Every Rehab Is Different, So What Is The South Pacific Difference?
At South Pacific Private, we don’t allow smoking, sugar, caffeine, social media, or vigorous exercise. There is no TV or mobile phones. Sounds tough.
But depending how you look at it, South Pacific Private is either known for these tough rules or for a comprehensive approach to recovery which gives our clients their best chance to address the issues that brought them to treatment.
If you’re ‘sick and tired’ of being ‘sick and tired’ and are willing to go to any lengths for recovery, then the ‘SPP rules will not faze you. You will simply see them for what they are, firm boundaries to support and engage you. They also help to keep you and our SPP community safe.
If you think the rules sound too harsh, if you’re ambivalent about your need for recovery or uncertain about your ability to adhere to the rules, you’re not alone. People often find part of them wants to change but another part fears it.
Recovery is about letting go of old behaviours that no longer work for you. It can be difficult to surrender behaviours that are familiar to you, even when they cause you pain. You may even think your problematic behaviours have kept you safe. This is typical…but not healthy. Ask yourself: what are the consequences of not changing? Of ongoing depression, addiction, isolation, chaos, anxiety, damaged relationships and low self-esteem?
We understand that the ambivalent or scared part of you might judge our rules as too harsh. We ask that you suspend your judgment, keep an open mind, and commit to our program on behalf of the part of you that wants to change. We encourage you to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. We will support you in taking care of the part of you that is ambivalent or critical, that is part of the work.
Finally, there will be some of you who are not ready to commit to the journey yet. We’ll be here when you’re ready.
So – Why So Many Rules?
As experts in human behaviour, addictions, trauma, and mood disorders, we know that people can’t heal their pain while they’re running from it. So, we make it easier for you to confront your pain (and your underlying issues) by removing access to addictive substances (sugar, caffeine, nicotine) and behaviours (exercise, social media/phone use) that are readily used to numb pain and avoid being present. A structured environment where the rules support you to abstain from mood-altering substances or behaviours allows the feelings you have been running from to emerge. But you don’t need to do this alone. We teach you skills for choosing different behaviours and strategies to address feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
As feelings start to emerge, it is normal for clients who initially came into the program motivated to change to slip back into denial when faced with what they perceive as difficult rules that prevent them from suppressing their feelings. One might think, ‘it wasn’t that bad’ or might use some other rationalisation to minimise the impacts of their addiction, depression, trauma or anxiety on their lives and their loved ones.
If you’re in treatment or even if you’ve made a phone call to enquire about treatment, chances are you’re not travelling too well. Something is not working for you. People who are doing well in life do not consider taking three weeks out of their life to go to a treatment program. So, if you have even made a phone call to SPP to enquire about our program but then heard the rules and decided against it, remind yourself why you picked up the phone in the first place. What is it you want to change?
You might think you want to go to a rehab that is more like a holiday, with your own room, TV, access to your phone, sugar, and caffeine. But we maintain that rehab is a precious opportunity for you to focus solely on the issues that are causing pain in your life.
Rationale For The Rules
Research shows that on average it takes 66 days to form a new habit. Our level of commitment to change and our willingness to hold ourselves accountable are factors influencing the formation and maintenance of new habits. Allowing others to hold us accountable also supports us to create new habits. That is the job of SPP. We’re here to hold you accountable, to keep you on task so you can live the life you want to and achieve your goals. Our rules and the therapeutic environment at SPP provide you with accountability in a non-judging and non-shaming way. We’re not here to be punitive. We have systems in place to encourage you to reach your goals, not to punish you.
No smoking – Research shows that people who quit smoking at the same time as stopping other addictions increase their chance at recovery by 60%.
No mobile phones – You won’t have regular access to your mobile phone.
Several studies have shown that almost half of respondents spent 5 to 6 hours a day on their mobile phones, not including work related activities. That’s a lot of time distracting oneself by scrolling social media, shopping, gambling, consuming porn etc. All this cause numbness or increase dopamine hits through novelty seeking and alter mood.
Attend all lectures/groups – For people with depression, low motivation is a key symptom. For people with anxiety disorders, avoidance of things that create fear is a key symptom. Our requirement that clients attend all lectures and groups are perfect behaviour activation techniques for people with depression and anxiety. Attending groups and lectures in the face of fear is an exposure exercise but done in a supportive environment.
We also refer to this skill as taking ‘opposite action’. Your head tells you to ‘stay in bed’, our program says, ‘go to lectures’. Motivation is increased after the action is taken, not before.
Dress code – we ask clients to adhere to a dress code, not to control what you wear, but because we are leaders in the treatment all types of addictions, including sex addiction. Clothing that exposes certain body areas is a trigger for people with a sex addiction. This no different for people who are trying to abstain from alcohol or smoking, for whom seeing others drink alcohol or smoke acts as a cue for their addiction. So, we aim to make SPP a safe space for all.
No sugar – Sugar can be a trigger for people with disordered eating and like the examples above, seeing it or ingesting it triggers the obsessive-compulsive cycle of addiction. In addition sugar is commonly used to numb feelings.
Group therapy – We deliver our therapy via group work. Group therapy helps you gain awareness of yourself in relationship to others. It assists you in increasing your awareness of interpersonal dynamics and provides an opportunity to learn socialising techniques. Altruistic feelings arise when we have a sense of helping others by sharing our own experiences of pain. In addition, having a shared experience incites a feeling of belonging, diminishes loneliness, and can increase hope. You will see that you are not alone in your struggles and that as human beings we are all perfectly imperfect.
We mainly have shared rooms- Not having a single private room minimises the potential for clients to isolate or withdraw. Having a single room makes it easier for clients to hide. There is a difference between solitude – the need to reconnect to self to rejuvenate and isolating behaviour which is used to avoid others. Avoidance is usually fuelled by low self-esteem, feelings of shame or fear.
You may fear that being in rehab is a stressful experience, but living in active addiction, or with untreated depression, anxiety or trauma is more stressful. When we feel stressed we can have a number of responses. We all know about the fight or flight response. But recent research has shown us that we also have a ‘tend and befriend’ stress response where different hormones are released (oxytocin) promoting different behaviours (social engagement for connection to others). Group therapy, shared rooms and the South Pacific community provide an opportunity to engage the ‘tend and befriend’ stress response via connection with others in the community who are on the shared journey of recovery.
For those of you who need solitude you will get downtime if you require it.
As part of our integrative program at South Pacific there are walks on the beach, yoga, and mindfulness sessions.
With the time you spend abstaining from mobile phone or television use, you can learn and practice mindfulness or other self-soothing or emotional regulation techniques. You will be creating new habits and new neural pathways and can begin to retrain your nervous system to respond instead of reacting to situations.
Change is a process requiring action. If nothing changes, nothing changes. We provide a protective environment to enable change. Remember, you will not be alone. You’ll be with skilled therapists and other people who, like you, want and need to change.