New Method Wellness 4 stars
If you don’t mind heavy lunches and a few light chores, this gender-segregated Southern California rehab could be the one for you.
The famous migrating swallows of San Juan Capistrano may no longer stop here on their annual migration to Argentina, but male and female alcoholics and addicts of all stripes still check in like clockwork, at the drug and alcohol rehab New Method Wellness, for 30 to 90 days in treatment (or, for those pressed for time, a radically condensed seven-day program). While the program is 12-step-based, for those who aren’t OK with AA, you can attend SMART Recovery instead.
About an hour’s drive south of LA, this historic, mission-architecture area is home to three separate New Method Wellness facilities: a 10-person’s men’s residence in a gated neighborhood; a 10-person women’s residence near the beach in upscale Dana Point; and, in a local business park about 10 minutes by shuttle van from the houses, the Center, where treatment sessions take place.
Clients range in age from about 20 to 60 years old, with an average around 28. Their addictions run the gamut from garden-variety booze and Rx pills to heroin, cocaine, meth and even “nitrous oxide and dust-off cans,” as one former resident copped to using.
Residents mostly are middle-class or wealthy, in a wide variety of occupations, including (at one time) a teacher, an artist, a finance guy and a few students. The majority of those in treatment are white and straight, although a handful of different races and gay people are in the mix as well.
Unless you spring for a private room (or, for those who really want to keep their recovery hush-hush, a private off-site condo, with a live-in sober companion), everyone at New Method Wellness has one roommate. “I enjoyed the men in the house,” reported one alumni. He added, “I made good friends, and the good relationships I built made the rehab more effective.”
While this isn’t a chores-for-chores’-sake type of place, you are required to pitch in with keeping your house clean, from cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen and keeping your personal belongings in order, to the odd assigned task like taking out the trash. A cleaning lady comes by once a week to do the heavier lifting.
Speaking of the kitchen, you’re going to be spending some time in it, as New Method Wellness only provides lunch for its residents. “The food was pretty good,” said one alumni—although others lamented that the lunches were “too heavy,” “not so healthy” and needed more vegetarian options.
Residents cook breakfast and dinner for themselves, with groceries bought using a $75 supermarket card given out weekly by the house managers, who also take everyone shopping. You also can go out for dinner every now and again, with one favored local eatery being a ribs joint called Bad to the Bone. At each residence, coffee, juices, sodas and bottled water are available 24/7, while the Center has the same beverages as well as snacks.
Each weekday, the actual treatment portion of rehab takes place at the Center, where residents participate in “solution-focused therapy”—wherein you set recovery goals, identify strategies for achieving those goals and do homework in support of them—as well as process groups and 12-step meetings, plus other therapies.
Said one former resident, “It was primarily 12-step, however I felt the depth of the mental, emotional and physical well-being that was supported was very balanced.” Another praised the “caring staff,” while yet another related how one woman didn’t want to attend AA, and so she was allowed to do SMART Recovery instead. For medical attention, helpful doctors are available a couple of times a week at the Center, with after-hours medical assistance on an on-call basis.
For anyone who is worried about having to swallow a lot of religion—don’t. New Method Welless instead places the emphasis on the standard 12-step concept of finding one’s own god or higher power. That said, there is an optional faith-based curriculum for those who want it, led by “one counselor who helped people who wanted a lot of religion in their program,” reported one woman. Another resident noted that everyone could choose to attend church, if they so desired.
In general, staff are pretty “easy-going”—but “there were rules that were enforced,” said one former client. What happens when a rule is broken depends on the seriousness of the infraction, and the person involved. One alumni related how two girls snuck out at night to go partying. “One was on her third chance and was not allowed to come back,” she said. “The other girl had to detox for three days and then she was able to come back.”
For those who do stick around the rehab, there’s plenty with which to keep busy, from art classes and horseback riding to working out at the gym, barbecues and “sober fellowship activities”—such as attending the county fair. Reported one resident, democratically, “Off-site outings were agreed upon by the entire household.”
You can keep in touch with the outside world fairly easily, with unlimited Internet and phone usage (you can bring your own laptop and cell phone) allowed after the first two weeks in residence (during which time they are limited), and TV allowed nightly until 11pm curfew. As for keeping up with business, one man said he was “provided with a small private office where I could get some work done while at the Center during the day.”
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