Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rehab & 12-Step in Costa Rica…Help & Hope for a Better Life!!

The ever increasing problem of drug & alchohol abuse worldwide, as well as other addictive tendencies, has spawned a growing interest in affordable Recovery Programs and access to Self Help Groups for those seeking support with addiction and abuse issues. Costa Rica is a wonderful place to meet people and take the first “step” in becoming the person you always wanted to be, all in an active and health conscience environment! Many Costa Rica Hotels will even provide you with cheap or free transportation to attend these meetings during your vacation in Costa Rica, so there is no need to let travel interrupt your personal recovery, you can find the support you need wherever you go! These programs work if you work them, so why put this off another day? Today could be the first day of the rest of your life!

AA, 12-Step, NA, Overeaters, Gamblers Anonymous and many other such Self-Help Meetings and Recovery programs are available throughout Costa Rica, but many people don’t know where to look! This week, our special Guest Blogger: Ms. Vicki Skinner of Escazu, Costa Rica has been kind enough to share with us the information she has compiled on the subject. Beyond this valuable information, Vicki is an incredible source of many happenings throughout Costa Rica and more specifically the Escazu area. You can contact Vicki at:, or better yet, follow her informative blog at:

What AA is about:
Alcoholics Anonymous®
is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; it is self-supporting through it’s own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. The primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. (In Costa Rica, most meetings are open to whatever substance abuse you may suffer, or they can direct you to more specific addiction meetings nearby.)

(Courtesy of Listed in alphabetical order.)

Meetings: WED 4pm Open, Reading 12/12, discussion
Location: Kay’s Gringo Postres, 60 meters west of the Red Cross (adjacent to Seguro Clinic)
Contact: Call Tom C. 2446-0664, 2446-4136

Meetings: TUE 3:3p to 4:30p
Location: 50 Meters east of police Station
Contact: Kate at 2755-0539 or 8384-4820

Meetings: TUE / THU / SAT 6-6:30p (longer if more people show up) AA/NA English/Spanish
Location: In front of school, on main street 50 meters left of El Monge (bigstore). There is a sign out on the street.
Contact: Ype Bolman at 2642-1201

Dominical/Uvita/Ojochal, Southern Pacific region, Puntarenas Province
Contact: Marguerite: 2770-2705 or Natalie: 8879-3347
Meetings: SU 12p
Location: Pacific Plaza, far right corner outside under the gazebo
Meetings: TU 11:30a
Location: Coastal Christian Fellowship – please call for directions
Meetings: TH 12noon
Location: Gringo Mike’s Pizza – please call for directions
Alanon: Wednesday 9am at Gringo Mike’s Pizza in Ojochal

Location: International Baptist Church, Guachipelin
Meetings: MON 12p Big Book | STARTING NOV 2010: TU 7a Meditation | WED 12p Step | THU 12p Living Sober | FRI 8am Open Discussion | FRI 7pm Speaker Discussion | SAT 9am Open
Contact: Brian 2589-0526 or cell 8314-4532

Meetings: MON, WED & FRI 12noon | Mon & Fri is open discussion, Wed is a Step Study. All are closed AA meetings.
Location: Grecia Centro AA Club
Contact: Jay 2494-0578

Meetings: TU & TH 11:30am // SA 10am
Location: From Los Angeles Park at Ave. 6 and Calle 9, go south two blocks to Ave 10. Go right about 2/3 between Calle 8 to Calle 10 is the Hogar Salvando al Alcohólico..
Contact: Laura C. 2267-7466

Meetings: TU, TH, SA 10am (TU is a Step meeting)
Location: On the main street in Jacó across from Banco Nacionál, upstairs in the building with the clock at the top of it
Contact: Nancy 8380-8259 or Stewart 8306-3552

Meetings: Everyday 10am in the Tiki Hut
Location: El Mono Azul Hotel & Restaurant on road to beach, right hand side
**There are also AA meetings nightly at Hotel Gaia 6pm in Spanish (translators avail)

Meetings: MON 6:30pm @ the Zen Café THUR 6pm
Location: Yoga House in Playa Guiones

