Big Ben’s Chimes still echoed in nearby London town as a thin layer of morning snow attempted to settle on the pavement of Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds. My internal monologue commenced as I stood facing an ominous green door, overfilled suitcase in tow. “Has it really come to this?, 40 years of age and you’re checking into rehab”.
Full of fear, I went inside.… I had chosen Focus 12 based on their holistic approach to abstinence based recovery. Alongside this they had incorporated various 12 step fellowship meetings into their person centered treatment program. Appropriate detoxification programs are prescribed and overseen by the Focus 12 Consultant Psychiatrist. The community based living style provided through as opposed to alternative clinical environments often referred to as ‘like being in a bubble’ also appealed to me. focus 12 believe that clients will be better able to manage upon leaving rehab if they are exposed to realistic triggers during early recovery. Set in a quaint market town in the heart of Suffolk offering a 28 day programme for the princely sum of £4000,
Focus 12 ticked all my boxes. Focus 12 also accommodate clients with a dual diagnosis (co-existing mental health condition and substance addiction). Originally set up in 1997 Focus 12’s patrons include Russell Brand, Davina McCall and Boy George. Accommodation wise, the emphasis is on communal living. Located a short walk away from the treatment centre, each of Focus 12’s four houses are simply furnished but comfortable.
Food is included in the fee and residents are encouraged to work together to create twice weekly shopping lists and share cooking duties. As a precautionary measure new clients are assigned ‘a buddy’ in their first week which involves a senior peer housemate accompanying you upon leaving your residence. Focus 12 also operate a curfew between the hours of 22.00 and 07.30. Unlike most treatment centres,
Focus 12 clients are able to keep their mobile phones during non therapy times (following completion of the initial buddy period). However, restrictions can be put in place if they prove to be too distracting. Shortly after my gut wrenching arrival I hit the ground running. A group of strangers who were soon to become privy to my deepest darkest secrets were half way through a Y12SR yoga session. Y12SR advocates that yoga can play a significant role in a holistic recovery program and provide adjunct tools to address the physical, mental and spiritual disease of addiction. After surviving my first night as the newbie, I passed go, collected £200 and jumped straight out of the frying pan into the fire. I quickly learned that there was nothing fluffy about group therapy. At the time I would have summarised it in one word – brutal. By the end of my treatment I had learned that group therapy had in fact played a major role in my journey towards self awareness. Alternative group sessions such as family support and gender specific groups are also facilitated at Focus 12. A typical Focus 12 weekly timetable incorporates 1:1 meetings with an allocated key worker and a qualified counsellor. Group lectures on relapse prevention and goal setting are key to the program alongside peer evaluations and alternative therapies such as art and music therapy. With an emphasis on a person centred holistic approach, clients at Focus 12 are guided through practices such as mindfulness meditation and relaxation.
Throughout treatment written assignments are allocated which are to be completed honestly, thoroughly and in a timely manner. The benefits will be on hold for those dragged kicking and screaming. A lesson I learned first hand! Not all sessions are treatment centre based as Focus 12 schedule mandatory 12 step fellowship meetings in the recovery friendly community of Bury St Edmunds alongside a weekly group activity outing. I experienced an afternoon behind the scenes and a drama workshop at The Theatre Royal during my residential stay. In the spirit of resuming responsibility, Focus 12 also operate a group leader system which is rotated on a weekly basis. Tasks include the allocation of therapeutic duties to fellow peers, supporting newcomers and the improvement of communication between clients and staff. Unfortunately, my invisibility cloak was in the wash the day I caught a counsellors eye and it was my turn.
The complement of staff at Focus 12 is diverse in background and experience with many in long term recovery themselves. Focus 12’s founder Chip Somers who famously helped Russell Brand into recovery is himself a former heroin user who now acts as a government advisor. Some addicts believe that those with similar experiences can work more effectively with their peer group. The jury is out on that one for me. As a poignant sentiment, Focus 12 along with all drug and alcohol rehab centres can only deliver it’s philosophy to those who are willing. Focus 12 graduate Russell Brand famously tried to persuade the late Back to Black singer Amy Winehouse to attend the centre. In a tribute to the star, he said: “Through Focus 12, I was introduced to support fellowships for alcoholics and drug addicts which are very easy to find and open to anybody with a desire to stop drinking and without which I would not be alive.” The Office for National Statistics reported that more than 3,300 people died from drug poisoning in 2014 in England and Wales followed by 8,758 alcohol-related deaths being recorded in the UK in 2015. I thank God every day that I am not one of them