Alina Lodge is not your pampering, high-end luxury rehab. But it may be just the kind of place that can save your life if you’re suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or a dual diagnosis. It’s a no-frills, basic, good ol' treatment center that won’t knock your socks off with all kinds of fancy amenities or 24-hour personal chefs, but you don’t need that, or need to pay for that, if what you want is to recover.
Located in Blairstown, New Jersey, this not-for-profit organization, founded by Geraldine O. Delaney in 1957, is an over 80-acre facility with 70 beds. Lengths of stay vary, with a suggested 90 day minimum stay for first time in-residence clients; and a six month minimum stay program for those who have failed to stay sober after being in inpatient treatment previously. In addition, Alina Lodge offers a Family Program, for those in a resident’s immediate family (13 or older) to have a program of their own to help with recovery from the effects of having an addicted family member and all the havoc and disorder that can bring. The Family Program is residential as well and includes counseling as well as introduction to and participation in the Al-Anon program.
A few things you should know about Alina Lodge: First of all, residents, or clients, or patients, whatever you prefer to call them, are known as “students”, “because they are here to learn, and to live a new life in sobriety.” So, heretofore, they will be referred to as students. Also, as alluded to before, Alina Lodge is not your high-end, expensive luxury rehab. It is a not-for-profit organization that tries to keep the price of treatment low. This is almost mind-boggling in this era of equine therapy, massage therapists and private recovery chateaus. But, it’s true. Rates for staying at Alina Lodge are clearly listed on their website, also an anomaly these days. A refreshing anomaly. Finally, and for addicts new in recovery, this is no small issue: Alina Lodge is smoke free. We know smoking’s bad for you, but most rehabs understand that it may be difficult to quit smoking on top of one’s drug of choice and allow for the smoking to be dealt with later. Not at Alina Lodge. No smoking, and you must come in sober and fully detoxed. They are not a detox facility, though they can help refer you to a detox to get help before entering Alina Lodge. Additionally, Alina Lodge has certified addiction psychologists on staff, 24-hour medical staff, a nutritionist, and provides comprehensive discharge plans for continuing care.
Alina Lodge students are a mix, mostly, from different walks of life. It is a coed facility, but males and females are separated and forbidden from fraternizing. They also do certain activities, such as yoga, separately. So, don’t head here if hooking up is on your agenda. “Women and men were separated 100%, except for eating in the same hall and lectures, where each community sat on opposite sides of the room.” Students range in age and background as well. When asked about the mix of students there, one alumnus said, “Fellow male students ranged in age from 18 to 70’s. A range of professions from handymen to corporate executives as well as very affluent “trust fund” types.” Another remembers, “I had many friends at the lodge….the women became my family. All ages and socioeconomic scales. We were all connected by the horrible disease of addiction.” Some questioned the diversity of the lodge: “I was pleasantly surprised of how varied age, sexuality and socially the group was. Definitely, though, a very ‘white’ bunch.” One former student complained that "Alina seems overall a bit scared of sexual diversity (gender fluid/transgender etc)." But most echoed this sentiment: “We had all types and no one felt unique.”
When it comes to food at a long-term rehab, it’s something to consider. Again, while some provide gourmet chefs, or will make anything on demand, Alina Lodge is just not that kind of place. This doesn’t mean the food’s bad, however, and the menu is supervised by a nutritionist in order to keep the focus on a balanced diet. Most former students rate the food as good to excellent. What’s good and not so good? Well, the food is served cafeteria style and there is only decaf coffee to be had. The cooks are health conscious and try to provide healthy, but tasty, options: "The food was typical institutional food, but it was healthy and tasted good." If you don’t care for the “defined” selection, you can always eat a sandwich or soup. Students liked the food overall, despite the lack of caffeine and sugary snacks. Most described the meals as “healthy and balanced.” The overwhelming favorite item has to be the chicken meal served on Saturday nights, though, with former students saying, “Saturday night was my favorite,” and, “The chicken dinner with the wild rice and vegetables with all the fixings Saturday night was the best.” But as good as it may be, “after a year of chicken dinner I was ready to die, LOL,” one said. Fruit is also readily available. Again, the lack of caffeinated coffee and snacks bothered some.
