Helping a friend

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Hi there. I need some advice regarding a friend and don't really know how to get the information I need. My friend moved to Barcelona from the UK a few years ago. We heard from his girlfriend in January who said that he has been admitted to a private  rehab clinic for alcoholism and since then I have not been able to speak to him. He was in a private clinic in Spain for 4 months and now stays at home but has to return to the clinic daily for counselling apparently.

His girlfriend has told me that the clinic has detailed that as part of his treatment he is not allowed to speak to friends at all and is not allowed his mobile phone or use the Internet. He is allowed to speak to his family for 15 mins once a week but that's it. His girlfriend also said that he isn't allowed to watch tv with alcohol use in it. My friend was a big fan of the Simpsons and two and a half men. His girlfriend has thrown all his dvd's out! 

My question is, does this sound normal? 5 months in rehab sounds along time and I can't understand why he has been forbidden from speaking to me at all as part of his treatment? I am really worried about my friend but have no way of contacting him as his phone has been confiscated. His family are also extremely worried. 

Is this normal treatment for alcohol rehab? I don't know anyone who has been in rehab before and neither do his family. 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. 

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13 Replies

  • Posted

    Dear Adam,

     I am sure that both yourself and your friends family care about his welfare very much and are very worried about him.

     I was sectioned four times into a mental health hospital for alcohol addiction, I was 

    Very ill and it literally saved my life. I spent about eight weeks at the most in the hospital each time and after about four weeks I was allowed to go out for a couple of hours a day with my husband and children.

     I have to say that I am very surprised and dubious about way the way your friend is being treated,  I was allowed telephone calls at any time every day and also visitors every day (they were stopped on the way in to make sure that they had no alcohol on them)  I could see both friends and family.

     I also think that it is wrong that they have taken his phone from him and his DVD  

    Collection of the Simpson's, they are harmless and also his property.

     I think that maybe you and his family should insist on being able to have some form of contact with him, he has not committed a crime, nor is he in prison.

    After this length of time he should be able to do whatever he wants to, I hope that you can put your minds at  rest and I truly wish you all well. ....

    Sincere regards to you(a good friend) and his family.....DEIRDRE xx

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    • Posted

      Hi Deidre. 

      Thank you so much for replying to me. I really didn't know where to turn. To give a picture of my friends situation, we have been friends for 30 years . my friend has always had an addictive personality.  We lived together and he smoked a lot of weed, to the point I told him it was worried about him. He was never a big drinker though. 

      He then met a girl online from Barcelona. Within 6 months he had moved there and stopped taking drugs completely. He also found a job teaching English and seemed really happy. He was then sacked from his job and it transpires that this was for drinking in-between lessons. He couldn't find work and was very home sick but wouldn't come home. His girlfriend said that he was hiding vodka bottles in their apartment etc. 

      Since he was admitted to this private clinic (his girlfriend demanded he did this or else she would leave him), I have demanded to speak to him over and over again for the past 5 months. His girlfriend states that she has been told by the staff that he must not speak to friends as this would stall his recovery? She doesn't know when this will change either. Although his parents speak to him weekly he doesn't tell them anything and they say he isnt himself. I am seriously considering flying to Spain and demanding to see him (I live in the uk) but his girlfriend states that although he does not sleep at the rehab unit he spends 10 hours per day there as part of his treatment and she doesn't know when this will end ?

      I really think that his girlfriend is controlling him and he is extremely depressed. His girlfriend stated that if we cared about him we would let the professionals do their job as he is making progress apparently? 

      Would you say that treatment for alcohol abuse would be the same in every country? From what you say his treatment doesn't sound right? As you say he admitted himself. Apparently it has cost his girlfriend over 15000 euros so far... 

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    • Posted

      Hi Adam,

      Many thanks for your reply, I have to agree with you that this "very expensive" rehab treatment does sound very odd. If he is doing well as his

      Girlfriend states then I am sure that he would be encouraged to speak as 

      Much as he is able to family, friends and familiar people. You are normally 

      Encouraged to try to get back to some kind of normality.

      Do you know or have you met his girlfriend? Do you know her well enough

      To gauge if she has his best interests at heart, I would have thought that both her and his doctors would welcome him talking to as many people as he can, and also have encouraged him to return home to visit his family and friends to put their mind at rest and also to give him a well needed boost.

      He has done extremely well to give up and to refrain from smoking weed

      So he should be very proud of himself....

