Category: Success Stories

My husband – Sober for one year

I honestly did not think this would ever happen after approximately 30 years of drinking, the last 15 yrs heavily.

I do believe if he hadn’t gone to Houghton House rehab when he did our family would not be together today. So a big thank you to everyone there, and to Andrew who runs the Saturday Houghton House support group meetings, who helped me from the beginning of my journey, To understand that I had no control over my husbands addiction, and I needed to let go of the guilt I felt and the feelings of “what was I doing wrong” that I couldn’t get him to stop no matter what I did. Continue reading “My husband – Sober for one year”

grateful addict

My name is Jonty, I am a grateful Addict.

My Story.

It was September 11th, 2011, I sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s car as she drove me to rehab, watching the cars and people go by. I was so numb, so dead inside and yet two emotions kept on trying to surface – the idea that I wouldn’t have to fight anymore to get my fix and anger – anger at being stopped, anger at ever having started.

I was confused, disorientated, lost. My mom kept on crying, asking questions, blaming me, blaming herself, blaming the world. I lashed out to stop her from talking, to stop the horrible and cruel voices inside – the sounds were too loud too invasive. Continue reading “My name is Jonty, I am a grateful Addict.”

Donna-Lee S shares her Journey in Recovery from Substance Abuse Disorder

Donna-Lee S shares her Journey in Recovery from Substance Abuse Disorder

It’s all about never wanting to chase your darkness, choosing to surrender and not give up ……

Close your eyes! Hold your breath! Imagine you are in an elevator! No window! No air! It’s pitch black and you have NO idea how you are going to get out!

Some people know this feeling and for those that don’t know this feeling – this is how it feels to be stuck in the claws of addiction!

I knew I was in a trap but each time I swallowed a few tablets, restricted food or had a drink which was a daily routine I convinced myself that the trap was a figment of my imagination and that the next day I would stop! Obviously, that was complete denial! Continue reading “Donna-Lee S shares her Journey in Recovery from Substance Abuse Disorder”

My name is Nicholas I, I'm an alcoholic and I love myself.

My name is Nicholas I, I’m an alcoholic and I love myself.

Eleven years of sobriety from being an alcoholic and the search for serenity and self-love.

Today the 22nd of October 2017 is my birthday, my recovery birthday, eleven years of sobriety from being an alcoholic.

When I spoke to Dy about writing something for the Houghton House website, we initially were going to do it as an add on to my existing story on the website. However as I started thinking and realising just how much had changed since that story was written and how much I had changed, I felt that a new story was in order and the old story should stay is it is, Dy agreed.

Recovery from being an alcoholic is hard, recovery is easy, recovery is a joy, recovery hurts, recovery is boring, recovery is exciting and it is so much more and it can be all of this at the same time. That for me is it’s real gift. Continue reading “My name is Nicholas I, I’m an alcoholic and I love myself.”

run addiction rehab in jhb

Brady M, recovering addict finds “HOPE” from rehab in Joburg

Recovering Addict finds “HOPE” from rehab in Joburg

Part 1
Love, Hate, Fear, Gambling, Sex and Addiction. This is my story of, after being admitted and finding hope from rehab in Joburg.

From an early age, I never quite experienced much stability. At the age of 2, I was sent away to live with my grandparents. At the age of 4, I returned to live with my mom yet again. At the age of 9, I was shipped off back to my grandparents, returning aged 12.At the age of 14; I was scheduled, yet again, to live with my grandparents. This, however, was no longer possible… Continue reading “Brady M, recovering addict finds “HOPE” from rehab in Joburg”

Shameela at addiction rehab in jhb

Shameela T – An Addicts Journey Into Recovery

Shameela T – An Addicts Journey Into Recovery from the Depths of her Addiction

God, grant us knowledge that we may write according to your divine
precepts. Instill in us servants of your will and grant us a bond of
selflessness that this may truly be your work, not ours, in order that
no addict, anywhere, need die from the horrors of addiction. . . . .

Hi, my name is Shameela and I am an addict. I am a 37 year old woman from
Pretoria, with a loving husband and two wonderful kids. I am the youngest of
three daughters.

Like most of us, I come from a dysfunctional family. Continue reading “Shameela T – An Addicts Journey Into Recovery”

safe in a rehab

Cherie S’s Success Story from Addiction to Heroin

Recovery from Addiction to Heroin

Seven years of growth after seven years of hell.

Today I celebrate my seven years living in the real world. It is a very different experience to living in active addiction. In active addiction, my best days are still worse than my worst days of sobriety. And believe me; life has thrown a lot at me since being sober. My parents’ divorce, a terrible breakup, loss of family members, being broke, operations etc…

If you had told the broken soul that I was seven years ago that today I’d be seven years sober, I would not have believed you. When on your knees with despair, the life drained from you, you just can’t see anything beyond how you are at that moment. You have become so absorbed by your drug, your drug using persona and the hopelessness that comes with it, that you can’t see yourself ever leaving it behind.

But you can! If I did (could) then so can you. Continue reading “Cherie S’s Success Story from Addiction to Heroin”

big addiction rehab in jhb

Secrets Make You Sick – Crack Cocaine Addiction

Secrets Make You Sick – Recovery from Severe Crack Cocaine Addiction 

by: Trevor Kleinhans

11 Years ago exactly I was in the height of my addiction with crack cocaine. It was around this time that I opened my bedroom door and looked across at my 3 year old Jack Russell’s face and ran over to her and just sobbed until I fell asleep. I woke up with her little brother licking my face and Jessie still lying next to me as if she was standing  guard over me. Continue reading “Secrets Make You Sick – Crack Cocaine Addiction”

to late for regrets

Sarah’s* Manic Lifestyle On GHB

Sarah’s* Manic Lifestyle on  GHB  (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid)

It’s an ongoing process – the party/club scene is always coming out with variations and new additions on a old theme – feel good and party drugs.

We would attend private Ecstasy parties regularly, a select grouping from our party social circle, those who could handle the excessiveness of our drug consumption, and make sure all would have a good time, you don’t want anybody losing it and ruining it for everybody too early in the evening.

The party would often start as a casual afternoon braai on a Saturday, 20 maybe 30 of us would be there for the whole weekend. Most would be drinking from early in the day, towards the evening as the music got progressively louder different drugs would be available, generally from our host. You would be offered Ecstasy capsules which you could swallow or open and chop into lines and sniff. Some would go big from the start, others only taking small amounts and building up as time went on.  As a boost, through the weekend, Cocaine, Speed and Crystal Meth were also freely available. Most of us also drank large quantities of alcohol and for those who didn’t like to drink – there would be Nitrous oxide,  inhaled until you fell into a euphoric daze. Good Times?

What changed everything was when the “G”  became the party drug of choice.  One tiny dose of this “G”  pure GHB,  would feel like 6 shots of Tequila, Ecstasy and Nitrous rolled into one. The feel-good effects would last a good 45 minutes to an hour.   It was immediate better and more intense, you felt great, alive, sensual, beautiful, energetic and able to take on the world,  and you wanted to stay that way forever.

Of course there was the down side.

A tiny bit too much, or too soon, or mixing it with alcohol, or sometimes for no apparent reason, one would start staggering, convulsing shuddering and eventually pass out. With the possibility of falling into a coma. Finally when  you do pass out you have no idea of the length of the period or any recollection of what happens during it. This is the really scary part.

Sometimes there would be random people passed out all over the place, with nobody really being overly worried, partly because we were all so out of it, we were also in a “safe” environment. Usually they would wake up within an hour feeling reasonably good, though somewhat confused as to why they were lying on the floor.
Sometimes people would not wake up so well!

Most of us would use at the party and then not touch any drugs for a while – at least until the next party, event or excuse.

I am an addict…
I would use the parties as an excuse to use drugs publicly and would secretly carry on with a daily regime of Crystal Meth and GHB between parties without my family and husband being aware of it.

Life was great.

I was in control.

I knew what I was doing.

I could do this forever.

The beginning of the end was at my dealer, who was always a little too friendly and eager to get me to take drugs with him, he offered to measure it out for me, saying “it was quite vicious and that I’d probably give myself too much”.  I’d perfected the amount of GHB I would use knowing exactly how much to give myself. Eager to get high and stupidly trusting this man to measure out for me whilst I had a line of crystal meth, I took the proffered GHB.

I woke up to find myself in my car not knowing how I got there. I had my bag, I had my drugs, the doors were locked and the keys in the ignition? It was nearing sundown and I needed to be home so that my Husband wouldn’t wonder where I was. (He had no idea of my activities). Very confused I drove home,  only to get home to a more confused and furious husband!

My dealer had circulated pictures of himself having sex with a practically unconscious person … me.

I’d been raped!

I’d been sexually abused without my consent, without even knowing it. I had to come clean and confess to my husband I was using GHB and Meth every day and convince him that I’d not given consent to this invasion of my physical self.

Now the truth was out, I was obviously using, again.
I am an addict…

I promised and convinced my husband that I would not do it again,  I’d be off the drugs and the partying.  Even then I was lying and covering up and convincing myself it was all someone else’s fault.
I am an addict…

A huge music festival was the next weekend and we had planned to go with our 11 year old son and meet friends there. We were in the crowd at the front of the festival. I needed a boost, it would take too long to go to the toilets to measure out the GHB. I guessed. I took too much.Way too much.

I passed out,  convulsing, on the grass, in the crowd, in front of my husband, in front of my son.

I saw what I was doing to my family, to my son! I cared,  but I wanted more … a lot more.
I am an addict…

I was checked into Houghton House that week to get the help I desperately needed.
I am now 6 years clean.
I am an addict…

Sarah’s* name has been changed.

Lindsay A’s Success Story Of Overcoming Her 30 Year Addiction

Lindsay A’s Success Story of Overcoming Her 30 Years Addiction.

My name is Lindsay Ackerman and I am a recovering addict.  Before I start telling you all about my life, let me begin with the fact that I lived all my life unaware of the fact that I had an addiction, and that I was an addict.  I had no clue that the world of NA and recovery existed, I never had any understanding of anything and definitely did not have an understanding of who I was or the disease that I lived with for 30 years.

I was born In Cape Town in May, 1983, which makes me 32 years of age.  My dad was an alcoholic, and that made our family time and home life unpleasant most of the time.  Although we were and are still quite a dysfunctional family, I always got everything that I wanted and my parents stayed together and gave us the best that they could.  I remember all the fights between my parents and always being stuck in the middle feeling like I had to choose a side.  Apart from all the fighting when my dad drank, they loved us unconditionally and as a family love was the one constant that we always had among us to this day.  I am the youngest of four children, I have 2 older sisters, Michelle (43), Meagan (41) and a brother Eugene (35).  I  went to pre-school at the age of 4 years and moved on to Sub A the following year.  I was a year too young but they had the space for one more, and I will never forget going to my first day of school in a bright yellow dress.  From a young age I displayed a natural talent in art and drawing.  I was a sprinter from Sub A and was always on of the top athletes throughout my schooling up till Matric.  I did long jump as well as javelin. I loved sports and art and it was my be all and end all.  I attended Norman Henshilwood High School which was then a Model C school.  I was part of the volleyball team, tennis 3rd team girls and continued my Athletics in 100m and 200m and long jump.  Art was one of my main subjects and I attended Frank Joubert Art Centre, doing various subjects and chose ceramics for 3 yrs and I did history of Art. This was a big part of what made me truly happy and who I was and lost touch with later on in my life.

In my opinion I was not a problem child growing up but I was definitely naughty.  I was always doing things that I was told not to do.  I loved being involved with anything that was messy.  I was a bit of a tom boy and always got into trouble for drawing pictures of cars with permanent markers on the walls, had a passion for cars from a young age as well.  I was very close to my dad and brother and always wanted to be doing what they did.  I absolutely hated being in dresses and my sisters always pretended that I was their live Barbie doll.

As a child of course I would not have known what the signs of being an addict was which are all very clear to me now that it was always present from small.  I would go to birthday parties at the age of 5 yrs and would come home days later.  Play time was never enough for me, I always had to make my parents fetch me when I was the last one left.  I loved chocolate, I would go shopping with my mom and take chocolates when she wasn’t looking and hide them under my clothes, at the age of 3 or 4 yrs.  A family holiday in Knysna my mom had to look after me because it was Easter and I had eaten all the chocolates that we had and got so sick I threw up all weekend and I was about 6 yrs of age.  I had my first taste of alcohol at age 10, and my first cigarette at age 11.  I experimented more with both in high school but it was more a social thing and it was the one thing that made me feel a bit rebellious. I was a prefect in Std.5 as well and Matric, I generally liked sticking to the rules because I hated being in trouble with authority.

I Matriculated in the year 2000, if it was left up to me I would have taken a gap year but my parents would not allow that. My dream career was to become a Graphic Designer and that was the prize I had my eye set on.  I registered for an Access Course at Cape Technikon, which was an introductory to all the designs courses. I discovered that working with my hands was my gift.  I paid great attention to detail and was a perfectionist.  I fell in love with Interior Design and my career choice shifted.  I kept my head down and worked hard, went to all my classes as tempting as the beach on a hot summers day was.  I was always part of the popular crowd since primary school and I managed to hold on to me without being influenced by peer pressure, I was always teased for being boring or too good. At this point my sisters and brother had moved out and I was left alone with my parents. I had a part time job at McDonalds, I would go to tech and straight after on a Friday went to work and usually had the shift that ended at 1 am. This was my routine for about a year.  I never enjoyed being at home and used my dad’s drinking as an escape to always be out. I was part of quite a close group of friends and we would go away on weekends quite a bit and this was when I had my first encounter with hard drugs, Ecstasy, and Coke.  I always got really nervous when I would take them, fearing something bad would happen to me and my parents would find out. Our weekends away increased and I got more and more comfortable with using and enjoying the feeling.

2003, the year that every choice I made led me in the wrong direction and steered me completely off the path I had planned for myself.  I had changed my part time job to a sales person in a retail store, and was earning some decent money.  I would work weekends, go to tech and party all weekend, drinking was my absolute favorite and would often go to work on a Sunday morning still drunk and reeking of alcohol and sleeping it off in the stock room. I would always drink myself into such a state ensuring that I would have an embarrassing story to tell or needed to be told because I could not remember.

I was off to a party one Saturday night and we had some work to finish at tech, my friend had a glass pipe that I had never seen before. I was offered to have from it, I hesitated at first but had a hit.  The best feeling that I ever had and I fell in love immediately with my worst nightmare, Crystal Meth.  It gave me so much power, and I would just keep going for days, work, studying, partying and feeling fantastic without needing to sleep.  Of course it also made me feel sober when I drank so I could drink more.   I decided that making money was more important than having a career at this point.  I left my studies and worked full time.  Of course my parents were not happy with my decision but I stopped listening to anything they would tell me, because I knew better.  Life was great, moved out the house because  my dad was the problem and I couldn’t live with them anymore. Met a guy that was my dealer and this turned into a friendship.  I stayed with a friend who used as well and while I was still in my partying phase of using and it was fun, she was at a different point to me, she would steal from me and eventually I was supporting us both because she gave up her job to stay at home and use as much as she could.  I started using during the week, needed it to get up for work, overslept most mornings and was always needing to lie to get out of trouble at work.  My life was completely unmanageable, and I was exhausted from all the chaos that I was so attracted to.  I woke up one morning and called my Mom and asked her to please send me to Joburg to be by my sisters.  I felt that when they all moved out of the house, I felt abandoned by them and nobody to look up to anymore.  My Mom agreed and booked my ticket, I used and used and once again overslept for my flight that I just left all my luggage in Cape Town and got on the plane.  I cried all the way and drank as much as I could and it was 8 am on a Sunday morning.  I got to Joburg and I felt it was definitely the break that I needed, out of sight and out of mind.  I had no access to drugs and knew nobody.  My dealer that I had, decided to come to Joburg and contact me, told me he loved me and he can’t see himself living without me.  I hesitated at first but he came up every weekend and we would hang out, this went on for 8 months and I found myself falling in love with him as well.  It was a costly exercise and I decided that it was time I went back home to Cape Town, and I wanted to be with him.  2005 I was back in Cape Town and the relationship that was so special that we had in Joburg turned into everything but special.  I started using again, I found myself being locked in rooms and cupboards while he went out cheating with other girls.  I refused to leave because I was deeply in love so everything I chose to put myself through I used it as an excuse to use more.  Everything just went from bad to completely messed up.  So for the next 6 years the same cycle repeated itself, the cycle of being in a toxic relationship, changing jobs, moving back and forth between Joburg and Cape Town, and moving from my own place to always ending up back home because I could never afford the lifestyle I chose to live.  Having money for my drugs came first and then my rent and food.  I was using to live and I lived to use.  I would open my eyes and have a hit, I used on every emotion, every event and for any and every reason.  I was slowly sucking the life out of me and I blamed everything and everybody else.  I felt so sorry for myself.  Life was so unfair and I had no idea what I did wrong to deserve all that had happened to me.  Playing the victim became an art that I mastered over years.

2010, I had finally moved on from my ex boyfriend, I got back together with one of my very first boyfriends who left me for his high school sweetheart, got married and divorced.  We were at a party one night and I met someone else.  I wasn’t looking for anything serious and I was tired of getting hurt.  I decided to see them both and make a choice from there, they both found out about each other and forced me to decide, obviously I decided on the one who never left me for someone else before.  He never used but we partied every weekend and even though I stopped using my drinking escalated and affected my work just as much as drugs did.  I was happy trying to live a normal life but it wasn’t enough for me, I craved the chaos and found myself making excuses to be left on my own and started spending time with old using friends, found myself lying to him so that I could spend time using instead of meeting him for a braai at his friends or to watch the soccer game at a pub.  My behavior changed and all we started doing was fight over absolutely everything.  He broke up with me and even though I was not present in the relationship it was in me to hold on ever so tightly to something that was unhealthy.  When I let go of him, he returned and it lasted for a few months, he left me for someone else that he is now married to and that was that.

