Perched in the sun-baked hills of Wickenburg, Arizona, The Meadows offers a peaceful respite for those struggling with trauma and toxic living. Unlike most rehabs that specialize in drug or alcohol addiction, The Meadows tackles a wide variety of disorders—including PTSD, anorexia, sexual addiction, anxiety and depression. But regardless of their diagnosis, all clients are intermingled in dorms and groups and embark on the same course of treatment, though they all wear different-colored name tags according to their affliction.
Despite the steep fees, accommodations at the Meadows are less than plush. "On the outside, with its Southwestern-inspired architecture and landscaped cacti, it looks really posh,” says one former resident. “But once you wander inside, it has all the charm of an Oklahoma City Days Inn.” And yet the “high-school cafeteria food” and limited snack options (peanut butter and jelly and apples), haven’t kept away high profile CEOs and bold-faced names like Kate Moss, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Douglas and Amber Valetta. Presumably the chic clientele are drawn to the staff of well-known therapists and pioneers in the field of recovery—particularly Pia Mellody, a former Meadows nurse who went on to become a world famous self-help author. Though no longer involved with day-to-day operations, she and other well-known lecturers make occasional appearances on campus that are greeted with the same intensity as a Justin Beiber concert at a girl’s high school. Still, not all clients are impressed. As one former resident says, "It’s a bit hard to take marriage counseling from someone who tells you she’s on her fourth marriage."
The Meadows believes that most addictions and other psychic ailments are the result of deep-seeded childhood trauma and clients are urged to unlock their trauma in creative ways: by carrying rocks around to symbolize the burden they've been holding onto and hitting chairs with felt bats to purge their feelings of rage for their parents. The Meadows is also big on diagnosing residents with multiple afflictions, convincing them that they have post-traumatic stress disorder from their childhoods, and having family members fly to the facility for incredibly combative sessions. According to one jaundiced ex-client: “Within days, they’ll have you convinced that you are a love, sex, food and drug addict and that you should press charges against your parents.”
Despite the daunting heat, clients at The Meadows are expected to follow a strict dress code, which includes a ban on tank tops and shorts. They’re also supplied with 1990s-style beepers that send out periodic orders like “Report to lecture hall!” The first item on the agenda every morning is a choice between t'ai chi, yoga and acupuncture, followed by a hearty breakfast, and hours of lectures and group therapy sessions based on textbooks by notable Meadows alumni like John Bradshaw. During down-time, clients gossip in gender-segregated smoking pits or take long hikes through the sweltering Sonoran Desert. The facility houses a large pool and moderately equipped gym, but clients suspected of “compulsive exercisizing” are required to sign a “no work-out” contract. Because the facility strictly limits outside contact, all evening meetings are in-house. And notwithstanding laminated signs in the TV room warning clients they can only objectify a member of the opposite sex for three seconds, legend has it that trysts between clients sometimes occur in art rooms and utility closets after hours. Many former residents admit that the enforcement of rules is fairly lax.
After completing their five-week stint, clients have the option of staying in one of the facility’s aftercare houses, where they maintain the same schedule but with more in-depth one-on-one psychotherapy sessions. More than 60% stay on. Despite its myriad eccentricities, the Meadow is considered one of the top rehabs in the country—a perfect fit for those with singular or dual disorders who won’t giggle when asked to whack an armchair with a Nerf bat.