Austin Recovery

Austin Recovery

By The Fix staff 07/19/11

The spartan set-up of this massive Texas facility reflects a certain cowboy ethos, but its clients are strictly focused on twelve steps rather than two-steps. Exercise is oddly not part of the curriculum here, but residents receive a solid grounding in recovery and a valuable education in the basics of life.

Austin Recovery Hicks Family Ranch.jpg
Austin Recovery Center's Hicks Family Ranch. Photo via
Location : Austin, Texas
Phone : (512) 697-8500
Price : $8,850/mo. ($22,500 for 90 days)
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes
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Cowboys don’t need five-star chefs, luxury accommodations, personal masseuses, pedicures and celebrity neighbors to kick the habit. Which is a good job, 'cause they ain’t gonna get none at Austin Recovery. A completely different beast to the lavish luxury rehabs of glossy gossip mags, the Austin Recovery center provides solid, affordable, decent treatment. Founded in 1967, it has become the largest non-profit chemical dependency treatment center in Texas, serving around 2,400 clients a year. However, it's deceptive to think of this Texas drug rehab facility as one "center." With four separate campuses—each with its own distinct ambiance and decor—Austin Recovery caters for a range of people that is both sociologically and geographically broad.

Edith Royal Campus, described by one grad as “clinical and manicured,” is the admissions center. It also houses the detox facility and the women’s 30 day residential programs. The Hicks Family Ranch, an attractive—well, ranch—is for predominantly private-pay 90 day treatment programs. Men who rely on public funding are housed over at the Austin Recovery Lodge—three homes in a rural, woodland setting—while outpatient and aftercare are located on South Congress in Austin. Unlike many treatment centers, AR has many state-funded options available for those unable to pay. One alumna recounted entering OSAR (Outreach, Screening, Assessment and Referral, a program supported by the Texas State Department of Health) “homeless, out of work, with no money. They put me into detox at AR the next day.” Her stay was entirely funded by the state.

The management of Austin Recovery wax lyrical about their unique “Family House” program—residential treatment for women in recovery, alongside their children. In 2011, construction of a new residential facility for these families will start, containing, according to insiders, “individual apartments, multiple play areas, a family-style dining hall and group counseling space.”

Each client shares a clean, comfortable, plain room and a bathroom with two others in an extremely protected environment—no mall trips or bowling evenings here. Once detox is out of the way, residents attend a heavy program of classes, from 8am until 8pm each day. One-on-one sessions with a counselor are available once or twice a week, but Austin Recovery’s primary focus is twelve-step work, combined with educational classes on drug and alcohol issues. AR's practical, utilitarian approach to recovery works on preparing residents for re-entry into the outside world, with an emphasis on the skills many addicts and alcoholics need to acquire to successfully build upon recovery: resumé writing, how to dress for an interview, how to make a doctor’s appointment, how to get food stamps and apply for welfare.

However, one former participant felt that some of the classes she had to attend were pointless, even upsetting. “I had to attend parenting classes, which is great for people who have kids, but I’m not allowed to see my kids because of my past drug abuse and alcoholism. The last thing I needed was to have to sit in on a parenting class! They need to do a better job at picking and choosing what people need to see and hear.” Another veteran reported finding the center to have a very positive, spiritual vibe, alongside the heavy emphasis on education. “We did music therapy, where we lay on the floor and the music was real loud—tribal, symphonic—and we just lay there absorbing it for like an hour and a half, and it takes you on a journey. At the end, you get up and draw your journey. That was amazing for me. Really spiritual.” Other less conventional treatments on offer include art therapy, sweat lodges, cinematherapy and inner child work.

Despite the emphasis on experiential treatment, Austin Recovery doesn't include more hands-on therapies such as working with clay, or gardening. Most former clients reported a regrettable lack of physical exercise, which could have improved the treatment. “I mean, it’s not until the second or third week of treatment that your head's back in the game and your body’s able to contemplate exercise,” said one, “but even for the people on 30-day programs—and definitely for long-term residents—a pool, a gym, more yoga classes [clients reported one half hour session per week], organized walks, team sports, could have really put some more physical emphasis into recovery and getting well.”

The food here is tasty and nutritious, if nothing earth-shattering—and that kind of sums up the Austin Recovery center. It’s a great place to go for “30 days of not being on drugs and learning how to think again," and if you become a long-term resident, the skills it teaches you are “invaluable for re-entry into the real world.” This Texas treatment and rehab center has all the basic, essential tools you need to get healthy and sober—but it's not a vacation, and it's not a resort. If you’re expecting either, scuttle a little further west and dig deeper into your pocket.

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