By Erin Lawless
Addiction means being physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance. This dependence has the ability to destroy lives and can cause its victim to see nothing past getting their next life-altering hit.
Cenacolo, is a community that prides itself on being not a rehab but a place of hope. It was founded by an Italian nun, Mother Elvira Petrozzi, in 1983 and has settlements all around the world. Cenacolo was set up for the sole purpose of providing a safe place for addicts in the desire to help those suffering to overcome their addictions.
Mary McNally, author of “Hope and Inspiration” and mother of recovering addict Martin McNally said: “The success rate of Cenacolo is 94%. It isn’t rehab, it is described as ‘the school of life’. It is there people from any walk of life and the structure is practically the same in every house.”
Although set up by the Catholic church, Cenacolo is open to all that seek help. The community runs exclusively on self-preservation and donations from caring hearts. With no government involvement, Cenacolo is a unique solution to an ever-growing problem.
McNally said: “There are 65 houses worldwide. There has never been a penny from the government. It is all down to Providence. This covers everything; prayer, materialistic things and money. We don’t ask for anything.”
Cenacolo brings its inhabitants back to their basic survival routes. By giving those staying at the community a simple life, they are removing the strain of a fast-paced and stressful society and instead highlighting the every-day moments in life to be grateful for.
McNally added: “You get up in the morning and somebody makes breakfast which usually consists of milk and coffee, some sweet bread or something similar. It isn’t luxurious. The meals are pretty basic but are there to give you energy for the day. Then everybody goes to work. This includes working the land, looking after the animals and harvesting food. There are a few breaks throughout the day and then you go back inside for dinner.
On Saturday’s, many of the houses treat themselves to some homemade pizza. The houses have big stone ovens and so this is a real treat for the occupants.”
Cenacolo has approximately 2,000 men and women inhabitants across the world. Without psychiatrists or social workers, addicts are joined together through shared experiences and open hearts to help each other move on from their addictions.
McNally said: “When you first enter Cenacolo you are given a ‘guardian angel’ and that person is beside the broken person for at least six weeks to show them the ropes. They are there for them when things are getting particularly bad, like when they can’t eat or sleep. It, in turn, helps that person to not be complacent.
The ‘guardian angels’ are recovering addicts that live and experience the day-to-day living of Cenacolo. They aren’t social workers but people going through the exact same as everyone else in the community.”
McNally, whose son and brother both suffered from addiction, took it upon herself to visit Cenacolo to experience life in the community.
McNally said: “I decided to go and experience Cenacolo at a very difficult time of my life. I was given the opportunity to be placed in one of the houses in Mereni, a girl’s house.
My husband had a brain injury which caused him memory tension and up to that point, I had looked after him for six years. I needed a break. My daughter went to Cenacolo because she saw her brother transform his life. She wasn’t an addict, but she decided to go because she was struggling emotionally with life and decided it was time to change.”
Addiction is a terminal illness but with the help of family, friends and organisations such as Cenacolo, it doesn’t have to be a fatal one.