2011, I changed direction in my career path and started working at BMW, using my break up as ammunition to start using full time again.  I never ever gave myself a break from men, I met someone new, and every time I just chose someone more toxic than the last and I became more toxic.  May 2012, I had run away from home with this guy and stayed at places I would never ever see myself even sitting at.  I was back in the cycle of being late for work every day, not sleeping, and I eventually got myself in a situation where I was far away from home, never knew anybody around me, I resigned at work because I just messed up everything and it was attracting too much attention to my life I was living.  He started physically abusing me as soon as I was in a position of having no power, I found out that he was married and had a daughter.  I made one bad choice after the other.  He wanted to see his daughter and I let him use the BMW that was given to me for 2 weeks to get me around.  He switched his phone off and returned 4 days later, during this time I came to learn that he was a very dangerous person that was part of a gang.  During those 4 days I never ate a thing, I never slept a wink and all I did was use and use more.  I was skin and bones and felt sick, the only options I had was drown myself or take an overdose of pills.  I do believe that my Higher Power was present at those times.  All I wanted to do was die, my family never knew where I was, nobody did, and I was around very dangerous people.  He returned after I made some calls to his leader and threatened that I would go to the police and he had gotten one of his guys to bring him and my car back.  The next day I took a walk in the area and it got dark and I just felt like running as far and as fast as I could.  I returned to the house and he was waiting for me, he looked for any word that I said wrong to attack me, he threw a screwdriver at me and once again my Higher Power was with me, the plastic end hit me in my neck, swollen neck and face wet from crying. I made a plan to call my aunt and tell her where I was to fetch me.  He had stolen everything from me, and I had nothing left.  She fetched me the next day and my sisters booked me a ticket to Joburg once again.

10th August 2012, I was on a plane with nothing but a gym bag filled with random dirty clothes that I had with me.  I was broken, mind, body and soul.  I landed and they were so grateful to see me alive.  I left my Dad in Cape Town crying because he thought I was dead when I disappeared.  I never showered for 4 days when I got there, all I did was sleep and wake up to have some water and maybe something to eat.  My nephew kept asking my sister what was wrong with me.  After a week they forced me into a bath and took me to buy new clothes.  I started fighting with them to let me go back to Cape Town, the insanity of wanting to go back to what I had thankfully escaped.  I drank every day and would be drunk by the time they would come home from work, I refused to look for a job.  They tossed me from one sister to the other because I was too much for them.  They refused to let me go back to Cape Town so I refused to do anything but drink every day.  I became aggressive with all of them, and they just wanted to reach out and help me.  After threatening my sister with a knife, I made the choice to tell her everything about my drug using and where I was and my life for the past 10 years.  She immediately wanted me to go to rehab and I managed to manipulate my other sister into talking her out of it.  End of 2012, she had a friend that knew someone who had a treatment center, and I went along to meet Dan Wolf and have a look at Houghton House.  I paid no attention and wasn’t interested at all, I merely went along because that is what she asked me to do.  At this point I was still in denial in seeing that I had a problem.  I convince them all that I will stay clean on my own and do my best to make a change.  It was going to be easy because I was in Joburg, I had no car and no friends.  After 3 months I made peace with the fact that I was here to stay and they bought me new clothes instead of letting me go back to Cape Town.  Eventually they let me go home for 3 days to pack up all my things.  I landed and had a friend waiting for me which I arranged and the first thing I did was have a hit and got as high as I could in those 3 days.  I packed up all my boxes and arranged for someone to have it sent down by truck, and was able to have a utensil to smoke from and a gram of crystal put into my boxes and when it arrived. I couldn’t wait to get high.  I got a job as soon as I started looking at Hyundai, selling cars again.  I now had a car and started earning really well.  3 months later, I met up with 2 friends that moved here from CT as well for the same reasons and we missioned to get a dealer and my sisters were away for 2 weeks and all I did was get high.  I started chatting to an old friend who now lives in the UK and we became very close because I had nothing else to do and I was lonely, and I was able to get into a toxic relationship over skype.  He came to visit and it was a complete disaster, Feb 2013, this was such a bad choice, I used this as my excuse to use every day again and now I had found my own dealer and was getting to know my way around.  I preferred using on my own and was taken to a casino one day and sat and played a bit and saw this as a great place to be, I could sit and drink alone and have my drugs and I didn’t need to have friends to do this because so many people sat alone at casino’s.  Making a lot of money, no responsibility this became my thing, straight from work picked up my drugs, went to the casino and stayed there till my sister would call asking me where I was.  Started becoming addicted to the machines and was using up to R10 000 a time especially on a Saturday after work, I had more time during the day to be away from home.  I was getting out of control, Gambling all my money away, drinking and using every day, same pattern back in full force, over sleeping for work, became aggressive and defensive to everybody protecting my using with my life. My sisters had enough of me and both threw me out the house, I was living in my car, not showering on some days because I had nowhere to go, waited for them to go to work so that I could change in front of their house.  Met a guy at the casino, and it was convenient for me at the time because I could crash at his place and he gambled as well.  Almost exactly a year later, I found myself in a situation yet again I overslept for work and got there after 12, they said I should go home, I left and went to the dealer and spent the rest of my day getting high at the casino, I was addicted to drugs, men, gambling and chaos.  Anything that filled the void I always felt.  I took the next day off and went for an interview and planned on resigning that Friday.

Let’s just say my Higher Power never lets me down, My boss at that time, refused to let me resign and asked me if I wanted help, I sat for 2 hours in his office denying that I had a problem, eventually the word I now ​have come to know, I surrendered, I couldn’t do it anymore, the lies, the manipulation, the fighting, the chaos and the repetitive cycle that brought me nothing but trouble.  I promised him I would go home and tell my sisters, I lied, I went straight to the dealer and bought my last 2 grams and used the entire weekend and went home on  the Monday and told my sisters that I need to go to rehab.  I agreed to let work help me through the process.  The rehab that work suggested was horrible and I refused to stay there, it seemed like a prison and I remembered Houghton House that we had a look at the year before.  I begged my sister to let me go there instead, she arranged everything while I needed to sleep.  On the 5th of August 2013 I stopped drinking and using drugs.  On the 7th of August 2013 I checked in at Houghton House Primary Care.

This is where I feel my life started all over again.  I did for a while question what did I get myself into.  I thought I was going to sleep and detox, but they let me sleep for my first day, after that it was getting up at 7, making my own bed and following a strict timetable and set of rules.  Apart from that, I had to get use to strangers, touching me and hugging me, and groups, having no choice but to reveal information about myself.  It took me a while to get use to this but I was OK, I entered into a whole new world and I had a lot to learn.  Admitting that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol and I could never drink again was the hardest to accept.  I found out during my 6 weeks in Primary Care that I was pregnant and had to have an abortion. It was quite a traumatic experience that I still sometimes think of but it was a decision that was best for me at the time.  I had to learn to look after myself first let alone be responsible for another human being.

I followed all suggestions, I went over to The Gap and stayed there for next 3 months.  This is where the real work began, I never really liked step work much but we had to do it.  Doing my step 4 brought about a lot of emotions that I buried during my 10 years of using.  Dealing with myself was the hardest part of recovery for me and I still battle to sit with myself and sit with emotions. I then moved onto the halfway house for another 6 months and things started to improve more and more.  I continued counselling sessions, I was in After Care for 3 months and did Relapse Prevention for another 3 months after that. I was able to to start working on relationships that I destroyed with my family by never being present.  I started learning to deal with life on life’s terms and that I can’t always get my way, and when I don’t I need to use the tools that I was taught in treatment to get me through just for today. I moved back home to my eldest sister in May 2014 and since then I have changed jobs, been in a relationship that ended in November, found out my dad has cancer, dealing with them all one day at a time and some days, one minute at a time and as every day that I stay clean I am greatful.  I still go to my counseling session every second week, I chair a meeting at The Gap every Thursday, doing service brings me great pleasure and helps me so much.  I have sponsee’s that add so much to my recovery, and a sponsor that has become a very close friend.  I do meetings every week, I love stepwork now, it’s the heart of my program and where I am able to have a look at myself from within and work on the changes I need to make.  It is a program of action and when I quietly live my every day doing what I must, I am serene.  I am greatful that I can face all these challenges that life has to offer with a sober mind and some days are really tough but I have a really awesome support system that are always available to help me however I need.  I have just entered into my 3rd year of recovery and I feel I have also started a new phase, Learning to love myself and see my worth, something I have never been able to do.  I am becoming more aware of myself and my surroundings, I don’t always get it right but it’s a learning experience that is worth every step you take.

Living life in recovery has been by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and one day at a time gets me closer to being the person I am meant to be.  The saying is so true, my worst day now, is by far better than my best days using.




One Of The Many Youths Enjoying Sobriety

22 Year Old Alcoholic That Has Become One Of The Many Youths Enjoying Sobriety

I was born in Johannesburg in 1992. I am the middle child and was born into a well off family. I went to a nice school in Johannesburg, but my only memories were of me crying and being deeply sad at school. We eventually moved to a peaceful coastal town where I went to a new school. I immediately felt better and was more comfortable at school. Two things that made life difficult for me were this continuing anxiety as well as being very argumentative. I believe these came from a deep rooted insecurity. 

Because this coastal town was very free, as kids we were left a lot to our own devices. When I was 12 I got drunk for the first time with friends. It was absolutely amazing as I felt no anxiety or fear when I drank. I also got an amazing confidence that made my insecurity seem non-existent. The first time I also drank until I got sick and blacked out. This happened to most of us that night so it didn’t seem abnormal. It also didn’t matter because I had found liquid gold! I also tried marijuana that year and loved it. I reacted differently to my friends, where I acted stranger than them.

For high school I went to a prestigious boarding school. I was abused at school where as punishment it was not peculiar to be lashed with a cricket bat by older boys. I hated my first year of high school. Slowly I began to find my unique place in the school. I excelled in academics as well as other activities. While at boarding school I never drank or smoked during term time, but every holiday I would go back to my home town and drink as well as smoke tobacco and marijuana occasionally. During high school I experience two bouts of depression. My family was not very emotional and I was hyper sensitive, which often made me feel like the black sheep of the family. I was the centre of most fights between my brothers and parents and always believed it was due to their faults.

I accomplished great things by the time I matriculated and went to university in Cape Town the next year. I stayed in residence and loved the ability to be able to drink without rules or restrictions that came with boarding school. In my first year of university I became known for being able to party hard and drink a lot. It was the first time I felt truly popular. I also excelled at university and was able to cope with my academics with ease. At this point my way of dealing with a hangover was to go for a run the next morning. Anxiety was still there, but drinking gave me a relief. Drinking at this point was still manageable and still a glorious amount of fun.

In my second year at university I accomplished even more than the first. I got an incredible scholarship and was selected to represent on many committees and societies. I still remained very popular, but I still felt that something was always missing. This feeling brought on anxiety and my third bout of depression, which is when I started seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist on a regular basis. I had this belief that the psychologist and medication would sort out my problem. I found out at this point that I was bipolar as well as truly starting to come to terms with the fact that I was bisexual. I still hid it and it created a great amount of anxiety as I felt ashamed of it.

My third year of university started off great. I came out to all of my friends and family and managed to get an amazing boyfriend. Halfway through is where my life really started to crumble around me. Academics became a great deal more challenging and it was starting to get difficult to cope,especially with the amount of partying and drinking that I did. I was still drinking and partying to a similar extent of my first year at university, while my friends had begun to calm down. Blackouts were frequent and this was often followed by finding out I did embarrassing things the night before. I got arrested for drunken driving during that year as well as drove drunk on occasions. With all the drinking I did (as well as the marijuana), there was no chance my medication was going to be effective. I began to feel very alone and extremely depressed to the point of harming myself. Occasionally I began to huff deodorant, which caused moments of extreme paranoia.

My friendships started to get tested and some fell apart completely. I stopped looking after myself. I stopped exercising. I stopped showering or brushing my teeth every day. My room was constantly a mess and this is where I began drinking by myself as well as in the mornings to get rid of my hangovers. I used up all my savings and had to constantly ask my Dad for more money as I couldn’t manage my finances. Probably 80 percent of all my money was spent on booze. My academics started to slip. I didn’t fail anything, but got an examination deferred because of ‘medical reasons’. I was having an utter breakdown, but it was entirely due to my own actions. I manipulated all those around me using my mental breakdown as an excuse.

In November of 2013 I went with one of my best friend’s Mom (a recovering alcoholic) to an AA meeting. My friend said she had gone and she thought it was a great experience that everyone should do. I thought that I was being insightful and super spiritual for going. Those two were so clever because the seed of the solution was planted in my thoughts.

My relationship with my family also began to deteriorate. My parents began to realise I had a drinking problem and probably didn’t sleep properly the entire year. I began lying to them. When I was at home I hid bottles around the house and even stole money from my mom twice. I was miserable and aggressive and fighting with the whole family constantly.

The summer of 2013 was where the hardcore drilling began of my rock bottom. My family began to lock the booze room at night in order to prevent me from drinking after everyone had gone to bed. I said they didn’t trust me; rightly so. I left home and co-incidentally to stay with that same best friend and her Mom (still in recovery). I missed Christmas that year and later found that my family were miserable, because of my absence and behaviour.

A few weeks later my family begged for me to come home and they promised to not lock the booze room. That was my one condition; how ridiculous that I missed the most special holiday with my family just because of limiting my access to alcohol. Everyone avoided conflict with me because they realised that it was futile and would only lead to me shouting or doing something stupid.

I went back to Cape Town to study for my deferred examination. My anxiety was paralyzing. My depression was crippling and my mental state began to deteriorate at an accelerating rate. My relationship with my boyfriend was the last one standing and even that began to go downhill. For the 4 weeks of December/January I could not stop drinking for even a day. I smoked marijuana quite frequently during this period and was out of mind for the entire time. I could not get even close to study. My hyper-sensitivity was at the extreme. I could feel anxiety, fear, depression, anger and deeply alone. These feelings would be so intense that I thought that they could kill me. I also felt like this would last forever. I didn’t see a way out because I blamed the state of my life on my bipolar disorder. I had lost the ability to find joy in my life. I had lost all connection with any form of spirituality. I was a liar. I was a thief. I was inconsiderate. I was so selfish that it had left a wake of destruction for all those around me. I was wallowing in self-pity and thought that my life was worse than everyone else’s. I was unwilling to do anything about it and expected everyone around me to fix everything. I thought that I was the centre of my small twisted Universe.

Two days before my examination I was sitting on the stoep of my digs in Cape Town and realised that I had to ask for help, but not like I used to. I had to ask for help and be willing to help myself. I knew that I wasn’t a typical alcoholic that was old and had lost his job and family. I was an alcoholic that could end up like that very quickly. I was privileged to see that if I did nothing I would end up with nothing. No job. No family. No friends. That seed that was planted the few months ago received its first bit of willingness to help it grow. I called my mom and asked her if I could go into rehab. She was relieved and the next day I was on a flight and went into Houghton House on the 18th of January 2014 at the age of 21. I have been sober from alcohol and all mind or mood altering substances since.

I was posed with two options. I can either pick up a drink or do whatever it takes not to pick up a drink. I have decided to do whatever it takes to not pick up a drink.

I went to my counsellor and told her I am ready to do whatever it takes, but I don’t know how to do it. She said: “HOW is the right question. Be Honest, Open-minded and Willing. If you start with that you cannot go wrong” (paraphrased slightly). Because I was so spiritually bankrupt I needed some place to start getting better. I was depressed and anxious for the first week of rehab, but after that I began to feel better; my medication began to work as I wasn’t poisoning myself with booze anymore. I realized that I have an allergy to alcohol; when I have one drink my freewill to stop me from having the next, disappears. One is too many and a thousand is never enough is the first thing that comes to mind when I feel like a drink. I also realised that alcohol is not my problem. I am the problem and I needed to change to get better.

One of my greatest experiences was sharing all my secrets with my counsellor. It lifted a great amount of shame and guilt. I also began relating to those around me and I began to find out that I wasn’t alone. I also began to realise that I am not special and different from other addicts or alcoholics. We all have the same disease and we also have the same treatment; recovery, which stems from the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I absolutely love Alcoholics Anonymous! It has saved my life and will save countless others in the future. There is only one condition, you have to get honest. Everything else are suggestions. I followed the suggested things and I reaped the rewards.

After 4 weeks I went back to Cape Town and joined an outpatient treatment programme. I did 120 meetings in 120 days, while completing my studies. It was stressful and there was a great amount of time-constraints, but it was only because of my programme that life became manageable. I got a sponsor and worked the rest of the steps with her. I did service at meetings and got a home group. I managed to graduate at the end of that year with a first-class pass.

I found a higher power, not through any religion, but of my own understanding. I see my higher power in the beauty of music, art and nature. This faith has changed my life. At first my faith was miniscule and I was sceptical, but the more my life changes and the more I grow I have to realise that some miracle has happened and will continue to happen if I work for it.

My relationship with my friends has improved dramatically. My relationship with my family is healing more each day that I work my programme. Although I am no longer with my boyfriend, we had an amicable break-up and are friends today. I can now manage my finances properly and am currently working and studying towards a master’s degree. The world around me has not changed, but I have changed so that I can be more comfortable with the world around me.

I used to believe that my anxiety was due to my mental illness and that counsellors and psychiatrists had to do all the work to fix it. I realise that I have to do the majority of the work, and medication and therapy has to do only a little. I began to exercise again. Eat properly. Look after myself. If I hand my will and my life over to the care of my higher power then my anxiety (aka. Fearfulness) improves dramatically. I also stopped smoking and this has also helped dramatically.

There are 12 promises that are often mentioned in the rooms of AA. Every single one of them has become true in my life. I have changed dramatically and the lens in which I see life through has changed with it. I finally feel freedom from my anxiety. I sometimes have not so nice days, but even my worst days now are better than my best days at my rock bottom. Do you know what the most amazing thing is? It is about progress and I will forever grow and become a better person so that I can live humbly and be a positive contributor to society. I was told by an old-timer in Houghton House that if I work my programme and stay in recovery, then things beyond my wildest dreams will come true. This will only happen if I work for it. Recovery has not only saved my life, but made it better than it ever was before.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Our Youth in Recovery selected this image of the Northern Lights because this beauty is a prime example that there is something bigger than them!

northern lights

bomb 5 years clean

Bronwen Smith’s Raw and Honest Story of her Recovery

Bronwen Smith’s Raw and Honest Story of her Recovery.

