Charis has been a source of recovery for men with addiction issues in east London since 1988. Originally founded to offer shelter and treatment for seven men between the ages of 21 and 65, Charis expanded in 1990 to offer Second Stage, a way for men to continue their treatment in a semi-halfway house setting on the same grounds of their primary program. Finally, they created Charis Terrace, 12 apartments on-site, also available for residents to truly test the waters of living independently but in the safe realm of Charis and its resources. Charis is geared toward helping underprivileged men, but services are offered to any man who is looking for help with drug and alcohol addiction, vaguely fits the criteria and is the right match.
Accommodations and Food
As previously mentioned, there are seven beds available in the 26-week primary program. Each room is equipped with a desk, a sink and a television. There is a community bathroom, lounge area and room designated for group therapy. The above are all located on the second floor of the facility while the first floor features another lounge, a laundry room, kitchen, dining room, lobby and additional bathroom. A sense of serenity is added to the space by way of a central, skylight-illuminated courtyard with a fountain as well as a back porch and front garden. There aren’t many recreational options beyond televisions in both common rooms. Men in the Second Stage portion of the program live in a separate part of the primary Charis building. The Terrace apartments are completely self sufficient, located on another part of the campus.
Men in the first tier of programming are served prepared meals while residents in the remaining two phases are expected to prepare their own food, upholding the principles of learning how to independently live once they are ready. Since they make it clear that they don’t accept clients with eating disorders, one can deduce there isn’t a huge emphasis placed on nutritional soundness or dietician-centered counseling. Having said that, three somewhat balanced meals are provided every day for the first 26 weeks.
Treatment and Staff
The “meat and potatoes” of the treatment at Charis occurs in the primary program. It heavily revolves around group therapy, writing assignments, 12-step programming, working through past personal trauma and developing a continual sense of gratitude.
Upon admission, residents undergo a two-week trial period in which they experience the typical routine at Charis but also identify their unique problems and desired outcomes from the treatment. Once that has been established, they, alongside the staff, create a “service user plan,” kind of like an honor code of sorts, and sign it to acknowledge their full commitment to their sobriety and healing. Each resident is assigned an individual counselor who is their designated therapeutic resource throughout their time. There are staff members on-site 24 hours a day but none of them are doctors or nurses, only addiction counselors and caseworkers. Any potential applicant with co-occurring disorders should definitely seek other treatment options. Charis doesn’t allow mood-altering medications, anti-depressants, sleeping pills or painkillers, as there is no medical staff to monitor their usage.
A typical weekday begins with an 8 am breakfast followed by prayers and meditation then an hour-long, individual writing session, the result of which is turned in to a staff member. What makes this program unique is its tangible recording of the addict’s life story, which is read to both the person’s counselor and the group at large. The journaling aspect is crucial as it documents each man’s past, present, emotional progress and goals for the future.
From 10 am to 12:45 pm, there is group therapy and then lunch. After lunch, the schedule varies between individual therapy, leisure activities (off-site, supervised trips to the gym or library, for example), more group therapy and approved visitation. Dinner is at 6 pm every night and after that, residents are expected to attend at least two (preferably five) AA or NA meetings a week. The facility provides the public transit fares needed for residents to get to meetings. They must be back by 11 pm to head to bed.
The weekend schedule is more flexible but still requires the daily writing assignments. Attendance at meals is optional on the weekend and late night television viewing is permitted then as well.
Of course due to the dire state of most of their potential clients, help with funding one’s stay at Charis is available. Residents also receive a weekly allowance for personal expenses. Former clients praise the program’s “get real” mentality, clear guidance in the 12 steps and rallied peer support. The lack of medical staff is certainly a deterrent but for long-term care with viable support that continues after an already intense 26-week program, Charis is definitely worth consideration.
31 Mile End Road
Charis Cost: $4,097-$4,427 (30 days). Reach Charis by phone at (020) 7790-3040 or by email at [email protected]
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