Words from our clients
- “This is an open letter to anyone suffering from drug and/or alcohol addiction who have made the difficult decision to seek out and commit to addiction treatment, and to their circle of family, friends and colleagues. dolor sit amet…”
Having recently completed a thirty-day in-patient addiction rehab program as a client of the Sunshine Coast Health Centre, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t write a review/testimonial of the SCHC program, its facility and its staff, to convey my personal experience in their care.
My problem is with alcohol and, to a lesser extent, marijuana. I managed to keep alcohol and marijuana relatively under control for most of my adult life, with only the occasional bout of dysfunction and injury to myself and others. However, as I entered my fifties, alcohol began to give me and my loved ones a somewhat dangerous and persistent degree of difficulty; and it wasn’t until I reached the age of fifty-six that I started to realize there was a serious problem. Even so, it took another year and a half of all too frequent periods of binge-drinking alone, which I had never done before, and the rapid deterioration of my health, all the while kidding myself that I could control it, before I was forced to admit to myself and my wife that I needed to stop drinking altogether, and that I would need help to do so.
Once I finally came to the conclusion that I needed addiction rehab, my wife and I set about the task of finding a program that was right for me, and would provide the greatest chance of success. Our research looked at fifteen different addiction treatment centers in North America, including two in Mexico, comparing their responses to thirteen questions covering all the things we felt were necessary in a treatment program, and which were important to me personally (non-twelve step, professional staff, psychotherapeutic services, reasonable access to personal phone and laptop, etc.). We found that SCHC was the only one that sufficiently answered all thirteen questions.
In my late fifties, having never experienced addiction rehab treatment before, I made the journey to SCHC with understandable apprehension, even trepidation. But on the strength of our research, I found my nervous uncertainty was tempered with a healthy measure of confidence in the rational choice we had made. After just three days as a SCHC client, I was sure I had come to the right place.
Though they have an initial detox plan for those who need it, I managed to abstain from alcohol for almost two months before entering the program, and stopped using marijuana a week or two before. With no need for detox, and an extended period of time sober behind me, I arrived ready to engage the program and make the most of it from day one.
About 150 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast Health Centre sits on a few pastoral, picturesque waterfront acres just outside the town of Powell River, overlooking Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia. The facility consists of several main buildings and utility sheds on well-kept grounds, with plenty of sitting areas, trees and grass.
There are two attractive, chalet-style buildings containing, on the main floors, the detox unit, a full-sized kitchen and dining room, two nursing/physician stations, two laundry rooms, several bathrooms and shower areas, a large lounge/meeting room with a big-screen TV, sofas, recliners, tables and bookshelves, a client services office, and a multi-purpose room with another TV, a wide selection of games and musical instruments, leading to a large swimming pool area; and the second floors of both buildings have private and semi-private client bedrooms.
Another large, two-storey building contains the offices of the administrative staff and various professionals, counselors and therapists, and more meeting rooms. A few other houses accommodate clients in a Sober Living program; and down closer to the water there is an outdoor basketball court and a beach house-style building with more support staff offices, another large meeting room, and a fully equipped exercise/weight room with a panoramic view of the strait. The entire facility is always kept clean, tidy and in a state of good repair.
The structure and spirit of the addiction rehab program at SCHC is designed around their clients, maximizing therapeutic effectiveness, and minimizing the feeling of institutionalization so common in other programs. Unlike too many other rehab facilities, where clients are made to feel more like prisoners or children than intelligent, self-respecting adults, SCHC clients are accorded the empowerment and genuine respect they need and deserve, and they receive a straightforward, non-judgemental, dignity-preserving approach to recovery. Amid a daily schedule filled with a panoply of individual counselling sessions, group therapy sessions and various support services, clients enjoy many pockets of free time, they are free to spend their evenings reading, recreating and/or resting, and life at the centre generally includes personal freedoms adult men should be able to expect under such circumstances (e.g. use of personal cellphones and PCs, a designated area outside for smoking, etc.).
The program is packed with a full range of cutting-edge treatment modalities and services that promote healing and self-healing of the mind, body and soul, administered and facilitated by a diverse, compassionate team of positive-minded professionals. Each client is assigned to one of three psychotherapists for individual counselling sessions during the week as needed, each psychotherapist presides over morning sessions of therapy in small groups, and most afternoons a group session/workshop is held on a topic relevant to rehab and recovery, involving all clients. In addition, clients can book one-on-one sessions here and there for any one of a number of different support services (e.g. massage therapy, meditation, neurofeedback, hypnotherapy, fitness assessment/training, nutritional advice, etc.); throughout the week clients can choose to attend regularly scheduled yoga classes, hydrotherapy classes, or art expression workshops, and clients can avail of community outings planned for every afternoon.