My Life Story – Bronwen Smith (Experience-Strength-Hope – 18 Months – 04 June 2015)

I’m Bronwen and I’m an addict. I’m going to take you on my life’s journey and hope you take something out of my share.

I come from a loving, stable, secure family. So secure that my parents are still married after

42 happy years of marriage. I have one older brother, Brett who is married to Christie. They have a 2 year old son Cole, who they’ve made me legal guardian to, which I am very proud to be.

I don’t remember much from my early childhood years… but then who does. I was born in Durban; however I have moved back and forth my whole life between Durban and Johannesburg.

While still living in Durban, like all teenagers, I started experimenting at a young age. My experimenting started off with alcohol which started off as a now and then thing but progressed very quickly to an every weekend activity. Alcohol as you know gives you a false sense of confidence and makes you lose all your inhibitions, which then by the age of 15 led me to try and start smoking weed occasionally.

At this stage we moved from Durban back to Johannesburg, and this is when my wheels fell off.

One of my first addictions was Tippex thinners and when I ran out… nail polish remover. I started smoking more weed, and there was a lot of drinking… Including stealing my dad’s red wine and other booze. A month before my 16th birthday, I got extremely pissed at a party and ended up having sex for the first time, which ended up being a one night stand.

Falling in love was easy, but my first love *Darren was not the best influence as well as turning out to be an abusive person. I went from weed, alcohol and thinners to experimenting with acid at the night clubs I enjoyed frequenting. At school I rebelled badly, and eventually took an overdose at the age of 17 and was hospitalised. After this, once home, I couldn’t handle my reality and have never coped well with being told what to do, so thought the best escape was to run away. I ran away for a month to *Darren and his family. This snowballed into problem after problem and eventually I dropped out of school in the 3rd term of STD 9.

Now out of school, completely lost and not knowing what to do with my life, I enrolled in a Girl Friday course at Academy of Learning – where I completed a 1 year course in 6 months. I started working when I was 17. All of this took its toll on my family as you all can imagine and in 1996 my dad had a mild stroke, which at the time, he blamed me for. My family and I then moved a few times after this back and forth between cities but still I rebelled and took no responsibility for my actions and all the events surrounding what I never realised then to be – MY ADDICTION.

My addictions took a turn for the worse when I started dabbling in Ecstasy. By the time I turned 21 I had tried coke while still continuing with the rest of my vices, all while hitting the pubs, clubs and rave scene in a big way.

I was lucky enough to receive a free plane ticket at a previous company I worked at, so took this opportunity to travel abroad, I did a working holiday in London, travelled to Ibiza and did a 21 day Contiki tour around Europe. My travels were amazing but my vices followed me and my addiction had not changed – I now realise this is because I had no idea I actually was an addict and had been for a very long time.

On my return, I started working at Cinevation (where I currently still work) from 17 October 2001 as a PA. My boss grew me into a media position within a year. I studied a part time Media Management Diploma at the AAA School of Advertising in 2008 and became fully qualified in Media and Advertising.

One of the biggest and most tragic and traumatising events in my life was soon to become my reality, in the next love I met by the name of *Paul. He was my everything and I was completely devoted to him in every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately he was the ultimate abuser, manipulator and fuelled my addiction to levels of no return.

I had my first line of Cat in December 2001 just before meeting *Paul. With *Paul I continued to use cat and E but it progressed to cat every weekend, then once during the week, then we became middlemen dealers, which is when our habit increased. We were co-dependent, I smoked weed occasionally, and we used to go for 4 days with no sleep until we passed out. *Paul developed psychosis after all the abuse of Weed, Cat and Coke (which I didn’t know about). He tried to set me alight in Ponta D’Ouro; he tried to strangle me a few times, sometimes I would even hurt myself because I couldn’t handle being accused and blamed for things all the time. I couldn’t shave, wear sexy underwear or even go to the guest loo 5 steps away from him, without him seeing me at all times, because he would wonder who I was having sex with. These are just a few of the things I went through with *Paul, I would have you here for a long time, if I had to go through all events that took place.

We got engaged in 2005 and were supposed to get married in November 2006, but I ended up in a treatment centre (The Gap) on the 25th July 2006. The event which led me into treatment was, that my boss strongly suspected I was using and called an intervention with my family. I started as an outpatient at a treatment centre (First Step) but *Paul had not started treatment which made it almost impossible for me to stop, being around him while he was using.

I thought I could cheat the system by asking others how long it had been before they got tested, however that didn’t work out that well. I got “bust” twice by testing positive and was then sent into an inpatient treatment centre (The Gap) for 13 weeks. *Paul continued using. He came through to visit me one Saturday and was tested upon arrival and tested positive for Coke. He was then sent to a rehab in Underberg for 6 weeks. I managed to keep my job, and the 13 weeks in treatment (The Gap) were given to me as unpaid leave. I was probably clean and sober for about 4 months. I then started drinking again in the December, I was never a big drinker, but started drinking again, so relapsed. *Paul and I starting using Cat occasionally again, and eventually the abuse started all over again. Towards the end he was going to whore houses, and always blamed me for having orgies whilst he was sleeping. He eventually used to drop me at work and I would always have to report to him my every move. It was mostly verbal and emotional abuse that I went through, however there was some physical. The final straw was after one weekend when he grabbed and bruised my arm quite badly, I spoke to my folks finally, told them what was going on and they helped me move out the next Wednesday, 12th September 2007. From this day I didn’t use drugs again for about 4 and a half years, however I continued to drink. By this stage, I hardly saw friends anymore and also hardly saw my family. My brother was no longer mates with *Paul. I was made to give the engagement ring back, even though I paid for the gold and the making of the ring… as the diamonds were family Heirlooms. He had broken me right down, from a confident and happy person, to someone who hardly spoke and cried every day… I began to think that crying every day was normal until I left him and then realised that it wasn’t. I was scared to start over and to move back in with my folks, but it turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done.

I had to rebuild myself. I had flings with a few guys. I then bumped into *Ray, who I had known from my school days. We dated for about 2 months, this is when I finally realised how I should be treated and I’ll always be so grateful to him for that. I did however turn out to be his rebound. I then dated *Steve for about 3 months, who I had met through *Ray, and turned out to be his rebound too. Overtime, *Ray and *Steve became my 2 best guy mates. *Ray unfortunately was involved in a car accident in March 2011, he was in a coma for 7 ½ months and then passed away on 12 November 2011. This affected me more than I realised at the time, and even after 3 years since his passing, it still hurts. However, I know it will eventually get easier.

I started using shrooms from about March 2012 and occasionally E and then back to my drug of choice, Cat. In September 2012 I met a guy, *Craig at a mate’s birthday. He was a dealer on the side. Apart from a few MDMA’s or pills, I never really bought or got anything else from him. *Craig and I were together properly from November to the beginning of February 2013 when he ended it. I was really hurt. One of my best mates, gave me her healer’s number to see if she could help me. I saw my healer from 14 February until June for 4 sessions and a healing your heart course. In this time I realised that I had never dealt with the way *Paul treated me, I’d just suppressed it. It was suggested to work on me and my happiness. I also learnt to always trust my gut and always do what makes me feel comfortable and happy.

My using became every weekend from February 2013 when *Craig and I broke up. I became a weekend addict. I went out every weekend with one of my best mates *Claire. *Claire and I have known each other since 2001. She used to date *Paul and our brothers knew each other from Durban. We lost some contact and didn’t see each other that often, however we became single at the same time and started using every weekend together until August 2013 when she started getting serious with her current boyfriend. It was at this time that I started seeing a lot more of the new mates I’d met like *Ben and the Guys, *Keith, *Sarah and a few others. Every weekend we got together and used. We’d club hop, always finding the next “jol”, and would carry on like idiots. This is also when I started taking GHB and tried Crystal Meth and basically did whatever was going. We did have a lot of great times; however it wasn’t all smiles for me, especially from August when some bad consequences started. There are three particularly bad ones that come to mind.

In August 2013, after using and staying awake from Friday through to Monday morning 2am. When I got home I took half a dormicum sleeping tab. I started feeling wobbly after about 15 mins, so sat on my kitchen bar stool. The last thing I remember is eating a tennis biscuit and smoking a cigarette. The next thing I know, it’s about 3am or just after and I wake up on the floor not knowing what’s happened and I have a sore left leg or foot, not quite sure what’s sore. I got up and went to bed. In the morning I woke up for work, took painkillers and continued with my day. By the afternoon my foot was so sore that I decided to go to Olivedale Emergency. I had to be driven there. It was so swollen and blue that the doctors thought it was broken. I had x-rays and got examined. It turned out that I had severely damaged / torn the ligaments and hurt the tendon. I was given a moon boot and crutches, was off work for 3 days and had to have 5 weeks of physio.

In November 2013, I went to a mate *Lyle’s house with my mate *Keith. We partied on Cat and GHB from the Friday night, throughout Saturday. I had been having ½ ml of GHB at a time. Around early Saturday evening, we all decided to have another G. As I had mine, it tasted stronger than usual, not knowing that *Lyle had poured it this time, instead of *Keith and he had poured me 4ml’s. Within 20 mins I was lying on the grass moving around so much and all I was saying was “Please help me, I don’t like this”. I don’t remember every single moment after that. I remember being carried inside, then I felt sick so puked outside, I then wanted to go and lie down. *Lyle took me into his room and locked the door. My friends were knocking on the door and shouting for me and I remember him telling me to tell them I’m fine. We ended up having what I thought was consensual sex, but because of the state of mind I was in and because of him knowingly giving me 4ml, it was rape. I only found this out in a gender group in treatment. I eventually got out of the bedroom, I remember not being in control of what I was doing at all. The last thing I remember is having a swim and sitting in the garden. The next thing I knew is that it was 3 and a half hours later and I woke up in a bed inside with all my mates around me. I had blacked out and didn’t know what had happened. The rape never really affected me to the extent of what I can imagine being raped would affect someone, as in active addiction I was very Promiscuous, which I had a lot of guilt and shame around. Due to this, I blamed myself for what had happened at the time, as I felt I had allowed it to happen.

The last consequence is actually what made me ask for help. This was definitely higher power stuff, as I had prayed on the Wednesday for help to stop using. The first weekend in December, I went to Truth with my mate *Sarah. I took a Candy Flip capsule called a Super C. I honestly thought I was going to die. It was fun in the beginning; however the acid was so hectic that even strangers were asking me if I was ok – I must’ve looked hell of a chowed. Finally when we went to the car, I tried to have a bullet of cat to come right and I started getting sick, so badly that I was battling to catch a breath. After getting sick, I was even more out of it and all I wanted to do was go home. *Sarah took me to ESP in this state, which I managed for all of about just over an hour and then was taken home. I took a tranquiliser when I got home, slept for 8 hours, woke up and went and joined some mates in my complex and carried on using. I got home late Sunday night and took another tranquiliser. I woke up late for work on the Monday morning to my mom arriving at my place and waking me up and asking what was going on. At first I got defensive and tried to lie, but then something made me speak up and tell her that I have been using again. I then told my boss and went through to my treatment centre (Houghton House) for an interview. I was very resistant to going into treatment and I was a real nightmare, angry, scared and extremely full of shit, however I eventually agreed to go into treatment and was admitted on 4 December 2013. My drugs of choice were mostly cat and GHB and only once I was admitted into treatment, did I discover that I was also addicted to codeine. My adcodol were taken away from me which pissed me off as I always had headaches, not realising at the time that it was my addiction to codeine that was giving me the headaches. I withdrew for about 10 days with terrible headaches, however I was given Mypaid to help with this.

So I clearly didn’t arrive in treatment because my life was good! However, unlike my first time in treatment, where I had over R80k debt… Which I was fortunate enough that my dad paid everything off for me, and then cancelled my credit card, overdraft and all my clothing accounts… I didn’t have debt coming into recovery this time round. My rock bottom was definitely my health and spirituality.

My clean date is 4 December 2013. I did 8 months of treatment. One month in patient, one month outpatient, 3 months of aftercare and I completed 3 months of relapse prevention in August 2014. I decided that this time I was going to do whatever it takes and to take my recovery seriously, as I honestly feel that I do not have another relapse left in me.

So… How have I incorporated the 5 pillars into my life?

Sponsor – I only got a sponsor on the 7th May 2014, when I was 5 months clean and sober. I never realised how important a sponsor was until I met *Leigh. The way we met was definitely Higher Power stuff. I had been in a bad place and went to vote with a friend of mine. We stood in the queue with a guy she knows, *Ryan, who is also in recovery. We got chatting about a few things and especially that I didn’t have a sponsor yet and I wasn’t in a very good place in my recovery. We exchanged numbers and that same night I got a call from *Ryan, who had randomly bumped into *Leigh at a shopping centre, and said to her that he had met me and I really needed a sponsor and help, so he put her on the phone. *Leigh and I speak every night at a set time and I tell her about my day. She has helped me through so much already and has helped me to see things from a different point of view and to also not be so hard on myself. I have really grown a lot since May 2014. I also became a sponsor myself once I was a year clean and sober. What I have learnt is that some sponsor / sponsee relationships work out and some don’t, and that’s ok. The sponsee’s that I first had, didn’t work out, however, I learnt so much from them and situations that they were in / went through, and it helped me to deal with situations in my own life. I now currently have active two sponsee’s, as well as a temp sponsee.

Meetings – I did mostly 3 NA/AA meetings a week, however I did go through a stage where I was only doing 2 meetings a week for about a month. I then decided to start trying other meetings as I was nearing finishing relapse prevention. By December 2014, I was attending between 4 and 6 meetings a week.

The meetings have really been good for me and have also made me more focused with my recovery and with life in general. I listen very carefully to the preambles and especially the part in the NA preamble “Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused a great many addicts to relapse. Before we came to NA, many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addiction who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover.” This stands out for me because I know that if I ever relapsed it would definitely be on alcohol first, as I had never thought that I had a problem with alcohol, and even got into a bad space at the end of April 2014 when I was planning a relapse on alcohol once I was a year clean. I had to surrender once again and get real and stop living in the future, and recommit myself to recovery.

From January 2015 I became really involved in the CA fellowship, and was attending between 6 and 8 meetings a week. However I started really battling with balance, so in order to get some balance in my life, I now attend 3 meetings a week, more if I can.

Step Work – I don’t do step work every day. I do need to commit and do it more often… As whenever I do my step work, it really helps and feels like more and more weight gets lifted off my shoulders. Also going through my step work with *Leigh, was a brilliant reminder of where I have been and that I have actually always had a problem with alcohol. I also found that when I did a Step 5 with one of my sponsee’s, it really helped me too, and as much as it was her Step 5, it was like it was for me too.

Higher Power – I personally believe in God, the universe and angels. I’ve always been more spiritual and although I have always believed in God, I had anxiety around the word God and religion for a very long time because of an experience I had at a church (New Life Church) when I was 21. After speaking about this to a couple of people that I am close to, sometime in July 2014, I became a lot more open minded and decided to let go of my resentment that I had held on to for so long, as I realised that it was the people and the experience that I had had at the time, and wasn’t God or religion as a whole at all. I couldn’t believe how much lighter I have felt and how things have changed for me since July 2014. My faith is a lot stronger and growing all the time. I hardly have anxiety, fear or sadness anymore, which is a blessing, as these emotions used to consume me. By learning to let go and Let God, and by keeping present and focused on the here and now, I am full of happiness and peace.

Service – The service I started off with was very light. From the beginning of my recovery, I helped out with lifts to meetings, helping others where I can, shared at an in-house meeting, and then also took up the key tags and hugs service position at the Fourways Gardens meeting. My sponsor said to me that the first year in recovery was for me and thereafter I give back. I have found that once I hit a year clean and sober, my service really became a lot more meaningful to me. I became a sponsor, which helps others as well as myself, and has helped me grow in my recovery and within myself. In January this year I became more involved in the CA Fellowship. I took up an H&I service position with a friend of mine for an in-house CA meeting at a treatment centre. This meeting is absolutely incredible. People that have come through to share their experience, strength and hope / hope, faith and courage for us, have said that the meeting is like 5 meetings in 1, that’s how powerful it is. I get something out of that meeting every week and it keeps me grounded and keeps me reminded of where I’ve been. To watch the growth of these amazing people really makes my heart smile. I’m also involved at the Thursday CA meeting, I’m in a rotation to chair the meetings, and also help out where I can / fill in when necessary for other positions at the Thursday and Sunday CA meetings. I still continue to help others where I can, and because of me being very open about my recovery, I have had a lot of friends reach out to me for help / guidance and others that have also said that because of my monthly clean & sober posts on Facebook, it has inspired them to do something about their addictions… which is awesome!

My life has changed so much, and I have never been so happy, serene, grateful and proud all at the same time. It has been a great journey so far. Yes I have had ups and downs, but definitely more ups and I’m also very fortunate that I’m a very optimistic person and I don’t have depression or anger issues. I always try to take a lesson out of every situation, whether good or bad, and that has helped me to grow from strength to strength.

I now see a lot more of my family which I love and cherish, as when I was using, I tried to avoid them as much as possible. I am so grateful that my relationships with my mom and dad are stronger than ever now, as I have always been close to my mom, although during active there was a lot of dishonesty from my side. Also, I spend a lot more time with my brother and sister in law now and with my nephew at the age where he remembers familiar faces and things, he knows who I am and it’s just amazing the love he gives me.

Yes I have had to change people, places and things, however I have been very blessed with reconnecting with some great mates of mine, as they have all given me the most incredible support. I am also very fortunate that I have a lot of friends that don’t use, that support me, more than anyone could ever wish for, including my friends that have also come into the rooms and the friends I have met in recovery. I have had such fun in this last year! Who knew life could be fun without drugs and alcohol… I sure didn’t.

My finances have also amazingly changed for the better. I managed to pay off a long standing loan account I had with my dad from things like car services etc. I paid for my first car service EVER out of my own cheque account, which was huge for me… I’ve managed to save money, as well as, take out another investment. Because I really wanted to do whatever it takes for my recovery this time round, I paid half for Relapse Prevention and my counselling during those 3 months, and also paid for my individual counselling sessions from September to December, as I wanted to continue with some kind of treatment until I was a year clean and sober, as this was what was suggested to me. After I reached a year, I decided to continue seeing my counsellor, Natashia. I see her once a month, as my sessions with her have always been beneficial to me and she has played a massive role in my recovery.

