Addictions of all kinds can be like a shameful and silent prison in which addicts try to hide and put on an appearance of normal life while struggling to survive. Family members, workmates and employers need to be deceived, symptoms have to be hidden, but the downward spiral will continue, no matter how much in control the addict may feel at first. Words like “hope” and “respect” lose their meaning in that dark world of addiction.
But they are the very words most often used at a centre of hope and healing located in Merrickville. The Newgate 180 Addiction Solutions agency runs an addiction treatment centre in the village: a place they describe as “a centre of excellence specializing in the treatment of alcohol, drug and gambling addictions and uses state-of-the-art techniques to deal with the causes of addiction. As a private not-for-profit organization, Newgate 180 offers immediate assistance and provides a personalized one-year treatment program consisting of 30-day residential treatment followed by 11 months of ongoing care. Newgate treats clients with respect and works to restore dignity and hope to its clients. Programs can also be tailored and personalized to create gender-specific programs”.
The main house can house up to sixteen male clients, while a second house nearby has a capacity of housing six female clients at any one time. Visiting the centre during their Open House last week, I was struck by the warmth and enthusiasm of both the staff and the Directors, as they welcomed visitors and shared their stories and perspectives. There was a genuine sense of unity and mutual support there, which must have a hugely beneficial effect on the atmosphere in which clients move towards recovery during their intensive 30-day stay there.
Of course, any such agency is only as good as its results: warmth, dedication and collegiality can be of little value if there is no real chance of a successful outcome for the addict. But the stats at Newgate 180 are impressive. About 99% of the clients who arrive there finish the residential program, thirty days of twelve-hours of individual and group treatment, sharing, re-evaluating life and meaning in what is constantly referred to by staff as a “serene” and “tranquil” setting. It may sound almost cultish, but that is far from the case. In fact, around 80% and more of the clients who arrive will be on the road to recovery by the end of the year.
How is it so successful? Peter Kunst is the Executive Director of the centre, and someone who has been on the walk of recovery himself for many years, explained it this way: “When I went for treatment, many years ago, respect and dignity were things that were shown to the individual. One thing that struck me was that I had been beaten by the world in addiction, and I didn’t need to be beaten any more. I believe that clients have been beaten enough and don’t need more of that. We have a responsibility to treat them with respect and dignity. Sometimes people lose the belief that they can be better. Addiction can turn into a hopeless downward spiral that gets worse and worse. People don’t believe they can get better, and part of what we are pretty good at doing is re-instilling hope and belief in themselves. Once they have that, along with some other tools and support, it is amazing to watch what people can do with their lives.”
The Centre works with families and employers to ensure that clients can return to a healthier, changed environment when they leave the residential program. About half of the addicts come to the Centre on their own, but the other half are referred there by family members, employers, or Union officials, all of whom are working to regain a valued colleague, employee or loved one. The need to include these elements is essential to the hope of recovery for the addict, in Peter Kunst’s opinion: As Peter put it: “This approach was developed in the 1980’s, when we found that dealing with just the addict was not as successful as we thought it could be. And addiction is a family illness, so if you treat the individual and you send them back into an atmosphere that is not healthy, or a work environment that is not changed or healthy, the chance of them succeeding diminishes. People often come because of a motivational crisis that moves people to do something about their addiction, and that crisis often comes in the family or work situation. So what we do is give some hope and we empower the individual. We believe that everybody wants to change their lives for the better. So we believe we have to help or educate everybody around the addict on how they support them in the lifestyle changes they are making”.
Information on the Centre and the program can be found on their website at: www.http://newgate180.com.