I was a heroin addict, a crack addict, for 20 years, living in London.
I lost everything in my life that meant anything to me... my family, my child, being a father, I lost my home, work, I couldn’t work.
I took it to its limit. I nearly lost my life.
Now I help people with very similar stories at the Hope Rehab Centre I founded in Thailand, but these days the main problem is ice, and it’s Australia that has one of the worst ice problems in the world.
At least half of our clients are from there, and I have to thank the Australian government in a way for not providing adequate treatment.
Waiting lists are long, and if they get any help it’s usually medical or psychiatric… it’s very difficult to treat addicts together with severe mental health clients. The two need to be separated.
As I result, I believe Thailand is now well and truly on the map as a credible rehab destination – we already had cosmetic health tourism, dental tourism and now we have rehab tourism.
Last year about 2.5 million foreign tourists visited Thailand for medical services. An estimated 1,300 of those entered rehabs to treat drug or alcohol addictions, eating disorders or depression.
Even celebrities are heading here – singer Pete Doherty has been our most famous client and his experience was played out very publicly in the media.
Other musicians have followed and I’ve also treated some TV personalities from the UK.
We get doctors, airline pilots, and politicians believe it or not, but people who would rather keep it quiet that they need help.
All of our staff are ex-addicts too - I currently have three Australian ice users as support and fitness workers.
Cameras are rarely allowed in, but Australian ice addict Courtney Hutchings wanted Dateline to follow his rehabilitation.
I say that coming to Thailand helps inspire people. Apart from getting out of their familiar environment and all the triggers that they might have to encounter there, it’s coming to a new environment, an exciting environment.
We employ people in recovery to take clients out and about. They go together to restaurants, gyms, shopping, college, beaches and even sightseeing.
This prepares them better for a sober life, instead of keeping them locked up or cocooned like traditional rehabs do.
It also inspires them to want to look further afield for something new in life, for something new to do. So it motivates people just by coming to Thailand in itself.
I hope that will be the case for Courtney, but he’s got his work cut out.
On one hand, he’s come here willingly and he wants to change his life, he wants to be clean, he wants to get back the things he’s lost, like his job and his wife.
But on the other hand, he’s got so much entrenched behaviour and thinking patterns, it’s going to be a lot of work for him to make that happen.
Lots of people who come here keep in touch, but sadly not everyone’s treatment can be successful.
We’re deeply and profoundly affected when we hear negative news, but we’re also hugely rewarded when we hear that a client is doing well and has got their family back, their job back.
I didn’t stop and get my life back until I was 37 – it’s something that all addicts need to do before it’s too late.
Help and Support
The Australian Government National Drugs Campaign has more details of where to find help and support, or phone one of the following helplines:
- Counselling Online: 1800 888 236
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- Family Drug Support: 1300 368 186
- Lifeline: 13 11 14