Meetings: TU & FR 5:30pm
Location: At the Hitching Post Plaza, Office #2.
Contact: Don 2654-4902 or David 2654-9120

Meetings: MO, WE, FR 6pm
Location: In Playas del Coco, on the way to Playa Ocotal after 2nd bridge, left, Coco Condos at marina loft.
Contact: Max 8917-2222 or John 2672-1163, 8897-9951

Meetings: MO 5:30pm Step / TH 6:30pm Open / SA 10:30a Open
Location: Next to the Caracola Restaurant in the Rotunda.
Contacts: Ellen 2653 0897 or 8346-7640 Steve 8377-1529 or 2653-2497

#1 Meetings: MWF 1pm
Location: Pro Niño building in Puerto Viejo center, adjacent to the soccer field
#2 Meetings: Saturday 9am
Location: Serenity on the Beach in front of the Banana Azul Hotel
Contacts: Eddie 2750-0080, 2750-0235 or 8811-3448 or Colin 2750-2035

Meetings: SUN 9:15am | MON-SAT 12 Noon
#1 Location: Floor 2, Ave 6 y Calle 1
Contact: Dennis 8385-4035 or Jim 8815-0549
#2 Location: Calle 3 y Ave 2
Hours: M-F 1-6, SA 10-1
Contacts: 2255-4108 Spanish speaking only

Meetings: SU 4p and impromptu
Location: at Cabinas Los Cocos.
Contacts: Susan or Andrew 2776-0012

(Courtesy of Vicki Skinner

These are some amazingly successful resources that year after year are showing some really impressive results for people seeking to rid themselves and stay off their various "ictions". All services are on a completely outpatient basis:
**Eugene "Gene" McDonalds - Auriculotherapist
Auriculotherapy Tel: 8352-0661 Escazu - Centro
Gene uses a very unique machine that provides amazing results! Like acupuncture, but without needles; an electric stim type contraption goes around the acupressure points inside your ears which effects the function of various important organs, etc. (This method shows incredible results and is from Chinese medicine dating back thousands of years.)
**Suzanne Noel – Certified Recovery Trainer
Contact her directly at Tel: 2483-1602 or 8372-0347
A Certified Recovery Focusing Trainer, Suzanne has gotten incredible reviews from her clients regarding their success. For more information:
**Cia Ricco - Psychotherapist/Addiction Specialist or or Tel: 1-518-325-7444-U.S. Cia has a variety of treatment programs at her beautiful place in Nicoya. Cia is a body-centered psychotherapist who divides her time between Costa Rica, New York City, and the East Coast of the US. She is the author of "Living As If Your Life Depended On It: Twelve Gateways for a Life That Work." For more information check out:
**Nick Russi - Interventions (World Wide) Tel: 1-415-287-0952-US# that rings to him or 2427-9952-Costa Rica Facility or 8371-1661-Nick’s cell

Here is a partial list of English speaking programs in Costa Rica from a google search, so it is woefully incomplete and pricing may not be accurate. I have no personal connection or experience with any of these centers, but hope that they will provide a starting point for those seeking help and resources for their addiction issues and they don’t know where else to turn. A more thorough search is possible by contacting IAFA. The website is in Spanish, but can be translated via Google. IAFA is the government agency responsible for licensing programs within Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Recovery Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorders or
Tel: 2220-1713 or 2291-8805 or 8895-9045-hotline Toll Free: 1-866-804-1793-U.S.
The provide 4 levels of care to include traditional Hazelden Method along with yoga, meditation, mindfulness, dialect behavioral therapy, transactional analysis, cognitive behavior, motivational enhancement & psychotherapy. They do their 12-step meetings outside of the facility to assimulate more real day-to-day situations. They also have a half-way house on "campus".
Their 4 Goal Principals are:
#1 - Abstinence
#2 - Personalized 12-step outside center
#3 - Be connected with a 12-step outside center
#4 - Improved Quality of Life.
Their focus is getting the substance abuser off the substance of choice.
LOCATION: Rohrmoser (about 1km from U.S. Embassy)
PROGRAM: $3,500/1st month, $2,600/thereafter
OWNER: Jim Dopp

