Addiction Rehab in Thailand

Wat Thamkrabok

I get emails from people who are interested in addiction rehab in Thailand. It is most usually readers of my book Dead Drunk who want to know if this option will work for them too. I’m always a bit uncomfortable with these queries because I don’t want to give bad advice.

I try to get the balance right so that I’m not overly promoting Thailand as the ‘land of miracle cures’ or going to the other extreme and poo-pooing the person’s plans. I’ll always be grateful for the addiction help I received here, but I don’t want to give the impression that other people need to travel half-way across the world in order to escape their alcohol or drug problems. It was easy for me to choose addiction rehab in Thailand because I was already living here at the time.

I can be a bit exuberant in my praise for the Thamkrabok because this is where I ended my own addiction, but it might be a mistake to go there expecting any type of guaranteed cure. It seems the temple works best for those of us who felt we had tried everything else and were now getting desperate – you could call it a sort of last chance hotel. One of the nice things about this Buddhist facility is treatment is not based on the ability to pay. People who go there are sort of encouraged to give a donation at the end of their treatment, and it would be bad form not to give something.

Addiction Rehab in Thailand Worked For Me

Going to rehab in Thailand worked for me but only because I felt completely ready to end my addiction. It was a case of finding the right solution at the right time in my life. I’d reached a point in my alcoholism where I knew that I’d been completely defeated (it was a case of stop or die soon), so I may have just been due for sobriety anyway.

I like to tell people that I became ready and the teacher appeared. If I’d not been completely ready, addiction rehab in Thailand would not have worked for me. I know this because almost half of the people who were there with me later relapsed, so it is definitely not a guaranteed cure. The tools that I picked up at Thamkrabok were ideal for my needs at the time, and their simple philosophy of addiction recovery was refreshing after years dealing with the western model.

Private Addiction Rehab in Thailand

It is worth keeping in mind that most of the private Thai rehabs are just offering what is available already in most western countries. I’m not saying this as a criticism, but to just emphasize that it might be a mistake to come here with unrealistic expectations.

As far as I can see, the main selling point is that these places can provide affordable addiction treatment in resort style accommodation in an exotic part of the world. I doubt people are going to travel all that way here just for the extras like Thai massage or Thai yoga.

I definitely like the idea of addiction rehab in Thailand (or rehab in nearby countries like Bali), and so long as people keep their expectations in check, it may well work for them. I think a change in our environment can allow us to see things in a different way, so perhaps coming to Thailand will knock people out of their usual thinking patterns. With or without Thai rehab though, the most important thing is always going to be their willingness to change.

Aftercare and Thai Rehabs

I suppose the main concern for those coming to Thailand for rehab will be aftercare. Some of those who attend Thamkrabok will later decide to stay on as monks, but this is certainly not a realistic option for everyone. The treatment would have been of no real use to me if it meant that I’d need to live the rest of my life in a temple – thankfully it didn’t.

I think we all differ in the amount of aftercare we are going to need, but it is probably better to have too much than too little. In my case, I did not require any real aftercare because I felt so strong and super-positive, I knew for certain I’d never drink alcohol again (8 years later, and I still know this to be true), which is just as well as there was no aftercare available in the rural part of Thailand where I was living at the time.

I’m sure the private Thai rehabs do take aftercare seriously, but I suspect that the client is expected to take on most of the responsibility for this themselves. Hopefully, there is going to be more to it than just telling the person to go to AA meetings or NA meetings when they get home. If people do come to Thailand for treatment it is going to be something that they will need to think carefully about. They will also have to be strong enough to face the journey back home where they may be faced with temptation – I know that I used to love drinking in airports.

Update (August 2014)

I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the private addiction rehabs here in Thailand. Hope Rehab Center is located in Sri Racha which is about 140km from where I live in Rayong. The facility is run by Simon Mott, and he is an easy-to-like guy who is passionate about recovery – he had a personal history of heroin addiction, so it is easy to see where his passion is coming from. Simon showed me around Hope Rehab Center, and I was impressed by what I saw. This treatment center could easily pass as a fancy resort, and it has welcoming and homely atmosphere.

I can be cynical about private rehabs, but I spent a few hours talking wit Simon Mott, and it’s obvious he knows what he is talking about. It’s not just a business for him. Hope Rehab Center isn’t offering a quick fix, and from the overview of the program he gave me, it appears to be well thought-out and practical with no busy-work. Hope Rehab Center is also the cheapest of the private rehabs in Thailand.

One of the things that particularly impressed me about Simon’s approach is he encourages clients to explore Thailand and engage with the local community during their stay. The idea is to get these people used to functioning in the real world right from the beginning. This is important because so many people fall apart during the transition from rehab back to the regular life.

Update (November 2014)
– I have started working as a mindfulness coach at Hope Rehab Thailand, so my opinion on this facility is going to be biased.

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