At Alina Lodge you are not going to get a private room with an ocean view. You will share a room and you will have chores. This ain’t a luxury Malibu rehab. However, most of those surveyed were satisfied with their rooms. Residents are responsible for a chore and for keeping their beds and bed areas neat and tidy. However, there is a cleaning crew that does come in and clean. Chores can vary. As one former student put it, “Some had to be done daily, others two times a week. Some chores less desirable than others…like chores in life.” The roommate situation switches up frequently, as students are moved in and out of rooms, with different roommates as part of the program. "The point of the lodge is to become comfortable in your own skin, thus ensuring a better chance at long term sobriety. You have a roommate the whole stay and you change roommates so its not the same one the whole time." Another was not so happy with the accommodations: “I didn’t like that we frequently were moved and had to adjust to new roommates." But this is all part of the daily life at Alina Lodge and, “daily life and length of stay are what make Alina so unique and, in my opinion, so necessary and successful. We had roommates and all sorts of chores. Thank God!” one former student proclaimed!
Again, the amenities are not the reason to go to Alina Lodge. There is yoga offered and there is a gym in which to get some exercise, but it’s no luxury retreat, so temper expectations in that regard. Perhaps this is an area where more could be offered, but one former student believes this is because “it’s a bare-bones treatment center geared toward making you look at yourself and dig deep.” Another put it this way: “Alina believes (and the more I stay sober the more I do too) that there are much more important things a man or woman who is struggling with alcoholism/addiction should be offered than a pool, equine therapy, massage or a sauna.”
The program here does not let you just sit back and relax. It is “Very, very strict. Women and men couldn’t speak to each other. Emphasis was put on looking at ourselves. No internet, phone calls, visiting on Sunday. I learned to reach out to other women as one has to do in recovery. I wouldn’t say it was tough love, we just had to follow the rules. By the time I left Alina Lodge, I felt very loved,” a former student told us.
There are no cell phones, no phone calls at all actually (except in certain cases), no computers. You are here to recover, not to be distracted, so the thinking goes. There is limited TV time in the evening if you are so inclined. “I wasn’t allowed to use the phone to call my kids or family for several months and that was hard,” one former student complained. But another sees it a different way: “I would not change anything here. Thank you, Alina, for the courage to take everything away from your clients so they can be forced to look at themselves and spend some time with themselves and one another!”
Most students we heard from were positive about the overall program of treatment at Alina Lodge. There are nurses on staff 24 hours. There are doctors available on site most days and also “they try to get the patients the doctor visits many have missed due to addiction,” one student noted. This is a common problem with addicts. Showing up at a doctor’s appointment, unless a script is to be written, isn’t generally on the top of an active addict’s to do list.
The recovery treatment at Alina Lodge is heavily 12-step based. There are 12-step meetings and no reading is allowed for the most part, other than 12-step related material. Religion is not forced upon students, but it is made available. “Options were available for all religions. They had Jewish services, Christian services and time to meditate. The focus was on finding a higher power, not a specific religion or God. I found my higher power walking in the parking lot.”
Look, this is just straight up help. It’s not pampered treatment, but it’s not just three hots and a cot, either. The students’ testimonials speak for themselves: “Alina Lodge is hands down the best treatment available. The 12-step, non-permissive approach is incredible. Their counselors are well-trained old timers. They have seen it all and know how to reach the students.” And one put it, “It is a non-permissive environment! No smoking, no caffeine. This facility is for the ‘reluctant to recover.’ No luxury massages or fancy sheets here. It’s about saving lives.” Another said, “I believe I was able to create the foundation for life-long recovery at Alina. They helped me to create a new life that is full of joy and abundance.” And finally, perhaps the most important measure: "I used after all my previous treatments, but not after Alina."
“Listen, it’s the Alcatraz of rehabs. It is long and hard and seemingly endless. But it does end and life is good. The road to recovery is excruciatingly painful and it should be so we don’t ever want to repeat it. You will hate it and then when you surrender and let go, you will have deep gratitude for all of it,” as yet another former student put it. With testimonials like these, no matter what the cost, this seems like a rehab that gets results.