Inside ex-criminal's controversial 'tough love' rehab program
One hundred and forty male addicts, a tough-love attitude, and a cold turkey detox. What could go wrong?
When the men arrive at Shalom House they say they are broken and have nothing.
It is clear addiction has robbed them of their families, jobs, homes, opportunity and for many a sense of self-worth.
By the time they reach out to Shalom House they are desperate and in need of change.
Their chance of redemption comes in the form of a former career criminal and addict. His name is Peter Lyndon-James.
A Current Affair was welcomed into the world of Shalom House in Western Australia's Swan Valley for two days.
It was confronting but I was also entirely comfortable.
These men own their stories. They are stories of trauma, mistreatment and drug and alcohol abuse. Many conversations start by the men telling you what their addiction was. Sometimes I would hesitate to pry – but they are all open and honest, revealing their toughest moments.
For one participant Ricky, he struggles with the decision to give his sister her first hit at the age of 15. While Brodie recalls ending up on the streets after eight years of addiction.
Another participant, Walter, tells the story of crashing head-on to an ambulance while high on meth. It was the dangerous wake-up call he needed before checking himself in to Shalom House.
They are all there because they say they can trust it’s leader. Peter Lyndon-James, 49, has been in and out of prisons and institutions since the age of nine.
While drug dealing, he says he sold on average $40,000 worth of methamphetamine a day as well as a large number of firearms and explosives. He was fully submerged in a life that he knew he didn’t want to be living.
Eventually breaking his addiction, Peter sought to help others. Drugs don’t discriminate. The men are from all walks of life – fathers, businessmen, lawyers and tradies.
From day one, the rules are clear. When the men arrive, their heads are shaved. They hand over the phone, keys and power of attorney. Immediately they are submitting themselves to the program and Peter’s tough principles. There is no swearing, no gossip, no smoking, no drugs and no alcohol.
The program is faith based but non-denominational. Despite being a pastor, Peter says he hates religion. Shalom House has been described as controversial and a cult. But speaking to the men in the program, many say it’s working.
Through the tough love there is a room full of smiles and laughter. The men are sent to work five days a week.
Shalom House charges $300 a week. For most of the participants that comes out of their Centrelink for the first few months. They are then expected to find work and pay their own way.
Some academics believe Peter’s tough love approach and cold turkey detox is outdated and out of touch. Many describe it as unnecessary, harsh and mean.
Peter simply couldn’t care less. It’s his way or the highway.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019