      But I would stress that if his parents are also very worried about him  and especially if they feel that he does not seem like himself (after five months he should feel capable of doing anything and everything he has always wanted to) maybe they should get in touch with the clinic and ask t speak to the doctor in charge, if they are unable to or feel uneasy in any way is it possible for both yourself and his parents to fly over their to see him, without letting his girlfriend know first,!! 

       If all is ok you will all be able to relax and enjoy a surprise treat with him, equally... and more importantly, if there is anything at all that you or his family feel uneasy or uncomfortable about you will be able to decide what you can do to safeguard his welfare and good health.

      He is very lucky to have such a caring and supportive friend.....

       I truly wish that for all of you things are ok and your friend is well.

      Sincere wishes to you all, look after yourselves as well.     Good luck.

      In my thoughts and prayers,   DEIRDRE xxx


       If he doing well as his girlfriend states, then I am sure 

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  • Posted

    Yes Adam, that is typical of many rehab programmes. Everything is stripped away to allow the person with a dependence on drugs or alcohol to focus 100% on their 'recovery.' It is not something I would consider right for me, if I was in that situation and I think I could imagine myself escaping to the nearest pub smile

    It does seem a long time, however, the time he is expected to avoid any sight of anything alcohol-related. I wonder how the people running this clinic expect him to go through his whole life being sheltered that way. The no contact with friends is normally only in the early part of rehab on most UK programmes.

    Send me a private message Adam and we can talk more about it.

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    • Posted

      Hi Paul,

       I have been on a mental health section 3 on four different occasions. (Are you from the UK) for alcohol abuse.

      Yes I was obviously searched and had all my toiletries, belts and anything else deemed a danger to me, but I was never, ever cut off from contact with my family or friends either as visitors or phone calls.... 

      When you are in a clinic, believe you me that would be the very worst thing that could happen, your family's continuous support plays the most important part in your recovery.

       I am happy to say that l have been well for the last ten years but I never take it for granted...... 

       I have never been aware of this stripping away attitude either by psychiatrists or specialist drug and alcohol professionals and as someone who has been in that situation it would be cruel and immensely counterproductive..... yours sincerely Deirdre .

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    • Posted

      Hello Deirdre. I am from the UK yes smile The thing that confuses me is that the Mental Health Act doesn't have provision for people with alcohol problems. I assume you must have had some other condition as well as the alchol problem in order to be sectioned.

      You are correct about mental health units not cutting off contact between patients and family and friends. I have never seen it done in an NHS facility. It is the private drug and alcohol rehab units that do it as part of a programme. The clients are also expected to do group therapy and refusing that is not an option. As a private alcohol treatment practitioner (and previously an NHS one), myself, I consider myself lucky that i have never got into difficulty with alcohol. However, if I was admitted to a treatment facility with such strict rules, I think I would be likely to escape straight to the pub smile

      I can see the thinking behind such an approach when a person has got his/her life into such a chaotic state that total focus on dealing with the problem is required. However, it is not something I do with clients either when they are looked after at home or in the residential facility I work with where we have a totally different approach to that.

      Complete separation from everything in their life does work for some people but it is not something I would ever impose on anybody unless they specifically requested it.

      I don't believe that you can take every single person with an alcohol problem and say that there is ONE approach which is suitable for all of them.

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    • Posted

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you very much for your reply, I was sectioned for alcohol, eating disorders and depression.

       I have three wonderful sons and a beautiful daughter who are our whole life. At the age of 15yrs one of our twin sons became ill with severe social anxiety especially about school and mixing with his peers.  The school were excellent about this and tried everything they could do to help him.

      At the age of 17yrs my son was sectioned, as you can imagine it was an awful time for the whole family it broke our hearts seeing buxom so very unhappy, I began to drink heavily to cope, his psychiatrist and his cpn of 

      Course soon noticed and they were so concerned about my health and also the effect it caused for the rest of my family, therefore for my sake and theirs I was sectioned.

      We both had the same doctor, who was amazingly kind! He was determined to save us both so he sectioned me four times (adding depression on to make it a legal section)    he never gave up on me and after the fourth time l managed to begin to recover.....

      Sadly about ten years later his twin brother had a very bad breakdown and we had the crisis team in twice a day for a very long time. He has improved a lot thank heavens, and also their older brother developed social phobia and very bad ocd after leaving the army, all three had and still have the same psychiatrist....   all three of them live with us and good friends and family have helped very much.

      The concern I had about that letter was the fact his friend and family were so very worried!!! I would have thought that even in a private clinic you would be able to have some form of contact with your son.

       I also thought that maybe his girlfriend was controlling him totally also to pay the amount of money she has seems extortionate. 

