In 2008, Vancouver Magazine, which has journalism and service-driven pieces and chronicles and reflects Vancouver’s emergence as a dynamic international city, ran an interview with Lorinda Strang, co-founder and executive director of the Orchard Recovery Center.
BY JONATHAN GRAHAM PUBLISHED JUN 2, 2008
The rehab expert on alcoholic families, addicted marathoners, and the devastation of crystal meth.
What led you to start the Orchard Recovery Center, one of the province’s handful of private facilities? I’ve been in recovery from alcohol for 18 years (in 2008) myself. I didn’t drink every day. But I would say, “I’m going to have one glass of wine,” which would lead to another, and then I’d end up blacked out. Since my recovery, I’ve seen that family members and other people often had to travel to the United States for addiction treatment.
How did your recovery begin? My stepdad died as a result of his alcohol addiction, and then I lost my 25-year-old brother, also because of addiction. Even then, it didn’t hit me. It was my little sister who got me into recovery. It was difficult; my first thought was “I’ll never have any fun anymore.” But you become who you really are. Your self-confidence grows; your self-esteem grows. Now I don’t even think about having a drink.
You live on Bowen Island with your three children. Are they allowed to drink? My 21-year-old son (in 2008) says the main rule in our house is that you don’t drink and you don’t use drugs. He made it all the way to graduation without drinking. Addiction runs in families, so I tell my kids they’re playing Russian roulette. But all you can do is set a good example, care about them, and always be ready to help. It isn’t easy.
Do drug addicts have to hit bottom for treatment? People will say, “I don’t have a problem; I’m highly successful; I run my own business; I work out all the time.” We just had a lady in here who runs marathons. So, no, the elevator doesn’t have to hit the basement. You can get off whenever you want.
How long to kick a habit? They say it takes six weeks to change the habit. Ninety days is optimum. Those who stay longer are typically in their 20s or 30s, or someone who’s relapsed a couple of times.
A 28-day program costs $12,700 (in 2008) and a full 90 days is more than $22,000 (in 2008). Are you accused of helping the rich while ignoring the poor? Addiction doesn’t discriminate. If you’re choosing a hotel, you wouldn’t choose one in the Downtown Eastside. A lot of our clients simply won’t go to the Cordova Detox or the Vancouver Detox. They’re used to a certain level of comfort, and we’re not here to punish them. But we’re also not a spa.
Is the DTES, with its obvious drug trade, a temptation for people in recovery? We have clients who, two years after cleaning up, still get sweaty palms when they drive over the Lions Gate Bridge from West Van; they have to tell themselves not to go there.
Which drug addiction is hardest to treat? Crystal meth is the most immediately destructive; we’ve definitely seen more of that in the last few years. But crack cocaine has the highest chance of relapse. How does a meth addict recover? They crash for a couple days. For a long time there’s a tenuous grip on reality; they have psychosis, delusions. You see fear in their eyes. One guy we had, we couldn’t make sense of what he was saying when he came here, but six months later he left and he’s been clean for 18 months. It’s a miracle how your mind and body can heal.
What sort of clientele do you have? Our youngest client is 19; our oldest is 82. We’ve had people from Panama, England, Africa. We’ve had stockbrokers, lawyers, accountants, a Starbucks barista, housewives, teachers, bartenders, an airline pilot…
What, besides addiction, do they have in common? They’re not used to anyone telling them no.