What is a Wet House?



One of the positives about being open to learning new things, is that I stay current and well informed, particularly about the subjects of sobriety and recovery. One of the negatives (at least for me) is that in researching these subjects, I learn things about myself I’d rather not know – and the constant search for interesting, helpful information about staying sober occasionally kicks up the ugly sediment from the underside of my own psyche…


Maybe I need to stop listening to podcasts.


Yesterday as I was driving from hither to yon, I listened to a podcast about wet houses in select inner cities. Wet houses are shelters for homeless alcoholics where the denizens are allowed to drink. It has been found that the cost of housing a wet house resident is less than leaving a homeless addict on the street where they place a heavy burden on social, legal and medical services. Additionally, wet houses are supposed to foster a willingness to drink less and accept treatment once the alcoholic is in a stable environment.


So I’m sitting in my car listening to interviews with residents of wet houses and members of the 24 hour staff who serve them with love and understanding, and I start thinking (out of nowhere), “This sounds wonderful.” Three squares, a stipend from the state, 24 hour concierge service, a single room with a locking door and carte blanche to cultivate my addiction. Sweet….


And I got that punch in the gut, want for a glass of cold white wine, I have not gotten in a long while. It was so strong my mouth watered. And then I felt like a recovering kleptomaniac must feel the first time they are alone in a Target jewelry department – why do they leave all this shiny stuff hanging here unchained and unguarded, if they don’t expect me to nick it?


Why in the world would anyone think it was a good idea to give alcoholics safe haven and the option to drink with impunity, without expecting every alcoholic on the planet (even those who have been sober TWO BLOODY YEARS) to want to make a pilgrimage to the nearest wet house, post haste?


What happened to tough love? I understand wet houses are designed for the chronically alcoholic. I even understand the concept of getting people off the street who would not agree to do so if their alcohol was restricted. But the idea that this environment might encourage sobriety or recovery is absurd. It’s too easy. And as to the statistic that shows wet house residents drink less than their homeless brethren (one home showed a reduction from 20 drinks a day to 12). I say, “So what?”


A life without responsibility or consequence sounded great for a minute. Maybe I’m tired. And for those who are so far gone there is no hope, it is kind to provide a safe haven. But wet houses are not happy places. They are not fostering sobriety. Wet houses are where old alcoholics go to die. Bleak houses more like, and no place for me…


Today I’m not drinking because I do not want to end up in a wet house.

How come you’re not drinking?