One day at a time…

I will find every opportunity to share my experience, strength and hope. Every day is filled with experiences. I can choose to let them pass me by, or I can allow myself to learn lessons from them. It is easy to let the day pass by quickly and virtually unlived. If I refuse to stay in the present moment and choose rather to be filled with resentment, stuck in the past, filled with fear, or stuck in the future, life truly does pass me by – My experience truly has no value. But if I choose to learn lessons, stay in the present moment, and remain connected to my Higher Power, my day becomes experience, strength and hope.

I really am… a grateful recovering addict. Thank you for letting me share.


friends in recovery

My Partners Success Story In Our Fight With His Addiction

partners in recovery

Four years ago I was in a sorry state. My partner was in active addiction and I was suffering and sick.

I did not know what to do any more,  I was overwhelmed and frightened. My ultimate fears were that I might make his addiction worse or if I asked him to get help he might choose drugs over me and leave me.

I was in turmoil. He was spending my money, he had lost his job, we did not see our friends very often.  I was constantly distracted and on edge. I had threatened pleaded and made lots of suggestions and demands , but the situation just carried on and got worse. My stress levels were high and I was not looking after myself, I was consumed with trying to control my partner and stop him using drugs and “make him better” I got more and more resentful and angry, but I had no one to talk or get advice from.

And then he disappeared for 2 nights and I decided that I was not willing to live like that anymore and with extreme reluctance and in great fear  I took a stand and gave him a choice “ leave or go to rehab”

He agreed and after a bit more negotiating, and me sticking to my heart sore decision, my partner came into Houghton House and started his recovery journey.

As he was admitted I was advised to attend the weekly Houghton House family counselling sessions.

My first reaction was “ I’m ok, he’s got the problem, not me!” but I reluctantly agreed to attend. At first I did it because I wanted to find new ways to make my partner better, to find new ways to control him and make sure he did not use.

I quickly learnt that family counselling was for me , to help me to learn new ways of looking at, and dealing with, old problems. To start looking after myself

At first some of the information I heard was hard for me to understand, accept, take in or even hear.

But I kept on coming back every week to the family counselling and slowly but surely I started to get my life back, looking after my health, my relationship with my friends and family, my work obligations and some of my long neglected pastimes.

I realised I was not alone and that there were lots of others with similar but uniquely different problems. I got help from others , I learned what worked for me and what didn’t.

I started to learn that I could not control my partner , I could not make him better, but, I could work on what I could do today for myself and try not to worry so much about the unknown future.

And so, here I am now, 4 years later. We have had some rocky moments and a few relapses but my partner has been clean and sober for over 3 years now. I know he is responsible for his ongoing recovery, I cannot do it for him

And I have my life back. I have a strong relationship with my partner, family and friends. I walk by his side, I do not pull or push him nearly as much as I used to.

I have my life, he has his, and we have ours together, We are not so tangled up together. My health has improved, my stress and blood pressure are normal again. I have firm boundaries. I can say no and I tend to stick to my decisions. I sometimes fall into old habits but  I still come to family counselling on a regular basis and that helps keep me on my path.

I am grateful that my partner came into my life and I am very grateful to Houghton House for helping my partner to get started on his recovery journey.

I am also  extremely grateful to Houghton House for the help and support I have received from the family counselling. It has been a life saver to me, mentally, physically and spiritually.






nic the recovery guru

A Fight For Survival

Nick N’s Fight For Survival from Addiction

‘I alone can do this but I cannot do this alone,’ says Nick, a recovering drug addict.

“GOD, grant me the serenity to except the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference. My name is Nick and I am addict.” These are the words of recovering drug addict Nick Nicolaou, an events and decor specialist, function co-ordinator and owner of a catering company and function venue. Also the words of a man who hit rock bottom after becoming addicted to a drug known as crystal meth – a drug which not only changed his life, but took him on a path many have walked before. Luckily for him, he’s survived to share his story.

“I was the middle of three brothers growing up in a very protected upstanding Greek family. Our values were about family, love and protection. My dad was chairman of the Cypriot community and our family placed a lot of value on what the community would say and think of us. I had a good upbringing and a very happy and loving childhood, but as I got older I found I wanted more. I felt a bit different but that suited me. My older brother was the clever, smart, high-achieving one, so I decided to do just the opposite in order to get attention. My younger brother was born with hydrocephalus requiring extensive treatment. Once again I felt like the attention had been diverted from me. In order to get the acceptance I was searching for I learnt to mask my feelings. I became a people-pleaser and a high achiever. My grandmother was a strong figure in my life. She enabled me and gave me the attention I craved. I found comfort and security in her and enjoyed spending time with her and wanted to be just like her.

At a young age I poured out my heart in a letter to a girl I had been in love with for a many years. Her boyfriend got hold of the letter and read it out in front of her family, while I looked on. That year my dad also had an affair. My trust and security had been completely eroded and I began to resent women. I had found comfort and happiness in shopping and in name brands which then turned into an obsession where I concentrated on the outside and neglected the inside. I thought that if I looked good I would feel good and that people would like & accept me, that if I wore designer clothes & accessories, socialized within certain circles & places, and frequented particular spots I would be socially accepted and show that I was successful.

When I completed school I got involved in the fashion and beauty industry which I absolutely loved. Only later, would I come to see it for the fake plastic industry of smoke and mirrors that it is. This is where my masking was at its best. Working in this world I could still appreciate and be around beautiful women but I was in control of them. I could surround myself with beautiful women and become the envy of others. I became very conscious about body and appearance. I started looking at older male figures with good physiques. In hindsight I think I was still looking for the approval that I yearned for from my dad.
At the age of 20 I realized that I was gay. I was devastated and suppressed these feeling for 15 years. I couldn’t let down my father, family and the community, so I kept my mask on.

When I was 35 my grandmother passed away, I was devasted and felt that my whole world came crashing down on me! “ Why Me, Poor ME!” Soon after that I went onto a gay website for the first time. That was where I met a Lebanese airline steward, whose flight passed through Johannesburg every three weeks. I met him at his hotel one day and he was smoking something from a bottle. He offered it to me and I politely declined. “You said you liked to party,” he accused. I didn’t use that night but over the next three weeks we stayed in touch. There was some sort of connection. Someone had made me feel good and accepted, I never felt so alone.
The second time I saw him he was still smoking the stuff in the bottle. I thought ‘how bad could a few puffs be’? It was crystal meth…. and I loved it.

Over the next four months I smoked meth with him whenever he was in town. One day he asked me to pick up from the dealer because the hotel was getting suspicious. Being a people-pleaser I readily agreed. Now I had a dealer’s cellphone number.

By this time I was working with my dad in the catering industry and I discovered that the drug was making me lose weight, kept me wide-awake and on top of my game. I began to use every week, especially to get me through hectic weekends. Sometimes I would fake week-long business trips – I would get dropped off at the airport and then catch the Gautrain to a hotel in Sandton and binge. Once I even smuggled six grams of meth into Dubai – I used a line in the bathroom on the plane before I landed just to give the confidence and courage to walk through customs. I honestly did not care and thought I was indispensable.

After one year I felt like I was losing control. I went to an assessment at Houghton House and they convinced me that I needed to do the inpatient treatment. I told my family I was going on a business trip and went into Houghton House’s intensive residential treatment programme. My brother was the only one who knew. I walked out after 10 days convinced that there was nothing wrong with me – I didn’t steal, I didn’t hurt people and I certainly wasn’t a drug addict in my eyes. I found fault in everything and in everyone as this was easier to do rather than finding fault within myself. It was also the person who introduced me to drugs birthday and if I didn’t leave the House I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. I called him immediately. He put the phone down on me and we have not spoken since, not that I didn’t try. What I had thought had been a mutually loving relationship had obviously not been the case.

In spite of my emotional pain I managed to stay clean for four months. Then I ended up in hospital for six weeks with a bleeding ulcer. (caused by my addiction) I lost a lot of weight and began obsessing about using again because it would help keep my weight down. The day I was discharged I relapsed as I craved so badly after been on intense pain killers and sleeping medication whilst in hospital. I now began injecting one and sometimes even two grams a day, instead of just smoking it. No one understood me but my drug. How could it be so bad for me if it was making me feel so good? I would do anything to protect my drug! I was now on a full blown emotional rampage and all I wanted to do was escape through sex and using drugs. I would purposely pick fights with my father at work and with my family as well as isolate from my friends so that I could justify my using. I dwelled in self pity and it suited me as my only comfort and escape was to use drugs.(so I thought & believed)

Before long I had landed up in another very dangerous situation. After a night of using, I had a blackout, when I woke up in the hotel room and was tied to the bed. All my belongings had been stolen. I was forced to call for help. Two days later I started receiving the blackmail threats and photographs. I had been raped and there were more people in the room than I had thought.

Two days after that I tried to commit suicide. I just wanted to die. The shame and guilt, the paranoia and insanity were haunting me. My body was full of sores from gouging my face, arms and legs with tweezers and sharp objects because it felt like there were insects crawling on and in me. I peeled off pieces of wallpaper at work as I would see things behind it, I would set fire to my wardrobe and dismantled my car, I kept asking the cops to follow me home but when I saw them I would throw my phone out the window because I thought they were spying on me. I would lay awake at night thinking that my family was spying on me through my window and door. I would take constant baths and spend a fortune on creams, lotions and sanitizers as I became obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness and convinced myself that I was infected with something or another. I would constantly fight with and accuse my staff at work for putting spells on me. The voices in my head, the sweats, the shakes and the nightmares were driving me insane. The drugs had now taken full control over my body and had ravished my mind, my morals were gone and I was now a slave to my drug. My soul was consumed and crying for help and when I was asked what was wrong I would lie and tell my family that I was just stressed and overworked. The lying and manipulation was exhausting and was now catching up with me.

After a week of complete isolation in bed and depressed, my brother and a friend sat me down and said that I needed to go into treatment. I said I would go anywhere but Houghton House as I was too ashamed to go back there. What I didn’t know is that my Houghton House counselor had been in contact with my brother during the time since I had walked out of the programme.
I agreed to go into treatment as long as I could choose the facility and more so I knew it was an escape – I had no real intention of giving up, I just wanted to run away from everyone and not take any responsibility nor face any consequences.

I landed up at a medical rehab in Durban. I used heavily the night before being admitted and when I arrived I was on a severe comedown but clearly remember fighting with my brother and begging not to stay there as it did not seem like a five-star facility. Whilst he and the doctor tried to convince me that I was safe I remember the tears running down my face while they sedated me and felt so alone. This was a three-day process to flush the toxins from my body. Then I was pumped full of vitamins. When I came around and saw where I was I lost my temper. I looked for any excuse to leave and I tried to even run away, feeling mixed emotions of anger and abandonment but most importantly I was still in denial!

The staff simply played into my manipulation, providing me with a private room, special food and new linen. I refused to take calls from my friend and brother for the 10-day duration of the programme. At night the nurses allowed me to go onto the Internet. Two nights before I was due to return to Johannesburg I came across a video clip on YouTube called a ‘Love letter from God’. After watching the clip I completely broke down. The following day I asked the doctor if I could call my brother. I told him that I wanted to go in to treatment at Houghton House once I arrived back in Johannesburg on condition that I would have the same counsellor. I guess this was my way of starting to ask for help and realised that I needed the help but also it was still a safe place for me to hide as I was not ready to face the world nor my family.

When I landed in Johannesburg I went home to collect some clean clothes. My mom was standing at the front door with tears rolling down her face. I had always said I would protect her and now I was the one hurting her. Initially I wasn’t completely committed to the programme at Houghton House, but I knew I needed to get serious. In my first group session I exposed my sexuality in public for the first time in my life. In my second group I spoke about how I had smuggled drugs into Dubai and my rape incident. I discovered that it so easy to open up during those sessions – I wasn’t judged, I was accepted. It was a really humbling feeling which gave me huge relief.

I still held on to things in the beginning but the more I got into the programme and started doing step work I started to believe that there was hope for me. When my four weeks at primary ended I decided to go into secondary care at the GAP. I started to see that drugs weren’t my problem. I was the problem. Suddenly things started to make sense. I found peace and sanity. I realised that my family had done the best they could for me but their best was not good enough and that I wanted more and that I was the one who isolated myself.

At the GAP I felt safe and comfortable. That’s where my change really started happening. I went to my grandmother’s grave on my first weekend out. I cried and cried, I understood our relationship and I let it all go. All my security blankets and masks began falling away.

One day my counsellor told me to stop fighting, to simply surrender and follow suggestions. I had never trusted anyone before, but I started to trust her and follow her suggestions. The best thing about the GAP was learning to become comfortable with my sexuality. This only happened through constant group therapy, learning to be vulnerable and asking for help. I finally understood that I don’t always have to put on the tough guy mask.

After three months at the GAP I decided to go to on to do the tertiary programme at their halfway house. Sommerville helped me to reintegrate back into society. It was not easy to go back into the world after four months of inpatient treatment, but Sommerville made it possible to do this gradually. After a day at work, I was able to go back to a safe place and attend their Aftercare group therapy programme, where I could express and talk about what was going on for me and work on dealing with life on life terms.

I decided to follow all the suggestions and had committed to a full year of inpatient treatment. I am now 18 months clean (my sobriety date is June 11, 2013). I am currently still attending 1 group therapy session a week, doing Relapse Prevention which I absolutely love. I attend NA meetings regularly I have a fantastic relationship with my sponsor whom I look up to and turn to for advice. In May & June of this year I also attended and completed the course “An Introduction To Addiction Counseling” offered by the Houghton House Counselor Training Programme, and have committed to doing the life line course in 2015. This has offered me a deeper insight into my disease as well as to the disease of addiction. I have found a passion and a purpose and I hope to inspire and encourage others by helping carry the message from one addict to another who still suffers. Treatment isn’t cheap but fortunately I have been able to afford it. I have also been lucky enough to be able to take the time I need to focus on my recovery. I’m now 39 and I don’t have another recovery in me. I have worked hard and as I grow I am starting to like the new calmer relaxed me.

During my first 10 months of treatment I’ve seen two people commit suicide and 20 people relapse. I have seen consequences come back and cause devastation in a fellow addict’s life after five years of sobriety. This disease can come back and bite me when I least expect it. Not when I am strong but when I am weak. I know that I will have good days and bad days. And I know that sometimes I will simply need to trust in my higher power and those around me. The biggest gift of recovery has been developing honest true friendships. In the beginning, my counselor encouraged me to make friends. I told her I had five-million friends. Now I understand what she means. My friends in recovery know everything about me yet they still love and accept me. ‘I alone can do this but I cannot do this alone’.”

Nick says that he is so blessed to have such a supportive and understanding family by his side which made his journey more possible. As for who inspires him, he explains that it’s not a particular person but rather a group of people – those within the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship. “I know I have to stay in the rooms and be an active member of Narcotics Anonymous! I call this programme magical! I experience a little bit of magic each and every day just by listening, surrendering, and living by the spiritual principles.”

Adds Nick, who says he has no regrets: “I believe life is a journey and God hands us what we can handle, not to test us but to make us stronger. I believe that just like everyone else I have a purpose in life and life is a journey. I needed to go through what I went through as it has made me a more humble and learn to appreciate and respect life and all those around me. I hope that my story helps inspire others and reaches out to anyone or someone who is suffering or who can relate and see that recovery IS possible and that they are not alone! I hope that this will reach someone before it is too late for them to ask for help.”

brothers-grateful-message siblings are effected

A Brothers Grateful Message to HH

How grateful I am to Houghton House.

I will never be able to express it  – 3 years ago I had given up hope on my sister. She was a shadow of her former self. She was lost – hollow, consumed by drugs and alcohol. I had given up on her. She had been to treatment centers before (3 to be precise) and Houghton House was her last chance at recovery. Close to death, fighting us every step of the way, she eventually made it through the gate and entered Houghton House.

She was in treatment for months. When she left primary and secondary treatment she came home but decided to move to the halfway house instead. I couldn’t believe she made a positive decision like that. It blew my mind – but still, I didn’t trust her. It took over a year for me to acknowledge just how committed she was to her recovery. She was constantly at meetings, she made new friends and completely shut out her old life. Her eyes slowly got their sparkle back – I got my sister back.

It’s been 3 years and I have seen her grow into a person I am proud of – someone I look up to. To be honest I used to be ashamed of her, her insanity and her chaotic behavior. I recall those dark days with a hint of resentment toward her – but then I realize she was not a bad person then – she was a sick person. And I am grateful she is getting better.

I am proud to call her my sister.

Thank you for giving me my sister back. I don’t know what you did, what you said or how she ended up clean and sober – but she would not have done it without Houghton House, NA and her incredible recovery friends.

Thank you,

A grateful Brother.

father of addict

Father of Addict in Recovery – Toni.B

Letter from a Father Of Addict In Recovery

Dear Management of Houghton House,

I am the father of Toni B – an” addict in recovery”…

It is now almost 3 years that I faced the reality of my daughters addiction.

I cannot believe that I, and of course my daughter, have come from the depths of despair and hopelessness to where she is today. She has been clean for almost 3 years and is a different person. She has a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend, she has a solid job with great responsibilities and most importantly the two of us have a wonderful relationship. I have my daughter back – I have my life back.

A huge amount of the above is due to Houghton House and the love and care that all have given her.

Thank you all.

We continue together on the road of recovery… one day at a time.

born perfect

Ritchie B’s Inspiring Recovery from Addiction Success Story

Ritchie B’s Inspiring Recovery from Addiction Success Story 

I grew up mostly around my grandmother since my parents were travelling around looking for the best job placement my dad could get. It wasn’t an ambiguously glamorous job, he was a welder for a gas company that had plants all over Southern Africa. My parents did what they could to provide for me and sometimes spoiled me with gifts none of the other kids parents could get them, since theirs weren’t in the city.

