NESTLED in the secluded woodland of Belgooly, a scenic location roughly half an hour drive from Cork city, lies a beautiful house called Tabor Lodge.
Look inside the walls of this house and you will find more than a dozen individuals, from all walks of life, who have come together to achieve a common goal – recovery.
The facility, you see, is tailor-made to help people who, for whatever reason, have developed serious addictions – to alcohol, to drugs, to gambling.
On a recent visit to Tabor Lodge, I got to see the work the facility does first hand – how they help people understand their issues, overcome their problems, and succeed in managing their addictions.
Pulling up in the driveway of the facility, I was struck by how peaceful the surroundings were. It is doubtful that this is a coincidence – considering the chaotic scenes which must have led many people here, a reflective environment, free from hustle and bustle and stress, not to mention temptation, is a must.
The calmness of the rolling hills and valleys to be seen outside must surely have penetrated the walls of the facility, for the feeling of peace doesn’t subside once the threshold has been crossed.
“This is a safe space”, they walls seem to say. “This is place for taking stock, for enacting change, for letting go, for moving on.”
As if in testament to this, the corridors are bedecked with countless Thank You cards from past residents telling the councillors and the other staff members how valued they are, and how much they’ve helped them.
People come to Tabor Lodge in a number of different ways – they might self-refer, they might be referred by a family member, or by a GP.
Some pass through the doors with the knowledge that they have a problem, while others might have to learn that fact somewhere along the way.
Whatever their level of acceptance, and whatever the nature of their addiction, all residents follow roughly the same daily routine.
They wake at 7.15am every day and are down for breakfast within the hour. Then residents take part in 15 minutes of meditation followed by group therapy.
At around midday, residents will take part in a literature study group, which takes a look at literature surrounding addiction, before breaking for lunch.
Depending on the day, clients might then have individual therapy sessions or another group therapy session, followed by a lecture on a relevant topic such as addiction or recovery.
Tea is at 6pm, followed by another group therapy session at 7pm – though this one is not attended by councillors as it is an effort to get the residents to support each other.
During their free time, those at the centre are encouraged to play ball games, board games, or go for walks.
While most of the days follow this routine, it differs slightly on Wednesdays and weekends. Families arrive on Wednesdays for therapy with their loved ones. Families arrive again on Sunday, for a regular visit.
This support is invaluable, explains Mick Devine, clinical director of the centre.
“On Wednesday’s families sit with their nearest and dearest and they talk about how they’re impacted by this person’s addiction. This breaks through the defensiveness of the person and really taps into their resolve to get through their addiction,” he said.
“Support from the family makes a huge difference. It’s one of the key aspects of recovery, actually. If someone comes to us and the family won’t visit them, they’ve washed their hands of them, then that’s not a good place for them to start. The prognosis won’t be good in that scenario.”
Residents are encouraged to stay at Tabor Lodge for a period of 28 days. While some choose leave before this timeframe is over, most do complete it.
If someone feels they have not completed their journey after 28 days, and don’t feel ready to move on, they can then enter Fellowship House (for men) or Renewal (for women).
Also run by the overarching Tabor Group, these are residential facilities based in Cork city to help people who need extra support over a longer time period. Clients can stay in these facilities for up to three additional months.
Recovery, explains Mick, is a very reachable destination - it’s one he has been proud to see countless people get to over the years.
But it is important to recognise that someone dealing with addiction is always in recovery – they are never ‘healed’, they are never ‘cured’.
“Having an addiction isn’t dissimilar to having diabetes in that respect. Both are chronic health conditions that can’t be cured, you can only learn how to manage them. Someone is capable of relapse at any stage – so once you are in recovery, you are in recovery for life,” said Mick.
Every year, Tabor Lodge admits more than 200 people to the facility. At any given time, there can be up to 18 people in beds at the centre. All of them are on the 28-day programme, yet all are at different stages.
“A sense of safety while they’re here is hugely important. Our core values are respect for the addicted person, and compassion for the addicted person. I think that is palpable and it does get communicated. People realise it’s a good place for them.”
But while the Tabor Group is proud of the high quality residential treatment services it provides to clients, they know that, sadly, many more people that need their service do not access it.
The stigma, they said, that is attached to addiction in Ireland continues to ensure that people who are afflicted by the disease are marginalised in society, which makes it even harder to openly seek help.
As clinical director, Mick wants to encourage people experiencing addiction to speak out and ask for help.
“I would ask people who think they might have a problem with addiction to phone us, or phone another agency that can help, or go to a GP. The aim is to get yourself in front of a professional who can give an initial assessment,” he said.
“They will either say yes, I think you need to do more about that, or they will say well how about you don’t drink or gamble or take drugs for a week and see how that goes. And if they are not able to stop for a week, then they need to do more about it. They need to reach out, ask for help. And the help is there. If they ask for it, they will get it.”
For more information about the Tabor Group and its services, go to www.taborgroup.ie. To access help for addiction from the Tabor Group, phone 021 488 7110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.