sam

Meth was a Lifestyle

From New Zealand to Thailand for Rehab

Denise Cloughley, Seeking Solace, who supported Sam and his family through the process says New Zealanders are coming to Thailand for rehab because of the dire state of things at home.

“A typical waiting list for detox in Auckland is six weeks,” says Denise, and then after detox, the next phase of rehab is even more inaccessible, “it can take six months and a condition of entry is that you have to be sober first.”

Sam is one of the lucky ones Denise has helped. Over the years she has worked with Lanna Rehab and DARA Rehab, the clients she has accompanied to Thailand has increased from ten per year to almost ten per month.

“Our people are dying because of this situation. New Zealand has one of the highest numbers of Methamphetamine users in the world. The government-funded hospitals and rehabs cannot cope with demand. Anyone who works in this field, or has a family member they have sought treatment for, will tell you the same thing. Detox beds are closing. They won’t take you. It’s not because the staff – nurses and doctors – don’t have compassion, but they don’t have a bed for detox.”

For Sam, his experience with rehab has been positive. The distance has given him space from triggers that provoke his drug use. He’s now approaching the end of his stay, and says –

“As time’s gone by I’ve had my good days and my bad days I guess. But, ultimately I’m more equipped to deal with that. I can cope with things in my head before they become a problem,” says Sam because part of the treatment at Lanna Rehab involves preparing clients for life after Lanna. It’s about breaking the cycle of use, and giving clients the skills to maintain their sobriety, even through stressful times, “because life’s not always going to be roses.”

“It was just a feel-good thing to start with,” says Sam, who didn’t see his meth use overtaking his day-to-day life. Nine years later, he says a moment of clarity gave him the drive to go to rehab. “I found myself wondering ‘where did my time go?’, I was stuck in this cycle, just existing each day instead of living each day.”

Isolation is part of addiction

“You slowly isolate yourself and shut everyone else out,” says Denise, who went to rehab herself for alcoholism before founding Seeking Solace.

“My marriage had collapsed, my children were stepping back and my work had failed.”

Denise achieved sobriety but she had to work through rehabs within New Zealand and found their systems to be lacking in resource and quality of care. Now, years later and sober, she works to help other people like Sam, who need recovery, so they can have a better experience than she did.

Sam says the diversity of international clientele at Lanna Rehab has helped him in his recovery “I’m practicing my social skills here every day. I find myself in here with people from around the world, all different ages and backgrounds. We all have this common goal of wanting to be better.”

With the work he’s putting in, there are plenty of happy moments “I find myself just laughing at the smallest of things.”

Families hurt from addiction

While clients are undergoing care Denise liaises with their families and helps them work through issues that have arisen as a result of addiction. In part, it’s about keeping them updated, and preparing them for when their loved ones return home. It’s also about caring for them.

“When someone has addiction it’s not just them that hurts, it’s the people around them who need to mend.”

The only rehabs Denise currently refers to are outside of New Zealand because “the hospitals in New Zealand are not coping with the need. I am not criticizing their staff but from what I see, the nurses and doctors are overworked. They don’t have the time to give compassionate treatment to people that’s needed.”

In Sam’s words “with meth it becomes a lifestyle because it just takes over everything in your life and you don’t realise it at the time. If you get that moment of clarity to stop and think, the first thing you think is ‘wow where did my time go?’, I guess you have to have a strong mind to pull yourself out of. You have to have the want or the desire to get better and to see what you’ve done. It’s destructive for everyone around you – your friends, your family and yourself.”

Learning to start again, drug-free

Sam says, during his time at Lanna he’s a learned a great deal about the impact of drugs on his life. Therapy and the environment has given him a fresh perspective.

“What I’ve been learning here is how it affects your mind and your brain is more than you can imagine. It takes over everything you think, what you think about how you look at things. It’s pretty evil. It comes with a lot of evil people involved with it who, just like myself, who the addiction takes hold of. It really does turn some people to something you or they didn’t think they were. Addiction makes you someone you don’t want to be. It takes over you. It’s not until now I’ve seen that. I’m just fortunate I can see things in a better light now.”

Sam says a revelation for him was learning that he could live life a different way, “recovery is possible. I know that. If I take the amount of time and energy I put into addiction, into recovery, then it’s possible. My family gives me courage, so does Denise and the people at Lanna. Everyone here is really positive and good and it allows you to move forward.”

“Once you deal with the trauma that comes with living that lifestyle then you can move forward. There is a way out.”

“Every day waking up sober now is a better feeling because I know I’m going forward as opposed to being stuck in this fight. It felt like a battle. Using meth means you’re just trying to survive every day. Your routine is surviving, instead of living. I remember what it was like to live each day, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Things got worse before Sam could get better

“I felt like I didn’t have a worth, I had no structure to my life and every day was the same. It didn’t matter if it was different, it was still for the same cause. I see where some of my old friends have gone to in life and it made me feel ashamed. Partly because no one else understands so when I decided enough was enough it wasn’t easy to put my hand up and say ‘I have a problem I need to sort it out.’ I was having problems, even with the law which was inevitable really…”

I know that once the window of opportunity opened for me to get help, I had to overcome my pride and ask for help and take it.

