem. You're listening to Ready for Recovery with Sarah Grathwohl. Until next time.
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