My gran was loving and I think I was her favourite grandson. Still, I couldn’t shake the jealousy I felt at seeing my cousins being around their parents whilst mine weren’t around. They would come over from their mom’s place and spend the day laughing in his room and I sat and pretended to watch television. I overheard all of their laughter and conversation and it felt like they had this secret pact and that I was excluded. It was never an option in my ‘their-and-mine’ kind of attitude for me to share in their intimacy. I could not bring myself to admit that I craved the attention they were getting and I felt horrible for feeling that gran’s love couldn’t make up for that gnawing feeling of being alone.

At some point I guess I made a decision to never be needy and expect that kind of love. At a young age I felt disillusioned and I found it hard to relate intimately to anyone. It was easy to smile and act and read the bible when the church-folk came around, but always from a distance.

My primary school life wasn’t too bad, I got into trouble for bunking and a theft. High-school life was spent flitting between outcasts and the cool gang. I scored the right invites and soon started to drink to keep from showing how insecure I actually felt. Of course I made a fool of myself and couldn’t remember any of my escapades the next Monday. I felt people needed a clown and I needed to forget so I kept on feigning friendship in order for me to escape my life at home and just get wasted.

After school my longtime friend who had been living in Cape Town moved back home. At another friend’s party I was introduced to drugs for the very first time. My longtime friend told me that once I choose to go down this road, there is no stopping, quoting verbatim, one is too many and a thousand never enough. I said no for two seconds and then I used my first drug and I felt alive. The next day I used again. And years passed.

At the end of my journey with drugs I was left isolated and lonely. I was pretty much the scared, insecure boy I was when I lived at my grans. I only kept the friends around who didn’t mind that I wanted to use as often as I could. Taking a bath and looking after myself physically were the furthest things on my mind. I felt completely done-in by life and circumstance. I could not see beyond my next fix. Completely alienated from society, making shock appearances at work and at home, staying just long enough to get into fights – because I needed a reason to leave soon after to go use some more. More than what I looked like, I felt like an empty shell, and the drugs that initially brought me closer to experiencing ‘better’ friendships didn’t work. Everywhere I went, in every interaction I had, I always left feeling like a fraud. I remember feeling empty and numb and eventually starting to entertain thoughts of suicide, not being able to stomach the look on my family’s face (when I would eventually come home.)

One day I called the number listed for Houghton House and spoke to someone and I insisted on coming in the next day. I came in without an assessment because I didn’t know who to bring along with me. I guess a part of me knew that I did not have to check this out, if it didn’t work, I’d have died using drugs.

When I walked into Houghton House, one of the staff members told me that they would take my phone and lock it away. They also needed to have my luggage checked for any alcohol or drugs. It only strikes me now that I hadn’t thought of bringing any alcohol or drugs, I just so badly needed a break from it all and I was hoping I came to right place.

The counsellor assigned told me to take responsibility for the fact that I have a disease and that I’m an addict. The only two options I had was to get out of my own way and to become teachable or go out and use and eventually die. I didn’t have the courage to leave, I hadn’t felt safe anywhere in a long time.

Of the many things I learnt that saved my life was: I had a disease over which I’m powerless. I learnt that I didn’t like the isolation of being in active addiction. I had become tired of lies upon lies and I really wanted to live. I didn’t know that there were those out there who had actually been through what I was going through, without drugs to give their life meaning. It was a challenge for me to keep quiet and not inject my own will into my process. I wanted to control but I had to surrender to the fact that my thinking was warped and that I could not trust my own judgement.

Tuesday morning yoga was a release for me. I could speak about how I felt, I didn’t have the words to articulate my guilt, but the yoga provided a release for me to let go of all the complicated things I felt. For the first time in my life I realized that I had no concept of how to love myself. I broke down one Tuesday morning when I had to hug myself, I had never given a kind of acknowledgement to myself. I was never a priority, my life was spent trying to please others.

So my life today is different but also pretty much the same as that first morning. I’m integrated into society and I express my gratitude at being given a second chance – on a daily basis. I overwork myself because right now my work gives my life a different meaning. I’ve rekindled the relationships with my family, who probably still think of me as weird – in a loving way. The friends I have, value me enough to tell me the truth about me, with love. I have a freedom from my compulsions and my thoughts (to a degree) and I have a relationship with God that I don’t understand, but am actively exploring. My life has the trappings of success, but my soul has the trappings of recovery. I give back to the program and institution that saved my life by sharing what I learnt with other desperate and lonely people who want to make sense of their past and give meaning to their future.

This is the poem I wrote a few days before I left Houghton House. I’d like to share it in the hopes that between the words there’s a message that was carried to me of hope of a future free from drugs and the obsession to use.

We recover

Still – I buried
The shattered peace of me
In search of self-control.

I came broken to
These gates of change
Where many surrender
Their undone selves
And found and left redemption.

Here in this place
Are steps to hope
Where the lost find love
And joy
And journey on and on and on
To perfect restoration.


Clinton D – An Addict in Recovery from Johannesburg

An Addict In Recovery from Johannesburg

Hi, My name is Clinton and I am an addict. I live in Johannesburg but spent a large part of my teens in the beautiful city of Cape Town. I have a loving mother who brought me up as a single parent for most of my youth, although I had to learn a few life lessons on my own. I also have a lovely daughter and I love spending time with her more and more.

My journey of destruction started around standard five in primary school. It became obvious that I battled to relate with other kids my age. Which I blamed on my mother for moving to a new home and new school almost every year since I could remember. I started to dabble with smoking and drinking neat hard liquor on weekends. I was a loner but spent time with another loner kid that blamed the world for his circumstances and I came to adopt his behaviours. This got a reaction from other children who I thought were cool and the ‘in’ crowd.

I moved onto high school and I used the same behavioural techniques in my friendships. I mirrored my peers, which allowed me to hide my true feelings. I was actually terrified of other kids and could not bring myself to tell anyone so I just acted and played the part of the guy who actually does not really care about anything or anyone. Drugs and alcohol became a regular part of my life and with that I was involved in many different social circles where my only connection to them was my using and excessive acting out by way of breaking rules, sexual activity with a variety of partners, stealing drugging, self-mutilation and so forth. So I became very socially inept and found myself planning my spare time around a lifestyle suited to ‘the show” I was putting on.

I had a serious accident that almost took my life in my matric year, I mention it because it slowed my using down but, make no mistake, I was using just a few weeks after waking from my coma. My diminished mental capacity didn’t allow for me to easily manipulate and take advantage. My resentment and hatred for life grew.

I excelled at work which opened doors to my managers letting things slide without consequence, like coming to work drunk or late, sometimes missing a shift, or making sexual advances on the women I worked with. I began to feel entitled to do anything I wanted now. I gradually started to use and do insane things in my spare time. I moved a few jobs regularly, had vastly different groups of friends from very different social circles and would take on the fun party guy title. I minimised my isolated lifestyle by saying that nothing tied me down and I was free but frustration grew inside of me.

I lived like that for years until I move to Johannesburg and found my drug of choice which in turn led to insane levels of alcoholism, drug induced euphoria and promiscuity. Looking back, I actually don’t know what was more prevalent in my life in the end. I had experienced a lot of success at the company where I had been working for eight years and the sizable extra commissions were paying the way for a life where I could give up on all the “friendships” I had and base myself at dealer’s houses, sex clubs, dirty cheap hotels, casinos and live my addict life. I was completely consumed by an illusion of grandiosity and was stuck in a sick and dangerous criminal element at night. I was living a lie at the office where people just assumed I was a fun loving guy who had an interesting social life. Every day in my life had become an episode in some crazy and unbelievable show of ignorant and shameless life. And one day it caught up to me. Drugs weren’t working, people had died, I had made some poor woman pregnant and the list of consequences I was ignoring grew every single day. But still I was unwilling to give up on the daily adventure. I had accepted that this was my life a long time ago and just hoped it would fix itself eventually but it never did.

In the haze of a party I realised that I was stuck in a cycle I had no idea how to get out of and I phoned Houghton House. I did not consciously believe that I had any addiction problems at the time. But it became evident that what I needed was for the denial to be arrested. My life had become a haven for my poisonous behavior.

In treatment I learnt the extent of what my life had become. My physical, mental and spiritual existence had withered away and nothing was left. Once I was inside this place I saw that there wasn’t going to be a social technique, go-getting attitude or sexy smile that was going to win the group over. I had to work hard and keep doing the right thing and I accepted very quickly that I needed to listen to what I was being told. The commonality amongst my fellows in Houghton House was apparent and I could relate to everything and everyone. I grew to love this place after the fear was gone and came to believe that it saved my life and opened my mind to a world of possibilities of a life that meant something and not being a slave to interpretations of external illusions and false concepts I had created in my mind.

I am learning to deal with new things every day now and I find joy in the unlikeliest of places. The more I give to my recovery the more I get out of my recovery, my mindset is not one of avoidance and fear of the possibility of failure and going back but to accept my state of mind and accept that everything is going to be okay. Some days are hard but I know that there is no substance out there that is going to fix anything and make anything I have in my life better. My programme of self-discovery is a journey and I know my path has led me to this point in my life for a reason beyond my understanding.

I cannot speak of any one day that stands out as a day of happiness because every day is a day that I need to be grateful for. I wake up every day and I stay clean, I don’t know how, or why, or try work it out. Life in recovery with my fellows is not what I imagined but it is a solution to my problem and I in turn feel like I am part of that solution, I find happiness in unselfish things and enjoy the freedom of thinking that a job or money is more important than who I am and the joy I get in living a life filled with a higher power being able to connect with others. I know in my heart that I don’t run a perfect programme and that is okay. I do what is necessary and ask for help when I need it. I know that I belong now.

hard choices

Tony L – Alcoholic/Addict’s Success Story

Alcoholic/Addict’s Success Story

[intro]I grew up in middle class very happy farming family. In most respects it was an idyllic way for a young boy to grow up. I went to the best private schools in the area and because we were farming it meant attending boarding school from the age of 8. School went well – academically and in the sportsfield. There was little to complain about.[/intro]

I can’t actually remember my first drink. Alcohol was not a big issue in our family. I never saw my parents drunk or even a little tipsy. My first real experience with alcohol was the day I left school.
I had the unfortunate experience of being in class with older boys but I played sport with boys my age. The result was that I never felt like I belonged and I had a constant drive to prove myself. I was very focused on achieving and even when success arrived I still felt I wasn’t good enough.

I drank a huge amount the day I left school due to peer pressure, blacked out and hated the experience. I drank a bit in the army but my main drinking started at university, and it progressed steadily from there. It felt like I drank differently to my friends – I was always the last to leave a party. It is only much later that but I have only begun to understand this.

I am married and have three wonderful children, that have now left home after university and making their own way in the world. I was a binge drinker in the early days in spite of being very physically fit. I competed in about 50 marathons and 3 Ironmen, the Comrades Marathon and raced cars and bikes. I also worked extremely hard and kept very long hours. However, the feeling of success still eluded me. Alcohol helped me in the early days with confidence and made me gregarious.

I worked on the Stock Exchange in London and Johannesburg and fell in with the drinkers. It became a daily habit and often I would drink to blackout, not realising that it was not normal. I turned into a functioning alcoholic. I became argumentative and mean towards my family. I was verbally abusive and could not remember the events the following day. I am, by nature, a very kind, gentle and generous person. But alcohol turned me into a monster.

I was asked by my children to leave home. This still didn’t stop me. My decisions at work and home became frozen with negative consequences. I became the type of person I despised. I had low self esteem, tremendous anxiety and became isolated from everyone who had ever cared .

My downward spiral quickened and bore out everything that is said about alcoholism being a progressive disease. My daughter began phoning me at five every morning just to see if I was alive. I suddenly realised I was sick of the anxiety, the depression, the shakes and the nausea. I needed something else.

With encouragement from friends and family I turned to Houghton House. I had met with Dan Wolf a few times previously, but had been in denial. I was then still in the blame game. My health was perilous, on the verge of a stroke with blood pressure, kidney and liver problems.

I really wanted sobriety desperately and Houghton House provided me with the guidance and platform to build a new life. Houghton House counsellors, Marius and Lauryl, guided, encouraged and helped me to where I am now. I remain engaged and count them as friends now. I learnt so much about my character and how to handle myself in life and situations that are challenging. I drank a lot because of resentments and now I have put these to bed.

I spent six weeks in primary care at Houghton House and then a month in secondary care at the GAP. I found the extra time at the GAP essential, and in context of my 30 years of drinking it was such a small sacrifice.

I am now fitter, healthier and more active than I have ever been. I completed the Ironman and many cycle races in better times than I did 25 years ago. I have so much time in sobriety. My relationships have been mended with family and friends. I am able to spend time with my children without them being worried about the next drinking calamity. Trust is back. Life is happy and optimistic.

I live every day according to the 12 simple steps. Every day in recovery is a joy, I am engaged in life again, I feel, I have emotions. There are good and bad days, but I am alive and the worst day in sobriety is better than any day drinking.

If anyone has a problem with alcohol try Houghton House as a first step in the journey and live the simple way of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps. It is if anything else a wonderful journey of self discovery.

Rather than being embarrassed by being an alcoholic I have embraced it and earned extraordinary respect from friends, family and work.


Toni B – Cat and Meth Addict’s Success Story

Cat and Meth Addict’s Success Story

[intro]Rapid, blinking, bright lights are blinding me. I am lying naked on the cold tiled bathroom floor. The left side of my body is completely numb, I smile at the numbness, I cry at the numbness. The cold tiles on my bare skin helps ease the anxiety… I start to feel a tingle through my left leg that rises to the left corner of my mouth. I didn’t die. I don’t know whether to smile or cry over this… I smirk, realising that I have more time, more powder and more chaos to embrace.[/intro]

I get up slowly and reach into my over sized and over used hand bag. My fingers pry for the decrepit cigarette box that has been lying in wait for the past 10 minutes. I’m back. I grab it and pull it out, feeling a sick excitement rise up quickly through my stomach. My ritual begins. First I pull out the medical aide card and my Exclusive books card, these two gems line the sides of my cigarette box. I always giggle at the irony of the medical aid card and I enjoy the ‘intellectual’ significance of the Exclusive Books card. I place the cards neatly on the plastic toilet seat that has seen countless interactions just like this one. Then the blue plastic knot is pulled from the bottom of my cigarette box, my heart pounds, my bowels turn…
I have knotted my sparkling delight tightly inside the plastic. I have to pry the knot open using my teeth. The plastic opens and there it is… my shiny dusty diamond… my meth. I drop a little rock onto the toilet seat, carefully pick up the medical aid card and crush the meth methodically. I employ the services of the Exclusive Books card now, both cards work together simultaneously, creating fine lines of twinkling excitement.

I pull out the perfectly severed straw, this little devil appears from the cigarette box too. And there it is… heaven. I know that I will experience more numbness, more acidic puking, more hallucinations, more exhaustion, more drama… and fuck it, it’s worth it.
This is the height of insanity. At 26 years old I am the mirror image of a mummified corpse, I am dying, I am exhausted, my memory is blurred… and I just want more. I was clean a while back, for a good 60 days and I hated every second of my sobriety. I manipulated my way through my second rehab centre and lied flawlessly to my counsellors and to my family alike. They all believed I was not an addict. Yes I had been to two rehabs, but I was just suffering complex post-traumatic stress syndrome. Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink…

This relapse will kill me. This relapse I can’t hide. They all know I’m using. My mother can’t look me in the eye… I can’t look her in the eye, hence, I selflessly offered to look after my aunts house. I am away from prying eyes and I am free to indulge my depravity as I see fit. This feels like the perfect life.

Isolation, bile, palpitations, mini strokes, hallucinating, stealing and paranoia. Yup… that was my perfection. Believing in that ‘perfection’ was my insanity. I was free. I was experiencing life. I was invincible… oh, and if I did die, I really didn’t care because I had ‘lived.’ Funny, looking back I never lived… ever. Only now, two years since that last line, do I know what living is. I was merely existing. Two years ago there was no sleep, the days molded into hours and Tuesday would become Friday in the blink of an eye. The exhaustion is what hurt me the most. The insanity that comes with sleep deprivation is what drove me to absolute madness.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I landed up locked up in my father’s office. He would not let me leave. I would be shipped off to rehab the next day for the third time. I had no way out. But in my mind, as soon as I finished the rehab program I would use again. There was no way I was going to get clean, there was no way I would change my lifestyle, there was no way I would ever live my life sober.

I hadn’t slept in a week. All I remember is sitting on the bricked driveway waiting to be collected by a counsellor. I cried – but only to make my father feel sorry for me. That did not work, he looked through me, he knew this routine too well. I was fucked. No way out. It was time to manipulate, survive, do my time and go straight back to using upon my exit.

So when did this all start? I wish I could pin point the exact moment I began my self-destruction, if only it was that easy. It’s not. The more I look into my past the more I realise that I have always been, well, different. Different in the sense that I have always been addicted to something or someone. I had only ever put myself in tumultuous situations. I never made good decisions, I always took that wrong turn. I wanted to explore that side of the life – the forbidden.

I have been to rehab three times, four if you count an outpatient programme I did for about a year. I have been in and out of institutions and on and off meds since I was 15. It all began with what I describe as my primary illness, my true battle and my hardest endeavor – anorexia. I was in and out of therapy throughout high school and varsity. My weight hit a low of 34kgs, and since then the highest my weight has been is 45kgs.

High school was defined by my eating disorder. Varsity was defined by my drinking. Every night was a black out. In fact, I can honestly say I don’t really remember much of varsity – only that everything was a drama, everything was anxiety and everything was vodka. During this time I got kicked out of my parents’ home, lived with my cousin, partied all day and all night and at my tipping point – tried to run over a group of my friends and wrote my car off in a golf course (having to call those friends to pick me up). The next day I went to my first rehabilitation centre. I stayed for a week. I was cured in my mind – so I left. When I left I experienced something so traumatic that I swore to stay clean. three months later I was vomiting on myself in a dingy club due to alcohol poisoning. I could not stay clean.

Then I discovered drugs – they kept me thin and I didn’t have to drink anymore (no one could smell alcohol on me and everyone thought I was doing well.) My first line of crystal meth ended in a 72 hour binge. My heart felt like it was going to explode – I vomited, I shook and I did more and more. In three days I had lost weight, in three days I had discovered something I had been seeking all my life and in three days I knew I was addicted.

