Mending Broken Lives

by Fernando Perfas

| Photo springhillrecovery.com

On a lovely sunny morning the drive from my village up the Catskills Mountain in upstate New York is quite a treat. It’s an hour and a half drive through small villages and towns, up and down winding, empty road. The road climbs high and there I can touch the clouds on mountain top then it dips into valleys where I hear the shallow rustling of brooks by the roadside. Abundant wild flowers adorn the hills around which the road runs by the edge of abysmal ravines. From atop the highest climb a verdant vista of farmlands opens up and the road leads to a gradual descend down a tiny village, the crowning jewel of which is an 18th century English mansion. Today, this is where I have to work. It is home to over a hundred souls who are addicted to all sorts of substances.

“Drug abuse and their criminal past are what we see in the surface. Deep down, hidden in the recesses of their minds, however, are more serious and complex problems spawned by their terrible past history of neglect … “

The large mansion sits on pristine land hugged on one side by a natural lake that extends close to the main road. On the backside, a cornfield lies on untended fallow land. During its glory days, the mansion was home to a wealthy landlord and was the only luxurious home in the village and outlaying towns. Worn and old, the mansion still stands today tall and proud. Its occupants are clients who are looking to find healing and mend their broken lives. The building, which now serves as a rehabilitation center for drug offenders, provides badly needed services to this particular client population who brings with them myriads of life problems besides their addiction. Many don’t have much in terms of personal resources to support themselves or sustain a drug-free lifestyle without resorting to criminal activities.

Drug abuse and their criminal past are what we see in the surface. Deep down, hidden in the recesses of their minds, however, are more serious and complex problems spawned by their terrible past history of neglect, emotional depravation, emotional and physical neglect or abuse, traumatic experiences, social isolation, and poverty. These unseen maladies often feed their addiction to substances, put them at risk for criminal behaviors, and serve as breeding ground for all sorts of mental health problems.

“Even in such ideal place for self-reflection I can see how tormented minds still struggle to find inner peace. I often see how people who still grapple with their demons frame their environment and create hell for themselves even in paradise. Our state of mind determines what and how we perceive reality and that perception in turn determines the nature of interaction with our environment.”

If it’s any consolation to them, the setting where they find themselves referred for help by the courts, parole or probations officers is ideal for the kind of work needed to mend their lives. Away from the past-paced urban life or the maddening environment of the prison, these clients can focus on themselves and benefit from therapy.

The contrast between the idyllic, postcard setting of the external environment and the turmoil in the hearts and souls of these clients is quite compelling. Even in such ideal place for self-reflection I can see how tormented minds still struggle to find inner peace. I often see how people who still grapple with their demons frame their environment and create hell for themselves even in paradise. Our state of mind determines what and how we perceive reality and that perception in turn determines the nature of interaction with our environment.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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