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John Gillen Interview

Finding a private rehabilitation centre that not only treats your addiction and mental health issues effectively but acknowledges you on a personal level with empathy and deep understanding can sometimes feel challenging. But this is not the case for Asana Lodge because of the personal experiences of Director John Gillen.

To understand his background and addiction treatment process, we sat down to talk about his life, work and experiences.

What Is Your Connection To Addiction? 

When I was 15, I left school with no qualifications and no particular idea of what I wanted to do. But I was pretty small with an interest in horse racing, so it was decided with my family to move to Lambourn, a famous horse racing town, to start a horse racing apprenticeship.

Being away from my parents, my friends were all older than me, and I didn't have any restrictions, so I quickly followed my friends lead and began drinking with them. I became an alcoholic, not through trauma or self-medicating mental health issues, but through socialising and constantly going to parties. Within the horse racing industry, alcohol is always around. If I won a race, we celebrated with a drink; if I lost, we drowned our sorrows with alcohol. It is so tightly interwoven into the industry it was hard to avoid.

Over time I quickly surpassed social drinking into being a functional alcoholic and into being a chronic alcoholic. As I was no longer functional, I would turn up races drunk, meaning I was letting the horse owners down. They quickly took their investments elsewhere, and I lost the respect and confidence of my peers.

During this time, my wife left, taking our children. I had nothing left except alcohol. But then I found another crutch to lean on, which was just as damaging as alcohol, gambling. Gambling again is closely linked to horse racing. Family and friends warned me that I was slipping into very dangerous habits, but I wouldn't listen.

When Did You Decide To Get Help? 

Once I had lost everything, people would call it rock bottom. I was sleeping on the streets of Glasgow, asking people for money, for alcohol. Physically I had, maybe, a year to live. At that moment, I knew something had to change, so I asked my Dad for help.

I received help through a psychiatric facility; although they helped me, I wanted to know more. They explained what I had done to my body but not what I had done to my brain or how addiction affects the brain.

How Did This Lead To Your Involvement In Addiction Recovery? 

So once I left the facility, I strived to educate myself. I threw myself into researching the neuroscience on alcoholism, psychology and even spirituality. I wanted to understand precisely how addiction affects the brain, which led to how to treat these changes and effects. This took a long time before I felt confident in what I had learnt. But it did lead me to co-author a book, 'The Secret Disease of Addiction'.

Simply sharing what I had learnt wasn't enough, though. I wanted to actively help others, like myself. So with a fellow ex-addict, we realised we had a shared goal of helping people and the same belief of how to do it. This led to us opening our first treatment centre, The Abbey Care Foundation, which still exists today. 

When Did You Open Asana Lodge? 

In 2015 I became the Director of Rehab Clinics Group, which oversees many rehabilitation facilities within the United Kingdom, Asana Lodge being one of these CQC registered facilities in Towcester.

Throughout all of our facilities, we pride ourselves on having cutting edge evidence-based treatments and therapies. For example, Satori Chair Therapy uses audio and vibrations to create whole body and mind relaxation and Intravenous Brain Restoration (NAD+), an IV supplement proven to help with withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and improve a client's overall health and wellbeing.

Any Final Thoughts? 

If you are struggling with substance abuse or behavioural addictions, like gambling, we are here to help. You are treated with respect and empathy at any of our facilities as a large proportion of our staff have experienced addiction themselves. You will never be treated as 'less than; we are purely here to help you achieve long term sobriety. 

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