HOPE CHANGES EVERYTHING: The Thai Rehab that Turned My (and Pete Doherty's!) Disastrous Goddamn Life Around!

And oh yes, there’s a beauty product for that.
Publish date:
October 17, 2016
rehab, Cat Marnell, Thailand, Pete Doherty

Drug addicts do not care for doing their taxes — did you know? I didn't pay mine for five years! My finances are in the goddamn gutter; I owe six figures to the IRS, and I have a lovely lawyer helping me and all that. But if health is wealth, I am a much richer woman than I was five years ago...which is when, if you recall, I left xoJane.com because my addiction made it impossible for me to work.

How did I get healthier between then and now? There are many factors, but most significantly, I got some really fantastic fucking addiction treatment in Thailand. I have been to two rehabs there. The first was the gorgeous Cabin Chiang Mai, where Vice sent me for a month. (I didn’t write the story, as I relapsed on the plane home and then sunk into a hideously bad place back in New York... John Martin — I will write that story; I swear on my career. It’s really juicy, too!) I went there in 2012.

The second was in 2015: Hope Rehab, on the Eastern Seaboard, in a wee fishing town which I cannot spell. Like every place in Thailand, I think, it is carved out of the jungle. Oh God, it's fantastic-looking: this massive view of the sea that the sun would set over all neon and glowy, and the water would look lavender and shimmery. I had a room in the main house with a balcony, so I'd go out there and do yoga and watch all of this.

But I’ll get back to all that in a second. I came out there because I’d retreated so deep inside my addiction in the months prior that I nearly couldn’t see a way out. It was February, and my book How To Murder Your Life was due on April 1; I’d signed a big-deal contract and taken all this money and spent it and I hadn’t written one page. I was so. Fucked. Up. Drunk as fuck, all of the time. I was living in a loft and falling down my stairwell all of the time. I mean, the wooden things that are on a stairwell railing — do they have a name? — anyway, there were holes in my row of...bannister columns (sorry) from when I’d slip and grab them and they’d pop out. I was waking up at 8 PM every night to take my speed and start my “day”, and my face was so puffy from whiskey and wine that I could press down on it like it was pizza dough or something. I’d go sit in front of the computer with a drink and try to write, and I couldn’t. After months of this, I was legit suicidal. Making plans for that.

This is when I reached out to my (and one PETER DOHERTY's — my favorite rock star; read his story of visiting Hope here) counselor Simon Mott, whom I’d worked with at the Cabin Chiang Mai, who had just opened his own treatment center, HOPE. Here he is:

Hiii, Simon! I love you and miss you!

He hooked it up and I was on a twenty-six hour two-plane flight to Thailand. I stayed two months, and it was so fantastic. Only six or seven clients were there — it’s a small place. The treatment is so, so good. I mean, the counseling. And the groups. Simon is amazing: so smart and funny. British! (You can read his story here — and see him looking like the funky junkie he was in his Russian hat!) And Twelve Step-based. Very traditional. The other clients were American, British, and Australian, which is usually the case at Thai treatment centers. Anyway, the groups were so good; everything was so good. The addiction education! I learned so much about my disease there. And the more you know, the more you can fight back against it when it wants to fuck up your life and take you down.

But more about Hope. Look at these pictures! There’s an airplane on the property — maybe it was a Viet Cong plane. You could go in it and hang out. There was a pool and this giant monkey would always come sit out there; it was incorrigible, quite frankly. A menace! We got to go feed bananas to monkeys in a place Simon called the “monkey ghetto” — over by the railroad tracks! I love the animals in Thailand. Here is a photo of me with a lovely orangatang at a zoo (I think it had drug problems, too.) Alon, the co-founder of Hope, who does all the fitness and mindfulness work — she is an amazing person — and I would get up at five AM for a six AM bike ride around this boy scout camp, which was overrun with stray dogs. Litters and litters of puppies! Living in all of the abandoned cabins.

