Paradise found: I came to Always Hope at a low point in my life. Five days into my two week stay at my house in Cabarete, having escaped the northeast winter as I do every year, I was still living a life which revolved around anticipating, using and recovering from a daily intake of alcohol, much as I had done for the past 25 years or so in the states. I was in the throes of my addiction, my life closing in around alcohol, and wanting to stop all the time. I thought about going to AA, going into rehab, etc., but I did not, could not take the first step. It was the stage 4 cancer diagnosis I received at the end of 2021 which was my “rock bottom” in which I realized I may very well die, but I will definitely die, sooner rather than later, if I don’t stop NOW! But here I was in the DR, still doing the same old thing.
Finally, one late night I googled “rehab in Cabarete” and came upon “Always Hope”. I immediately called the next day and was answered by a human , Roger, the owner. He answered my questions about his program, in a measured , soft spoken manner, and did not say too much, though I noted a calm voice, which I found reassuring. I detected a heart. Though there was no hard sell here, almost a benign indifference. “Take it or leave it” he seemed to say. He told me about local AA meetings which he offered to meet me at. But I knew I probably wouldn’t get there on my own, and I needed help to get away from the alcohol. So without any real hesitation or investigation, and with no real options (there was no Dr. Bob to lock me in a room), I requested that he take me in. He came the next day to pick me up.
The location is a well appointed, modest sized villa with a large terraced pool in a luxury gated community between Sosua and Cabarete. I was immediately greeted by his friendly wife Shauna and their son, then shown to my private room and bath in a separate area overlooking the pool terrace. I quickly felt at home. I soon realized I was the only “visitor”, something which at first made me a little nervous, but which I soon came to relish. It was my first day of sobriety in 25 years and had no idea how it would go. But I was in a low-key, quiet, relaxing place away from alcohol. Even there are no locks on the door, I knew I was safe. And off to my first meeting later that day. Once I made that first break, I never looked back.
The program at “Always Hope” is deceptively simple, almost minimalist in style. The structure being daily 1 hour counseling sessions, two or three weekly AA meetings “off-campus, and study guides and literature provided by Roger to take yourself through a kind of self-guided 12 step program. At first I felt like I needed more help and structure. Being the only patron (the max is 3), I didn’t have any people to share experiences with and I worried a wouldn’t benefit from the interaction with other addicts in and out of various groups, as you would in a typical rehab. But I soon realized the peace and introspection that came without having to deal with other people’s baggage, and the ability to really focus on my recovery, in such a pleasant, peaceful space. ( I also soon realized that I would get plenty of feedback, sharing, and meeting other “people like me” in the AA meetings.).
Roger and his wife are always there, but almost in the background, present and available to talk to when needed, but otherwise pleasantly and “quietly” going about their lives. Roger is quick to point out that he is not a counselor, but he was a good sounding board and shared his own experiences with addiction and recovery when appropriate. I soon realized that Roger’s function for me was like that of a host, or tour guide; helping me navigate through the process of my own new found sobriety in a congenial, unobtrusive, and relaxed manner. Going to my first AA meetings with him was major a life changing experience. Having avoided and been afraid to go for so many years, I needed that personal escort. Once there, I quickly embraced and became emerged the AA program. A life long skeptic and atheist, I soon realized that AA would be essential to my long-term sobriety.
Daily runs and casual chats with Shauna, and movie night, focused on addiction movies, were some recreational highlights. The unrestricted use of my phone and IPad was also much appreciated, as I did not want to place my life on hold. In fact, for me, one of the chief therapeutic aspects of the program was the ability to experience elements of my life and some of the daily stressors sober, within the confines of a safe place. A kind of “exposure” therapy. Shopping trips with the host, which entailed walking past the liquor aisles, also served in this regard, as well preparing my own meals, which I had normally done drunk. Though food is provided and there is easy access to the kitchen, Shauna is happy to prepare meals upon request. This is not the place for 4 star resort service, however, and you are expected to basically clean up after yourself, do your own laundry, etc., which is all part of the process.
Though most of my time was spent at the Villa, customized outings were arranged. I was able to visit my house several times and tend to my chores, chickens and dog, without alcohol being part of the picture. That was hugely therapeutic. The most important thing was to be able to stop drinking, and begin my AA experience, and I could not have done it without “Always Hope “. I will forever be grateful.