I went from CAT to crystal for years. I was skin and bone, destructive and dangerous. At first I was out with friends for weeks at a time and then it ended with me, staying in my room or my car for days, using by myself, surfing pro-anorexic websites and meeting dealers in the dead of night. I thought I was happy. Legitimately – I thought I was in heaven.

I was caught by my mother and ended up in my second rehab. I stayed for 21 days. I was both in the eating disorder and Dual Diagnosis Unit. I lied my way through – left and relapsed on alcohol. Then I found my way into the rooms of NA. I stayed for about a month and relapsed after picking up some weight. This relapse was terrifying. I knew I would probably die or have a heart attack at some point but I couldn’t stop – I didn’t want to stop.

Again, I got called out. This time by my father. I was locked in a room and taken to Houghton House in the morning. I tried to jump out the car on the highway to avoid this fate. I did not want to stop using. Even after being hospitalised for a week while in Houghton House for pre-renal failure – I still wanted to use! I reluctantly entered rehab planning my relapse upon my release. That was two years ago.

The relapse never happened.

Houghton House changed my life and I still, to this day, do not know when the change happened – it’s still happening. I just do not want to go back to that point… ever.

The first time I cried in years was while in group at Houghton House – and it was a cry I needed. It was ok to be vulnerable. Another lesson I learned while in Houghton House was structure and learning to manage my life. We were given a schedule and we learned to stick to that schedule. I have taken that with me to this day. I keep to a schedule – one that makes my life manageable and makes me feel accomplished. I also learned how to tolerate people. In a rehabilitation environment you are faced with numerous people, with different opinions, in different points of denial. I lost my temper a few times but I was given the tools to handle these situations – and I use these tools to this day. The 12 step programme is a lifestyle and it is my lifestyle two years later. I am forever grateful for the tools I have been given.

After eight weeks in rehab I left for home. I refused any other treatment but upon my return home, upon witnessing myself in a dangerous environment, I made the choice to go to a halfway house where I stayed for six months. I then moved to a Sober House for a year and now I stay with two recovering addicts in our own place… our very own ‘sober house.’

During this time I got back onto my feet and to my surprise – I got the job of my dreams. To this day I have that job and I have soared in a work environment. I never thought I would get to this point, I thought I’d be dead before I had to become self-sustainable.

I have a fantastic relationship with my father and brother. I see them every Sunday. The strained relationship I had with them was deemed unfixable. I thought I had lost them and in all honesty I should have lost them. I have a family again – and I am damn proud of that fact.

I have put up boundaries, I know how to handle stress and I know when to recognise that I am slipping into old habits. I have an incredible sponsor, I have a solid relationship (one that is without destruction and drama) and I have felt real love for the first time in my life.

I am clean. I am grateful. I am me. And I have Houghton House to thank for that. After facing my demons (ones which I cannot mention), I have flourished. I no longer need drugs to cope – I have the tools. They come naturally now. Recovery is possible.

One more thing:

Admitting to your own vulnerability, suffering through it, genuinely acknowledging and working through it, is undeniably an agonizing, vein opening journey, fraught with epiphanies and of course, severe self-indulgence … but in the end it all leads to this awe inspiring moment… when you see not only yourself for the first time, but people for the first time. When you see them for who they truly are. And when it hurts to see the real you, and stings to see the real them… that’s when the veil of vulnerability lifts and strength seeps in… and you discover a little thing that you seem to have neglected – self-worth. And it’s beautiful.

Thank you Houghton House.

I owe you my life.


Glynis H`s Success Story (An Alcoholic getting Sober)

Glynis H’s Success Story – An Alcoholic Getting Sober

Me? Alcoholic? Don’t be ridiculous! I don’t swear and shout and argue. Yes, I drink alcohol but only four percent wine. I’m not going to end up sleeping in the park. I’ve got a great life. I’m a good person. I have a lovely home and super family.

Well, I did. And I didn’t even know I was throwing it away. I drank every day and, yes, afternoon and evening. But it was only wine! My husband drank whiskey – much stronger. I went to bed by 9 every night – TV not worth watching, sons no longer at home, and husband watching sport. Weekends – great! Went a bit haywire sometimes but so did everyone else. What are parties for?

Husband did come home a couple of times after golf to find me passed out on the bed, or floor. Showed me a photograph. Yes, not good. However life goes on. What can you do? I did give up drinking twice, but it didn’t last.

At the end of January 2013 my husband asked me to leave. He provided me with a flat and a car. Two weeks later, unbeknownst to me, my son drove me to Houghton House.

A body went in and Glynis came out.

Without my son and Houghton House counsellors, I’m not sure where I would be now. In July 2013 husband and I were divorced and I was on my own for the first time in sixty something years. At the beginning of this year I threw 2013 out the window.

I am now a strong, sober, independent and caring woman. Unfortunately the serenity isn’t 100 percent yet, but I’m working on it! I am now a person worth knowing. I am aware of what is around me. I see, I feel, I am aware, I smile, I enjoy, I touch, I hear.

Once I realised and accepted that I needed AA, the light started to shine and life just became better and better all by itself.

I have had huge support from my son and friends and family and I thank you all.

Heavy drinkers, please realise you need help. Once you accept you are alcoholic and get help from Alcoholics Anonymous, life really does start getting better. I know. I’ve been there. It really is worth the effort.


Derek M Drug Addicts Success Story

Derek M – Drug Addicts Success Story

I was born and bred in Boksburg and was always the ‘problem child’. I went to the local primary school and high schools followed by a remedial school – not because I was remedial… just lazy![/intro]

My dad was an accountant at a top mining house and he always put his work first. My mom is beautiful but has always been strict and religious. She is very against drinking, smoking and drugs. Growing up she never drank alcohol but my dad was at the pub every night, so drinking was very normal for me. In fact it is only in recovery that I have come to realise that my dad was probably an alcoholic.

Born in 1982 I am the middle of three children – I have a younger sister and an older brother. My brother and I look like twins, but that is as far as the similarity goes – he has only ever had one drink in his life.

By the time I was 16 I had smoked a bit of weed and regularly drank beer with my mates but at that stage there were no signs of my addiction in my life. I was just like my friends.

When I left school I started working in our family business, established by my grandfather over thirty years ago, and now owned by my mom. Around that time my parents divorced and I became involved in my first long term relationship. My girlfriend introduced me to ecstasy and I ended up taking pills for several years. I was often caught red-handed by my sister, who said my eyes were a dead giveaway. Nevertheless, I continued to use and experiment with new drugs.

I truly fell in love when I discovered coke, and shortly thereafter, CAT. It was a fun time in my life and I really enjoyed it. I don’t regret that it happened or feel bitterness towards my dealers. It’s a part of who I am today.

Eventually my mom found out I was using and in 2004 I went into treatment to get my family off my back. It was a Christian-based treatment centre but I don’t remember much about it. The programme was four weeks long and they never told me that I couldn’t drink, since I was classified as an addict, not an alcoholic. After I came out of rehab it wasn’t long before I started using again. A couple of years later I went back to the same centre but the outcome was the same.

When I need some extra cash I would gather up scrap steel for the yard at work and sell it so that I could go and score. My dad also gave me money and enabled me all the time. He would give me R 1000 to go and party. I think he knew it was the wrong thing to do but, as he used to wake up and drink a bottle of wine, he couldn’t really lecture me.

At first I didn’t use at work but my addiction progressed and in the end I would cut lines of coke on my desk before the other staff arrived. I used to make excuses about having to leave early so that I could go and coach hockey. Instead, I went home to sleep or drink some beers to ease the come down.

My dad passed away in hospital in Heidelberg at the end of 2009. I visited him every evening straight after work and stayed until visiting hours were over. On the way to visit him I would drink a six-pack in the car and on the way home I would go past my dealer. When my dad died I was so pumped up on calmatives that I didn’t really feel the pain.

Two weeks later my sister’s boyfriend was killed in a car accident. She was seven months pregnant with their second child. Since their dad died I have always been very dedicated and involved in the lives of my nephew and niece. I fetch them from school on Fridays, take them to sports practice and my sister knows that she can call on me anytime of day or night. Even when I was in active addiction I was still dedicated to them. I would buy my drugs on a Friday and spend Friday evenings babysitting. When I ran out I used to meet my dealer outside their home to restock while my nephew was playing x-box in the lounge. Nevertheless, I was always a ‘cool’ uncle who taught them to love music and gave them treats.

Eventually I got caught buying drugs by my brother at bachelor’s party one evening. By then, I think I had the gift of desperation. I was admitted to Houghton House that same day, 22 April 2012. My brother wasn’t talking to me, my mom had taken my flat away and I was staying with my sister. I kissed my niece and nephew goodbye and I was still drunk and high when my cousin dropped me off at Houghton House that evening. Apart from my sister, he was all I had left in my life. I was a complete right off.

I still thought that I would stay for a month to get my family off my back, then come out and continue using successfully. But after completing six weeks of primary care at Houghton House I decided to move in to Somerville, the Group’s tertiary programme. I would never have believed it in the beginning but Houghton House and Somerville made me feel safe. The discipline and routine made me realise how chaotic and unmanageable my life had become. I’ll do anything for Houghton House because they laid the foundation for my recovery.

That was two years ago. Since then I have found an amazing sponsor who with whom I can discuss anything. He has played a big role in my recovery, along with the fellowships of Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous. I still go to meetings regularly and stay in close contact with my sponsor. My sponsor has taught me that if I become to vocal and over-confident at meetings it is time to find a new meeting. I need to be humble, not arrogant. I believe that service is a way of giving back which is why I am currently sponsoring four addicts in recovery.

For me, being honest with myself and other people is one of the most important aspects of my recovery.

Sometimes it is hard to be honest people you care about. As a people-pleaser it has been difficult for me to learn to say no to people like my mom. But I’ve come to understand that I need to ensure that first and foremost I am taking care of myself. Sometimes this means putting myself first. I now understand that I have a choice and I can choose not to allow my mom or anyone else affect how I feel.

I continue to observe the simple routines and responsibilities instilled at Houghton House – like making my bed or getting up at the same time each morning, rather than expecting the maids to do it. These simple acts of responsibility have taught me not to take my staff for granted. I wouldn’t be able to buy my nephew and niece nice things if it wasn’t for the staff and our business.

I have reduced the number of evenings I spend playing hockey during the week so that I can spend time with my dogs, eat a cooked meal with my mom or spend time with my niece and nephew. These are the things that are important to me now. I would rather spend time with my family or go on special family holidays than get a bigger car I’m not rich and I’m not poor but I am spiritually fulfilled. I’ve learnt to control what I spend my money on. Before I couldn’t, but now I keep it simple.

I’ve stopped smoking. I can’t drink anymore and I can’t drug anymore. Actually, no! I can, but I choose not to. If I go to dangerous places often enough there is a good chance I’ll drink, so I only go to bars on special occasions. It’s not really who I am now. I’ve chosen for my life to be boring and I’m very happy to go to a meeting instead of going out.

I live simply. Just for today. I’m not worried about tomorrow or yesterday. I don’t obsess and I’ve realized that it is okay if it doesn’t happen right now.

I would recommend Houghton unreservedly, as my home away from home. I feel safe there. The kitchen staff, Miriam and Dudu, Shireen in admin and all of the counsellors – the people at Houghton House really care about you. I feel like I wasn’t just a number – even after two years they remember my name when I bump into them. They are the first to congratulate me on my clear time or just give me a hug.

mary anne

Mary Anne C – A Bulimic Alcoholic Finds Recovery

A Bulimic Alcoholic Finds Recovery – Mary Anne C

These days I refer to myself as not only a ‘recovering alcoholic’, but also a ‘recovering Catholic’. That doesn’t mean I am not a spiritual person. Religion has always fascinated me but I am more spiritual.

As the middle of three children I can confirm that middle child syndrome does exist. I have an older brother and a younger sister. We were close to each other growing up but I was definitely the black sheep.

My dad was a strict Catholic and a difficult man. His attitude was that children are to be seen and not heard. My siblings were obedient and compliant but I challenged him constantly and we had a very difficult relationship. He had grown up in a home that lacked love and attention. My mom was different. She had a strong family connection and had been surrounded by unconditional love and acceptance.

Growing up I never knew what was my worst hell – school or home. I had no friends at school and went to six different schools. We moved schools and towns a lot. When I was 16 we moved to East London and it was a huge adjustment for me. I picked up a lot of weight and became very self-conscious. Depressed about my weight gain, I started taking laxatives and purging – the first signs of my addiction began to emerge. Looking back I can see evidence of so many patterns in my life that emerged from my desperate need to be in control. The weight loss was great but what was even better was that through bulimia and anorexia I could be in control of the outcomes in my life when it came to eating. It felt like the only thing I could control.

One Sunday lunch just after my family had found out that I was bulimic I asked for a second helping of delicious stew. My father said, “Go ahead you pig, eat the lot!” After that he ignored me for two and a half years. He would deliberating hug my sister and show her affection in front of me. Around that time I was put on a lot of anti-depressants. My moods were very erratic. On one occasion, I had an emotional outburst while my dad was upstairs with an architect. He came downstairs and struck me with a plank of wood. Over the years, he also beat me with straps and wooden spoons. It is only in recovery that I’ve come to acknowledge years of suppressed resentment and loathing towards my dad.

Throughout my teens I did things to get negative attention: From stealing sweets and bunking to smoking and a disinterest in schoolwork. Undisciplined, selfish and manipulative, I was always looking for the next rush. I started drinking when I was 13 and drank alcoholically from day one. I got a bad name at all the schools I attended. I was known as the ‘Cadbury’s’ lady because it only took a glass and a half for me to get drunk.

Surprisingly, I managed to pass matric and went on to study fine art, graphic design and photography. My practical work was very strong but inconsistent. I ended up failing art history and eventually dropped out completely. I decided to move to Johannesburg and get a waitressing job. When I moved to Jo’burg my drinking escalated. I can’t believe I didn’t kill myself in a car accident. I spent my life trying to fix others and went through a series of unhealthy relationship with men and women.

Around this time I began dating my husband-to-be. Two years later, after being told I couldn’t have children, I discovered that I was pregnant. The following day I learned that my mom’s colon and ovarian cancer had entered a terminal phase. We visited my parents in Cape Town soon thereafter and announced the news of my pregnancy. I stayed behind in Cape Town and nursed my mom until she died. It haunted me for a long time. I was devastated that she would never know my children and I suffered from a lot of guilt about the anxiety I had caused her. Five weeks after my mom died. I got married. It was a happy day in a bittersweet kind of way.

I didn’t drink during my pregnancy but after our first daughter was born my drinking became more concerning than ever. My husband would make comments, which would always end up in a fight. Three years later I fell pregnant with twins. When they were born I had a post-partum hemorrhage and nearly died. The twins were born with a condition where they each only had one ear. This was particularly significant for me because I had had corrective surgery on my ears, my mom had been deaf and my husband’s sister had had a cochlea implant.

After the twins were born I began to feel a lot of resentment. When they were six weeks old I began visiting friends in the afternoon and would drink as much as I could in two hours. I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy, which meant strong medication and a lot of time in hospital. My husband and I grew further apart but my love for alcohol continued to grow. I still feel a lot of pain when I look back and realise that our domestic worker raised my daughters. I never bathed them or read stories. I even drove drunk with them in the car. For me it was just about the next drink.

In August 2011 I went to Cape Town for a couple of days with a girlfriend, leaving the girls with the maid, as though this were a completely normal thing to do. I woke up one morning having got completely hammered the night before and my friend started screaming at me: “You are an alcoholic. You are destroying yourself and family and if you don’t do something about it I can’t be friends with you any more.”

I cut my trip short and flew home that day. The following day, a Friday, my husband and I went to see Dan at Houghton House (I had met Dan before and completely lied to him). I was admitted into the primary care programme at Houghton House on Monday, 1 August 2011. I was adamant that I was going to be there for three weeks but ended up staying for almost six months.

A Bulimic Alcoholic Finds Recovery

I began to follow suggestions. After completing six weeks in primary care I went into the GAP for almost three months. Then I gradually weaned myself back into life.
My husband was amazingly supportive. He gave me the space to have the longest and best treatment possible. Now we don’t have alcohol in the house and if I feel uncomfortable in social situations he is happy to leave immediately. When I was in treatment he joined Al-Anon to learn more of my disease and gained support from other families experiencing similar struggles.

During my first year in recovery I was still convinced that my circumstances were entirely my husband’s fault. After completing treatment I continued to go to meetings and follow the suggestions I was given, yet I continued to engage in friendships with other men which was inappropriate and ultimately caused a great deal of trouble. I constantly sought affirmation and attention from men, which I think had a lot to do with the neglect and rejection from my dad.

So much hatred, blame and anger emerged while working through the steps in the programme. The scariest thing for me was realising that alcohol isn’t the problem, I am – my anxiety, my need for escape and my perfectionism.

I only really started to recover in my second year of sobriety. Growing up I’d been told never to discuss family issues or money with others. I never understood why people at Houghton House told me that I wore masks. But a year into recovery I began to fall apart. This helped me to understand that I needed to start asking for help. I realised that noone was going to help me until I asked for it. I began to see the part I had to play in each difficult situation in my life. Learning to feel pain at that time is what has taught me to love.

Over these past three years a lot has changed in my life. Recovery has given me the gift to start becoming the person I know that I was born to be. I have developed meaningful relationships with my husband, my children and my husband’s family. I am respectful and grateful towards my domestic workers. I’ve learnt to put myself first in a healthy rather than selfish way. I try to be consistent and keep my promises, rather than over-promising and under-delivering, like I used to. I have also learnt to communicate honestly and constantly need to check in with myself because it is still so easy to be manipulative. I value structure and routine in my life and get up at the same time every day. I have discovered how to accept compliments graciously but also to be proud of myself rather than waiting for validation from other people.

It is incredible to think that some of the things I’ve always wanted to do are starting to come true in recovery. I’ve learnt that I need to make things happen rather than sitting back and waiting. I’ve done small things that I had always wanted to do, like swimming with dolphins in Mozambique and now for the first time in my life, I’m training to do something I love because I asked for help.

