As a treatment centre, it is often hard to accurately portray how differently we treat patients and how this work can so dramatically and positively shift the lives of people that we have the privilege of helping on a day to day basis. Today we received an email that candidly alludes to many treatment touchpoints and a verbatim first-person account by a resident geared at their “friends and family” from the inside of Recovery Direct Cape Town Treatment Centre. For someone entering or daunted by our fast-tracked, evidence-based treatment process, it may be worth understanding how we help with addiction or many other problems that could be causing mental health disparity.
Word for word.
From the inside
Dear friends and family.
I wish I could tell you what to expect over the next few weeks and what we will be like When we come home, but i cannot.
We came here to change for the better but we do not know where our journey will take us. I offer you this insight in the hope that it will help you to understand what it is we are doing here. We all enter with high expectations and with more than a few misconceptions.
Let me jump right in and tell you this Although it may look like a five-star resort I assure you that it is not. Everything is by design. We are comforted but not codd/ed, and that is a very important distinction. Please don’t think for a moment that we are ‘on holiday’. Be wary of contacting us we will be fragile and may not reciprocate the way you would like us to.
If our dog has had puppies, phone us, but if the house is on fire, there is very little we can do about it. And please don’t ask us to help you to choose drapes via WhatsApp. Or ask us why the DSTV isn’t working. Other people can help you with that, m’kay?
Our days are full. From 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM, we are kept busy, pausing only for meals, with occasional days where we may have an hour or two between sessions. These gaps are usually filled with reading, writing and reflection, or interacting with our fellow patients.
It breaks down like this: We start with a healthy breakfast selection, fruit and refreshment is always available throughout the day. Following a brief “Thought for the Day’ reading, we have ‘check in’. We share with our counsellor, and each other, how we are feeling and what we are thinking that morning. We do not identify ourselves with labels; we are not obliged to disclose the nature of our troubles; we simply use our given names in all interactions.
After check-in, we have a guided meditation session, which is a secular exercise in breathing, relaxing and focussing our attention. We do not burn incense, wear robes, chant or sing. Think of it as aerobics for the brain it is in no way easy (especially for a novice or a die-hard rationalist) but with practise it becomes a very pleasant experience that grounds us in the moment and, in a sense, gives us a direction for the day ahead.
Following this meditation, we receive our schedule for the day. Should you ever see one of these schedules, do not be deceived by its layout! Those gaps you may see are always filled, as I will explain anon. The schedule sets out when we will be seeing our counsellors (usually two a day), and when we have group sessions (informal, topical, focused and/or combined). It is not unusual for us to have, on some days, four or five sessions in a row, with only a few minutes in between to smoke, recaffeinate. and perhaps even visit the bathroom, So imagine 10 hours of intensive, one-on-one, confrontational psychotherapy a week, together with 20 or so hours of group therapy where we invariably lay bare our repressed vulnerabilities and deepest feelings, all in a room full of people we hardly even know! The hours in between are usually filled with hellishly intense introspection or the all-important connections and conversations with other patients, which help us contextualise and process some of the hard and awful truths we have learned about ourselves and our situations.
So yes. that does not add up to a 40-hour workweek. but imagine having five hectic workdays in a row for four or more weeks in a row. Imagine your boss is a scary version of James Spader from Blacklist. the ‘clients’ (counsellors) are in your face all the time, your ‘colleagues‘ are a needy bunch of reprobates, you’re on a tight deadline and you’re actually paying to come to work! Come Friday. we are all emotionally exhausted.
In this time. It is very difficult for us to remain cognizant of happenings outside in your world. Forgive us our preoccupation. We are extremely grateful to you out there for picking up our slack and taking over our duties. We really do appreciate and acknowledge your dedication and sacrifice but please don’t try to force that acknowledgement from us. Please give us some time to show you our gratitude. if we seem distant or detached, understand that we are dealing with some heavy things in here -just as you are out there. There will be time for merry reunions and thanks all around when we get out.
Four weeks go both fast and slow. You may be eager for our return or anxious about us coming home. You may be both at different times understand that we are too. In our first week, we find our feet. We restore a routine. We meet new people and we begin to reconnect with the world and ourselves.
In our second week, we are enthusiastic and hopeful. We are ‘dry’, we are ‘clean‘, we are engaged with the world again. We’re even starting to look physically better. Again, don’t think we are ‘well-rested’ it’s only because we really looked like crap that we now look comparatively better.
In the third week, we hit the wall and usually, so do you. Be ready for this. it’s hard to reconcile missing someone with being angry with them for not being there. it is a confusing and frustrating time but it is also the time when transformation begins. its the time when, and l can’t believe I paraphrasing Rihanna here but, we hit the wall and instead of bracing for the pain we discover that we are in fact a Sledgehammer. Week three is both a crisis and catharsis.
In week four, we start to look forward again.
Both figuratively and literally, we turn our heads away from the past and start looking forward to the future. We plan our exit strategy and eagerly anticipate our homecoming. We have some new boundaries in place, we understand ourselves a lot better and we have been equipped with the necessary tools to cope with life
In a healthy and gentle way. Having created a safe space within ourselves, we should be ready to leave the safety of this sanctum.
We are not ‘cured’ however. Decades cannot be undone in days. We have walked 200 miles into the wasteland and it is 200 miles back out. However, we are now in much better Condition to travel and our journey back will hopefully not take as long as the journey out.
Thank you for sticking with us and being a part of our journey.
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to am‘ve where we started and to know the place for the first time. ”