Alina Lodge 2.5 stars
This New Jersey boot-camp-cum-rehab demands long-term attendance and boasts a stellar success rate. But smoking, caffeine and phone calls are strictly banned.
Alina Lodge Rehab Review
Time and more time is what you get at New Jersey's Alina Lodge rehab and treatment center, which specializes in chronic relapse and boasts the greatest success rate in the country (a 35% relapse rate compared to the 80% norm). And rest assured, not all this time is spent engaged in scintillating activities: the predominantly white and wealthy 20- to 55-year-olds who make the trek to Blairstown, NJ, for nearly a year (the average stay is 10 months) agree to stay on the rural 77-acre campus and refrain from smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeine, writing emails, or talking on the phone for the duration of their time here. Those unable to go incommunicado must resort to the old school art of letter writing. It’s probably no wonder that Alina’s unofficial motto is “Before you die, try Alina.”
Alina Lodge’s 60-odd residents share five single-sex quintessential colonial houses sprinkled around an insular campus, which is encircled by a perimeter of thick foliage and rolling hills. Intermittent bear sightings deter all but the bravest clients from sneaking into the forest, though herds of deer make regular trips to the facility. The endearingly mismatched furniture lends a homey feel to the place, and the kitchenettes are regularly stocked with fresh fruit, veggie sticks, pretzels and juice. Far more important, the houses all have cable TV—the two-hour limit on tube time provides residents with their only connection to the outside world, save for the local Star Ledger.
The double rooms feature in-room bathrooms, but landing one of those coveted rooms is luck of the draw (the not-so-lucky have to share hallway potties). While residents are generally close, according to grads, too much familiarity breeds some contempt amongst the staff: “I was moved six times in nine months,” complains a recent resident. “If they sense you are getting too comfy or buddy-buddy with someone, they move you so you know how to deal with discomfort in life.”
The whole atmosphere at Alina Lodge is suffused by the spirit of the late Geraldine Delaney, a nutritionist who started the facility in 1957, shortly after she got sober herself. She went on to run the place with a firm hand for almost 40 years. Although she died in 1998 at the age of 91, her influence still looms large over the facility. The phrase “Mrs. D. said” is echoed daily in most every context imaginable. Reports one alum, “Mrs. D. said we have to get up at a decent hour, so we’re up every morning at seven. Mrs. D.’s favorite meal was roast chicken, wild rice, spinach, salad with blue cheese and carrot cake so we have that every Saturday night. Not surprisingly, some former residents grouse about the heavy-handed enforcement of Mrs. D.’s dictates. Eagle-eyed facilitators “watch over us like prison guards to make sure we don’t pass notes” during the bi-weekly co-ed topic lecture. Turns out Alina’s founder was not a big fan of fraternizing.
While clients are required to make their own beds every morning and have to do light chores during the day, most of the “dirty work” is done by a dedicated cleaning crew. After a buffet-style breakfast of pancakes, eggs and fruit, clients attend specialized groups that deal with issues relating to sexuality, grief and trauma. Later, they go to two hour-long afternoon process groups and have individual sessions with their primary therapists. Despite the heavy schedule, lots of “free time” is interspersed throughout. The Alina Lodge rehab center hosts two nightly A.A. meetings a week that are open to outsiders—residents can only go to outside meetings near the end of their “sentence.”
Meals are “carb heavy” and served buffet style; they usually consist of two hot options (like chicken or lasagna), as well as a soup and salad and sandwich bar. But dieters be warned: apparently Mrs. D. had a real sweet tooth, so pies, pudding and specialty cakes follow every dinner. To sweat off the sweets, a “smoking hot” female aerobics instructor comes twice a week to lead clients in kickboxing-type classes.
Alina Lodge is wedded to the 12 steps and encourages clients to “know themselves” through a lengthy process of introspective “self-bonding.” People seeking newfangled treatments like hypnosis, acupuncture or somatic therapy would probably go batty here, but end-of-their-ropers who can put up with Alina’s boot camp sort of environment may find 10 months in Jersey preferable to the future they would probably face if they opted for a less stringent facility.