The things that I value in life have also changed – I’ve realised that it isn’t about the car and the house. We used to live in a large luxurious house in Morningside and I drove a ridiculously big 4×4. We now live in a much more modest home and I drive a small car. But this enables us to do the things we really value, like family holidays or spending Sundays with the kids. I cherish my relationship with my husband. I now really do love him and I don’t think I did before because I was unable to love myself. I’ve let go of all that stuff with my dad because it was keeping me sick. Today I can phone him and tell him I love him. And honestly mean it.

I don’t hide the fact that I’m an alcoholic because it might give me the gap to start drinking again. I am also open with my daughters. If I am sad I cry in front of them. I never tell them not to cry or teach them to suppress their emotions. They know about alcohol and drugs and have met some of my friends in recovery. I know they will drink though I don’t want them to. But I want them to be open about it. My husband and I teach them that it is okay to go and make mistakes as long as they learn from them. My parents never did this for me.

After I shared at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting one evening someone commented that we are a room full of ‘missed opportunities’, but I disagreed. I am what I am because of all the things I have done. I understand now that this is what has made it possible to get to this peaceful point in my life. I thank God every single day for my second chance at life.

Today, I can honestly say that I am a brilliant mother, because I am the best mother I can be. I am present as a mother and as a wife and for now that’s okay. The rest will fall into place.

my child is gay

Anne Lapedus Brest

anneSuccess Story Of a Mother to a Recovering CAT Addict

[intro]In her book, Catastrophe, Oi Vey my child is gay (and an addict), Anne Lapedus Brest tells the story of how she discovers that her beautiful daughter is addicted to CAT, a highly addictive synthetic amphetamine.

These extracts from Catastrophe provide a glimpse into the devastation, triumph and healing Anne has faced in her journey as the mother of an addict.

They took her away in an unmarked police car and drove her away. She was calling wildly out of the window as they sped off.

‘Hurry, Mommy! Hurry!”

I stood frozen. Why this? What now? But then, what had I expected? Surely I know all along that this is where it would all end up? What other ending could there possibly be?

I knew they were taking her to the Morningside Police Station. It’s called ‘consequences’. My little girl was on her way to prison – except she wasn’t so little anymore. She was 36.

Why hadn’t I listened to those who had told me to ‘do something’? Why had I not believed it when I was told that I was an ‘enabler’ and ‘co-dependent’? Instead I’d got defensive, angry and raged about why I should carry the blame.

So was all this now my fault? Could I have prevented it? I wasn’t even clear about what the charges were. I hadn’t been able to follow a thing when she’d been arrested in the driveway earlier.

They told me she was going to the holding cells and would stay there for the weekend because it was now too late to apply for bail. They told me she had resisted arrest in Douglasdale, and had threatened to set the dogs on the police officers. They told me she was in a lot of trouble, that she had been accused of stealing a ring worth R40 000 from a friend she had been staying with. They said she had no respect for the law, and no respect for herself. I could have slapped her right there. She didn’t even flinch; they might as well have been talking about someone else. She was not contrite, she showed no remorse, she looked bored – and let everyone know it.

When did it begin? And why? When did I begin to notice? And why hadn’t I before? And why me? What had I done wrong? They say I wasn’t the cause, that it wasn’t my fault, and that I couldn’t fix it. Then why did I feel so damn guilty?

I suppose, now that I think back, money had been disappearing for a good while. But then again, maybe not: I was careless always losing things – that was just me.

One day, just as a little exercise, I decided to count the money in my wallet… So I did. R170. And because I was starting to distrust my own memory, I wrote it down on a piece of paper. Angela was coming over that evening and when she left, I hurried off to count the money. There was just R70. There was R100 missing. Immediately, of course, I doubted myself and thought that I must have just counted it incorrectly, that it was never R170 to start off with, that it was just R70.

It was driving me crazy. I thought I was losing my mind. But no matter how careful I was. I was still missing money. In the back of my mind I knew that something was very, very wrong…

I never thought I would do this – or could do this, but I started opening Angela’s mail. There were bills, huge bills – she seemed to be in so much debt. I couldn’t understand it because she had a fabulous job, and yet all her accounts were in arrears…

My maternal instinct asked how I could even think that she would take money from us. But how could Daphne and Carol and Robert and Sharon all be wrong? I knew I had to face the obvious. I can’t believe how long it took me to finally accept that Angela was the one taking our money, the one who had taken Lionel’s cheque and cashed it.

But instead of dealing with it there and then, the months slipped away and I did nothing…

Then in June 2009, she rocked up at the house to tell me she has just left her wonderful job – suddenly, out of the blue, explaining that she simply needed to ‘move on’…

One day I was in the studio when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to a man at the front gate asking if I was ‘A Brest’. I said I was. He said he had a Writ of Execution to attach my property. I immediately dialed her number on my cell phone. While not laughing it off exactly, Angela dismissed the entire incident as a ‘mistake with admin’ and proceeded to reassure me that she didn’t owe anyone a cent. And, as unbelievable as it may seem now, I decided to believe her. But that was to be the first of many similar interactions with people looking for Angela, people she owed money.

As Angela’s endless money stories became an almost daily occurrence, I decided that to hell with everything, I was going to phone Angel’s ex-boss.

What I heard, never in my wildest late-night sleepless, dreamless moments, had I imagined. It was a very long story, one of underhandedness, lies, deceit, of lie detector tests, and large sums of money that had gone missing. A story of her fellow colleagues’ credit cards being used fraudulently, large sums of money – including R60 000 in cash – having disappeared, of office cupboards being broken into, and stories of Angela in the bathroom with little packets of white powder that her colleagues described as cocaine…

In the greater scheme of things, at least the veil had been lifted; at least we knew now without a shadow of a doubt that something was terribly wrong…

Angela’s Rock Bottom presented itself out of the blue on Friday, 10 February 2012. I was editing photos when I heard the doorbell ring. Something was wrong. I ran downstairs, and there was Angela walking away from the gate with a strange man. And then I saw them. Handcuffs. She was handcuffed, and was being ushered towards an unmarked car…

I waited with the lawyer at the Randburg court on Monday morning, 13 February 2012. The plan was that our lawyer was going to ask the magistrate to release Angela on condition that she went into rehab at Houghton House.

A home, I again went through all the items from the pawn shop. I felt sick to my stomach that Angela had pawned that watch. It was worth nothing, maybe R100, if that, but it was one of the few possessions Lionel had of his beloved child. Angela herself could identify with that – she had lost a (half) sister some years before, and she knew how death left the family bereft. Yet she chose instead to get her fix, to shove CAT up her nostrils. To get high.

I always found myself wondering about a drug called CAT that stole my Angela’s dignity, her pride, her value system, her morals, her self-worth. Up until the time of CAT, Angela had never as much as touched my purse, let alone taken from it. To be reduced to what she had become, CAT must have such a strong hold over its victims that they think nothing of overstepping the boundaries of honesty. Of course, we all have choices, and Angela’s choice could just as easily have been to not use CAT, or any drug. But she chose it, and it had trashed her…

I visited Angela at Houghton House once a week and brought her cigarettes, chocolates, biscuits, fruit and coldrinks, shampoo and other toiletries, whatever she needed.

Angela was thriving and flourishing in rehab. But it wasn’t a picnic. It was hard work for the recovering addicts. Their lives were a series of meetings and lectures, they had chores, they cooked, and through it all they struggled to control their longings and desires for their drug of choice.

After four weeks Angela was able to move out of her primary care in Ferndale and entered secondary care at The Gap next door.

What was most clear was that Angela was getting better. For one thing, she began to look entirely different, no longer dirty or unkempt, but clean, almost shiny-clean. Her skin was glowing, she was glowing, her hair shone – she wasn’t wearing that filthy suede hat any more. She was no longer so aggressive – she was kind, caring, loving and smiling. We were thrilled to see her like that, so happy to have our daughter back.

After five months at The Gap, Angela moved to a halfway house in Northcliff. Time went by. Angela collected her clean time, marked by little coloured keyrings from NA meetings. They were like badges of honor in the personal war against drugs.

Then, on 3 January 2013, Angela was one year clean – for real this time. She celebrated her clean birthday by sharing her story of hope and strength at one of the rehab centres, as well as at an NA meeting in Rosebank.

Angela has come along way. As I write this she has been clean for over two years.  She is happily living with her girlfriend Stephanie and their little kittens, Oliver and Miss Lola, and their little grey rabbit, Kayla.

Here’s to you Angela, you have endured a long, hard and very painful struggle, but you have finally – with the help of the Twelve-Step programme, Houghton House and The Gap, your counsellor Alex Hamlyn and the people in the Fellowship, and through your own determination and courage managed to stay clean. The greatest gift you could have given us, Angela, is that just for today you are ‘clean and serene’.

Anne is currently completing a 4-week counselling course with Alex Hamlyn and Eli Garb entitled ‘An introduction to Addiction Counselling’.

She receives daily phone calls at all hours from readers who just finished reading Catastrophe: Oy Vey my Child is Gay (and an Addict) to tell her how the book has changed their lives and the way they see addicted adult child.

For Anne Catastrophe has been the start of a journey towards gaining knowledge about addiction so that she can relate to Angela on a new and totally different level:

“I now discuss addiction with her, not as a probing mother, but as a person who is beginning to understand addiction.Writing Catastrophe has bonded Angela and I together. Instead of my asking questions, I am now working with her and discussing with her. We are Team Anne and Angela now. Catastrophe has not only helped us but many others.”

Catastrophe is published by MFBooks, an imprint of Jacana Media.
Click here to buy the print book:
Click here to buy the Kindle version:

z mandela1

Zoleka Mandela’s Recovery Success Story

zmandelaAlcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Success Story [intro]Zoleka Mandela has written an acclaimed memoir, When Hope Whispers, which tells her story of triumph in spite of overwhelming challenges, including a drug addiction, the death of a child and cancer. In her book she writes…[/intro]

To Houghton House Addiction Recovery Centre, my home away from home that treated me for my alcohol and drug addiction, thank you for providing me with a safe and supportive home in my time of complete desperation and self-loathing. I also want to thank you for saving my life; affording me that chance to at least give myself the best gift I could in staying clean and sober. Thank you once again for introducing me to all the friends in recovery I have met at Houghton House, and the Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous Fellowships.

These pieces have been taken from her story of recovery…

By the time I was born, on 9 April 1980, my mother knew how to strip and assemble and AK-47 in exactly 38 seconds. She was twenty years old, trained in guerilla warfare and already a fully-fledged member of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

I was born to Zindziswa Nobutho Mandela and Oupa Johannes Mafanyana Seakamela at Marymount Maternity Home in Kensington, Johannesburg. My mother, Zindzi, is the second daughter of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Nomzamo Windred Madikizela-Mandela.

On 9 June 1997, at the tender age of seventeen, I gave birth to the only best friend I will ever know, Zenani Zanethemba Nomasonto Mandela. Even that early, my firstborn and only daughter’s birth altered my entire existence. I know then what I have known ever since: my life began the moment she chose me as her mother. Nothing in the world mattered as much as my baby did.

From the moment I left the hospital I would spend the next few years dedicating myself to her. For too short a time, I didn’t know how to do anything else but to love and care for her.

I saw myself marrying my Capricorn (my partner at that time). I really believed in the promise that one day we would marry. But after four years together we broke up and I needed to function like a single parent for the first time. I didn’t make my life any easier with the reckless decisions I made as I desperately tried to numb my pain…

I began my affair with cocaine at the same time as I began one with my Libra. All it took was one drug-infested “romantic” moment to get me hooked not only on cocaine, but also on a man who would get me higher than the drug he’d introduced me to. After that night I was addicted to them both.

But it was a tumultuous relationship. Things were off with Libra, so when Bryan, a Zimbabwean Rastafarian from Rocky Street asked for my number, I gave it to him. Soon I was head over heels in love again. But two months in we were beginning to fight about everything. In the meantime I had discovered I was pregnant. As my pregnancy progressed my relationship with Bryan went from bad to worse.

On 21 November 2002, I gave birth to my second born and my strength, Zwelami Zendji Mfanyana Mandela. At 22 years old I was a single parent of two.

Zenani and Zwelami became inseparable and even from the age of five, Zenani became like a second mother to her brother. She did an exceptional job looking after him – a better one than I did, at the time…

I used cocaine on and off for the first ten years of the millennium. While I was carrying and during the two years that I breast fed Zwelami I managed to refrain from drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, but as much as I didn’t miss them at the time, like a jilted lover they always seemed to find their way back.

I craved my drugs as much as I craved whatever man I was dating. Being in a relationship made me feel that I mattered to someone; that I was special. Sex made me feel better about myself, just as cocaine did, and it continued in a cycle: the relationships doomed to failure by the drugs and alcohol which we thought kept us together, but which actually tore us apart. For as long as I can remember I had been walking around with an emptiness inside me so big that no man, drink or drug could fill it…

On 1 June 2010 I was hospitalized for depression and attempted suicide after a drug-induced psychotic episode. I was admitted to the Brenthurst Clinic after my mother and grandmother called the family doctor when I set my bedroom alight.

In the early hours of 11 June 2010, I woke up to my father, my Aunt Zenani and my brother Zodwa walking into my hospital room. They told me they had come to take me home. There had been a car accident. My only daughter, Zenani, had been killed. The last time I ever saw her was during that dreadful night when she had come to say goodbye after I had tried to burn myself alive. The biggest part of me died with her that June morning. I kept thinking: God should have taken me instead…

On 11 August 2010, I checked myself in Houghton House Addiction Recovery Centre. I’d had enough and I knew I needed help.

I spent six weeks in primary care.

Of course, I had no idea what to expect. If I’d imagined that I’d take some ‘time out’ sitting by the pool reading magazines, I was sorely mistaken. Sure it was me who had called asking for help. I just hadn’t realised the step work that would be involved in undoing years of addiction, or that the process would drive me to escalating levels of emotional hell.

From the beginning, the people at Houghton House saw right through me, but still they showed me acceptance, despite my flaws and demons. When I was asked what help I needed, I responded by saying, “Alcohol and cocaine addiction.” I may have tried to brush it off, but at Houghton House I was forced to acknowledge that my addictions didn’t stop at substances: I’d had a sexual addiction too, a ghost of the abuse I’d been subjected to as a child. I realized that both sex and cocaine made me feel better about myself.

In primary care we had daily in-house group meetings and attended Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous meetings throughout the week. In total, I wrote about sixty stories of my experience of addiction, a requirement that following writing my life story in which I detailed my life before and after drug addiction. We also spent many sessions watching compulsory ‘’consequence” movies, forcing us to see how our own actions and behaviours had played a role in our addiction. In addition to weekly sessions with my counsellor; there were group meetings and gender meetings…

Until it all began to get too real.

I started to isolate myself from the group by cleaning. By cleaning windows or tidying the meeting room I could remove myself, which meant that I didn’t have to deal with the group’s dynamics – and I didn’t have to deal with me. When I was banned from cleaning, I was forced to speak about myself, and it was something I hated because it came with the responsibility of owing up to the damage that I had caused my family. Most importantly, I had robbed my two children of a mother they deserved.

I kept telling my addiction counsellor that I was in fact there for my children. “You may have been there physically, but you were not there emotionally for your kids,” he said.

I had chosen my addiction over my children, and this reality will haunt me for the rest of my life.

After my six weeks in primary care my guidance counsellor felt it was necessary to proceed with secondary treatment – a programme based on adapting to a new, drug-free lifestyle. That meant having to deal with my daughter’s passing, but I felt it was unfair to ask that of me so soon – I already knew that I was not ready. That is how my forty-two days of treatment came to an expected end, and although I was all smiles when my half-brother collected me from the parking area, I had cried all through the night before. I didn’t want to leave any more. I was scared. But I was also determined to stay clean. I decided to do my 90/90: attending ninety meetings in ninety days. And assisting Houghton House patients with transport to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I also attended what is called ‘aftercare’ on Saturday mornings, where we received continued support at various group meetings after completing our residential treatment.

Although I was adamant to do everything required of me by my addiction counsellor, there were two steps I was just not ready to take The first was facing my daughter’s passing. The second was putting my relationship on the backburner. The idea was that relationships were not ideal while and addict was in recovery – and especially not when the addict used to use drugs and alcohol with his or her lover.

Nevertheless the relationship with my Aries didn’t last much longer and true to form, after I’d said my goodbye I moved on to the next. I wholly welcomed rekindling my relationship with an earlier partner, Sekoati, primarily out of convenience. Between October and November of 2010, I spent the majority of my free time with Sekoati. I was falling love with the man all over again…

By the time Mamma Graca, my grandfather’s second wife, had purchased me my first BMW, a white 320d, I was not only out of my mother’s house but was reaping the benefits of sobriety. Anyone who cared to listen knew what milestones I’d reached – it was out there on Twitter, Facebook and BBM. I felt that I had something that I needed to share…

On 23 June 2011, at 4.36 in the afternoon, I gave birth to my last born and second son. But tiny Zenawe was born three months early, weighing just 836 grams. He wasn’t strong enough to fight and passed away two days after his birth, almost a year to the day after his big sister was killed…

Zoleka was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Zenawe’s death. She underwent a double mastectomy and 16 rounds of chemotherapy. Today she is a living example of success: In August she celebrates the anniversary of her fourth year of sobriety, she is cancer free and recently gave birth to a little girl, Zanyiwe Bashala.

Zoleka is also a motivational speaker. Please visit her website for more information:


Nick N – Meth Drug Addict, Road To Recovery

Meth Drug Addict, Road To Recovery

[intro]I was the middle of three brothers growing up in a very protected upstanding Greek family. Our values were about family, love and protection. My dad was chairman of the Greek community and our family placed a lot of value on what the Greek community would say and think of us.[/intro]

I had a good upbringing and a happy childhood but as I got older I found I wanted more. I felt a bit different but that suited me – I wanted to be different. My older brother was the clever, smart, high-achieving one, so I decided to do just the opposite in order to get attention.

My grandmother was a strong figure in my life and looking back I realize she wasn’t a very healthy influence. She enabled me and gave me the attention I craved but also taught me to be very materialistic and brand conscious. Through her I learned to find comfort and security in brands and materialism.

