How the New Life scholarship literally saved my life

I first came to New Life in Nov 2014 for one month, Jan 2015 for one month, and then June 2015 for five months.

My mother is a drug addict, drugs were always around at home, and as a result, I started young. My father was absent, so I tried to look after my little brother as best I could when it became clear that my mother couldn’t cope anymore. I even left school early to take care of him. But I ended up involved in criminal activities, gangs, etc, and sold drugs in order to make ends meet. Later on, a boyfriend got me involved in the sex industry. Life was going from bad to worse. I felt shame and remorse about my actions and lifestyle, and I used drugs and alcohol to escape my pain.

Many people do not understand the pull of addiction. It’s a quick way to escape your problems and it eases pain, if only temporarily. Drugs takes you out of your head – which may be a dark place. Once you are used to this easy escape, its hard to think of stopping because then you face all your pain once again, but now with added layers of shame. You develop very low self esteem, and the drug use helps to numb that. It’s a vicious cycle.

“I wanted to learn to love myself”

Even if you want to stop, the first day of not using, your head is so clouded with horrible thoughts, that you don’t think you can last another day without using. You can’t stand your own company unless your high. Often, your circle of friends are also using, and you don’t know how to stop when there is intense peer pressure. Due to your low self esteem, you begin not to care if you ever stop using. You don’t like yourself, and the drugs temporarily make you forget about that. It’s very hard to think of stopping on your own without support. But the shame makes it very hard to ask for help, and you’re afraid that perhaps you’re not mentally strong enough to stay sober, so what’s the point in trying in the first place? It’s a wretched place to be.

My life was spiraling out of control. My drug use started to affect my driving, my work, and my mental state of mind. I was so tired of hating myself. I was tired of drinking my shame away. I always knew I wanted to stop, I just didn’t know how. I wanted to learn to love myself. I came to the conclusion that I needed to remove myself entirely from my situation, far away from my unhealthy circle of friends and dangerous lifestyle. I also needed to quit my job, I felt so bad about doing it that I couldn’t get through it without drinking or using. All the girls at my club also drank or used drugs to cope with dancing and providing erotic massage. It was soul destroying.

“New Life is the only place I have ever felt truly at home”

I did some research online for recovery retreats in Thailand, knowing that I could afford to stay there for a longer period of time because it’s relatively affordable compared to the West. But on the way to Thailand, I was drunk on the flight. I was just so scared to give up.

I remember being very nervous in the taxi on the way to New Life. I was way out of my comfort zone, and didn’t know what to expect. But I was quickly made to feel at ease by the staff and other residents. Within just days, I felt at home. In fact, to this day, New Life is the only place I have ever felt truly at home. I was impressed by literally everything. The landscape and nature was so beautiful, the food was great, and the schedule was exactly the routine I needed to get healthy. I didn’t want to leave!

Witnessing the amazing transformation of other people helped me stay the course when the recovery process was daunting. I thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it too.’ Meditation literally saved my life. Learning to live in the moment, and appreciate every moment has been the biggest tool in my sobriety. Also learning to reach out for support when you feel hopeless. There is so much support at New Life. Everyone just understands you.

“The infrastructure at New Life is set up for you to succeed and thrive”

It was also very comforting not having to make any real decisions for yourself. No cooking, no paying bills, no traffic, no trying to resist a drink around friends. The infrastructure is set up for you to succeed and thrive. The support is everywhere.

I had dipped my toe into other treatment options in the past, but they were clinical approaches, and only worked with the intellect, not the emotions. New Life opens your heart. Here is the difference: Catch a man a fish, and feed him for a day. Teach the man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Other approaches only worked while they forced me not to drink, and I drank shortly after I left rehab the first time. New Life taught me so many life skills and tools for stress management, and most importantly how to love myself again. They taught me how to fish for soul food.

Mindfulness has literally given me the gift of a new life. A fresh new perspective on the world, and myself. Mindfulness creates the space I need in my head, the pause between picking up a drink upon reaction to stress, or being able to breathe and relax, and not pick up the drink. Mindfulness creates that space inbetween.

