Cumberland Heights

By The Fix staff 12/10/12

This Tennessee rehab doesn’t mess around with rules or fraternizing with the opposite sex. Clients appreciate its scenic views and some of the state’s best cooking.

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Cumberland Heights. Photo via
Location : Nashville
Phone : (800) 646-9998
Price : $23,000 for 30 days
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

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For those looking to get sober in a place that’s light on frills and heavy on caring medical staff, check out the Nashville rehab Cumberland Heights, with five additional branches throughout middle Tennessee. Their primary treatment residence, which hosts a large number of musicians and artists trying to get sober, is located about 20 minutes west of downtown Music City on the Cumberland River.

Cumberland Heights residents (95 max, for the adult program) are anywhere from 18 to over 60 years old, and run the full gamut of addiction, addressing problems ranging from “meth to alcoholism.” However, the place tends towards “mostly white [people] in white-collar professions,” according to one alumnus. Although the facility treats both men and women, there are gender-segregated treatment facilities, with one former resident noting that members of the opposite sex “were not even allowed to speak to one another.” 

The rehab offers a variety of programs based on age and need, including a separate youth program for boys and girls aged 14–17 and a residential young men’s program for 18–25-year-old guys. Relapse prevention programs also are available. Most clients opt for a 30-day stint in treatment, but a self-pay extended-care program allows you to continue inpatient treatment for an additional 30 to 120 days. 

Depending on when you check in, your experience may be very communal. Regular accommodations are comfortable en suite bedrooms with two people in each room, with a shared bathroom between them—which, thankfully, you won’t have to clean; there are no mandatory jobs or chores as a part of treatment. Yet one former patient said he had roommates “even in detox,” while a female grad “had to stay in the medical wing for almost a week until a bed opened up in the women’s cabin.”

Days start with mandatory meditation at 7:30am and lights out are at 10pm. Between those hours, group therapy sessions and individual counseling takes up the bulk of the day, but a former patient felt there was also “plenty of time to get things done between classes.” The program is 12-step-based, but also addresses the medical aspects of addiction. “They incorporated a lot of the science behind addiction into the classes,” said one alum. “It was very beneficial to learn how the brain works and why it works differently with an addict.” 

In its adherence to 12-step principles, Cumberland Heights places the emphasis on spirituality rather than a specific religion—although, this being heavily-churched Tennessee, one out-of-state patient said, “I felt like religion was talked about more by other patients than by staff.” A full-time, female Presbyterian minister works on site. 

One high point of Cumberland Heights is the food. All meals are prepared by chefs in recovery and—while much of the cuisine is typically Southern—there are a mix of dishes available for more health-conscious eaters as well. The weekend prime rib meals are a particular favorite. “I still go back at Thanksgiving and Christmas to eat with the patients,” said one salivating former resident. “The food is seriously off the hook.”

Outside of meals and treatment sessions, downtime is heavily regulated. Internet, cell phones, radios, music and newspapers are strictly prohibited—and just one TV for the facility is available to watch sparingly. No reading materials other than recovery lit is allowed, and the weekend movie nights are mainly flicks about—you guessed it—recovery. A pay phone can be used in the evening, while younger patients are given a designated day and time to call immediate family members.

A gym and game rooms are available on alternating days (based on gender), while one California-native rehabber was particularly enamored by the “really pretty [1.2-mile] trail [around the property’s perimeter] to run or walk on.” Other diversions include regular trips to watch NHL Predator and minor-league baseball games, plus an on-site softball field, a regulation frisbee golf course, full basketball court, climbing wall and ropes course.

Cumberland is known for its strict rules enforcement. Any drug or alcohol violations can (depending on a number of factors) result in immediate expulsion, while other no-nos—such as smoking outside of designated areas—typically net violators a first warning. Bed check is serious, and limited interaction with the opposite sex is tolerated, but not much beyond a greeting; men and women are seated in completely different parts of the cafeteria, for instance.

A unique aspect of the site are the commemorative bricks bought by family members of alumni to signify the sobriety date of their loved one. One former patient who’s been sober from alcohol for three years said that having his mom purchase a one-year commemorative brick helped him “feel even more compelled to stick with my recovery.”

Cumberland Heights gets high marks for its medical staff, who were praised by former patients for being “compassionate, considerate and knowledgable.” A full-time nursing staff mans the detox area, and almost all of the doctors (of which the facility has two, both of whom are certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine) and nurses are in recovery. All clients meet with an on-site psychiatrist a few times during their stay, or as needed. As one alumni put it, Cumberland is “much better than other local, state or religious facilities of the same genre.”

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