As previously mentioned I have recently finished a six-month stretch in rehab and this was my second time around. My first was at Yeldall Manor and this time I was a resident at The Carpenters Arms. Both of them are Christian Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centres but, quite obviously, they are very different in a lot of ways. Although I’m very aware that it would be almost a cliche to write about the differences between the two, my writing has to be strongly influenced by my experience and this is too good a target for me to ignore . . . so . . . here goes . . . (I can’t help but think that a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and a handful of crashing chords on a church organ would go down well at this point).
When you first arrive at Yeldall Manor, having been driven up a drive that includes a couple of hundred yards of an avenue of simply enormous Redwood trees, you enter through a proper old-fashioned porch into a building that carries the weight of years quite comfortably. If you can manage to not be completely awed out by this experience it will only be due to being drugged up to the eyeballs, whereas arrival at the Carpenters Arms could not be much further apart in level of experience. The first phase property of the Carps is very clearly an average revamped pub in an average street in an average town in the Midlands whilst Yedall is an imposing piece of unique architecture set in acres of clean, fresh countryside. That first impression will naturally have an effect on how quickly you can settle into your new surroundings and way of life and for me, it also affected how quickly I moved into finding my own areas of control and, as such, rule breaking.
Once I had settled into my new surroundings at the Carps and began to consider the overall format of both places I could see the glaring differences. The word organisation leaps to mind when thinking of how Yeldall functions and, unsurprisingly for a comparison piece like this, the word disorganisation takes a running belly-flop into my thought process when I consider the Carps. The title of the late sixties film, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”, is a great starting point for a description of the way that Yeldall runs its programme. If you knew what the time was and what day it was you would, therefore, know exactly where you meant to be and what was going to be happening. The Carps had a much more, shall we say fluid approach to the wheres and whens of its programme. Other than the residents meeting first thing in the morning everything was dependent on a large number of, sometimes completely unknown, parameters. At times I was exasperated and at other times just totally bemused. I tried to bypass the uncertainty by approaching the staff member in charge of any given circumstance and inquiring about the starting time but soon learned that this technique gave little in the way of narrowing down the timeframe involved.
I’m going to choose to quickly run through things like counselling, teaching and food in order to keep this piece relatively short. At Yeldall I was allocated a trained counsellor who guided me through a series of sessions that looked into some of the many issues that led me into drug and alcohol abuse, at the Carps I had a number of ‘key-workers’, most of which had little training and/or personal experience of addiction. Yeldall had a tried and tested pattern of teachings that ran on a rolling schedule and the Carps seemed to run theirs dependent on how the allocated pastoral staff member felt at that given moment. The food at Yeldall was prepared by a professional chef and was varied, plentiful and generally wholesome and the Carps was almost the exact opposite. It was cooked, although I’m using that word in the loosest possible fashion to describe some of the meals presented to us, by my fellow residents. The basic ingredients were more often than not donated, right on the edge of their use-by-date, from a very little range of variety (we had, literally weeks of either sausages or chicken) and at times you needed to be near the front of the queue to ensure you got a plateful.
One area of difference that I found particularly difficult to deal with centred around the shopping trips. Yeldall had a straight-cut policy for this, the first month at Yeldall was the probationary period during which each resident was always accompanied by a staff member while outside the property. After this initial month period, you were allowed to go shopping on your own and trusted to return at a set time to the mini-bus. There were two shopping trips per week, a short period after visiting the leisure centre on a Wednesday afternoon and a longer time on Saturday afternoons. The Carps had a very different view about shopping. For one thing, the probationary period was a lot longer. After the first month or so at the first phase property there was then another sixteen week period at the second phase property before you could go shopping on your own. When you add to this that there was only the one trip per week and the day and time for this, like many other aspects of life at the Carps, changed almost on a weekly basis then for someone like myself frustration occurs. For those that have not experienced this kind of thing and are possibly wondering why this might be a problem please consider that this meant that not only were you dragging an awkward, troublesome staff member around the shops that you wanted to access but you also had to negotiate with another resident or two where you would be going and all within, usually, a fairly short time.
Another noticeable difference centres around free time. Yeldall is, as previously mentioned, a large mansion set in acres of mainly wooded countryside and so after that probationary period, there is always somewhere to go for either a time of solitude or to spend time with others. There are plenty of rooms available and just so much space outside to explore and/or spend time with others. The first phase of the Carps, being in a small old pub, was like being in a goldfish bowl. It is almost impossible to escape and find a space to be alone other than your own bedroom and with a policy of not allowing residents to be in each other’s rooms, it is not possible to get away from the rest of the group and socialise. The Second phase is located in an old hotel which is entirely surrounded by roads which means that, when you take into account the policy of not being allowed off the property without a staff member, you are restricted to the car park if you want to spend any time outside. Add to this the fact that literally only half of the property is heated and during the colder months of the year, outdoor clothing is needed to endure the cold in this half. The part that is heated has two areas for socialising and both of these have T.V.s that are on continuously from five in the evening weekdays and all day at the weekend. Those watching T.V. are usually quick to request silence if any conversations start during a program of interest. This leaves very little space in which to escape the crowd.
Then we come to phone calls and the systems involved concerning these. At Yeldall a simple policy was in action which meant that residents could make calls for a very small fee and therefore the length of calls out were recorded by staff and the cost taken from the residents ‘cash card’ (a simple piece of card carrying a log of the resident’s finances). The length of these calls and all calls coming in to the residents were dependent on the resident either having the money to cover it or the interest to continue it within sensible reason. At the Carps, though the rule was that each resident could make or take calls for fifteen minutes per day total with grace given for incoming calls after this point but only short grace. Although I didn’t want fifteen minutes each day I did want a phone call that could go on for as long as was needed, again within reason, once a week or so.
So these were the main differences that caught either my attention or my ire. There were others of course but they either don’t make good writing material or are so unimportant that they’re not worth documenting. Well, except for the feel of each place and this is an entirely personal view. Yeldall has a calm, peaceful air about it which I put down to the fact that prior to being a Rehab it had been owned and run by some nuns, the Carps has a harder edge to it and this again I put down to its previous use which I am assured involves an hourly charge for the use of rooms and its fame as a night-club.
I think that kinda covers it.