Founding Director’s Story


John Derry, B.Sc.Phm., M.A., is Founding Director of Serenity Vista. He has an impressive track record of success throughout an extensive professional career spanning pharmacy, addiction, and management leadership. 

John is a licensed Canadian pharmacist and holds a Master of Arts degree in Addiction Counseling from the world-leading Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. Read more about John’s professional background here.

Driven by Passion

John’s passion in life is to help others experience joy in living their fullest potential. John is a devoted father and husband, and role models what he teaches through his own life. John’s life is a manifestation of his values and ongoing journey of spiritual exploration and development.

The establishment of Serenity Vista is a reflection of this passion and life journey. John is originally from Canada where he developed a successful career as a clinical pharmacist in leadership roles in major teaching hospitals, and in research and development in a world-leading pharmaceutical company.

Finding a renewed passion for life through John’s personal journey of recovery, John chose to leave his successful pharmaceutical business career and shift his focus to sharing the gift of recovery with others.

Letting go of the attractive secure salary, complete with bonuses, stock options and expense account, to once again become a student and begin a new career in addiction, was a huge leap of faith. Ever since that decision, change has become John’s constant companion. John is driven by faith, guided by values, open to possibilities, and constantly letting go.

Sailing to Panama

One such huge shift occurred when John, and his wife Jane, let go of their Canadian home and possessions, and sailed to Panama. Their calling was to find a retreat setting that would be attractive for people to want to get away to for healing and renewal. Opening up to possibilities worldwide, Panama called, and John and Jane answered.

Sailing to Panama in 2012 was an amazing journey, and speaks to John’s passion to do whatever it takes to follow his calling. They trucked their 36 foot Beneteau sailboat, Decision (named with the 3rd step of Alcoholics Anonymous in mind: “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God”) to San Diego where they set sail for Panama. Just as with life, there were beautiful, calm and relaxing days, and there were storms, a few of which were tremendous, beyond scary. John describes being in a storm:

“The conditions were sustained and wild. The focus was on doing what was needed to sail the boat. But there was no fear, just complete acceptance, doing our best, letting go of the outcome, being completely ok with either getting through the storm safely, alive, or drowning at sea. Just complete acceptance, an intense outward focus with a deep inner peace.”

Even a lightning strike that damaged all electrical systems failed to deter John & Jane. Decision has long since been repaired and continues to be a source of pleasure and serenity as they sail the quiet, calm, tropical waters of the beautiful Pacific not far from Serenity Vista.

The tremendous impact of the sailing voyage on Decision to Panama was captured in the creation of Serenity Vista’s logo. The sailing vessel, Decision, is stylishly depicted as a representation of heading into unchartered waters on a fearless journey into a new life of recovery. A sailing metaphor reminds John that “you can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails!

His Passion Guided the Development of a World Class Addiction Recovery Rehab Retreat

John’s vision continues to unfold. John, and his wife Jane, share in the role modeling of healthy relationships in recovery and in the leadership of Serenity Vista.

Serenity Vista is now regarded as a top, world class, private alcohol treatment & drug rehab addiction treatment center. An internationally recognized center of excellence as one of the world’s best rehabs for addiction treatment and awarded ‘Best Rehab in the Caribbean‘. This unique addiction recovery program is based on the Minnesota Model of the world-renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Treatment Center where John completed his master’s degree. Holistic therapies are encorporated for a more complete restoration of body, mind, and spirit. The spiritual principles of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous that continue to guide John are foundational.

The development of Serenity Vista is clearly seasoned by decades of clinical experience in Canadian healthcare, the provision of leading-edge addiction services in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and John’s personal journey of recovery. 

Guests not only get help with staying sober, but experience the freedom of recovery and peace of mind and heart. John’s hope is that each guest experiences hope, inner peace, and finds a new freedom and passion for life.

As Director, John provides overall case management leadership and clinical direction for Serenity Vista staff, bringing together the skills and talents of a complementary, multidisciplinary team of professionals and holistic practitioners.

John and Jane also make Serenity Vista their home, role modeling healthy living in recovery on a day to day basis.

Whole Life Renewal Includes Recreational Outdoor Adventure

In keeping with the passions that developed Serenity Vista, outdoor adventure is an integral part of the recovery retreat experience. In addition to traditional holistic therapies such as yoga and massage, guests experience weekly outdoor recreation and adventure in the world’s most beautiful tropical settings. Outings are varied and include hiking in the rainforest, zip lining in the jungle canopy, horseback riding in the mountain highlands of Boquete, bird watching and outdoor rock climbing.

Leading & Changing Lives Through the Power of Example

Serenity Vista has become a manifestation of John’s vision and life’s passion. In similar fashion, as John leads Serenity Vista, he doesn’t just teach about addiction recovery. He leads people there by example. Working with a maximum of 6 guests at a time, John helps people change their lives with individual attention. Testimonies abound of guests expressing gratitude for finding a new life of serenity with meaning, purpose and tranquility.

John not only developed a program that teaches about recovery and life change, he demonstrates possibilities and shows how to live your dream by living example.

Hear an interview of John sharing his passion for helping people recover from addiction.