Tropical Oasis or
Tel: 1-415-287-0952 or 1-866-921-3778 or 2427-9952-Costa Rica Facility
Tropical Oasis offers a full spectrum of chemical dependency and co-occuring treatment services for adults; from detox and residential inpatient through day treatment and intensive outpatient services.
• Detox - $300 per day
• Residential Treatment (30 days) - $7,900
• Day treatment - $200 per day
• Intensive Outpatient (20 sessions) - $3,000
OWNERS: Nick and his dad Bob Russi

New Hope or Tel: 1-866-918-8302-U.S. or 2213-1954 in Costa Rica
This program provides all aspects of addiction elimination and recovery with a personalized program for each patient.
LOCATION: Mountains above Heredia, 30 minutes from Juan Santamaria (SJO) International Airport.
PROGRAM: $7,500/month for a single diagnosis and single occupancy
OWNERS: Bill and Dakmare Bayless

Casa Serenidad Tel: 2273-0407 or 2273-0507 in Costa Rica or 1-310-402-2698 (US)
Highly qualified health professionals in areas such as psychiatry, medicine, psychology, personal physical conditioning, physical therapy and spiritual counseling, among others. All of them committed in promoting the patients well-being, during and after admission, by giving support in the search for the solution to their behavioral, emotional and dependency problems.
LOCATION: Cartago Area
PROGRAM: Prices are based on necessary treatments.
OWNERS: Dr. Francisco Jiménez Martén - Medical Director

Only you can decide whether you want to give A.A. a try —

Those who are in A.A. came because they finally gave up trying to control their drinking. They still hated to admit that they could never drink safely. Then they heard from other A.A. members that they were “sick”. They found out that many people suffered from the same feelings of guilt and loneliness and hopelessness that they did. They found out that they had these feelings because they had the disease of alcoholism. They decided to try and face up to what alcohol had done to them. Here are some of the questions they tried to answer honestly. If they answered YES to four or more questions, they were in deep trouble with their drinking and knew it was time to seek help. See how you do. Remember, there is no disgrace in facing up to the fact that you have a problem. If you would like to read more about addiction and ways to overcome this disease, please click here, as help is just around the corner and there are many people out there that want to help you help yourself!

The most visible rehab entity you will see throughout Costa Rica are the members of Hogar Crea. Commonly seen in their yellow printed t-shirts selling pencils or other little trinkets at street corners, bus stops or other high traffic areas, the money they collect goes to support their on-going treatment costs for their many regionally run rehab centers. They depend greatly on your generosity, so please don’t ignore or avoid them. I always give them the usual 1000 colones ($2) and let them keep the pen/pencil or whatever they are selling to allow them to sell the item again. However!!! Last week they were peddling what looked like little tennis balls, but when you opened them, they expanded to little facial towels. BONUS!! They sold more than 10,000 colones worth of these trinkets in 5 minutes, as we almost never see facial towels in Costa Rica and everyone wanted one (including the tourists!). Since it is very hot and humid in our beach town of Manuel Antonio, this was the best buy yet!
So…..Go HOGAR CREA!! And for the rest of you that might be suffering from addiction or affected by someone with an addiction problem……there is an entire community out there waiting to take you into their arms, today is the day why wait??

Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tico Tarzan! Can we ever get enough of this Costa Rica Adventure?

BROUGHT BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!! At least once a month someone asks me about "Chito", better known as "Tico Tarzan", so I thought I would repeat this post!

Imagine upon moving to a foreign country one of the first persons you meet is fondly known by all as ¨Tico Tarzan¨! Officially named Gilberto Shedden, this 50 year old Costa Rica native fisherman, better known to his friends as "Chito", has gained this nickname by training and playing with his good friend “Pocho”. I know you’re thinking it’s a cute little monkey or chimp, thus the title ¨Tarzan¨, but you would be VERY mistaken. Pocho is Chito´s fully grown, pet American Crocodile! Rolling the large reptile on its back, pushing his head of razor sharp teeth under and above the water, as well as tenderly kissing Pocho right on the nose, this is no average Tarzan by any means! Even for Chito, who grew up in the jungles of Costa Rica, their games are much more than a planned tourist trap spectacle, it is a clear demonstration of an unusual friendship established over time between a normally dangerous crocodile and an anything but normal human who saw one of God’s creatures in need.

