Cliffside Malibu 4 stars
The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.
California Drug Rehab Center Review
An up-and-then-downhill drive to a secluded cul-de-sac leads those who need to dry out or clean up—from addictions that run the gamut from straight-up drinking problems to pot, Oxy, heroin, cocaine and crack habits—to Cliffside Malibu, a sun-drenched, white-washed resort of a rehab, surrounded by wild lavender and windswept greenery, and perched on two lush acres overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean.
Gathered in the Southern-California rehab center's comfortable, sofa-strewn living space, with French doors flung open to let in fresh sea breezes, you’ll find mostly white, well-off professional types in their late 20s to early 40s, along with a few recent college grads and some stay-at-home moms. Men and women come here in more or less even numbers, and there are often a handful of different ethnicities, gay men and old folks in residence, too.
In the same living/dining area, experienced chefs serve up a high-end buffet of just what you’d expect: healthy, well-balanced and nutritious meals—even leaning towards gourmet—with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. But don’t mistake Cliffside Malibu for a place that serves nothing but alfalfa sprouts and whole grains; bacon is available every morning at breakfast, and the beef tenderloin is a dinnertime favorite. And while indulgences such as coffee, snacks and sweets aren’t promoted, you won’t want for them, either. Kitchen staff even went on a Diet Coke run for one alumnus who said “no way” to the always-disappointing question, “Diet Pepsi OK?”
At night, residents bed down in luxurious shared or private rooms—“like staying at a five-star hotel”—which they are expected to keep tidy. But that’s really the only chore at Cliffside Malibu, in order to keep the focus squarely on a robust schedule of group and one-on-one therapy sessions, 12-step meetings and activities. You can take walks on the beach; go hiking, surfing or horseback-riding; work out with a personal trainer; take yoga classes; or even swim laps in the rehab’s narrow pool. (The only thing to break up the Cali-healthy vibe is that there is “way too much smoking,” as well as over-caffeination due to plentiful gulped-down Red Bulls and cups of joe.) For the less physically adventurous, there’s acupuncture, meditation, art therapy, mani/pedis, massages and more.
If that all sounds pretty cushy, you’re right: “I wouldn’t say Cliffside was laid-back—but I didn’t feel like I was being punished,” said one resident, describing an ethos which extends to treatment, as well. Being on time for sessions is strongly encouraged (break a rule and you run the risk of getting “grinded” in group), but otherwise the 12-step- and therapy-based recovery regimen is tailored to individual needs. Similarly, while religion proper is downplayed, spirituality in general is emphasized; one alumnus noted a day trip that she and her class took to a “spiritual center of all religions"—the Self-Realization Fellowship at Pacific Palisades' Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat.
Outside of program hours—and during detox or their first week of treatment—residents are free to surf the web, watch TV or use the phone to their heart’s content. But many choose instead to spend their time bonding with one of the rehab’s 20 or so top-notch staff—especially the therapists and resident assistants (RAs), who garner particularly high marks for their attentiveness and helpfulness. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the “somewhat helpful” medical doctors used by Cliffside Malibu for calls or consultations, who occasionally look as though they’ve just dropped by after brunch. “I didn’t feel the love,” said one alumnus.
But on the whole, residents do feel the love. “They honestly care,” said one, about the rehab's staff. “They helped me with issues I didn’t even realize I had that were contributing to my dependency. They treat you as a whole person.” Despite its steep price tag, Cliffside Malibu is a great choice for anyone who has the means to recover there.