Welcome back to another issue of The Sanctuary Newsletter. Something I’ve been meaning to share with our subscribers for a long time is that the journey to recovery has many paths and for some, a small spark is all that is required to begin – which is why I take the time to really listen to every enquiry and to trust that every now and again, just the act of calling for help can really make a difference. We have many enquiries daily – many of whom are not necessarily able to afford our services, yet, I take pride in always attempting to refer those I can’t directly help, to other more appropriate services. I always trust that meeting each enquiry with respectful curiosity and a genuine desire to help, will mean something to the caller – and recently, I became aware of how important this gift of empathy can be to someone in need.
Recently, Angela* called me one morning, to thank me for a conversation we had 5 years ago. She had rung all those years ago as she was struggling with substance use and was a single mum with 4 young kids at home, and was in need of urgent help. She reminded me that at the time, I had spoken to her for over an hour, and we had come to the conclusion that due to her domestic situation a live-in rehab was not possible, but I had urged her to consider AA as a possible support. We had spoken about AA for a while and how she might benefit from peer support, and we left it at that.
Angela was proud to announce that she has now been 5 years sober, is in a lovely relationship and very happy with life.
I responded that I was very happy for her, that I appreciated her thanks, but more so just for the satisfaction of hearing that her life had improved so much. She then went on to say that she is still involved in AA and now sponsors another person in recovery, Kate*. It was Angela’s 5 year ‘birthday’ the day before, and a few of her peers from AA had gone out for dinner with her to celebrate, including Kate*, who recently celebrated six weeks without alcohol use.
I again congratulated her, commending her on helping others. She continued, explaining that Kate* was also a single mother with one child, and over the recent dinner conversation, the topic of how Kate herself was introduced to AA came up. Kate* had explained that a few months ago, struggling with a child at home, and in despair, she decided to enquire about available alcohol rehabs. From her research online, she got in touch with the Director of a treatment centre who generously gave her his time and through the conversation, encouraged her to try AA first, as a good initial step forward.
Angela then said “That’s why I am ringing you today, Michael, to thank you. It was YOU that Kate spoke to! You helped us both, five years apart!”
The Sanctuary Organic Farm was established in 2013 in the rich volcanic soils of Tyagarah, located on the outskirts of Byron Bay. The original concept of The Sanctuary Farm was to provide locally grown fruit, vegetables and herbs to clients staying at The Sanctuary Byron Bay. Our vision is to grow produce free from harmful pesticides and sprays, allowing the natural properties and nutrients in fresh food to help heal people in need of nurturing.
The Sanctuary Organic Farm is on 25 acres and over the past years has evolved to now encompass;
The entire garden was developed and planted in a combination of rich volcanic soil mixed in with a heavy layer of woodchip. Over the years the woodchip has broken down and provides the garden with nutrient rich nitrogen, an excellent base to plant crops
We harvest and deliver fresh to each client, where our chefs prepare delicious organic meals based around our farm produce. Any scraps and waste are collected daily and taken back to The Sanctuary Farm to feed our chickens.
Our Head Chef works closely with the Farm Manager consulting on the best produce to plant for the seasons and the harvesting of the produce. They also consult on solutions for any excess foods such as preserving, pickling and dehydrating.
All our clients are encouraged to visit The Sanctuary Farm. If they choose to, they receive a full tour including a drive through all areas with the Farm Manager and their personal Chef. Each client is given the opportunity to plant a tree, as part of the edible food forest project. And finally the client and the chef will pick some fresh produce for the chef and the client to prepare the evening meal together.
All, vegetables, fruits, herbs, teas, edible flowers come from the farm and form the basis of most meals. Summer is all about fresh salads of lettuces, beetroot leaves, roquette, mizuna, wasabi leaf, baby spinach mixed with snow peas, purple and green beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, grated beetroot, baby zucchinis and nasturtium flowers with fresh lime and herb dressings.
Winter is more about warming, slow cooking and oven baking techniques. The grounding root vegetables feature prominently with the heroes from the farm highlighted. Beetroots, carrots, sweet potatoes, kipflers, celeriac, onions, garlics, pumpkins, spinach, kangkong, bok choy, sweet corn, eggplants and capsicums.
Throughout the four seasons, cooking classes are offered to our clients. This is a great opportunity to learn about where their food has come from, the benefits of eating locally grown organic food, and to gain some skills to take back home, to use in day to day life.
The SBB chefs create very hands on educational cooking classes. We believe that food is not just fuel, it can be a complete sensory journey. Also, food and nutrition are better understood when you really understand the origins of the meal
The small amount of ‘food miles’ the farm produce travels to get to us, means that the fresh food keeps its maximum nutritional value. When you can really taste, smell and touch the food it brings a new appreciation for food and the amazing things it can do for your body.
As part of The Sanctuary programme, the chefs aim to bestow a little nutritional and practical information about food and its journey from the paddock to the plate. Before a client returns home they are given a wonderful collection of recipes they have enjoyed during treatment. Our aim is to change or add to the way someone looks at food, so that they can implement better eating practices at home.
Our outdoor guide/ photographer tutor, Tirian, often takes our clients on excursions to some of the most beautiful sights in this region, often off the beaten track and away from the more mundane tourist hotspots. Tirian’s outdoor excursions are highly selective and curated windows into the stunning secrets of the greater Northern Rivers environment: from where sub-tropical rainforests meet the beach, to panoramic vista views from old volcanic escarpments, Tirian shares three of his favourite destinations with our subscriber base – but keep it under your hat!
Located a short drive south of Byron Bay in the Broken Head National Park, one of three highly secluded beaches that will leave you imagining you’re on an island on the Pacific Ocean rather than on the mainland of Australia. White’s Beach is one of our most stunning beaches at any time of the day.
