Giving those in recovery a second chance

March 28, 2014

Substance abuse can take such a large toll on the lives of users that even though recovery through rehab centers most often leads to prolonged sobriety and a better quality of life, the journey there can be difficult. Professional counselors and therapists can help former drug users through the stages of withdrawal and support them as they rebuild their lives, but at a certain point, the individual must act for his or her own future.

Fortunately, there are businesses that reject the common stigmas surrounding drug addiction and employ those who have struggled with substance abuse. Die Garbe, a German home cooking restaurant in Berlin, is one of these places that employs those in recovery as waitstaff, chefs and any other role they have openings for, NPR Berlin reported. Run by a local treatment center, Die Garbe provides former drug users with a second chance to lead productive lives.

Working toward recovery

According to NPR Berlin, Die Garbe appears no different than any of the other restaurants of the city that cater to the Berlin lunch crowd. Around midday, it can be packed with businessmen looking to fill their stomachs with hausmannskost, or German home cooking. The service is quick and the prices are fair, so most of the regular customers are not even aware that all of the employees are recovering drug users.

Christel Zacheja runs a local treatment center that partners with Die Garbe. Every year, a handful of patients are selected to work in the restaurant and gain training as a licensed chef.

What [those working through recovery] need is something to do, a goal, and a daily routine to build up their self-esteem,” Zacheja told NPR Berlin. “We started back in 1999, and so far all of our trainees successfully graduated and found subsequent jobs, so the project is a complete success.”

Ulla, who works as a waitress at Die Garbe now, struggled with alcoholism for several decades. But after treatment at one of Berlin’s detox centers and a new commitment to staying sober, Ulla is hopeful for her future. She told NPR Berlin that even though she knows she will always need to work against the habits of her past, with the helping hand Die Garbe has extended to her, things can be different.

“I will always be an alcoholic,” Ulla told NPR Berlin. “But now, I’ve got the tools to control it.”

Focusing recovery efforts
In addition to therapy and abstinence programs at treatment centers, Die Garbe’s mission is to provide former drug users a concrete daily goal to work toward during their recovery. Psychology Today magazine agreed that multifaceted recovery programs have a higher rate of success than those that merely seek to stop the physical causes of addiction.

Because drug addiction can be caused by deep-seated emotional issues, therapy and counseling is often necessary to ensure that those in recovery no longer feel an acute urge to relapse. Single-track treatment programs that only minimize the physical rather than the emotional dependence on a substance may have a lower chance of making permanent changes in the patient.

One of the most beneficial factors for the recovery effort is the reformulation of strong internal motivation in the former drug user, Psychology Today explained. Rather than forcing this upon the person in recovery, however, this drive usually manifests when the former drug user is given the opportunity to work toward a goal his or herself.

As the employees of Die Garbe learn the best strategies for cooking German comfort food, they also learn how to move on to the next stages of recovery.

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