“I didn’t think I would be able to afford to go to rehab,” says Chris, a client at Thailand’s DARA Koh Chang. “When I looked at facilities in the States, facilities I wanted to go to were $30 grand and my insurance didn’t pay for it.”
Knowing he didn’t want to go to a typical “dry-out” facility and that he needed a program with more structure, Chris assumed his only option was an outpatient program in New York. Fortunately, he soon heard about DARA from two friends who both had positive experiences at the center, and began researching more information. “I think I would’ve thought it was too good to be true, just looking at it online,” he adds. “It just wasn’t what I expected rehab to be.”
Sitting on a sandy beach in Thailand, it’s clear Chris has found an idyllic environment in which to foster his health and wellbeing.
With his past rehabilitation efforts revolving around a 12-step program, Chris was intrigued by DARA’s alternative approach. “I’ve gotten a lot out of 12-step,” he says, “but I already know the 12 steps. I wanted to open up to other ways of thinking about addiction, and that’s what DARA is giving me. Every day, I get more knowledge in the different topics that are discussed. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced rehab, and I know I chose well.”
“I don’t think this kind of facility exists in the States,” Chris asserts. At a price of $7,000 – as opposed to $30,000 – he was able to find the money and justify spending that amount for a month of treatment. “I get more than I would get in the States, for a lot less.”
Despite initial concerns about being homesick during his one-month program, Chris decided to extend his stay at DARA after his second week. “I could feel myself opening up,” he describes. “I could feel comfortable in my own skin again, which I wasn’t feeling for years while I was using.”
Working with other patients from around the world and hearing their stories has also been of monumental help during his journey. Unlike his treatment center in New York, DARA hosts visitors from across the globe; and with everyone coming from different walks of life, Chris feels it makes his experience that much more significant when everyone comes together to deal with a common factor.
The Holistic Aspect
Targeting addiction from several different angles, DARA implements physical fitness as part of its rehabilitation program. Working out is a regular part of his life back home in New York, so it was a pleasant surprise for Chris to find some familiarity in terms of positive daily habits.
“I wake up in the morning and there’s either some workout in the pool, or meditation, or yoga,” he describes. “The holistic aspect of this place was exactly what I needed. I wasn’t getting that in just the 12 steps. I needed more, and DARA’s really been able to provide that. I think a really important part of my recovery is having it address all parts of me.”
As the only gay man at DARA, Chris never made any attempt to hide or shy away from his identity; but even though he has been fortunate enough not to have encountered any negative backlash in the past, it was comforting to walk into a place of acceptance and understanding.
“Being one of the few Americans and the only gay person in this group is really different,” he remarks. “I think at first, it intimidated me a little bit, because I wasn’t used to it. I didn’t have a coming out moment at DARA, I just kind of walked in and let everyone know. And I make jokes about it. There’s a part of me that likes being a little different. I’ve often found that people are as comfortable with it as I am, and I’ve always been comfortable with it.”
While addiction is prevalent in many communities, there’s a deep-seeded sub-culture in NYC – and many other large cities – that fuels alcohol and drug use at a higher level. After two failed bouts of sobriety over a ten-year period, Chris knew his best chance at sobriety was to remove himself from that atmosphere and way of life.
“I didn’t think I was the kind of addict who needed rehab,” Chris recalls. “I finally realized I need to get away. I would really encourage people – no matter where you go – to get out of that environment. I think it’s important to give yourself time away to really heal.”
Enlisting the help of his friends was another important step in Chris’ recovery. “I was once told, ‘If you think you have a problem, take note of how much you lie about it,’” he reflects. “I was withholding a lot of information from all of my friends. As soon as I started letting them in about what was happening, they were all right there for me. I don’t think there’s a way to get sober alone. In my experience, I need a community of sober people. The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety – it’s connection.”