Offering Help to Alcohol Drug Abusers

IRISH Acres, an Irish-owned alcohol and drug addiction facility, quietly conducts its business behind closed doors in a turn of the century Victorian home in Westville, Connecticut, one hour and 20 minutes from New York City."Everything about us is confidential," said co-director Veronica King, who hails from Co. Louth.King started Irish Acres 17 years ago after she lost two close friends to drug overdoses. "I saw that there was no help out there and one thing lead to another and before long Irish Acres was born," she told the Irish Voice during a recent interview.King also attributes her knowledge of alcoholism to growing up in a small rural village in Ireland where there were seven pubs. "How could you not know about alcoholism then," she said.It wasn't long before King's center took off. "Irish people were and still are very comfortable knowing that when they come here to us we are one of their own - Irish. It's a nice relaxed feeling," she explains.King, who manages Irish Acres with her son David, runs a tight ship. She explains that all guests must obey the rules of the facility before being any way successful in recovering. "Their bags are checked upon arrival. Some people, you know, will still come in with drugs stashed in there somewhere. We will not tolerate this so we won't accept the person to Irish Acres if that happens. They are here to learn how to get sober and remain strong in sobriety on a daily basis."The 120-year old home, which oozes warmth and character, comfortably sleep 18 guests. However, King explains they only accept up to 12 men (the odd time they will take women) at a time. "We like to keep the numbers low so this way if someone we had here with us before calls up in a panic, maybe feeling they want to use again, we tell them to come straight here and we have a bed for them."The house, painted a cheery yellow color outside, is divided into three units of two apartments on each floor. Most clients share a bedroom, but single units are also available.Although clients may leave and get back to the routine of their normal life, Irish Acres remains an open house for as long as they need and can afford to stay. "Sometimes we get a call from someone who may be on the job and have the need to use again, so they call us and we'll make room available for them," King said. "The fellowship is very strong and people know that they can call at any time."Irish Acres also prides itself in its relationship with guests' families. "It's important that the family can approach a loved one and say you don't look well, or what can we do to help," said King. Families are allowed to visit guests on Sundays. Explaining that the whole process or recovering and maintaining sobriety is difficult, King said, "There are a lot of emotions involved but people must follow through with what we give them." King explains that a solid recovery is a lifetime effort on a daily basis. "And even after that people need to attend daily AA meetings and do their daily 12 steps with a sponsor to remain on that path," she adds.King said that too often clients will leave Irish Acres after a few weeks and go back drinking. "Just one pint, they think, or I'll just pop in to the bar and have a soda," said King, comparing the experience to a child in a candy store. "We teach the guests 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which they must follow daily." Not only does King have clients coming from New York and Boston, she has often received calls from addicts or alcohol abusers in Ireland requesting a retreat for a few weeks. "Ireland is small. They don't want people knowing their business and they have heard of us here, so they come all the ways over to recover with us," King said.Describing the relationship between drugs and alcohol as common, King added, "Very few people drink nowadays without using drugs too. It's an epidemic. They come from Bronx, Yonkers, Queens and we get a lot of people from South Boston too." Most of her clients, King said, are young Irish males. A month at Irish Acres will set a guest back $6,000, or three weeks is $4,500. "This is very affordable," said King. "Most places will run you $23,000 a month."Hoping that someday the Irish government or financially successful Irish or Irish American business people will want to contribute to a person's recovery, King has arranged several meetings with relevant parties in an effort to persuade them to help out their fellow Irish who are in dire need to recovery. "Some people who call for help cannot afford the costs," she said.Irish Acres, which is run by seven full time staff and 10 volunteers, has a long-standing relationship with Yale's medical facility, including availing of the services of psychologists, doctors and councilors. "Anything we need is over in Yale and we have been working with them for some time," she said.The house not only acts as a safe haven for guests after detox, but it also provides them with an opportunity to fend for themselves. "Guests must learn to take care of themselves for their return to real life so we provide them with a washer-dryer to do their laundry," explains King.The majority of guests are required to stay at Irish Acres for a three-week period, but some stay longer. The facility also provide a weekend house for returning clients who may feel they are about to fall off the wagon and need to catch themselves before it's too late.According to King, the benefit of having Irish Acres in a residential setting - and beside a spectacular 180-acre park- is not to exclude guests from the world. "After they are here a week or so, or when we feel they are ready, we reintroduce them to the world sober again. We'll bring them for a coffee into town. Just to get out and meet people," says King."There is nothing worse than been cooped up somewhere for months on end and then thrown back into society when first sober. It is a shock to the nerves."King said that their busiest period at Irish Acres is around the holidays, particularly Christmas and New Year. "Some people will check themselves in before the holidays so they can stay out of trouble," she says.Reiterating the fact that Irish Acres is totally confidential King said, "We are just here to help and deeply dedicated to do the best for our guests."For more information on Irish Acres, call 207-785-1166 or visit www.irishacres.net.

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