Over twenty years ago I entered a residential treatment centre to get help with a chronic and long-standing drug problem. I arrived with no real sense of what I had signed up for or what to expect and brought with me a large dose of skepticism regarding my need to attend such a facility.
The building was an old mansion that had once been home to a wealthy family of traders. Rather overgrown and neglected the gardens surrounded the house which stood big and foreboding.
The building housed about thirty clients within its long corridors, large rooms and high ceilings and any sense of grandeur had been replaced by bare walls, shabby furniture and dust.
On entering the building, I found half a dozen individuals milling about in the reception area all deep in conversation. The chatter was loud but not as loud as the noise made by the resident psychiatrist who swept into the room dispensing passionate instructions to a small group of residents near the staircase.
The doctor noticed my arrival and bowled over immediately launching in to a statement that indicated he may not be able to provide the previously agreed detox plan as funding may not be immediately available from my local authority.
I thanked him for trying to secure said funding and declared my intention to leave and return home.
This was the point at which something significant happened.
The doctor took me to one side and looked straight into my eyes. He said “I promise you that we will give you the detox that we agreed regardless of funding. Trust me when I say this, you will be supported here and things will get better". This statement landed somewhere deep inside my stomach and I remember feeling physically sick as my heart began to race. I had previously only met professionals that looked at me with horror or pity and I certainly had never been told that anything would get better.
This simple non-judgmental interaction made all the difference between me staying and engaging with the recovery process or leaving to return to the destructive chaos that had become my life.
I was taken upstairs to unpack my bags with a mix of fear, panic and excitement but still blissfully unaware of the work that lay ahead. I remained at this facility for three months before being discharged back to my home town and following two mild (by comparison) relapses I finally accepted the fact that drugs are not a good look for me.
When back home I also began attending an abstinence-based day programme to consolidate and build on my fragile recovery.
My arrival on the day programme could not have been more different than my previous experience of treatment. Located in the centre of a rural market town above an estate agent the premises were small and felt decidedly normal. The décor was modern light and clean and tasteful with attractive paintings and photography adorning the walls. There were just six clients in total and the few staff that were present were welcoming, compassionate and unfazed by my sullen depressive presentation. The small unit was full of laughter, smiles and warmth.
I recall a statement made to me by the Manager of the project when I commented on the pleasant ambience of the service. He said “When anyone comes into treatment, they will often feel dirty and shameful about how far they have fallen. As a provider of treatment, I don’t ever want to contribute towards this negative self-image. Everyone deserves to get well in a comfortable, clean and warm environment.” He then went on to say “I will only be involved with a service where I would be happy for my son or daughter to attend if they ever needed help.”
I achieved much within the day care environment and believe this is the point my recovery truly began. That is not to say that my time in residential treatment was not important. I was introduced to the possibility that I could change as well as discovering the potential for a more rewarding life. But what day care provided was a secure, safe base from which to construct a new way of being. I was able to test much of the learning out in my day to day life. In my early days of attending day care I was a single father and was going through a divorce as well as being in need of long-term accommodation. All these things were processed and addressed whilst I was attending day care.
The centre represented many things to me. At times it would feel like a family unit, it also provided a fun social environment but was always a place of learning. Key to providing effective day care is the sense of unity and belonging that can be built and nurtured. Many addicts and alcoholics will say that for as long as they can remember they have felt like a square peg in a round hole and I identified strongly with this. Day care provided me with a community that enabled a sense of connection and belonging for the first time in my life.
Many years later I have become the Treatment Service Manger at Help Me Stop in Acton and I know that my personal experience of walking through doors to get help guides the way I want our service to be experienced.
Human beings tend to make their minds up quickly when entering into new environments so first impressions do count. When people arrive the at the door full of self-loathing and feeling as if all are judging them, we must be different.
Acceptance, warmth, compassion and professional confidence presented within a comfortable and clean environment is what all clients can expect to receive at Help Me Stop. I hope this will allow people to see the flame that still flickers inside of them.
Sammy is a certified psychotherapist with a diploma in addictions and has a wealth of addiction-based experience working with groups and individuals in both charitable, statutory and private addictions organisations for the past 20 years. Sammy is a huge advocate of 12 step recovery and has experience of utilising this process in his own day to day life for well over twenty years.
If you are concerned about your relationship with alcohol or other substances and want to know how Dayhab can help then call us now on 0208 191 8920 or chat with us Live at https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us
Help Me Stop’s intensive non-residential outpatient Dayhab alcohol treatment programme is an effective psychological solution that also offers 12 months of free accessible aftercare and family support options. Treatment is delivered face to face either in the mornings or afternoons over 6 weeks.
For those adults who are working and can’t access services in the day or get to our centre in West London we offer a 6-week evening online outpatient alcohol treatment programme, run by the same therapists that provide the face-to-face programme.