For obvious reasons, the patient who wrote this letter prefers to remain anonymous. He wants to publish his story in the hope that it will persuade other people with alcohol and drug dependencies to seek professional help.
“Everyone encounters a time in their life when they have to sacrifice one thing in order to gain another. For some that decision to make a sacrifice actually saves their life- and has to be made anew every single day.
My nightmare started in 1998 when curiosity got the better of me and I was pulled into the shady nightlife of clubs and parties. I became a social ecstasy user and progressed to LSD. Before I knew it “social”, became a few times a week and at every rave. It became such a priority in my life, that I had a separate budget for it.
If I wasn’t partying or working in a club, I was hanging out with a gym partner who introduced me to cocaine- at first only for recreational purposes but that also progressed to an uncontrollable daily need. If only I could see the warning signals, I could have prevented years of hurt, damage and pain- to myself and others.
My career in a senior position was blossoming at that stage. But it did not last for long- because I took the next step towards being a junky. A girl I worked with gave me a small amount of white powder, similar to cocaine where we were using together during lunch. I had no idea that, by taking my first line of Thai white, I would invite the Devil himself into my life and trade everything I had and was for heroin. It became a very expensive habit, with cocaine use of at least R300 a day and heroin close to R500. When my salary couldn’t provide any longer, I used my bond or car payments and sponged off family. Eventually, I started selling drugs.
When I couldn’t get out of bed for 3 days and lost close to 40kg’s, I admitted that I had a problem. It was actually too late.
I went to my 1st rehab because my family begged me to, but I wasn’t ready to give up my pet demon. My dysfunctional marriage came to an end the day I finished my rehab programme. Also, because I had gone against the rules and made a close friend in rehab. I relapsed on crack cocaine and heroin. It was only a matter of time before I lost my job.
My life started spinning out of control and my parents had to take action and make decisions for me. I moved out of the East Rand, and started a new life on the West Rand. Even though I got a clean start and met my supportive future wife, I still could not get away from my addiction, which consisted of daily cocaine use and spiking heroin as well as much pethidine as I could get my hands on. From the house I sold I had close to R100 000 to start a new life, but in a month I had nothing but an empty bank account, repossessed superbike, lots of debt and if it weren’t for my parents, no car.
I couldn’t hold any job. To maintain my addiction, I stole, cheated and robbed from both loved ones and strangers. It took two years and three more rehabilitation centres including a spell in long term treatment for 4 months to open my eyes.
During this period I managed to build up some clean time, but I didn’t learn how to cope on the outside with real life. I relapsed shortly after being released. Just before my marriage, I was using more than ever without my wife knowing. It reached a level where everything in me wanted to stop- to the extent that I cried on the way to the dealer, slit my wrists and begged to die. A while after the wedding, the truth came out again. I was about to lose another wife and a good job. I nearly lost my life with a heroin overdose- because I thought I could do one more time and it turned out one too many. I woke up in ICU with collapsed lungs as only part of the overall damage. Finally, I had reached rock bottom and came to my senses.
My real recovery only started at the last rehab, Westview Clinic. I learned there if I don’t do it for myself, I will not succeed. The fact that I had a steady job and a seven month-old marriage gave me something to live for. I had reasons to take back control of my life. After only 2 weeks at Westview Clinic I was well on my way to recovery, although it was painful being new in sobriety and I had to fight many cravings and emotions. I was the equivalent of an infant, with little or no emotional intelligence or coping skills. Every argument, stressful situation or disappointment was a potential trigger but I saw it as a challenge and started growing more mature in myself. Specifically, my spiritual life matured and I began trusting God in my daily walk and depend on Him for answers.
It took a long time to regain my family’s trust and to get back on track with my career. And, I had to face the surprises life could throw at me.
The Westview Clinic after care support group helped me find ways of dealing with those. The support group includes people from all walks of life who come together on a Thursday night to share their experiences, find understanding, and get advice from others who have been through the recovery process.
I took a lot of dedication and persistence to stay on track. But, for every step I took, the Lord took two- and gave me back everything I lost.
Some days I still feel like crying over spilt milk and opportunities lost. But, even though they are forever lost, new ones arise and I can now appreciate them, grab them with both hands, and make the best of it.
I am well aware that I created a disability in my life, meaning I will never be able to use anything ever again. If you know you can’t swim, don’t go jump into the deep end. I have to be on the lookout for ingredients in medication and even watch my music. As I said in the beginning, I had to choose and sacrifice a lot. But like everything in life, you get out what you put in. You have to decide what your recovery is worth to you and sacrifice or risk accordingly. I prefer the conservative approach and rather try to be safe than sorry.
Henry Ward Beecher: Quote on Sacrifice
“It is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich”
Today I am clean for 3 years and almost 8 months. It was not easy ride from hell and back but the end result was well worth it.
A LETTER FROM LENNARD
I went to rehab for the 1st time in 2000. At that stage I was drinking heavily, smoking crack as well as heroin. I did my 28 day stint and managed to stay clean for five years. It was a lonely and isolated period as I was fearful of integrating back into society. NA meetings were my only support system after rehab. Eventually, I stopped going to meetings because I thought “I am ok and not an addict”.
This lead to a breakdown and I started drinking again, in no time at all I was back on the crack pipe. My life spiraled out of control and I ended up at the same rehab in 2006. Upon my release I was filled with fears of not being able to cope and went straight to the pub. That same night, I ended up in Hillbrow looking for drugs. Pretty soon I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and a doctor prescribed benzodiazepine. Now I was smoking crack to get high, drinking alcohol to come back down and using benzodiazepine for withdrawal. My mental and physical health deteriorated fast and eventually I couldn’t walk, never mind function in society. The result was a stay in hospital. I had reached “rock bottom”, life had no meaning and the shame and guilt was unbearable.
In January 2008 I heard representatives from Westview Clinic discussing addiction on a radio talk show. The next day my mom phoned the Clinic and had me admitted for another 28 days of treatment. Something changed in me during my stay and a seed of hope was planted. I was literally shown who I am and what my potential was. The beginnings of self love was awakened, a concept I never understood before. After long sessions of therapy I felt pity for the person I was shown to be. This was the first spark of empathy and self love.
Somehow I never developed the necessary skills to cope with life’s intricacies. My perceptions were twisted, causing me great emotional pain. I didn’t know how to express or give vent to my feelings. My mind was filled with unnecessary baggage and shame. In my confused state of mind the only escape was to get high. There I found numbness and freedom from feeling anything at all. That brief moment of escape from pain outweighed the horrific consequences of using.
During treatment I was shown how to acknowledge, explore and finally own my feelings. Honesty without fear of repercussion was the key to the process. I was introduced to other avenues of expression such as talking, writing and creative activities. Slowly I learnt how to deal with issues and not leave them until they snowballed. Therapy took me out of my mind into a world of action. The realization came to me that responsibility was solely in my hands.
The Thursday night support group, which I attend every second week, is essential to my recovery. Here, people understand my addiction and accept me a I am. They give honest and practical advice. It’s an opportunity to learn from others who are in the same boat. Accountability to the collective group is a great motivator. It’s a reminder never to turn my back on my addiction. This fellowship inspires me to reach new goals and is a breeding ground for dignity!