Often words seem futile, even irrelevant when explaining the intangible, the majestic and the sublime. To attempt to explain something like love or gratitude seems only to limit and confine the unexplainable to the realm of understanding.
As a result some magic is undoubtedly lost. I found this was my experience when attempting to write about the rehabilitation centre. For this reason I will first write about the tangible and concrete and perhaps ‘the magic’ a little bit later.
On a structural, practical level it seems the rehabilitation centre has embraced the 21st century with open arms. The past year saw the introduction of a new photocopier, permanent hot water urn, industrial dishwasher and an updated fire alarm system. I remember in my day we had to scrub the dishes with bore water and the calluses on our hands...... but perhaps the new machine does bring with it some hygienic benefits. In addition admin were blessed with the installation of a new reverse cycle air conditioner, which, in typical style, was installed just in time for winter.
Cosmetically the rehabilitation centre isn’t showing any sign of ageing. New furniture was purchased for the community deck, staff and counselling rooms. Now when the case workers say ‘sit with your feelings’ we can do so in comfort and style.
The past few months also saw the demolition of our old shed and it will be sorely missed by the residents. However, the construction of a new improved shed in its place will surely relieve some of the grief being experienced in the community over its tragic demise.
In June/July of this year our art teacher took a break, leaving space for a mosaic workshop run by another enigmatic staff member. Ever since then a phenomenon called ‘mosaic madness’ has seemingly taken the residents by storm. The movement, spearheaded by an ex-resident, has resulted in the dramatic beautification of the area outside administration. Its highlights include a chessboard, benches, a myriad of mosaics and even a small recovery shrine.
Staff have shown their resilience and dedication in what has been a fairly tumultuous year with two staff members leaving. It proved to be a challenging time for staff and residents alike. Personally I feel privileged to have been a part of one staff member’s farewell. Witnessing the residents unite and explode with love and creativity contributed to a day I hope never to forget. I distinctly remember being cynical when digesting her parting words — “the rehabilitation centre is an indestructible machine. It was here long before I arrived and will continue long after I go.....it can’t be stopped”. She was, as usual, correct. This place is far more than one person — even an amazing one. While we are on the subject, the addition of a new staff member to the therapeutic team seemed to help relieve some of the burden of the departure of the previous two staff members. Her grace, intelligence, compassion and humour have undoubtedly been appreciated by staff and residents alike. In addition, another staff member celebrated her 15th year at the rehabilitation centre. An occasion which for me was a beacon of strength and stability in what was a potentially challenging period.
Like any healthy relationship, I have experienced “ups and downs” with staff — usually resulting in me sulking, pulling out my hair or swearing (sometimes all three). However, these times are far outweighed by the moments of gratitude, love, joy and inspiration I have experienced through them. All of the staff from administration, to the case workers amaze and inspire me on a daily basis. I guess some of my fondest memories lie in my interaction with fellow residents — my friends and comrades.
This year residents have participated in a wide variety of events and occasions. The self-help group’s convention play, the choir at the fundraiser, the 48 hour art expo and a staff member’s farewell were just a few highlights. The real joy for me is watching what happens in preparation for these events — behind the scenes if you will. People facing their fears, being creative (and having creative differences) and coming together to do something spectacular. There is something special about watching someone who’s only singing experience has been confined to the realm of the shower, stand up and do a solo in front of 500 people. I guess that brings me back to the magic I mentioned before. Picture if you will a giant, bubbling cauldron with the name of the rehabilitation centre written down the side. Now I am still unsure of the exact recipe for what happens here but I think it goes something like this:
- 25 drug and alcohol affected human beings (damaged and bruised)
- 10-15 thoroughly dedicated staff members (adjust to taste)
- 4 tbsp of hope
- 1 cup of grace
- 200ml of courage
- 3 cups adversity
- 1 litre of tears
- 2 tbsp arguments
- 1 tsp of Binna Burra potion (hard to come by)
Bring to the boil and then let simmer for 6 _ months, stirring occasionally.
Serve humans individually on a bed at halfway.
Season with the desired amount of self-help groups.
The desired result is the humans absorb the juices and are served firm and revitalised.
NOTE — definitely do not try this recipe in your house.
And voila!!!! Magical, tasty humans for everyone to enjoy.
Anyway, if I had to describe my time here as anything I would describe it as a rebirth. Without going into my story too much — I was dead when I walked through these doors back in March. 23 years old and completely void of life as I now know it. Today at 24 I feel alive. In addition, having been dead, I now know what it truly is like to be alive. I have the gift of being grateful just to wake up.
As I write this on a beautiful Thursday morning I am celebrating turning 6 months clean. This afternoon I will attend a funeral service for a friend and ex-resident. For me that is recovery — sadness and joy, fear and courage, darkness and light, life and death. It is a prompt reminder of why I hold this place so dear — it has given me life and while I will only live here for another 4 days I know the rehabilitation centre will live in me forever.