Simon Mott first took heroin as a 16-year-old and says he was “addicted immediately”. Twenty years later he turned his life around and later made his way to Thailand, where he was head counsellor at The Cabin rehab centre in Chiang Mai. He recently founded his own facility, the Hope Rehab Centre, in Sriracha, about a one-hour drive from Bangkok
You used to manage The Cabin in Chiang Mai. Why have you chosen Thailand and what caused you to make the change to the Hope Rehab Centre?
The Cabin recruited me from the UK, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me. The Cabin has grown from nine beds when I started four years ago, to 50 beds now. I was more and more at my desk doing admin, which is why I left the UK – to get away from paperwork and bureaucracy, just ticking boxes.
Another reason I moved on was that I wanted to create a new treatment model, what I call recovery-coaching in the community. I employ people in recovery to take our clients out. They go to restaurants, shopping, sightseeing and so on. This prepares them better for a sober life, instead of keeping them cocooned like traditional rehabs do.
Thailand has a reputation for being a major party spot where drugs are easy and cheap to come by.
That’s not the Thailand we live in: Sriracha is Thailand’s forgotten jewel. Because of its commercial ports it has been ignored by tourism – a blessing for us, perched on the hill overlooking the ships moving in and out of the Port of Siam. It’s an incredible sight for our clients, sat on our terrace, watching the sun go down over the sea.
Meditation and yoga set your programme apart from many others. How and why are these things important to recovery?
My Thai girlfriend and co-founder Alon is a very traditional Thai girl who was brought up on a diet of rice and Buddhism, meditation and chanting. It is perfect for our clients. Much of the solution to addiction is best described as spiritual, so Thailand is the ideal place for recovery to begin.
Which addictions are the most common these days?
Meth, heroin, cannabis and alcohol. We get a bit of everything here, such as food, sex, gambling and now even video gaming. Addiction is not so much about the substance or behaviour, it’s rather a brain condition that can thrive on anything.
Group activities seem to be a big part of the programme. Don’t a lot of people want time to themselves when overcoming addiction?
Quite the opposite. Isolation is a common result of addiction, so our clients seem to thrive on the fellowship they get here. Being a small rehab makes it more like a family atmosphere. It really works. It can be truly amazing to see the love and care they show each other.
Rehab has attracted something of a glamorous reputation in some quarters due to the number of celebrities who have gone through it.
I counselled Pete Doherty, Michael Barrymore, Cat Marnell and others who wish to remain anonymous. At first I felt uneasy, sometimes privileged even, but addiction is a great leveller and my job is to help people no matter who they are. Seeing anyone as special or different would not help them. Also, there are far more challenging clients than celebs: getting a doctor to be a patient, or a commando to surrender – it’s not easy, and I am in awe of them when they do. Hurt and damaged people who achieve recovery – these are the real stars for me.
Does your centre do any community-based work to support drug users in the local area?
Yes, we do. We have forged a relationship with a wonderful local doctor and, together, we’ve started a Thai-speaking recovery group for alcoholics every Thursday. You see, a big part of recovery is helping other addicts. As we say in recovery: “We keep what we have by giving it away.”
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