Oh, there is so much more to tell you! God, the excursions...we were off campus every day: Thai boxing (the dude made me jump up and down on a tire for like thirty minutes!), the food and the markets (we ate dinner out four nights a week). We went to the flea market in Bangkok and rode this taxi boat... So much freedom. In American rehabs they lock it down. I guess they’re afraid of lawsuits and things. Thai rehab is THE way to go; I am telling you.

But I do need to get to the important thing — the reason I am writing this. If you are an addict/alcoholic, or if someone you love is (for example, I love Pete Doherty — another Hope client!), then you know that the number one thing preventing most Americans from going to rehab is MONEY. Insurance usually pays for three to five day detoxes; the “good” places, like the Betty Ford Center, charge at least a $1,000 per day. For that, you are getting — in my experience, and I’ve been to three US rehabs — a psychiatrist, round-the-clock nurses, and lots of, like, Seroquel to take the edge off. It’s very pharmaceutical.

In Thailand, on the other hand, I didn’t see a doctor once; Simon doled out the methadone to the junkies during their detoxes himself. Addicts can help other addicts like no one else, and almost everyone working at Hope is a recovering addict. The program is wellness-based: massage, meditation, daily trips to spiritual places. (Thailand is full of crazy spots — massive gold Bhuddas on top of mountains that we’d hike to). And we went to these islands to the beach on weekends, on this little boat that Hope owns.

I mean, it’s an insane rehab. It’s so great. It helped me so much; I started my book there on the day it was due, and I pushed through years of hell finishing it with the affirmations Simon taught me. I’ve never gone deep back into my addiction again — not even close.

The cost of living is very low, so the cost of treatment is low: $6,900 for a month, and it’s less per month after that if you stay multiple months. This is CRAZY inexpensive for the treatment and experience you get. I arranged for a downtown New York kid to go about a year after I did, and he’s sober after years of being a wreck on booze and oxycontin. (Not that “sober” is the only positive outcome from a stint in a great rehab — I’m improved, okay? Hugely so. And that’s good, too.)

Don’t be deterred by how far away it is. It’s so worth the ticket (about $1,100 round trip from New York City to Bangkok). People who aren’t addicts are often critical of rehabs and say they don’t “work”, but I can tell you they save and prolong lives. Addiction is a disease that gets worse when left untreated — and then people die. It’s serious stuff. If you or someone you know is sick or suffering, please hit up Simon (simon@hoperehabthailand.com). He wants to help you!

What beauty product can I possibly tie in here? Well. One of my very favorite things about Thailand is how they sell pressed coconut oil everywhere — like, in the gas station stores! My coconut oil addiction — rivals my stupid amphetamine addiction; it is that serious. My recent favorite is this bad bitch:

Vita Coco Cold Pressed 100% Organic Coconut Oil!

No, it’s not Thai, but it’s dope. I went through a whole jar in two months. I put it over body lotion and am soft and gleamy all night, in case you were wondering, which you absolutely weren't. I also am a huge fan of Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, if you happen to be there. Don’t worry about having greasy legs or whatever — it dries down! And then you are absurdly silky, and everyone will want to touch you.

What am I talking about? I don’t know anymore, which, as always, means it’s four-thirty AM and time for me to wrap this up. The big point here: Hope changes everything! That's their slogan, and it’s true. I cannot emphasize enough how much this place was just gamechanging for me. I don’t plan on getting sick again (we’ll see), but I do know I am going to go back and see Simon and Alon and everyone else. Hope is a seriously special place for me and I encourage anyone who needs it to consider making the journey there to get well.



P.S. Your thoughts on rehabs — in the comments section, s’il vous plait. And on coconut oil.

Cat is wasting your time on Twitter @cat_marnell and on Instagram.

Click here to pre-order her memoir HOW TO MURDER YOUR LIFE, out January 31, 2017 from Simon & Schuster.