” I came to open up and be honest, and be accepted for all my crap”

Now I am practicing everyday. I meditate every morning for an hour. It’s my saving grace. I started out with 15 minutes, and gradually I craved more. I am so amazed with the transformation of my mind, that I am looking into returning to school for a degree in Mindfulness, so that I can share this gift with the world. Meditation has literally changed my brain, my thought patterns and helps you relate to other people with patience and understanding. Forgiveness practice has also been essential to help me love myself again.

Of course there were some challenges. At first I found it very difficult to live amongst so many people, and have my issues aired like dirty laundry. I could not keep any secrets. But I came to New Life to escape my secret life (I had lied about my shady life back home for so long). I came to open up and be honest, and be accepted for all my crap. But that was not easy at first. At times I craved my own space, and it felt like there was always someone trying to talk to me. Some days I just didn’t want to work on my problems. I craved a little holiday from myself. But the weekends by the pool did provide some space for that.

“The scholarship literally saved my life”

I funded my first two visits to New Life but could only afford one month each time. When I returned a third time, it wasn’t because my life was failing, it was because I was experiencing beautiful transformations, and I wanted to learn more. I realized that I was only scratching the surface of my deep seeded issues, and I wanted to work harder on myself. The third time I came back, I could only afford the first month. I really wanted to stay longer this time, and continue the work. I applied for the scholarship, and was fortunate enough to receive it for three more months.

This is the time where the mindfulness really had a chance to permeate through all areas of my life. I don’t know where my life would be now, if I had not stayed the extra time. I was terrified that I might have to go home, and relapse into addiction, selling drugs, or stripping. I voiced my fears to my life coaches, and was assured that they were not going to let that happen to me. I was not going to fall through the cracks, and become another sad statistic. They made sure that I was taken care of. Like family. The scholarship literally saved my life. I felt so cared for, and for the first time in my life, people thought I was worth fighting for. It helped me to think so too.

“I came to New Life to get sober and what I got was a whole new life”

During the first month at New Life, I was too scared to open up until my final week there. I was too scared of everything to really work hard on myself. No one can be expected to walk through the door and face all their pain in a short time! The full benefit of the program came to me around month three. I finally shifted old, destructive thought patterns, and the real change began. A few weeks of meditation doesn’t really allow a person to go home and have that habit established. I needed more time to truly establish healthy habits for a lifetime. The scholarship gave me that gift. I came to New Life to get sober and what I got was a whole new life. I now have friends from New Life who are closer and more supportive than any family I’ve ever had. I have a whole new network of support.

I’m now 15 months clean and sober!!! Yay me! Waking up every morning, not hating myself for what I did the night before. Peace of mind is priceless. No brain fogginess. Motivation to do productive things in my day. Smiling! Feeling proud of myself for the first time ever, is probably the best part of sobriety.

My advice for current addicts considering recovery would be “What do you have to lose?” Why not try something that could offer you a fresh start? We are all scared to try in the beginning, but you don’t have to face that alone anymore. People at New Life just “get you”. Instead of thinking too far ahead, just take one step at a time. ONE step into the door of New Life. They will take care of you like you’ve never experienced before. Relief, shelter from the storm, easing of your pain and suffering. Freedom is possible, I am now tasting it for the first time. You deserve to find joy and happiness, good luck! And thank you for listening 😉

As a non-profit foundation, we are reliant on the support of paying volunteers and the generosity of our donors and supporters. Last year we were able to offer 28 scholarships thanks to your valued contributions. We need 900,000 baht ($25,000) in order to offer 3 full scholarships per month, with the average length of scholarship being approx. 3 months. Please help us to maintain the scholarship program for 2016 by sponsoring a resident.

Read more inspiring New Life testimonials:

Jorn’s story: “Why I would recommend New Life to anyone considering recovery”

Jojo’s story: The scholarship program “gave me breathing space to heal”

Joey’s story: “Coming to New Life has been the most transformative experience in my life”

Yael’s story: “Why ten days as a volunteer turned into four months as a resident”

Patrick’s story: “The tools I learned at New Life gave me a newfound balance in my life”

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