Headquartered in Palm Beach County, Florida—the “recovery capital of the world”—The Hanley Center is a 86-bed, 16-acre rehab facility propped against a palm-tree-lined lake featuring perfectly manicured gardens, an in-house spa and a 1,000-square-foot gym with full-time personal trainer. Upon arrival, detoxers are housed in a special ward for 24 to 72 hours and stabilized by a healthy dose of meds before they're moved into the general population. A typical bedroom has a full bathroom and overlooks a fragrant outdoor patio. The Center is widely noted for its top-notch cuisine. Tim Pearce, who trained in London with Michelin-starred chefs, runs Hanley's deluxe cafeteria with an eye toward taste and nutrition, accommodating all kinds of dietary needs. The kitchen serves up fresh fruit and healthful snacks all day long—and, for clients craving a special midnight fix, the snack bar has coffee and homemade cookies that can be enjoyed in the facility’s 24-hour, fully-equipped computer lounge.
Residents begin their day with a hearty breakfast, which is served from 7–10am. Lectures, group meetings and individual therapy sessions take up the rest of the day, while on some evenings there are movies or game nights. “Lights out” is encouraged at 11pm. Extracurricular activities include guided meditation, relaxation and massage therapy. Despite the gourmet food, cushy accommodations and occasional celebrity sightings (radio host Don Imus, baseball player Darryl Strawberry, Burt Reynolds and former US Representative Mark Foley were all reportedly guests here), Hanley is much more than a recovery-themed Canyon Ranch. The facility combines a vigorous emphasis on the 12 Steps with a more holistic approach to recovery that includes art and behavioral therapy. The Center also is a strong advocate of recovery science: For an additional fee, and based on medical and clinical recommendations, clients can receive a SPECT brain scan.
Though Hanley offers “scholarships” to needy clients, most of its patients are white, upwardly mobile men and women who hail predominantly from the Northeast. Their median age is around 55. The balmy weather, rich cuisine and constant pampering no doubt leaves some of them feeling frisky. But staff here guard against even the most innocent indiscretions like fierce nuns at a Catholic girls' school. Men and women are segregated in separate housing units and attend different meetings, although the Boomer and older-adult programs are co-ed. Outside of these, members of the opposite sex mingle only in the cafeteria and lecture hall, and even there are strictly forbidden from uttering a word to one another. Residents pledge to a “code of honor” in which they agree to inform on their peers if they witness any untoward encounters.
"For the most part, it's a really cool, low-key place. But for some reason they're obsessed with fraternization," giggles a former resident. "It was sometimes kind of creepy. But as long as you keep your thoughts on wholesome, G-rated things, you'll do really well." Most of the facility’s staff are in recovery themselves, so they're empathetic to the plight of their patients. "There's this positive vibe that pervades that place," adds a recent alum. “Everything is so beautiful and clean, and everyone is pleasant and nurturing—not in a fake, plastic, Florida way, but in a way that seems authentic. They understand the pain you're going through because they've once been there, too."