A drug problem over 15 years ago led to his creating the Recal Foundation, a non profit organization which, to date, has helped more than 1,000 people to overcome their addiction to psychoactive substances and be reintegrated into society. Archduke Maximilian of Austria combines this work with directing a company in the medical sector. His social work fills him with enormous satisfaction.
TEXT: NURIA DEL OLMO PHOTO: MÁXIMO GARCÍA
In Spain, it is estimated that around three million people (between ve and ten percent of the population) suffer some addiction to psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cocaine, cannabis and others.
Close to 100 people arrive at the center each year. They come from all over Spain, from both modest and affluent backgrounds. Men and women of all ages with a chronic illness in common, which is increasingly frequent and characterized by compulsively seeking and consuming substances such as alcohol and drugs. Their addiction destroys them and also those around them. It leads to family, emotional, legal and nancial con icts. They arrive at Recal hoping to rebuild their lives and lead a decent life.
How did this foundation come about?
The foundation was set up in the year 2000 to help homeless people who were living in the marginalized neighborhoods of Madrid. For many years we took food and clothing to these people – mostly prostitutes and alcoholics – until, exactly ve years ago now, we prepared an apartment and a center in Pozuelo (Madrid) to professionalize the work we were doing and start providing therapy. We thus became a treatment center.
What do you recall from those times?
The work has always been highly satisfactory, yet also complex, particularly when it comes to organizing so many people. That is why we decided to set up a new center so as to be able to offer patients a safe home, where we could provide them with food, clothing and, most importantly, effective treatment to deal with their addiction problems. An addict is a mentally ill individual who needs all the support in the world.
Who comes to this center?
People of all ages, from every social stratum – and even from abroad – who are suffering from addiction problems, whether due to a substance or behavior- related issue. They all believe in our method as it yields results. People with suf cient economic means pay for their treatment, while those who cannot afford it are treated free of charge. Our mission is to offer quality treatment to any person, whether or not they can afford it, and strive to reduce the stigma that person faces daily in society.
«Addicts are people who are ill and need the full support of society»
How do you help them?
They all enter our center for a minimum period of three months. This gives them enough time to undergo detoxification and learn a new lifestyle. And, most importantly, to realize they are not alone in this battle. Our method is based on the Minnesota model, which, in turn, is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous program. It is overseen by a medical team working in close collaboration with therapists who were addicts in the past and have now fully recovered. We explain to them the importance of their attitude, of constructing a life project based on goals and challenges.
Drugs leave sequelae
Without a doubt. That’s why there is a whole team of psychologists, doctors and physiotherapists, all helping these people to take care of their diet and to practice sports. As well as manage their emotions and share their concerns. They are all continuously monitored, as a relapse is often just around the corner.
Do the families also participate?
They arrive here in a desperate state, despondent and disoriented. Our treatment attaches great importance to family therapy, which takes place every week in the center. The relatives listen to the experiences of members of the other families and are offered guidance by our team so that they can make the changes necessary for a better life and relationship with the patient and the disease.
What should we do in order to avoid falling into an addiction?
I believe the most important work begins in childhood. Efforts should be made to get the groundwork right. The aim is to establish rules, taking the utmost care to enhance the parent-child affective relationship, encouraging communication, self-esteem and self-control. These are the values we convey here. We try to ensure these people have greater critical capacity so that they can deal with peer pressures and social stereotypes, and thus foster their own criteria and be independent thinkers.
Image: Maximilian of Habsburg chatting with two youngsters receiving treatment at Recal.