Rehab centers: Love, pray, understanding

Rehab centers: Love, pray, understanding
PHOTO: Rehab centers: Love, pray, understanding

JAKARTA - Drug rehabilitation centers are often thought of as unhygienic places with screaming patients locked up against their will.

Some rehab centers are offering a different atmosphere, including Breakthrough Rehabilitation Center, situated at the heart of Bukit Sentul, Jl Bali Raya no. 31 in West Java.

There is a sense of serene silence as you enter the place. The air is fresh and sweet-smelling, and the grass is green. Inside, you will see that the two-story building is set against an almost perfectly shaped hill dotted with the greenest of trees that produce a calm ambience.

The corridors on both floors are lined with clean and tidy rooms, despite the all-male patients.

The center was established in 2001 by Pastor Simon Neo. A former drug user himself in Singapore, he was invited to Jakarta to help establish a rehab center. After a few rounds of talks with a few potential benefactors, the Bukit Sentul site where Breakthrough is located was donated anonymously.

Most of the people involved in the management of the center are former drug addicts.

"This place is good for us to find out about ourselves, which we can achieve by getting to know who God is," Alex, a former drug addicts who is now a co-caretaker at the center, said.

Alex opened-up about his past drug use, "I couldn't get along with my father who wanted me to follow whatever he said. There was a time I couldn't hack it so I went to a friend's house who offered me drugs."

Starting off as an occasional user, Alex began to regularly use shabu-shabu (the local name of crystal methamphetamine). "When I started working, my salary was used to buy drugs."

Alex's mother found out and gave him an ultimatum: enter rehab or go to jail. Alex chose rehab and has been at Breakthrough for six years now.

"Our aim here is to build the patients' character through work therapy and spirituality, with a compulsory minimum stay of one year," Stephen Vincent, director of BreakThough Rehab Center, says.

In 2004, Vincent, who has a master's degree in counseling, was asked to manage the center, which is dependent on donations. "We don't charge patients who come here, but welcome donations from parents who can afford to do so."

This year, Breakthrough has opened another branch for women drug users somewhere in the vicinity of Bukit Sentul. "We believe that by promoting nonviolent approaches, by focusing on love, prayers and understanding, we can cure addicts", adds Vincent, who is also former drug addict.

Patients are kept busy from the early hours of the day, starting with a daily morning worship at 6:30 a.m., finishing off their activities by 9 p.m. After breakfast, patients go through work therapy that varies for beginners, starting with cleaning tasks like cleaning the halls and bathrooms. Lunch is followed by more work therapy, a tea break, and more work therapy. They are given a two-hour break before dinner.

After dinner, spiritual classes are followed by independent study and a one-hour break before bedtime. Indonesia is known to be home to a significant number of drug users. Statistics in 2010 showed that 3.8 million people (1.5 percent of the population) in Indonesia have abused drugs. Research by Gerakan Nasional Anti Narkotika (GRANAT) estimated that the number reached 5 million by 2012. Only 18 percent of the total has resorted to rehab therapy.

The most popular drugs in Indonesia are cannabis (92 percent), shabu-shabu (64 percent), ecstasy (54 percent), tranquilizers (52 percent) and heroin (32 percent).

Most parents whose children take drugs are helpless, sometimes in denial, and do not know how to handle them. Unknowingly, they are often the reason why their children have become addicts.

The main complaint of users is the communication gap with their parents who often have no time for them. Meanwhile, the same kind of a breathtaking palaestra is seen at the Yayasan Harapan Permata Kita (Yakita) drug rehabilitation center.

"The center is focused on individual spiritual awakening and self- healing. The patients are also taught to coping and problem-solving skills. Our recovery program runs from 3-6 months." says Fransmarkus Siagian the program recovery director.

The new entrants are detoxified for a week, secluded and encouraged to adopt the right diet.

"We do not use medicine to cure drug abuse. We encourage them to have sweet tea because the heroin used these days is mixed with glucose. The hot sweet tea will help remove toxins from their bodies through perspiration."

The patients are asked to wake up at 7 a.m. and immediately compose a journal entry, after which a "group morning encounter" follows. After breakfast, they are asked to clean their rooms followed by another psychological analysis session.

Lunch is then served before a session review. Patients are given two hours of free time in the evening followed by dinner and another session on different topics. They are required to write another journal entry before sleeping. Yakita charges Rp. 4.5 million (US$468) per month.

Yakita currently has 12 patients, while Breakthrough has 27. Both centers have concurred that those who did not finish the program reverted to illegal drug use.

"So far, our success rate in Indonesia is 50 percent for drug users who have taken our program. We are still better off than the US, where the success rate is 20 percent to 40 percent, while their relapse rate is 60 percent to 80 percent," Vincent said.

For the Bogor-West Java based Yakita, the success rate is between 30-40 percent.

Two of the most commonly used programs to cure addicts are Therapeutic Community (TC) and shock therapy.

Therapeutic Community is a range of services bestowed by local members of a community who have their own families.

The objective of the therapy is to change an individual's lifestyle through a community of concerned people working to help themselves and each other.

It is designed to gain self-respect, develop self-esteem, and appreciate others more, thus helping the individual develop the responsibility of maintaining a code of ethics for himself and others.

Shock therapy, Indonesian-style, relies on the use of verbal aversion. Rono, who has been to several rehab centers notes: "Sometimes I just couldn't take it when I was shouted at, so I answered back. I was beaten up for that."

He decided to shift to Breakthrough, which concentrated more on work therapy and spirituality. He graduated a couple of years ago.

Yakita and Breakthrough's management requires the patients to follow three cardinal rules: no sex, no drugs and no violence.

"Life after rehab" requires patients to acquire a new set of friends and forget the past. This enables them to avoid returning to drugs. However, it is not as easy as it seems because the main challenge is to regain family trust and acceptance and return to normalcy, says Rono.

Mathias, a former patient, believes that getting rid of the addiction from one's system cannot be dictated by anyone else.

"It has to come from you. There came a point in my life when I got tired. It was only when I understood and realized that I wanted to get cured that I finally allowed myself to complete the program with flying colors."

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