It has been almost a year since Serenity on the Rock opened its doors at the former Red Mantle Lodge in Bonne Bay to operate as a recovery centre for people dealing with addictions.
That move initially encountered resistance from some local residents, but it appears the recovery retreat has settled into its surroundings.
“We had an open house and we invited everyone to come in, and we still do,” said co-owner Sherri Skeans.
Since that open house took place last year, the site has begun taking in people looking for help. Skeans says about half of those it serves live in Newfoundland and Labrador, while others often have a family connection that makes coming to Serenity on the Rock an attractive option. She said its success rate for recovery is approximately 60 per cent.
The site offers a four-week program for people with drug or alcohol addictions, providing one-on-one counselling and group sessions. It also promotes healthy living through good food choices and physical fitness. The mountainous terrain surrounding the site, which is nestled within the confines of Gros Morne National Park, makes going outside for a hike an attractive workout option.
“We’re set in the mountains overlooking the ocean,” said Skeans. “The building is beautiful. Just being there in Gros Morne National Park, you feel like you’re in a very peaceful place and a very healing place.”
Skeans said in-house treatment centres allow people to focus strictly on their addictions and why they exist in the first place. Keeping that focus in mind, cellphone and laptops are among the items program participants are told not to bring to Serenity on the Rock.
“What we find with many people who try (recovery) at home is that they go for a mental health or addiction appointment and then they have an hour with that counsellor, and it could be three or four weeks before they have an opportunity to see them again,” said Skeans. “When they come to an in-house treatment facility, they’re with their counsellors 24 hours a day. Whenever the cravings arrive, there’s somebody there that can help them work through it right away.”
The hope is that over the course of four weeks, program participants will develop the capacity to use the tools to deal with their cravings when they return home.
“Addiction is aggressive, and so these cravings are there until they are able to have the tools to manage it. That takes a bit of time.”
It also took some time for Serenity on the Rock to find its way to Bonne Bay. At first, Northern Arm in Central Newfoundland was looked at as a possible site for the recovery centre, but a public forum in December 2012 made it apparent most residents opposed having such a facility in the community.
The town council later declined a request to rezone an area that Serenity on the Rock was looking to use for the centre.
By early 2013, Skeans and her business partner, who operates Serenity Ranch in Alberta, had found the Red Mantle Lodge site. The local Glenburnie-Birchy Head-Shoal Brook town council was surprised to learn of its existence, and some residents were upset to find out it had opened without reaching out to the community.
An open house at the site attracted between 60-70 area residents. Following that event, local mayor Marilyn Wight told The Western Star she felt good about the facility.
The site still takes reservations from travellers, so long as they can abide by Serenity on the Rock’s rules and are supportive of the environment. It also hosts a monthly supper club that area residents are invited to attend.
“It’s not a lockdown facility,” said Skeans. “We are really trying to change the way people view individuals who are in recovery.”