Upon a plateau sitting about 424m above sea level is the Koonyum Range, where giant eucalyptus trees sit perched high above the escarpment with magnificent views from the numerous vantage points overlooking the townships of Mullumbimby and Byron Bay from a distance.
One of the closest of the accessible waterfalls near Byron Bay. Just nestled 5 kilometres behind the hamlet of Newrybar, this small waterfall is a popular swimming hole and has a very tranquil feeling, delineated by a small box canyon with a large overhang and impressive cave.
Staff at the Sanctuary were recently privileged to participate in a special training by Senior Psychologist, Mr David Chong, Clinical Director at the Left Bank Institute in Melbourne.
David is a psychologist and psychotherapist with 26 years’ experience. As a member of both clinical and counselling specialist boards of the APS, David is trained in Family Therapy, Psychodrama, Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, Positive Psychology, Morita Therapy and Mindfulness techniques.
David has been a renowned Dual Diagnosis clinician for the Southern Dual Diagnosis Service, Senior Psychologist for CAMHS and a senior Drug and Alcohol clinician in several practice areas including prisons and methadone programmes. He was an editor of VAADA Vine and has provided training and supervision in several key relevant areas including addictions, sexuality, homelessness and complex needs.
He is currently the Clinical Director of the newly created Left Bank Institute, an institute for psychotherapy training and CAPA, a low cost psychotherapeutic centre for Portuguese speakers. He has a busy private practice providing psychotherapy and clinical supervision for individuals and several organisations.
His international work includes guest lecturing for the University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Miyazaki University in Japan, Friends international in both Cambodia and Laos, and for OXFAM.
David’s visit was entertaining and enlightening. We were incredibly lucky to have such a skilled clinician on board to help our staff gain a better understanding of how we could improve our treatment of people with addictions in both early recovery and in detox phases. One of the key themes in training was learning how to negotiate the careful dance between providing support while still confronting obfuscation and denial such that the truth gets told eventually - but in a palatable way, and at the right time. We learnt more refined approaches and better ways of supporting our clients.
We believe that ongoing training is an integral part of any business to keep staff ahead of the latest changes and to continue to expand our knowledge and skills base. All staff attending the training day reported gaining enormous benefits from David’s guidance.
A broad range of topics were discussed during throughout the day. Here are some of the highlights:
Anxiety: Anxiety is information - what does this tell us about the client? Staff were taught to be more aware of their own anxiety which could be inadvertently mirrored to the client. We discussed the importance of having a clear understanding about our roles and how to ensure we adhere to and maintain role boundaries to help clients differentiate and identify their own anxiety. We must continually reflect to ensure we are creating clarity and calmness and we must strive to develop our capacity to tolerate anxiety so we can role-model this skill.
Handling Difficult Situations: David gave us some great insight into handling difficult situations that may arise. New tools were discussed and explored to find the best ways to diffuse problems as they emerged.
Moving Forward: Understanding and being clear to the client about the notion of ‘moving forward’.
New Research: David updated our knowledge base with new research and understanding about the psychology behind addictions. This was fascinating and gave us better insight into addictions and mental health issues
Attachment Styles: David discussed at length, the different patterns and structures of early attachment styles and how this impacts on present day relationships.
Some great quotes from the day:
The day ended with some fantastic and rather amusing relaxation techniques we can all incorporate into our daily lives. We were all extremely grateful to David for his time, his wisdom and his knowledge.
In September 2016, key members of The Sanctuary’s management team were invited to attend the opening of a new wing of the South Pacific Private Hospital in Sydney’s Northern beaches. The guest of honour that night turned out to be Christopher Kennedy Lawford, son of the famous Brat-pack actor, Peter Lawford, and a member of the renowned Kennedy political dynasty in the United States.
We were privileged to connect with Christopher and pleased to discover a shared philosophy and desire to improve treatment for people in addiction. While Christopher was ostensibly in Australia to promote his new book “When Your Partner has an Addiction”, we are very fortunate indeed, to be able to entice him back to Byron Bay for a few days, as a special guest of The Sanctuary.
Christopher has had an incredibly interesting and challenging life. One would be hard pressed to meet a more interesting, kinder and urbane man, but Christopher is also very dedicated to the recovery and well-being of people with addiction issues, and his boundless enthusiasm and gentle compassion was inspiring to us all.
In America, a disproportionate amount of the health budget is spent on detoxing and getting people ‘cleaned’ up, but only 2% is spent on actually teaching people how to live well without substances. People who spend a long time in addiction and who’ve lost significant relationships, often lose basic living skills and struggle to manage everyday life. In order to live well, they must learn to overcome these deficits and get back into gear.
What The Sanctuary and Christopher agree upon, is the importance of a treatment programme that addresses living skills and provides the necessary tools to enable people to re-vision their lives and how they might take the necessary steps to do so.
So much emphasis on treatment these days is on avoidance, ‘white-knuckling’ through cravings and treading water – just surviving, in other words - but it’s a hardly a recipe for living a full, engaged life. Broader questions need to be answered, such as “How do I move forward?” “How do I create the life I actually want?” People building their lives anew need support on the basics – how to have relationships; how to live stable lives; how to build a satisfying and suitable career – in short, how to create a life that you value and cherish and actually keeps you wanting to keep on living.
We were lucky to have Christopher stay with us for a few days reviewing our programmes, giving us invaluable feedback, speaking to our senior staff and engaging with us at both practical and philosophical levels about the directions in which addictions treatments are going globally, treatment planning, the unfortunate medicalisation of addiction, the loss of creativity in treatment and how we could each and collectively do better. It was a fruitful, very interesting and inspiring visit and the beginning of a warm and treasured collegial relationship.
Christopher intends to return to us next year so we can collaborate on developing a “how to resource” for people with addictions so they can create a life of richness and value.