First and foremost I cannot say enough good things about this place. I don’t quite understand all the negative reviews this place gets.
The best part about this place was the communication the staff has with the patient. I must admit I am impressed when you come in with pre-existing conditions and the doctors won’t ok certain medicines for you to use. It was an awesome experience having my doctor’s not listen to me, and also not following up with my doctor’s back home when it comes to the best course of treatment. I understand not wanting to give a patient certain types of medication, however when that medication is non-narcotic or has no abuse potential I didn’t really see a purpose in refusing to give me certain medications to help deal with certain symptoms. It took them a week of monitoring me for them to realize what I had been telling them since day one was something that is a recognized problem, and it is known to my doctors back home. All they would have had to do was pick up the phone and call them to see that I was in fact not trying to bs them. I must say the communication was amazing the whole time I was there. There were many instances where the doctor’s would say one thing, regardless of what I would say, and the whole time they were telling me to trust them, and that they will believe me. There was one doctor there who was great to work with; he seemed about the only one to care that was part of the medical staff. The nurses were great to work with but they were often hamstrung by what the doctor’s would say, and they would try their best to help you out. Also an amazing experience was when I had to tell the medical staff every day for 2 weeks that I could not take Ibuprofen since I had just had surgery. However they had it on my chart that I could take Ibuprofen but not Tylenol. It was great to have to deal with constant pain for quite a few days while I was arguing with them about taking Tylenol. I get it though since Tylenol is such a drug of abuse, you can’t allow patients to take it regardless of the fact they monitor your intake of every type of medication.
I must admit another excellent feature of this place was the fact that you could do recovery “your” way. They would often say that there is no right way to do recovery, and this made me quite excited. Now first and foremost I do not have a problem with 12-step recovery, I understand it helps a ton of people, but it is not for me. Now I do love pushy sales people or just pushy people in general, who doesn’t? So this place advertised itself as having alternatives to 12-step recovery. It excited me, and my wife since she understands my spiritual beliefs and the fact that 12-step has never worked for me. Well what did this place offer classes about DBT, CBT and Smart Recovery (Once a week, as an intro class). I know what you’re thinking, “Oh! They have alternatives.” Well the classes about CBT and DBT are equivalent to taking a high school psychology class, or maybe the first week of Psych 101 in college. The good news for me is that I had already taken these types of classes multiple times, and even within these classes they would interject little snippets of AA and NA and how great these programs were. This should have been a sign right away, but the excitement was just beginning. I was ecstatic to learn that they have multiple “classes” geared towards “step study” or NA/AA influenced classes throughout the day. To be honest it seemed about once a week we would have DBT/CBT oriented classes that actually did not mention NA/AA. It wouldn’t have been so bad if this place didn’t advertise itself as having alternatives to 12-step groups. Also every night we would end the day with NA or AA. So you’re telling yourself while reading this, “This guy should have skipped the NA/AA if he didn’t like it.” Well I’ll address that for you, throughout the day the classes are said to be mandatory, but you can skip them if you’d like, which I ended up doing for the most part since I found the information repetitive, boring, or it just flat out pissed me off since they really were pushing an agenda on us. Well for some reason the only time I would be harassed about going to groups was at the end of the night since this was the time of AA/NA. If you didn’t go to these groups you would get a thing called a “reflection” which should have just been called a detention. When I received one for not attending an AA or NA meeting I promptly crumbled it up and threw it away. The RA who gave it to me was someone who was self righteous and essentially told us in a group he taught that we need AA/NA since it is what worked for him and without it we would essentially relapse really quickly. There were several RA’s who held his belief in that AA/NA was the best program for you. The CEO and several of the staff members are people who got clean with the help of AA and NA. Again that is fine, but they should not say that they allow for many types of recovery when you are pressured to attend NA/AA type groups. They also did not do a good job of making you feel part of the group when you decide that these programs aren’t for you. It seemed as though the welcoming presence of many of them dissipated when you decided that NA/AA was something that you were not interested in. The only place you didn’t feel like you were constantly berated with how great NA/AA was in the Business Office, but that’s self explanatory. So I did love the welcoming presence and the peace of mind I had when I was constantly hit with how great 12-step is, and how they didn’t push it on us at every turn. I wish they had more step study classes and more discussions about it. Instead of 1 group a night that was 12-step oriented they should have had it with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It would have been much better to have an overdose of 12-step oriented groups than only 1 a night.
