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I thought I had a drinking solution, but something was telling me it was a drinking problem. I had graduated from wine to vodka and begun knocking it back an odd hour when I thought no one around me would suspect. I was becoming hooked of the secrecy, but felt increasingly unhappy, and self-pitying, acting against my true values. I was no longer the fun socialite. I was dancing alone to Ed Sheeran, and my bad habits were leading me nowhere. I was at the panic station and wanted out. I wanted my freedom back.

Going to rehab take courage. But think of it in a new light: rehab can be a great way to take stock of your psychical and mental inventory. Put away that phone, get ready for calm and travel inwards for 28 days.

My choice fell on Hacienda Paradiso, a tranquil retreat set in the anonymous hinterlands of the Costa del Sol. It is remote and quiet and a little romantic in a hopeful way with its rural charm and simplicity. Unlike the usual Agatha Christie set-ups, this place is no Evil under the Sun. ( Have no Fear!)
Being isolated with a group of strangers on the same mission is an extraordinary opportunity for companionship.

A lot of rehab work goes on in the group outside session it’s a hand to hold in the quest for change. At Hacienda Paradiso I found that being in rehab is not in the least scary and not even that hard, and I’ll tell your why by and by.

On my first day someone said “ It’s a really nice feeling to be responsible for your own life”. The words came from a therapist who is 15 years clean, so he should know. If you struggle with addiction, you probably get the idea. In rehab you go to the roots and examine where the addiction if coming from. It’s a discovery mission where you acquire the tools to master the Big Journey called life. Your recovery starts when you leave.

My leap of faith had taken me to a place on Earth with an average of 300 days of sunshine per annum. It is a befitting destination if you want to find the light. At Hacienda Paradiso I learnt that sobriety is about ME enjoying life. This idea of enjoyment seems to seep into the weekly schedule for

the 28 days Think of it this way: You are back in school with your favorite subject “ Me, Myself and I”. Before the class starts your adorable Italian chefs will greet you with an enthusiastic Amore! while whipping up the breakfast of your dreams. Ah, and the coffee!

The food is in fact so fresh and full of love it merits a stay in itself. In an ambience of amicable affection, you ease into your weekly schedule which includes massage, yoga, gym, meditation, more food, very highly likely lovely Spanish sunshine, fun art therapy and most importantly the real deal: hours of therapy, in group and individual one-on-ones.

Some words of advice:
Leave whatever you are addicted to at home. Bring whatever you need for 28 days. Tranquil and remote location means very limited shopping opportunities, but basic needs can be supplied. You are not here to release your inner Violet Beauregard, remember?
Prepare for some wicked sense of humour in an international vibe. The English language come in many (dis)guises. Our group of four came from 4 continents, and it worked! You are connecting with yourself and are busy elsewhere. For me, being clean and mining through gave me a conscience clear as precious stones.
The hours and hours of therapy is not locker room encouragement. You must be honest and willing to share in groups which bring about a great esprit de corps. In the one–on–one sessions you will have a thorough follow up and a chance to unload your innermost darkest secrets. The sympathetic and competent therapists are not easily shocked. They have heard it al before. Ah, the relief when those skeletons fall out! This part is rewarding.

Once you have immersed yourself in the program, you don’t have to go all Jason Bourne. The atmosphere is not a stressful one, just keep going. This is Southern Spain, remember? Smoking areas and a medical doctor will be available. You’ll get the meds you need. You’re safe.

The newly refurbished Hacienda Paradiso is a former hunting lodge with an open kitchen, a high ceiling, a fireplace and a nice sense of space for dining and relaxing. The bedrooms are accessed from the U shaped private courtyard. The cherry on top is a swimming pool with lovely

sunbeds. Al it should be, this rehab is very clean. Your room and bathroom are cleaned daily and your laundry will be beautifully done. All you need to focus on is you and your rehabilitation process. After a short while, you start to think of the lovely staff as your family. In fact, many of them are related. In the end, you will want to steal them home with you. Besides the previous mentioned, throw in a Spanish sous-chef straight from “ Ratatouille”, Alfonso the trainer the baryton boxer who would not hurt a fly, the cheerful and warm cleaners, the soft-spoken yoga teachers, the very experienced therapists and the energetic and bright masseuse. Soon that needy, self-pitying, narcissistic self of yours vanishes under the sun. If you apply yourself, the school of rehab at Hacienda Paradiso is absolutely doable and interesting. I even found it quite enjoyable.
As if the Spanish sun had burned the fog away, I could clearly see that coming to Hacienda Paradiso was the best gift. I had even given myself. Hacienda Paradiso is a peaceful place. The tools you are left with are meant for the outside world: the tools are for the Big Adventure: Recovery.

I have become a new me. After 28 days I look 5 years younger. I have courage and insight and feel happy and free. My priorities, hopes and plans are clear. I am the star of my own movie, and I am directing it too. You too can rediscover mornings. And at Hacienda Paradiso it’s kind of hard not to, with that beautiful soft pink Spanish morning light and those cockerels next door. I’ll miss it!

Spain, October 2021

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