Natalie & Brian
Natalie and Brian are both counsellors at Hope, originally from London (Natalie) and Ireland (Brian) and both have battled with addiction for many years before getting clean. Their path of recovery took them to a mindfulness based recovery community in the north of Thailand which is where they met. After spending a year there working on themselves and helping other people, they made the decision to contact Simon and come to Hope.
I have been sober since January 2013, and my life has changed so much since that time. When I first walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I couldn’t see beyond just getting to bed that night without picking up a drink or a drug. I really didn’t think it would be possible but I kept at it – one day at a time. I didn’t have any dreams other than just not picking up. My life had become such a mess, the last 10 years of my using were simply miserable, and I was out of control and so depressed. When I got into recovery, things really did begin to change for me. I found people who not only accepted me without judgement but who were just like me. Some of the stories may have been different, but the feelings, the shame, the negative self-talk, all the inside stuff, that was the same. I found home.
I had always had dreams of travelling and living abroad but could never get it together while I was using. At 9 months clean, I moved to Australia and spent a year living in various parts of the amazing country. It was really tough at times, and I honestly think being in AA saved me. It gave me a way to meet people everywhere I went, and it was somewhere to go to be real. I knew it was a risk travelling that early on and made a vow to myself that my recovery would always be my priority. I knew that without it, I may as well have been dead.
After 11 months in Australia, I went to New Life Foundation, a recovery community in the North of Thailand. It was there I learnt how to open my heart and face my past. Even though I was already clean, I spent 3 months there as a client. I firmly believe that in order to help other people, you need to have gone on your own journey too. This was my time and I loved it there and learnt so much about myself. This was also where I met Brian, he had already been there 8 months, and we decided to stay on and help other addicts and people working on themselves.
In June 2015, we decided it was time for us to leave New Life. Although I had always been adamant that I wouldn’t want to work in a typical primary rehab centre, I contacted Simon. I knew that I didn’t want to work in a clinical setting, what was important to me was to be somewhere that clients are respected and heard, and where it’s not just a money making machine which unfortunately is typical of many rehabs these days. However, I had spoken to Simon when I first got clean about getting help for myself and had really liked the way he spoke to me and the concept of Hope which was why I reached out to him. We’ve been here at Hope for almost 6 months and love it. It’s a truly special place and both Brian and I are so grateful for the people we meet on a daily basis. From the other staff members to the clients and the local Thai community. It was a perfect jump for us from New Life and we feel at home here.
I feel so lucky today that I’m an addict and that my path has bought me on this journey. Through recovery I’ve learnt so much about myself and no longer need to live in the despair which held me for so long. My own recovery is still my number one priority and with it, I’m able to deal with whatever life throws at me. I can honestly say I love my life today.”
It took me a long time to get clean. My first rehab was at age 20, and I spent the next 14 years attempting to get and stay clean through numerous rehabs, detoxes, doctors, psychiatrists and AA/NA meetings. I even found myself in the famous ‘vomit monastery’ north of Bangkok called Wat Thamkrabok. I really thought I was a hopeless case. I became a criminal, I became a psychiatric patient and I ended up homeless. All the treatments I tried were not the problem, even though I blamed them. The problem was my inability and unwillingness to feel my emotions and do the work necessary to stay clean.
Every time I got clean I remembered why I took drugs, my experience of life was pain and suffering. I was faced with myself, who I absolutely loathed. No wonder I used anything I could get my hands on to change how I felt. This was my mentality.
The final time I got clean was in an 8 week medical detox in Ireland to detox from methadone and benzodiazepines. It was horrific. I was very close to death. The detox was so painful and I knew I didn’t have it in me to go through this again, I was willing to do whatever it took. Finally, I had surrendered.
I managed to do it and got clean, and my recovery took me to a place called New Life Foundation in North Thailand where even though I was clean, I went as a client to further my recovery. I finally allowed myself to go through the initial pain of reality, I allowed myself to experience all of my emotions and face my childhood issues. I experienced ‘short term pain for long term gain’ whereas I was used to ‘short term gain for long term pain’. I learned to accept myself and eventually even love myself. Something I thought impossible.
I built up a daily meditation practice which has been life changing in itself. I went back to AA and NA and did the work. I was open and honest with my peers, and I discovered that I am not on my own in this and that I need fellowship and support. I need people who are walking the same path as me.
I spent 18 months at New Life, and after my time as a client, I stayed on working there – giving back what was given to me. Helping other suffering addicts.
This is also where I met Natalie, who is another bonus to my life for being clean and being well emotionally. I could never have a healthy relationship before as I was so co-dependant when in addiction. I had viewed relationships as another thing to fix me. This also shows me that recovery works.
I feel I have found my calling in life, helping the still suffering addict. I feel so inspired doing this work and seeing the change in people when they get it.
This opportunity at Hope came in June 2015 and I am so grateful for it. I love the approach at Hope, 12 steps, mindfulness, meditation, CBT. Very open minded which I feel is necessary. We really work on building self esteem and self worth, while also providing the tools necessary to stay clean no matter what. It’s a wonderful environment – beautiful setting and client care is priority. We have a wide range of workshops and with our counselling team we have a lot of different angles and approaches to deal with individual cases. I’ve seen some great changes and turnarounds here at Hope and again this is proof that anyone can get clean and stay clean if you are willing to do whatever it takes. I don’t believe anyone is a hopeless cases.’
Natalie and Brian – the Team at Hope Rehab