What it’s Really Like in Rehab

By August 22, 2016 No Comments

Ricky Nixon, Matthew Newton and Brendan Fevola are just the latest in a long line of high-profile people to enter rehab.


But what exactly is it? Cheryl Critchley investigates.




WHETHER they suffer from substance abuse, mental illness or anger management issues, rehab seems to be the treatment of choice for celebrities.


If you’re picturing a cushy couple of weeks sipping mocktails by the pool, ordering room service from a purifying vegan menu and watching TV while being pummelled by a Swedish masseuse, think again.


AFL player manager Ricky Nixon is now finding out what it’s all about.


He’s joined a growing conga line of celebrities entering rehab after hitting rock bottom.


Nixon, who has admitted substance abuse and inappropriate dealings with the 17-year-old girl at the centre of the St Kilda photo scandal, stepped down from his job last week.


“With the understanding and support of family and close friends, I have decided that I will go to a rehabilitation clinic to seek treatment for a substance problem that has impacted on my life and my decision making,” he said. “This is a significant challenge and one that I am committed to get through and coming out a better person.”


Nixon has joined the likes of Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods, Amy Winehouse and our own Ben Cousins, Brendan Fevola and Matthew Newton, who have had much-publicised stints in residential rehabilitation.


While methods vary, residential rehabilitation is strictly controlled and offers few perks.


Therapeutic community clients are likely to be woken early, exercise and eat breakfast together before a structured day of group counselling sessions, yoga, talks and cooking.


Clients may be permitted to smoke, but mobile phones, laptops, iPods and DVD players are usually banned. Coffee may also be off the menu.


Private treatment ain’t cheap, either.


Group residential programs cost about $1800 a week. If you have the cash to splash like Sheen, you can opt for a one-on-one program tailored to your needs in a beautiful setting such as Byron Bay for up to $30,000 a week.


Richard Smith, who was addicted to alcohol and heroin for many years, is now program director at Melbourne’s Raymond Hader Clinic and Seasons Bali. It offers a range of programs, from group stays to one-on-one specialist treatment costing $17,000 a week.


Smith says when celebrities genuinely enter rehab it is not a “cop-out” or a publicity stunt.


Like the rest of us, they struggle with addiction to drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sex, gambling or bad relationships.


It is also important to understand that relapse is a big part of recovery, so repeated indiscretions can be a sign of genuine illness.


“These individuals are genuinely sick,” Smith says. “It is a relapsing disease; we treat it as a mental health issue.”


Nor does addiction discriminate.


Smith has helped AFL Hall of Fame members, music industry figures and movie stars “with world-recognised awards”.


Celebrities are treated the same as anyone else.


“I’ve treated every class of client,” Smith says. “There are no boundaries.”


The clinic treats five aspects of addiction: physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual and investigates underlying issues by using former addicts as counsellors.


Smith says the longer the rehabilitation, the better the chances of recovery.


He explains some addictions change the brain’s chemistry, which takes at least 90 days to reverse.


“The primary recovery program give people a bit of a foundation, but their brain chemistry still hasn’t changed back,” he says.


Ideally, rehab should last at least 90 days.


Unless you are flush with cash, it is likely to be with about 20 others. Days are long and structured, often lasting from 7am-11pm.


Chances are you will have to clean your room and go for a walk before breakfast. After a room inspection, morning activities may include yoga, art or music therapy, counselling, traditional Chinese medicine or meditation.


After lunch it’s more sessions and possibly chores, such as cleaning and preparing dinner. Evenings usually involve more meetings and soul-searching and weekends may include a sleep-in, family visits and more free time but some meetings.


Free time is sparing and to be used for reflection and not entertainment.


Electronic devices are usually banned.


Raymond Hader’s group residential program asks participants to bring personal ID documents, comfortable clothing and shoes (no singlets), sports clothes, swimwear, towels, personal toiletries (no mouthwash, as it contains alcohol, or aerosol cans) and cigarettes.


Drugs, alcohol, electronic equipment (except hairdryers and electric shavers), mobile phones, laptops, iPods, MP3 players, CDs, DVDs, perfumes and aftershaves, cash or credit cards, weapons, stolen property, confectionery (eg, potato chips, chocolate) and commercial reading material such as magazines and newspapers are banned.


Other clinics follow similar principles, but rules and daily activities vary.


Malvern Private Hospital’s 26-bed Addiction Recovery Program aims for total abstinence and helps addicts stay that way with an inpatient and aftercare program.


It uses addiction medicine specialists, psychiatrists, clinical counsellors, specialist nurses, social workers, family therapists and psychologists.


Smoking is not allowed in the hospital, but there are designated smoking areas. The average stay is 28 days.


“As much as possible, the Addiction Recovery Program attempts to replicate a normal living environment, within the confines of a hospital,” its website says. “With the exception of the detoxification component of the program, all patient meals are provided in a communal dining room, where patients are also free to make tea and coffee throughout the day.”


Malvern Private permits TV and daily papers are allowed. Most patients make their own beds and do their personal laundry.


Visitors are allowed only on Sundays.


Patients can bring an alarm clock, photos, musical instruments, art and writing supplies, reading materials and a favourite pillow. But mobile phones, iPods, music players, PCs, amplifiers, pets, pornographic material, DVD players, video games, alcohol or drugs and inappropriate clothing such as navel-revealing and skin-tight, are banned.


Odyssey House Victoria also runs short and long-term residential programs; short-term for adults and long-term for adults, couples and parents with children aged up to 12.


The six-week Circuit Breaker program treats 15 adults with alcohol and drug addiction and mental health issues.


They are encouraged to confront the underlying issues that led to their addiction while working, undergoing therapy and enjoying recreational activities.


Residents are expected to participate in decision making and contribute to cooking, cleaning and property maintenance.


Long-term participants also have access to health professionals and must help run the community.


Over time, some take on leadership roles in departments such as the business office, children’s centre, horticulture program and kitchen.


Odyssey House residents may take art materials, up to six books (no true crime or rock star biographies) and six CDs but not electronic equipment.


For those on a limited budget, the Salvation Army offers quality programs for about $200 a week depending on income levels. It has an intensive withdrawal unit, residential programs for men and women and a women’s program that allows them to take their children.


The Salvos have a range of treatment options, including a home-based program where nurses visit clients.


The Bridge Centre Melbourne Central Division general manager Lee McIntosh says the women’s residential program, for example, is four months of intensive routine, counselling, activities and responsibilities.


Food is provided but residents must organise their own meals and a chore roster.


“It really is a community setting where they have to work co-operatively with each other to be able to make the program work,” McIntosh says.


“Their lives (as addicts) are just chaotic and they’ve totally lost any sense of truly managing what we would deem to be a normal lifestyle.”


Success rates of the various programs vary, as relapse is common.


But experts agree Melbourne’s services are generally exemplary. Unfortunately, even if certain celebrities stop behaving badly, they have a secure future.


Smith says most adults regardless of age, background or socio-economic status will use addictive substances at some point.


“Ten per cent of them will progress it to have serious problems with their use,” he says. “It’s an equal opportunity disease.”


Former alcoholic and heroin addict Richard Smith, who now works as program director at The Raymond Hader Clinic.


Picture: Ian Currie Source: Herald Sun


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