Olalla Guest Lodge

By The Fix staff 09/06/12

This secluded Pacific Northwest rehab blends the 12 Steps and Native American ceremonies to help its residents get sober. Just be sure to bring a rain jacket.

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The entrance to Olalla Guest Lodge's main living quarters. Photo via
Location : Olalla, Wash.
Phone : (800) 882-6201
Price : $225/day
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
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Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

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Addicts and alcoholics who want to get sober in a meditative environment influenced by Native American rituals should consider Olalla Guest Lodge drug and alcohol rehab, set on 12 acres of a scenic corner of the Pacific Northwest, with views of Puget Sound’s Colvos Passage and—on a clear day—snow-capped Mount Rainier.

Up to 36 men and 11 women, the bulk of whom are between 25 and 45 years old, call this Washington state treatment center home for stretches of three to four weeks (mostly the former). The demographic is mostly middle- to upper-middle-class and white, although some Native Americans from tribes including the Puyallup and Muckleshoot check in as well—presumably because much of the tribes live nearby, as well as the rehab’s Native American leanings.

For the most part, residents share bedrooms (up to three in some of the larger rooms) and perform basic daily chores, including their own laundry, making their beds and so on. One Olalla alumni noted that staff issued write-ups (aka “patient communications”) for both good and bad behavior. She added, “Some people who broke a lot of rules were put on contract, and if they broke the contract they were kicked out.”

Treatment is primarily 12-step-based, although alternatives are provided by the “outstanding” clinical staff. That said, “It’s clear that the most effective was 12-step,” said another former resident. “People who tried alternative methods didn’t stick around too long.” Apart from the Native American aspects, religion isn’t pushed on anyone. “I’m atheist myself, and never felt uncomfortable at all,” said one Olalla grad.

In fact, residents report really enjoying the Native American rites offered at Olalla, including a once-a-month “Spiritual Circle,” and a weekly “burning/smudging” ceremony, wherein rehabbers are invited to “let go of the past” by setting fire to written material, and by being smudged (blessed) with an eagle feather and sweetgrass or sage.

A stay at Olalla include involves cafeteria-style meals in a dining hall with salad bar, where favorite dishes include tacos and hamburgers, and least favorites “some kind of meat-pie thing.” Overall, though, “food was very good,” said one former resident—maybe even too good, since that same alum noted that “almost everyone gains weight.” Snack and soda machines are available at any time, but if you’re looking to maintain your caffeine high, you’re out of luck: Everything is decaf.

Residents occupy their free time with pursuits both spiritual (yoga, acupuncture and meditation, all onsite) and more terrestrial, such as shooting hoops or playing horseshoes, volleyball, frisbee, hacky sack or football; or walking or running the gravel trail that circles the property’s perimeter. Residents can use the house payphone at set times—but there’s no TV (outside of the occasional movie night or big-deal sporting event) or Internet here, so you can forget about keeping up with your favorite shows or Facebook.

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