The program also accounts for and treats clients with co-morbidities; that is, clients who have an addiction that is complicated by a mental illness or mood disorder. Therefore, in addition to a general practitioner and nursing staff on site attending to medication administration, blood testing and all matters medical, SCHC has a fulltime psychiatrist available on site for one-on-one consultations. There is also a trauma program for military and law-enforcement gentlemen who suffer from addiction and PTSD; it is, essentially, a program within the program, blended in with the facilities, activities and services provided for all clients.
Then, of course, there is the kitchen staff, serving up the finest varied fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as evening snacks, and always with a smile; cleaning and maintenance staff are working in and around the facility, quietly and seamlessly, among the clients and staff; and the client services people, the glue that holds it all together, are shuttling clients here and there, meeting requests of all kinds, filling in all the blanks. Everyone on site is sincerely friendly and highly competent amid their various duties; in fact, I would go so far as to say that each and every support services employee at SCHC is a team player who demonstrates every day that they are on the same ethical and philosophical page as the professional staff. It can be found in their hearts as much as in their minds, and it is truly remarkable.
Based on my own personal experience at the centre, and the substantial set of tools and self-knowledge I returned home with, I believe the key to the quality of the addiction treatment program at SCHC is their movement away from the twelve-step approach to rehab and recovery, and their whole-hearted movement towards a meaning-centered philosophy and practice. It is based on ‘logotherapy’, the psycho-therapeutic approach conceived by Viktor Frankl, then developed and advanced by psychologist Paul Wong and others. In a nutshell, it proposes that people who fall prey to addiction lack meaning and purpose in their lives, or the meaning and purpose in their lives is misdefined or underdefined, and lasting recovery can be found in the discovery and cultivation of one’s true meaning and purpose in life. Abstinence is not enough.
Even so, some SCHC clients find twelve-step programs and meetings helpful to some extent, and SCHC provides transportation and accompaniment for clients to attend such meetings in town on a weekly basis. But the SCHC program is, at its core, decidedly not a twelve-step program. To be sure, twelve-step programs like AA and NA have helped millions of people over the years, especially when addicts had no other recourse, and they still do. But scientific research into addiction, and a deepening understanding of the human condition as a whole, continues to show that something more is needed for significant, lasting recovery from addiction, and for better addiction rehab success rates. Increasingly, programs like the one offered at SCHC are pointing the way forward.
In my opinion, the central problem with twelve-step programs is that they encourage the individual to identify with his/her addiction, with a dependency on one’s ‘higher power’, so the individual never gets past their addiction and on to any kind of real recovery. Meaning-based programs like SCHC’s, however, put more emphasis on one’s own inner power, as opposed to dependence on a higher power; and instead of identifying as an ‘addict’, individuals are shown how to empower themselves, to take responsibility for their lives and what it really means to them, which offers a more realistic path to living beyond addiction and the achievement of lasting recovery. In my experience at SCHC, this is what made, and continues to make, all the difference for me. After all, consider that even the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, said that the addict must ultimately get beyond all dependencies, even dependence on AA, if one is to achieve the emotional sobriety necessary to true recovery.
Finally, the unexpected bonus of the SCHC program for me was the other clients – all that I shared with them, and all that they shared with me, over the course of my stay. I expected to form a couple of friendships while I was there, but I gained so much more than that. We were a disparate group of men, coming together with a wide range of different addictions and life circumstances, coming together to share our innermost, intimate experiences, thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams, learning invaluable lessons from one another, helping one another, forging lifelong friendships. And I know it was the program that made this possible and actual. To a man, we truly felt cared for, in a safe place with wise and compassionate people, where we could open up to each other, lean on each other, and help each other to progress along our individual paths. I now enjoy more than a dozen new and meaningful relationships, and I know I will never forget any of the people I spent time with there – thanks to all the wonderful people, clients and staff alike, who took part in a wonderful program that saved my life.
It is, of course, incumbent on every SCHC client, whether requiring an initial detox or not, to arrive ready to engage the program and take full advantage of all they have to offer there, and to make an honest effort to put into practice what they have learned when they return to their lives at home. It is also true that no two clients or clients’ life circumstances are the same, and no addiction rehab program is perfect. But what is not perfect at SCHC is not worth mentioning; and I can say, without reservation, that the Sunshine Coast Health Centre should be regarded as the gold standard in twenty-first century addiction rehab programs.
I simply could not have asked for a better program, facility, staff or rehab experience, and I am eternally grateful. On behalf of my wife, family and friends, thank you so very much.
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