       I think that his friend and family should keep on trying to make contact with him for both his sake and theirs.    As you would know mental health problems have a profound effect on all concerned and also lifelong worries and concerns.

      Regards to you and thanks again for your reply (I hope you keep in contact with that young man)

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    • Posted

      I am sorry to hear about all of the challenges you have faced Deirdre. It sounds as if you have made good progress though and I wish you continued success with dealing with the things life throws at you.

      I agree about that clinic. I have never liked the approach that many clinics adopt, of taking away all rights for EVERY client. I believe in an individual approach where a person is assessed as an individual and the best treatment method for that person being used.

      I am not in contact with Adam. I am not sure if he got any further with finding out what is going on with his friend.

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    • Posted

      Sometimes is a good thing to separate family from addictive personality has a lot more to deal with than just the alcohol. It the common thing once they r in therapy. Undo the past redo the future.. Given the mind vs the cravings of alcohol. There is more at work. Patience and prayer.


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    • Posted

      I agree with you hope4cure and that method does suit many people who have got their lives in a completely chaotic state. I am not critical of the method, I am critical of the fact that ONE method is deemed suitable for all. There are people whose lives are in reasonable order but they have become dependent on alcohol. These people can benefit from a much more relaxed approach and some can do it with a straightforward detox and family support with no group therapy. I have treated many like this successfully, although I have to say that some that were referred to me I had to guide in the direction of much more structured programmes.

      I read the FAQs on a drug and alcohol treatment centre's website recently and was horrified to see that the answer to the question 'am I allowed out' was 'No, because you are vulnerable for the first 12 weeks.' This is before they have even met the client! I am a believer in individual assessment and a treatment plan based on that person's needs, not what has been determined will suit every single person.

      I feel that this method has a risk of stripping away a person's dignity and, while some clients have very little dignity left because of the mess their lives are in, others still have jobs, properties and apart from their excessive drinking, have, so far, been able to maintain a respectful outward appearance to others. Caught relatively early (and it is tragic that so few are) an alcohol problem doesn't have to require months of rehabilitation.

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    • Posted

      Hi Paul and hope 4cure, 

       I have been on here previously and replied to you both.

       I am sorry BUT as a person (I dislike the word client) who has been sectioned four times... the very worst thing to have happen to you when 

      You are at your most vulnerable is to be separated from your loved ones and friends, no matter how many times you are taken in to be detoxed it is still frightening, you are suddenly in a situation where you are searched, watched all the time... which of course I fully understand.... it does not make it the less unpleasant.

       I could see it happening if you were at risk from your family-or vice versa, but if not what purpose does it serve?. You already know that you will be in the clinic for weeks or months and as for group therapy, you either like it or you don't, it should not be forced on anyone..

       I attended a group in the community (but held at our local General hospital) we supported each other and also had many a chuckle at some of the near ridiculous things we did as well as the sheer exhaustion of trying to hide it and just living with it!!.

      every alcoholic I have ever met has deep regrets for the anguish they put their family members and friends through, however you cannot undo the past so you just have to live with it.

      Hope4cure, I feel desperately sorry about your situation with your son and I hope and pray that he recovers and you find peace of mind..

      Paul, I hope you carry on your work with compassion and understanding, the people who look after you in a clinic can make a vast difference in your recovery, unfortunately sometimes you will find someone who is very judgmental and not particularly polite or caring towards you.

      I wish you both well and hope4cure you and your son and family will be in my thoughts and prayers. Sincere regards and warmest wishes to you both, be kind to yourselves, Deidre x

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    • Posted

      Just take UR life and turn it around the best way u can.. How u do it I really don't care. What I do care about is that UR sober and well. UR family is suffering and so r u.. Stop the madness any way that works for u..

      sobriety can be yours I pray for u and UR family and for Paul I admire very much for his work, understanding and sharing his heart with so many lost hearts.

      The serenity prayer it says it all with so little words Ist verse...

      "God, Give us the grace to accept with serenity

      the things that cannot be changed, Courage

      to change the things which should be changed,

      And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."

      thankx for sharing UR story Deirdre. Healing prayers sent UR way.



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  • Posted

    Which part IS NORMAL the girlfriend throwing away property that according to u does not belong to her. Or that UR friend is having serious issues with his life.The tossing out  seems like her reaction from liing with a alcoholic. I would suggest that she to should be in counceling. This disease effects the whole family so deeply.

    the clinic he is in has rules. They there for a reason. He there that it. Accept them for UR feiends sake. So when he is out u can believe in those rules that brought UR friend fingers crossed back to u and his family sober

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