With so many excellent things to say about this place what more could I add? Well this was a big one that had to be brought to my attention since by the time I realized what had happened it was a bit too late. The best part about this place and really about the only thing I looked forward to after 2 weeks was the group therapy sessions or process group. As the saying goes there it’s time to process your stuff. I did get quite a bit out of process group as long as it was with my primary therapist. We had an excellent relationship regardless of all the stuff I had done while I was there. She understood me the best which was quite nice and it made it easier to talk to her. Again you’re probably thinking I have so many good things to say about process group and my therapist what else could I possibly add? Well if you remember I said it was actually quite beneficial to me, as long as it was with my therapist. I had process group with 2 different therapists outside of my own. The first time I had 2 sessions with a male therapist, and to put it as softly as I could, he just didn’t seem to care much. He was very ho-hum and lackadaisical. If he cared anymore it would have been like having a care bear in the room with us. I was floored by his constant enthusiasm towards us and it seemed like his process group was just as enthralled with his budding character as I was. I can’t say enough promising things about this gentleman so I’ll move onto the next therapist I had. Now I have always been told that therapists should take a position, share your information with others, or make you uncomfortable. At least that’s what I had always believed therapists were there for. Even my worst psychologists/psychiatrists/therapists have never done any of these things; I just had fundamental differences with them. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out I am standoffish or overall pretty private with my personal information. At that time I was having a rough go of it, honestly it was no secret. This came out while we were in process group when another member called me out with what seemed like some hostility in his tone, and the therapist quickly took his side. She didn’t try to appear as if she was unbiased at all. She also didn’t for my input all that much during what seemed like a 45 minute barrage of everyone trying to pry information out of me that was not going to come. Again this therapist could see from my look, much like everyone else, that I was not going to talk at this point or open up as she wanted me too. Instead I had to listen to multiple people act as if they were sincere in their thoughts. Luckily for her it didn’t bother me much since I felt it wasn’t sincere outside of 2 others who talked. Multiple people in the process group also felt it was wrong for the therapist to take sides in a discussion such as this. It’s ok though I like it when therapists, the people who you should trust the most, take sides, call you out, and make you uncomfortable when you are at your most vulnerable. It shows an immense amount of professionalism on her part to make a patient she doesn’t know feel uncomfortable. I applaud her effort and it makes me appreciate even my worst therapists.
I am glad that this place has an open mind when it comes to patients who believe differently than they do. The professional environment was second it none. It was really nice being in pre-school again. The only thing that would have made it better was if I had to ask permission to wipe, but I’m sure they are adding that option ASAP. They really strived to get me ready for life outside of rehab. The lack of classes that directly correlated to real world life was an excellent feeling. I felt prepared my first night out, it felt as if I could tackle life on the playground. The community that they are very proud of was another thing to behold. While I was there they kept bragging about the brotherhood and how strong it was. Maybe they meant it was like a real brotherhood. They allowed people to call each other out in community meetings, even the therapists would do this, but that shouldn’t come as a shock. They allowed peer mentors to run around and act as if they were the rehab police. I get the idea that things work better when they are peer ran, but when your mentors berate fellow patients that is a huge problem. During nightly check-in we would have mentors tell us to shut up as if we were 3, they would call out individuals in their announcements with no accountability by the staff, but they would also mention how we should respect everyone because “we don’t know where they’re at in recovery.” This was something I constantly heard by staff and mentors, but I never felt they respected that, maybe this only applies to them in this instance. It was more a rank and file, don’t ask questions, don’t question me type attitude. I loved this feature of rehab, it made for a very heavenly atmosphere.
Also people were too busy getting themselves in other people’s affairs and it was constant gossip. Aside from being treated like I was 5 by the staff, I did get to go into the future and relive what it was like when I was 16 while being in the brotherhood. That also made things very enjoyable! I never thought I would get to be treated like I was in my youth again. After I got home I was thankful to jump 13 years into the feature in social interactions and 24 years into the future when I got to make responsible choices. This place definitely prepared me for those types of responsibilities. They did this by making us have passes for phone calls, using the computer, or using our own cell phones. My therapist was cool; she let me call home almost every day, which helped me keep my sanity. However, I heard from many others that their therapist would prevent them from doing so because they had to concentrate on their recovery. I wonder where these therapists were while others were nosing around in other people’s business and not concentrating on themselves and their recovery. I guess it only works when it comes to dealing with your not so real issues back home.
All in all I am grateful for my experience at Black Bear. I would not recommend this place to anyone who has an open mind, a logical thinker, someone who doesn’t follow blindly, doesn’t like to be treated as if they went back in time to pre-school, doesn’t want to return to high school gossip, and looking for an alternate to 12-step programs. I would however recommend this place to anyone looking to go back into time to high school gossip, looking to be babied, loves AA/NA, appreciates unprofessionalism by staff, and being told that their way is the best but saying otherwise. Thank you Black Bear for an unforgettable experience that is all but unforgettable. I appreciate your ethical staff, your open-mindedness, not seeing your staff play favorites, not feeling ashamed because I think differently, and the all around good time I had. If nothing else I was able to write this to warn others, and maybe just maybe give others a laugh from my experience. I know I look back and laugh, because well, what can you do?