I was sick of surviving every day because once upon a time I lived every day. That’s the reality of it. That’s what it came down to.”

Now, you’ve experienced Lanna Rehab, what do you think of it?

Choosing to go rehab overseas means removing yourself from temptations in your own environment, and in part, Sam credits that for his recovery, explaining –

“Firstly I removed myself from where I was and who I was around. Then in order for change to happen, you need to pull yourself out from that environment you’re stuck in. Being here has allowed that to happen.”

Sam says “I never would have been in this frame of mind if I had tried to stay home and battle this on my own I know that. Even though I had many battles to try and get out of the country and get here.

Secondly, the approach to care is holistic and individualised. This means as well as therapy, individuals in treatment have their physical health addressed too, with a designated personal trainer who works on their goals. They are also provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets with healthy, nutritious options.

Thirdly, in addition to individual and group therapy, clients can choose to attend art therapy, Tibetan singing bowl sessions, meditation and team sports.

Sam says this helped him because “the way you receive treatment is all from different areas. You can take in a lot and bundle it together to what suits you and what makes sense for you.”

Ultimately the quality of care is what makes the difference in recovery.

“Once you get here everyone here knows that they’re here for the same reason. The environment that creates helps you build your own pathway out. Nothing goes unnoticed, all the problems that you have can be solved.”

That supportive environment and positive approach make a world of difference in recovery because much of the time people are using as a form of escapism from things that aren’t going well in life.

“You aren’t put under pressure per se. As an addict, you don’t want to be told to do something. It’s more like they help you to see the light and they put this positive swing on things so you want to make the most things here.”

“I find myself laughing with people who have come from all different walks of life. They’ve come from all different situations. But, we all have this one thing in common and we all have a shared goal to get better and be happier. I find myself laughing at nothing and enjoying the littlest things that I never thought I would have enjoyed. That’s something really big for me. Then they also teach you structure.”

``You aren't put under pressure per se. As an addict, you don't want to be told to do something. It's more like they help you to see the light and they put this positive swing on things so you want to make the most things here.``

Sam’s therapist Henry allowed him to talk and never pressured him.

Everyone at Lanna Rehab cares

“From the cleaning staff, to Darren who runs the place, they are all friendly and interested in how you’re going and you feel comfortable talking to all of them. It’s a real good place to be and it teaches you the skills you need to go and live life with the same attitude and the same way. I feel once I leave here I’ll still have the support.”

When clients attend Lanna Rehab, or our second location DARA Rehab, they are matched with a therapist who can best care for them.

Sam saysHenry is especially good for me because he will put scenarios into whatever we are doing so we can relate to each other. He’s been through what he’s been through and I’ve been through what I’ve been through, but I find myself agreeing with what he’s saying. I’m to able to relate to him. He always seems to understand where I am coming from which is a big thing. And, it doesn’t matter what the drug is [you have an addiction to] it all comes back down to how you think about things and how you view things and how comfortable you are with your own self. It’s a small thing but it’s a major thing.”

Denise says Sam is one of the many clients she’s guided through Lanna Rehab and returned home to New Zealand as a happier, calmer person, who has a better sense of who they are and what they can offer the world. Addiction is not just about alcohol or drugs it’s about addressing the underlying reasons for self-destructive behavior. Often that involves gaining self-worth.

“At the end of the day, substance abuse is a bandaid to underlying issues that need addressing. Perhaps you didn’t even realise those issues were there.”

For Sam, and others in similar circumstances, Denise says “the one-to-one counseling, along with the CBT program, gives you a voice and helps you find out who is really there.”

Looking forward and aftercare

Sam’s now armed with the skills and learnings from his time at Lanna Rehab to make a fresh start.

He says his treatment has helped him find a voice, but “more than a voice, it’s an awareness and acceptance,” says Sam.

“With the one on one counseling, I’ve been able to identify underlying issues, and also identifying what matters and what’s important to me. Henry has a way of extracting that information out of me without me knowing, I’m never anxious about it, it just flows,” says Sam.

“Once you notice something you hadn’t noticed before it changes so much and it changes the way you look at everything and that for me has been a major factor in seeing things differently. I don’t know how I could go back to living prior to how I was living before this.”

On his return to New Zealand, Sam has the support of his family, Denise and the Lanna Rehab team to guide him through his next stages.

Watch Sam tell his story, in his own words

Denise cares for clients in Auckland, New Zealand, you can view her full services here. To contact Lanna Rehab directly, complete the form on this page, and our team will respond within 24 hours.

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Anne Lazarakis joined the Lanna Rehab team in 2019, from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health as a global issue, often focusing on our own client experiences and linking these to broader social trends. Before joining our team, she worked for several health services with a focus on equality of care, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation. Mental health - particularly addiction - is often stigmatised. Stigmas associated with these areas prevent people from seeking help and recovering. Barriers can be gender, religion, or culturally-based. In some parts of the world mental health is not even recognised as a health condition. By sharing people's stories, and making information more readily available, Anne advocates for accessibility of care for all.



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