The unusual friendship with Pocho began more than 17 years ago when Chito found the then two meter American Crocodile adrift in the Parismina River. Located deep in the many miles of winding and remote natural and artificial canals of Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, the hapless crocodile had received a bullet in the head and was in bad shape and unlikely to live. Chito, a character that truly defies description, who is well known for the soft spot in his heart for any and all animals, took the injured crocodile into his humble home and nursed him back to health over the next several months. Feeding him small pieces of chicken and gently stroking him and doctoring his wounds, Pocho was amazingly receptive to the attention and over the next several months a special bond was created between the two.

I’ll never forget the first time we went to Chito´s house to have a few ¨cervezas¨ and Chito wanted to introduce us to his new friend. With Chito, you never knew what to expect, but nonetheless, I was a bit taken aback when he opened a door and there was Pocho! As a ¨newbie¨ to Costa Rica and this small Caribbean Village on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica, I kept thinking to myself, ¨Can this be normal?¨ Happily, it is not, but as one gets to know the eccentric Chito, it just really did not seem that odd either, as he always had a menagerie of wild animals that he was in the process of nursing back from the dead, with the hope of returning them to the wild!

Living in such a remote location, and being of humble means, a veterinarian was not in the cards for Chito or Pocho, so the entire care and recuperation of the crocodile fell on Chito himself. When it was thought Pocho had recovered sufficiently to survive on his own once again, Chito left his beloved Crocodile pet in a small nearby pond to carry out the many years he would hopefully have left in his life. But even to Chito´s surprise, the reptile chose to leave the water, following Chito back to his house and instead choosing to live in the canal in front of Chito´s property. Realizing that Pocho and he had apparently cemented a unique new friendship, daily visits and swimming sessions became part of their incredible bonding process and a source of much entertainment for the locals. Much to the dismay of family and friends, Chito continued to swim and play with the rapidly growing crocodile, teaching him a series of commands, including death rolls, tail slaps, back floats, belly rubs, swims and skims and even closing his eyes on cue!

As word spread of the crazy antics of Chito and Pocho, the entrepreneurial light bulb went off in Chito´s head. People began to naturally seek these two characters in the remote village of Barra de Parismina to see for themselves this incredible phenomenon, but this proved difficult due
to the remote location of this small village. Now relocated to a small lake on Chito´s other farm on the outskirts of the town of Siquirres, this unlikely duo attracts multitudes of people, both National and International travelers weekly to experience for themselves the ¨Tico Tarzan Show¨. Dressed only in well worn shorts and his customary sweat band in place on his forehead, Chito enters the water with absolutely no safety equipment or even ambulance drivers on call, where he leads Pocho, and at times Pocho leads Chito, through a series of acrobatic stunts and amazing tricks, including the lifting and slapping of his enormous tail with great force on the water, as visitors look on at the gigantic reptile in amazement from the safety of the railing of the ¨typical¨ style lakeside restaurant or ¨soda¨.

It is estimated that Pocho is around 50 years old, weighs approximately 990 pounds and measures in the area of 4.5 meters. The American Crocodile is a species of crocodilian found primarily in Central America. It is the most widespread of the four species of crocodiles found on the entire American Continent. Populations occur from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico to South America and stretching as far as Peru and even Venezuela. There is a remnant population of about 2000 in Florida, United States. The habitat of the American crocodile consists largely of coastal areas, though they are quite common in canals and other inlets, so caution should be exercised when in these areas. The American crocodile is larger than some other crocodile species, with some males reaching lengths of 6.1 metres (20 ft) in Central and South America. Full grown adult males of this species have no natural predators and are capable of preying on virtually any animal unfortunate enough to be at the waters edge. It is estimated they can live up to 70 years in captivity, so Chito and Pocho may continue to entertain us for many years to come, barring any accidents that is!

Author: Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and Hotel Makanda by the Sea.