While “I came to Las Vegas to get sober” may sound like the opening line to a bad joke, many Americans find recovery in Sin City every year. However, despite the fact that over the last decade Las Vegas has become an increasingly popular destination for drug and alcohol treatment, there are skeptics who worry that trying to get clean and sober in Sin City will only lead to temptation and relapse.
Dr. Mel Pohl, Chief Medical Officer at Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC), believes this to be an understandable but “ridiculous” concern.
“Some question whether or not they should come to LVRC because Vegas has a reputation as a party town. But our facility is in a part of Las Vegas where there are no casinos and there are no parties,” Dr. Pohl explains. “We’re an excellent treatment program that just happens to be in Las Vegas.”
For those still in need of a little convincing, however, here are four reasons why Vegas is more recovery-friendly than the Hangover films and casino billboards may lead people to believe.
1. Las Vegas residents on a whole don’t party as much as many may think
For the three million people who call Southern Nevada home, life in Las Vegas isn’t much different than life in any other city. Many residents rarely visit the casinos, and if they do, it’s usually to see a new show or meet with friends visiting from out of town. Some residents boast that they’ve gone years (and even decades) without stepping foot on the Strip. Instead, they do the same things families everywhere do: They watch TV, they shop, they work out and they hang out with friends and family. Although some may find this surprising, according to the results of a poll conducted by The Daily Beast, only a little over five percent of Las Vegas residents meet the criteria for “heavy drinkers” and the average Las Vegan drank 14.6 alcoholic beverages a month (or 3-4 drinks per week).
This is good news for those looking to get clean and sober, because while tourists may balk at the idea of the words “sober fun” and “Las Vegas” appearing in the same sentence, many residents do not. Las Vegas is home to a diverse population of people. Some may relocate to Sin City for the cocktails and clubs, but just as many relocate here for a myriad of other reasons.
2. No shortage of fun sober things to do
Paul Hinshaw, a counselor at LVRC, wishes more people knew just how many alcohol-free recreational activities exist in Vegas and the surrounding area.
“There’s no better place to be in recovery,” Hinshaw said. “There are so many fun things to do. We have access to so much, like boating on Lake Mead and hiking, picnicking and camping on Mt Charleston. There’s Red Rock Canyon, which has easy access to hiking and all kinds of interesting things to do there. In Utah, which is only an hour and a half away, there are endless mountain biking trails and cabins.”
Need more proof? Read our blog 58 Sober Things to Do in Las Vegas for a list of booze-free activities in Vegas.
3. Las Vegas has a large and supportive recovery community
According to Dr. Mel Pohl, Chief Medical Officer at Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC), this is one of the biggest reasons people should consider coming to Neon City for drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
“Las Vegas has such a healthy recovery community,” Dr. Pohl said in a recent interview. “More so than other places have, in my experience. There are ample and diverse meetings. It’s a wonderful place to be introduced to recovery.”
Hinshaw agrees, saying: “The exciting thing about Las Vegas is that because people reach such a bottom here, whether you’re from here or not, the 12-step fellowships are really strong. The recovery, the bonds people have, the way that people support each other here in recovery is like nowhere else in the entire country.”
Hinshaw theorizes that the reason the recovery community has become so tight knit is out of necessity. Las Vegas is a community of expats; so many of its residents have relocated to Vegas from other cities or countries that the usual family or friend network doesn’t exist. Plus, although many Vegas residents refrain from gambling or using drugs, those temptations aren’t hard to come by for those who go looking, making it necessary for members of the recovery community to rally together to protect one another. Explains Hinshaw: “Because there is so much of the negative element out there (like the easy access to so many different drugs), people in recovery work extra hard at supporting each other on our own individual paths.”
In an effort to help strengthen ties within the recovery community, LVRC’s alumni program regularly hosts BBQ’s, dinners, softball games and other activities for program alumni and their families, including an upcoming hike and pancake breakfast. Also, LVRC’s nonprofit, Foundation for Recovery, recently hosted the annual Rally for Recovery and will be hosting an upcoming charitable golf tournament in order to raise money for military vets who struggle with addiction and other mental health issues.
4. A 24-hour town means 24-hour access to meetings and other recovery resources
Every day in Las Vegas, there are over 100 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and dozens of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings happening in rooms across the city. Though with only a little over 600,000 residents, Las Vegas isn’t by any means a large city, the services it offers those in recovery rival that of cities twice its size. What’s more, because Vegas is a city that never sleeps, there are many meetings and other resources available around the clock to accommodate the many residents who work nights or weekends. This is one of the things that Ari C. (a member of the Vegas recovery community who wishes to remain anonymous), likes best about being clean and sober in Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas has such an amazing recovery community that I have been spoiled,” she said.
“With access to meetings 24/7, when I go on vacation out of state or out of the country, I notice how spoiled I really am. The truth is that if you want to get loaded, it doesn’t matter where you are—you will get loaded. Just like if you want to get or stay clean, you can get or stay clean anywhere.”
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