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Former drug addict Josh praises The Oak rehab centre in Felixstowe Road, Ipswich as it approaches first birthday

PUBLISHED: 10:15 23 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:15 23 January 2017

The menu over the pub area at The Oak Cafe.

The menu over the pub area at The Oak Cafe.

A former drug addict has spoken about how an Ipswich rehab helped him combat an “insane” habit that took hold of him when he was just a teenager.

Simon Aalders, director of The Oak. Simon Aalders, director of The Oak.

The 24-year-old, who gave his name only as Josh, will tomorrow leave The Oak recovery centre, which is soon to celebrate its first birthday in the converted Felixstowe Road pub, after four weeks of treatment.

Recruitment consultant Josh, who was raised in Bury St Edmunds and now lives in Ipswich, started taking cocaine when he was 17 years old, and later turned to crack cocaine.

He said: “I just partied too much and ended up in that sort of circle, leaving my good mates and going into that.

The Royal Oak, before its transformation into the recovery centre. The Royal Oak, before its transformation into the recovery centre.

“I was turning everything into chaos, almost.

“I put off seeing my family, if I got a call I wouldn’t answer it.”

Josh said he was smoking anything between half a gramme to three grammes of crack cocaine every day. One gramme costs around £100.

The newly decorated public dining area at The Oak. The newly decorated public dining area at The Oak.

When asked what it was like when he needed a hit, Josh said: “It feels like madness.”

He added: “You do it one night and once the drugs wear off you think **** this, I’m not doing it any more.

“The next day you go to work and you want to do it again. It starts fine but then you start doing it every day and it becomes a necessity. That’s when it starts to be insane.

The colourful children's corner. The colourful children's corner.

“I’m generally a happy person anyway, but some of the people here will say you go from extreme happiness to extreme sadness.”

Four weeks ago Josh returned home from a “binge” to find his family waiting for him in his flat.

His then girlfriend had arranged an intervention, as Josh said he had got “out of control”.

Simon Aalders outside the entrance of the residential section of The Oak. Simon Aalders outside the entrance of the residential section of The Oak.

“They said I needed to sort my life out,” Josh said. “I knew I needed help for a while.”

That’s when Josh went to The Oak. He was given a room and put on a programme of recovery, which included group sessions and counselling.

“This place is amazing,” he said. “They have got a softer approach than a lot of rehabs I have heard of.

Community dining area for residents at The Oak. Community dining area for residents at The Oak.

“It’s brilliant the way they treat you and the way they let you express yourself.”

One of the most beneficial parts of the scheme for Josh was the morning group classes, where residents come together to talk.

“You have to say five things you are grateful for and I’ve got into the routine of doing that every morning,” he added.

Simon Aalders is proud of his rehab centre, which has helped arond 70 people since it opened. Simon Aalders is proud of his rehab centre, which has helped arond 70 people since it opened.

Since walking through the doors of the rehab, Josh has not touched any drugs or alcohol.

He said: “I feel clear and I don’t want to go back to that.”

Former pub with community link helps clients prepare for outside world

The Oak has helped around 70 people since it opened last April.

Clients have travelled from all over the world, as far as Malaysia, to seek help for addictions primarily to drugs or alcohol.

Starting off with six rooms above the former pub, The Oak has now expanded to 15 rooms with beds at two nearby properties.

Director Simon Aalders, 49, said: “It’s been an amazing journey so far.”

The rehabilitation centre gets referrals from Cambridge social services and has recently won a contract with Suffolk County Council.

The Oak also has an on-site café open to members of the public five days a week, which Mr Aalders said was doing well.

“We are part of this community and we don’t want to be an isolated part,” he added.

“We are pleased people do come in and in the summer people were in the garden and we want to maintain that.”

The centre is open to people with any addiction, including gambling, gaming and shopping.

When people arrive at The Oak they will first go through a detoxification. Then they are given a seven-day programme of group and one-to-one therapy, as well a fitness routine to get them physically healthy and taught life skills, such as cooking and budgeting.

Clients can stay at the centre, formerly The Royal Oak pub, for anything between two weeks to six months.

When Mr Aalders, who used to run the drugs action team at Suffolk County Council, launched The Oak, he did so with the aim of making it affordable. Prices at the Ipswich hub are around 50% to 60% lower than the next cheapest option, Mr Aalders said.

Despite its growth, Mr Aalders said he was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

“It’s so important not to turn ourselves into an institution and lose that homely environment that helps people reconnect with families and the community,” he added.

“Having the café is key to that community connection and reminds people that there’s a world outside this building and they need to be a part of it.”

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