Here’s what you won’t find at Serenity House drug and alcohol rehab, on 20 acres of scrubland in Texas Hill Country: “no horse-riding stables, no golf courses, no swimming pools, no saunas.” The rehab doesn’t believe these pursuits have much to do with recovery, as per its website: “If that is what you want, you should seek another center.”
That’s not to say that this Fredericksburg, Texas, rehab (Serenity House has detox facilities and 99 inpatient beds in Abilene and outpatient in Wichita Falls) is an unwelcoming or unfriendly place. It’s just that they are serious as a heart attack about recovery.
One former resident described the place, about 80 miles from Austin, as “tough love, no BS,” while another said staff here are no push-overs. Describing one example of the hard line taken by Serenity House, one grad gave the following example: “Female enters man’s room. Both are sent packing. Immediate discharge.”
These residents, 32 of them at capacity, are typically about two-thirds male, and range in age from roughly 18 to 55 (although older individuals do check in here as well). The house’s relatively small size means that “individual attention is freely given,” said one grad. A “very good” four-weekend family program also is available.
One alum described his fellows, who check in here for 30 to 35 days (or a few on the 90-day program) for everything from alcohol to heroin and cocaine addiction, as “all races but mostly Anglo, gay and straight.” Income is low to middle, while occupations run the gamut from students to physicians. Speaking of doctors—if you need to see one, a “very busy” doc is available once a week.
The living situation at Serenity House is egalitarian, with no private rooms for anyone. Rather, much like a college-dorm suite setup, each resident shares a sleeping room with one other person, and a bathroom with another pair of roommates. Everybody has daily chores, with KP (aka kitchen duty) being the least-liked.
As you might imagine, days in treatment here are strictly structured, with classes, 12-step meetings, therapy (both process groups and one-on-one sessions) and activities scheduled from 6am to 10pm daily. “'Big Book' all day long,” noted one former resident. “The counselors were great and the groups were great,” praised another. Clients attend AA and NA meetings every day, both in the house and off-property.
There’s no push toward religion here, though—in fact, no church outings are available for those who might want to attend services—only an emphasis on spirituality and finding one’s own higher power, as laid out in 12-step lit.
During rare moments of downtime, residents can kick back with horseshoes, volleyball, toss around the football, hit the gym (twice a week), go bowling (often once a week) and walk a few trails—including, in spring, a hike along Fredericksburg’s flowering Bluebonnet Trail. There’s no Internet, and communal TV-watching in the day room is allowed only at night. Phone calls to family or friends are allowed two to three times a week.
Last but not least: What’s for dinner? This being Texas, it’s no surprise that beef is on the menu, with sloppy Joes and hamburgers as the best-loved dishes. Meals are more-or-less healthy, although with “too much cheese,” according to one gourmand. Salads and fresh fruit are always available, and sweets are “everywhere.” Although rehab staff try to keep tabs on residents’ caffeine intake, full-strength coffee can be drunk all morning, with tea and juice the rest of the day and a snack break at night.