Today's expert is Elaine, the founder of Ocean Hills Detox and Rehabilitation, a private residential service for drug & alcohol addiction based in the Hawkes Bay.
Mrs D: What led you into working in the recovery space?
Elaine: A passion to help others get sober and find what I had. I didn’t know that getting sober was going to give me that joy and connection with others. You can have a really wonderful life in sobriety and I just didn’t know that throughout my drinking career. I have real empathy for people. Alcoholism is a horrendous disease. Now I love waking up on a Saturday morning, sober and enjoying a whole weekend that is not based around boozing or obsessing about alcohol. I love it that I have a choice today and if I drink, I’m robbed of my choices, because drinking controls everything.
Mrs D: How useful is it having first-hand experience of addiction with the work you do now?
Elaine: I’ve been there too – been that person holding onto that bottle and not wanting to let it go. I had a fear of how I would live my life sober. Having the experience of being the recovered alcoholic I can identify quickly with the pain that they’re going through, especially when I get that first call from someone: you can hear the brokenness in them. But today I’m not the broken woman I once was.
Mrs D: Tell us about Ocean Hills, who are you aimed at helping?
Elaine: Men and women who have alcohol and substance abuse issues, that have a willingness to change their life and get sober.
Mrs D: What does your programme entail?
Elaine: We have a holistic approach to recovery from alcoholism and our two-week residential programme focuses on mindfulness, relapse prevention and addiction education. Our therapies and activities include yoga, art, equine therapy, meditation and an encouragement of healthy living in eating, sleeping and hydration. And even though Ocean Hills is independent of any recovery group, we introduce our clients to many ways to stay sober, including 12-step groups.
Mrs D: Why does receiving treatment in a rehab facility work well for some people?
Elaine: Rehab gives them some space. It takes them out of their environment and removes them from their addiction. It puts them in a very safe space, a caring place. It allows them to get some clarity and figure out what they want to do with their life.
Mrs D: How important is it that people enter rehab with a real willingness to change?
Elaine: It’s hugely important: if there’s no willingness, you can’t change somebody.
Mrs D: What do you do to help people transition out of rehab and back into their normal life?
Elaine: We’re not just looking at a plan of life without addiction - we’re looking at a plan for every area of your life. We understand that when they go home, that’s where the real work begins because they’re not in their safe environment anymore. Everyone who leaves Ocean Hills has a plan to stay sober. They leave with a Relapse Prevention Plan and a Wrap Plan (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). Our Occupational Therapist maintains close contact with frequent phone check-ins, which is really frequent in the beginning. We also have an online weekly aftercare group, which is the key to staying connected to us.
Mrs D: What about helping them with other aspects of their life that might not be in the best way?
Elaine: If clients don’t have a job we look to help them into volunteer work so that they’re active in society straight away. If they don’t have housing - some people don’t want to go home and live with their family – we arrange appointments to try and help them with that. We also work with the families of our clients, providing information and connections to support services they could use to help them. We introduce them to 12-step support meetings if that’s something they want to do. We refer them to counselling if they feel they need more help to deal with issues.
Mrs D: Any main advice for someone wanting to address their problematic alcohol use?
Elaine: Reach out – make a phone call. Jump online and see what’s available. If you’re thinking of going to rehab, ring around. Tell your family you want help so they can help you get them help you need.
Mrs D: How widespread do you think alcohol is in our societies?
Elaine: It’s everywhere. It’s in all of our communities. Alcohol is the worst drug that’s killing our families, friends and loved ones.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Elaine: It’s not as scary as you think. We all have so much fear about putting down the drink. We ask questions like, ‘How will our lives look, how will we do our son’s 21st or what will we do when someone dies?’ Actually, I walked through all of those things sober and yet I never thought I could. Putting down the drink was the best thing I ever did. My advice is to just do it. Keep going and don’t stop. And stay away from the first drink.