Chip Somers, who famously helped comedian Russell Brand kick his heroin habit, founded Focus 12 in his hometown, Bury St. Edmunds, to help fellow alcoholics and addicts achieve total abstinence from drink and drug. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Somers talks about why abstinence should be the aim of treating drug addiction.
Accommodations and Food
A small market town in Suffolk, Bury St. Edmunds is less than two hours from central London by car. The Focus 12 residence and clinic are located in the middle of town, within walking distance of each other.
Everyone lives together in a house divided into individual flats. All the flats are co-ed, with double and single rooms available. Focus 12 will do its best not to shift clients around once they are settled in, but in rare cases a resident may have to move rooms or flats to allow for two women to share a room or two men. The adjoining living and dining rooms are simply furnished, with leather couches and a coffee table in the living room and a six-person wooden dining table. The kitchen, too, is basically equipped but up to date. Residents are provided everything they need to cook for themselves. Staple groceries like tea, cereals and sugar are available, and apart from that, residents are asked to draw up a shopping list together and a member of the staff will buy and deliver additional groceries. Focus 12 encourages residents to work together in creating a shopping list and cooking meals.
There’s a patio in the backyard with tables and benches where residents are allowed to smoke, so it’s a good thing that every flat has its own washer and dryer to get rid of the smell.
Treatment and Staff
Focus 12 recommends that clients remain in residential treatment for between eight and 12 weeks. Most stay an average of eight to 10. Focus 12 would like its residents to achieve stability over the course of several months, though, before taking on the world in all its glory. An important part of its program is not to shelter residents completely, and to let them experience the struggle that attends freedom in early sobriety. As a precaution, for the first seven to 10 days of residence, a new client has an assigned “buddy” from his or her flat that accompanies him or her when leaving the residence. This especially goes for residents who are detoxing. A consultant psychiatrist helps new clients create a detox plan when they arrive. Detoxing clients will be prescribed what they need—Focus 12 aims to have clients complete detox safely and at their own pace, but, even in extreme cases, for at least half of their treatment the goal is to be substance-free.
Focus 12 residents have structure during the day and freedom in the evening. During the structured days at Focus 12, clients attend group and individual therapy, CBT as well as Person Centered therapy and lectures about the disease of addiction. The group rooms are spare, not really decorated, but intimate, with a close ring of chairs around a small table. Mostly, men and women meet together, but there are gender-specific groups periodically. Every Tuesday evening at 6:15 pm, Focus 12 hosts a family support group. Visitors are allowed but a staff member must approve them beforehand. The staff at Focus 12 is diverse in background and experience; all are experienced in working with addicts, and some are in recovery themselves.
Unlike many treatment centers, Focus 12 clients are allowed to keep their mobile phones. Electronics with music, like iPods and mp3s and CD players (you never know), are also allowed. The caveat of this allowance is that if phones and iPods prove too distracting, restrictions may be put in place. Clients are allowed to keep their cars, too, with the knowledge that there’s no valet and they must be responsible for parking it throughout their stay. There is a no laptops rule, but Focus 12 points clients to the nearby library, open seven days a week, and its computers. The dress code around Focus 12 isn’t hyper specific, but clients are asked to dress modestly. Because the flats are co-ed, Focus 12 tells clients in a roundabout, polite British way in the Resident Handbook that it might be best to bring a robe.
Some groups are simply recreational. Clients have chaperoned outings, usually something fairly active, like bike riding, camping or rafting. Around the holidays, clients get together to decorate the flats for Christmas. Clients are invited to do yoga (Y12SR) together on Thursdays. Any day of the week, clients can use the gym or the swimming pool at the leisure center in town.
Focus 12 believes that clients have the best shot at staying sober if they start their real lives over while they’re still in treatment. To them, treatment is not a break from life, or a vacation. The idea is that clients will be better able to cope in general if they are exposed to real world triggers during their early recovery and taught how to handle those situations. If a two or three month commitment in the UK is in the cards, this place is worth it.
82 Risbygate Street
Suffolk, Bury St Edmunds
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