My younger brother was born with encephalitis requiring extensive treatment. Once again I felt like the attention had been diverted from me. In order to get the acceptance I searching for I learnt to mask my feelings. I became a people-pleaser and a high achiever.

At the age of 16 I poured out my heart in a letter to a girl I had been in love with for a many years. Her boyfriend got hold of the letter and read it out in front of her family, while I looked on. That year my dad also had an affair. My trust and security had been completely eroded and I began to resent women.

When I completed school I got involved in fashion and beauty industry which I absolutely loved. Only later, would I come to see it for the fake plastic industry of smoke and mirrors that it is. Working in this world I could still appreciate and be around beautiful women but I was in control of them. I became very conscious about body and appearance.

I started looking at older male figures with good physiques. In hindsight I think I was still looking for the approval that I yearned for from my dad. At the age of 20 I realized that I was gay. I was devastated and suppressed these feeling for 15 years. I couldn’t let down my father, family and the community so I kept my mask on.

When I was 35 my grandmother passed away and I went onto a gay website for the first time. That was where I met Wassim, a Lebanese airline steward, whose flight passed through Johannesburg from Dubai every three weeks. When I met him at his hotel that day he was smoking something from a bottle. He offered it to me and I politely declined. “You said you liked to party,” he accused. I didn’t use that night but over the next three weeks we stayed in touch. There was some sort of connection. Someone had made me feel good and accepted, not so alone.

The second time I saw him he was still smoking the stuff in the bottle. I thought I how bad could a few puffs be. It was crystal meth and I loved it.
Over the next four months I smoked meth with him whenever he was in town. One day he messaged me asking me to pick up from the dealer, because the hotel were getting suspicious. Being a people-pleaser I readily agreed. Now I had a dealer’s cell phone number.

By this time I was working with my dad in the events industry and I discovered that the drug was making me lose weight, kept me wide-awake and on top of my game. I began to use every week, especially to get me through hectic weekends. Sometimes I would fake a week long business trip but instead of going to the airport I would catch the Gautrain to a hotel in Sandton and binge on my own for a week. Once I even smuggled six grams of meth into Dubai.

After two years I felt like I was losing control. I went to an assessment at Houghton House and Dan Wolf convinced me that I needed to be admitted as an inpatient treatment. I told my family I was going on a business trip and went into Houghton House’s intensive residential treatment programme. My brother was the only one who I told where I was really going. I walked out after 10 days convinced that there was nothing wrong with my – I didn’t steal, I didn’t hurt people and I certainly wasn’t a drug addict. It was also Wassim’s birthday and if I didn’t leave the House I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. I called him immediately. He put the phone down on me and we have not spoken since, not that I didn’t try. What I had thought had been a mutually loving relationship had obviously not been the case.

In spite of my emotional pain I managed to stay clean for four months. Then I ended up in hospital for six weeks with a bleeding ulcer. I lost a lot of weight and began obsessing about using again because it would help keep my weight down. The day I was discharged I relapsed. I now began injecting one or two grams every day, instead of just smoking it. No one understood me but my drug.

Before long I had landed up in another very dangerous situation. After a night of using, I woke up in a hotel room tied to the bed. All my belongings had been stolen. I was forced to phone my brother to come and get me. Two days later I started receiving the blackmail photographs. I had been raped and there were more people in the room than I had thought. Now I had to tell my brother the truth.

He was in complete shock but agreed not to tell my parents. Two days later I tried to commit suicide. I just wanted to die. The paranoia and insanity were haunting me. My body was full of sores from gouging my arms and legs with tweezers and screwdrivers because it felt like there were insects crawling on me. I peeled off my bedroom wallpaper, set fire to my wardrobe and dismantled my car because I thought there were people inside. I kept asking the cops to follow me home but when I saw them I would throw my phone out the window because I thought they were spying on me. I told my family that I was just stressed and overworked.

My brother and a friend sat me down and said that I must go to Houghton House. I said I would go anywhere but Houghton House. I didn’t know that my Houghton House counsellor, Nikki, had been in contact with my brother three times since I had walked out of the programme.

In the end my brother agreed to send me to a Durban medical rehab centre. I used 4 grams the night before being admitted. When I got there I was sedated for three days to flush the toxins from my body. Then I was pumped full of vitamins. When I came around and saw where I was I lost my temper. I looked for any excuse to leave but the staff simply played into my manipulation, providing me with a private room, special food and new linen. I refused to take calls from my friend and brother for the ten-day duration of the programme.

At night the nurses allowed me to go onto the Internet. Two nights before I was due to return to Johannesburg I came across a video clip on YouTube called a ‘Love letter from God’. After watching the clip I completely broke down. The following day I asked the doctor if I could call my brother. I told my brother that I wanted to go in to treatment at Houghton House on condition that Nikki would be my counsellor.

When I landed in Johannesburg that Sunday I went home to collect some clean clothes. My mom was standing at the front door with tears rolling down her face. I had always said I would protect her and now I was the one hurting her.

Initially I wasn’t completely committed to the programme at Houghton House, but I knew I needed to get serious. So during the first group session I exposed my sexuality in public for the first time in my life. In my second group I spoke about how I had smuggled drugs into Dubai. I discovered that it so easy to open up during those sessions – I wasn’t judged, I was accepted. It was a really humbling feeling.

I still held onto things in the beginning but the more I got into the programme and started doing step work I started to believe that there was hope for me. When my four weeks at primary ended I decided to go into secondary care at the GAP. I started to see that drugs weren’t my problem. I was the problem. Suddenly things started to make sense. I found peace and sanity. I realised that my family had done the best they could. I was the one who isolated myself.

At the GAP I felt safe and comfortable. That’s where my change really started happening. I went to my grandmother’s grave on my first weekend out. I cried and cried, I understood our relationship and I let it all go. All my security blankets and masks began falling away.

One day Nikki told me to stop fighting, to simply surrender and follow suggestions. I had never trusted anyone before, but I started to trust her and follow her suggestions. The best thing about the GAP was learning to own become comfortable with my sexuality. This only happened through the constant group therapy and learning to be vulnerable and ask for help. I finally understood that I don’t always have to put on the tough guy mask.

After three months at the GAP I decided to go to on to do the tertiary programme. Sommerville has helped me to reintegrate back into society. It isn’t easy to go back into the world after four months of inpatient treatment. But Sommerville has made it possible to do this gradually. After a day at work you can come back to a safe place and go to a group where you can express what you are going through.

I decided to follow all the suggestions and have committed to a year of treatment. I am now one month short of my one-year sober anniversary. Treatment isn’t cheap but fortunately I have been able to afford it. I have also been lucky enough to be able to take the time I need to focus on my recovery. I’m now 38 and I don’t think I have another recovery in me. I have worked hard and as I grow I am starting to like the new calmer relaxed me.

During my 11 months of treatment I’ve seen two people commit suicide and 10 people relapse. I have seen consequences come back and cause devastation in someone’s life after five years of sobriety. This disease can come back and bite you when you least expect it. Not when you are strong but when you are weak. I know that I will have good days and bad days. And I know that sometimes I will simply need to trust in my higher power and those around me.

The biggest gift of recovery has been developing honest true friendships. In the beginning Nikki encouraged me to make friends. I told her I had 5 million friends. Now I understand what she means. My friends in recovery know everything about me yet they still love and accept me.

‘I alone can do this but I cannot do this alone.’

For now I know I have to stay in the rooms. I call this programme magical. There is magic every day, when you just listen and surrender.


Sam T – Drugs and Alcohol Addict Recovery Story

Drugs and Alcohol Addict Recovery Story

[intro]I was born in 1984, the last of four siblings. I have two sisters and a brother. I wanted nothing when I was growing up as I had been blessed with a hard working family that gave me everything on a silver platter.[/intro]

I attended some of the best schools in the country, including Michaelhouse, a private boarding school in KZN. When I was 9 years old we were struck by the tragedy of my father’s death. He had cancer and that most certainly had a tremendous impact on my life and later my actions in feeding my addiction as I discovered through therapy.

I was a smart boy, did well academically but excelled on the sports field. I was very popular and being part of the “in” crowd came with a lot of partying and dabbling in the occasional substance. Although I had my first drink at age eleven, my drinking became more prevalent in high school. My drug experimentation followed the usual route of marijuana first, then party drugs like ecstasy, mushrooms and acid and then to cocaine which I tried after I matriculated. I did not go to varsity immediately after school, instead I worked and got my own place near the gym that I worked at in Sandton. This allowed me to drink and use freely. It became too costly to maintain so I quit work and went to varsity for 2 years. I had unlimited funds from my family and used frequently, and while it still remained fun, there was a sense that it was becoming problematic.

My family is well connected so they landed me a cushy position as a sports journalist. My mom paid for my car which enabled me to spend my salary which was between R25 000-R35 000 on myself and partying and even though at this point I had a daughter, my family took great care of her. In 2010 I took six months break from drugging, as my brother was getting very worried about me. In 2011 I started again, but went back to crack cocaine which I tried a few times before. This time it hit me hard and within 3 months I had my first stint at rehab for six weeks. I was not ready yet to give up and I relapsed, a relapse that lasted two years and broke me until 2013. I went into rehab again, after a three-week detox at a clinic, I went to Houghton house, the Gap which is a secondary treatment programme that has changed my life.

My counsellor, Lauryl, and the rest of the Houghton team worked tirelessly and lovingly for five months helping me undergo a personality change that was required, for me to get out of my soul destroying addiction and it is only because of their programme that I am back on my feet again. Earning the trust of my family, I have paid off debts that I have racked up in my last few months of using and I am repairing broken relationships. The intense group therapy helped me deal with a lot of things that I had bottled up and resentments and anger that I had. I am now at a halfway house with new found sober friends where I continue to work on myself and staying clean. I am eternally grateful for this journey and Houghton House for the role that they played in turning my life around. Using drugs was no longer fun, I was powerless against them.


Joel R – Drug Addiction Recovery Success Story

Drug Addiction Recovery Success Story

[intro]I enjoyed a pretty normal childhood, growing up in Johannesburg with my parents and two brothers. We were like any three boys. We fought and played and did what kids do. My parents loved us and I was a popular kid. Basically there was nothing to suggest that I was an up-and-coming drug addict who would spend over 14 years of my life inside treatment centres.[/intro]

At the age of 13 I started suffering from severe migraine headaches. Oral medication gave me no relief so my parents called out the family doctor, who would inject me with morphine or Pethidine. It all started very innocently.
I was forced to leave school at the age of 16, because I had been off sick so often that I wasn’t able to keep up with the syllabus. In time I became so tired of getting injections that I begged my doctor to try and find an effective oral form of treatment.
He prescribed a strong codeine based painkiller for severe migraine headaches. That’s where it all started, and where it ended, I guess.
The directions on the bottle said take two tablets every six hours. I would take three four hourly – I really didn’t want those injections!
I managed to go back to school nine months later and miraculously I passed matric. By then the migraines had started fading and I stopped experiencing such severe pain. That’s when I knew there was something wrong. I began to realise that I liked the feeling of oblivion that the tablets would give me. When I took tablets I didn’t care as much about the difficulties in my life. I started to use the tablets to alleviate my emotional rather than my physical problems.
I started needing to take more and more tablets to get the same effect. Of course, I couldn’t tell my parents so I had to start faking migraines. This meant I could still get the prescriptions from my family doctor but this was no longer enough. I had to start visiting different pharmacies. I still didn’t realize that I had a problem. We were ignorant in those days about addiction, and especially pharmaceutical drug addiction.
I was drafted into the medical corps when I turned 18 and my job was to look after the pharmacy at One Military Hospital. That is where my addiction really escalated. I had as much Stopayne and Rohypnol as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was taking 30 to 40 Stopayne tablets a day. I overdosed twice in the army. My commanding officer put me into the psychiatric hospital for a week and then sent me back to the medical corps.
When I left the army I went into my dad’s clothing business. I was using codeine but still functioning – I had friends and a girlfriend. But my using progressed and at age 25 I went into treatment for the first time. It was the late 1980s and there were no real twelve-step programmes or proper rehabilitation centres in South Africa, but I did well in treatment. I came out, stayed clean and got engaged to my girlfriend.
At that time Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the South African National Council on Alcoholism (SANCA) were the only support structures available for people in recovery. A couple of us decided to start South Africa’s first Narcotics Anonymous (NA) fellowship. We established a little group in Hillbrow on Thursday nights, which rapidly grew and expanded. But I still didn’t really understand the concept of recovery. Rehabs didn’t really teach addicts how to stay clean back then, so I thought I was cured, back on track.
Three months before my wedding date I started using again and my fiancé left me.
I was to spend the next 20 years of my life going into treatment, getting a bit of clean time and then relapsing. I spent 14,5 years in inpatient treatment over a period of 22 years. I’ve been admitted into treatment 54 times.
Houghton House opened in 1995 and I heard that – based on Twelve Steps and the Minnesota model – it was the first treatment centre of its kind in the country. I decided to give it a bash. That was the first time I met Houghton House founder, Alex Hamlyn. Alex and I got on very well. He became my sponsor, mentor and close friend.
At Houghton House I got the first glimpse of what some kind of recovery could be like. I began to understand and experience the difference between abstinence and recovery. I learnt what the twelve steps are really about. Before that I thought if I could just stop taking the tablets I would be fine. I didn’t realize that I actually had to change my life. I got some clean time behind me but nine months later I was back in the pharmacy.

Before long I was taking 120 Stopayne and 14 sleeping tablets every single day. I sometimes experimented with Wellconal or other opiates, but I always came back to Stopayne and Rohypnol. I was very loyal.

Alex and I remained friends over the years. He would visit me regularly when I was clean but he stayed away when I was using. I was still single. Who would marry me? I would fall asleep the whole time – at work, at meals or mid conversation… I was an embarrassment.

When Houghton House started a halfway house in Sommerville Road in Melrose I stayed there for a year and learnt for the first time how to function in the world without using drugs. In the past I had always done well in treatment. I could go in for three months and stay clean. But who wants to live in treatment? At Sommerville I learnt how to go out into society, to go out for a meal with friends and then come back to the safety of the halfway house. I was finally learning how to put the theory into practice.

I had been clean for over a year when I suffered a burst appendix. The anaesthetist gave me the wrong medication in the recovery room and by the time I realized my opiate receptors had already been awakened. Ten days later I was back in the pharmacy and it took me another 4 years to get back into treatment.

In 2006, my father dropped me at a treatment centre for the last time. He had retired to Plett by then. When he dropped me off he said, “Do what you like.” He got on a plane and went back to Plett. It felt like my family had finally given up on me. On previous occasions my dad would visit me on weekends bringing snacks and cooldrinks. This time he visited me only once, arriving empty handed. I finally woke up:
“What are you doing? You are sitting in a treatment centre at the age of 43, waiting for your dad to bring you cigarettes and coca cola.”

That is when I finally began to take financial and emotional responsibility. I stayed in treatment more than a year – six weeks in Houghton House’s primary care programme; nine months in their secondary programme, the GAP and finally back to the half way house for six months.

My journey has been long and hard, but I never stopped trying. After 29 years of addiction, I now understand this disease and it has scared me. I have fought so hard for my recovery that I’m not taking a chance with something that could take me out. I don’t drink or go to casinos because I know that my disease is still there. It has been arrested, but I’ve learnt not to get clever. I live in a place of “be careful”. There is nothing that will come before my recovery, because without my recovery I have nothing.

Over the last eight years I have gained my independence. I have my own business, my own home and good friends. I go to meetings; sponsor people in recovery and am involved in the running of Houghton House’s halfway house. I’m not in a relationship yet and have decided to take this slowly because I’ve seen how relationship problems have caused some of my friends in recovery to relapse.

I have learnt that recovery is a process. When I see people relapse today I feel completely baffled. I cannot understand it at all. Yet that is what I did for 22 years. I hope this feeling stays with me.

nick in rehab in jhb

Nic I – Alcohol Addiction Recovery Story

Alcohol Addiction Recovery Story

[intro]They say that when you start using drugs or alcohol you stop maturing mentally. So I guess when I came into treatment I was a 122 kg 13-year-old who drank 20 drafts a day. I always knew that I had a drinking problem, but I kept thinking that I could manage it.[/intro]

My parents divorced when I was very young and my dad stayed in Johannesburg, while my brother and I moved around with my mom.

Things were pretty good but it wasn’t always easy. As a child I loved working out at gym or doing karate. I was even a junior lifeguard on Clifton Beach. But my mom was often preoccupied as she battled with her own addiction to prescription drugs and marijuana. She was hardly capable of taking care of herself, let alone myself and my brother. We then moved to Cape Town where I spent my childhood growing up with mom and her girlfriends. My mom killed herself when I was 16 and I moved to Johannesburg to live with my dad.

I had started drinking alcohol at the age of 13 and that gave me an escape from what I was going through. By time I turned 36 it was beginning to take its toll physically and mentally. I was overweight, out of breath and drank 10 litres of beer at a time. It was always the same. I would wake up with a hangover, go to work, drink coffee, go to the pub, get home, make a big bowl of pasta, pass out, wake up, repeat. I still managed to do my job well but it was just an endless cycle of working hard, making money and then binging. And I couldn’t stop.

I remember sitting in the Keg and Beagle one Saturday morning wondering why my life was going nowhere. I had a successful job at an insurance company, wore a three-piece suit and drove a new BMW. Yet I felt so miserable – even suicidal. There were times when I had a gun in my hand and my mouth, trying to find the courage to kill myself. I was desperate to find a way out.

One Thursday in October 2006 my CEO and MD called me in. They asked me if I had a drinking problem. At that moment I knew I was at a crossroads. Say no, and be fired and dead within six months. Or say yes, and gain an opportunity to save myself. At my core I didn’t want to die. I knew that there was more for me in this life and I was running out of chances. So I accepted their offer to help me. They put me in touch with Dan Wolf at First Step, Houghton House’s intensive outpatient programme, who pronounced that I was an alcoholic and recommended that I join the programme.

I knew he was right. The money I had left on my only credit card had been earmarked for a company trip to Zanzibar; I decided to spend it on going into treatment instead. That weekend I went drinking with all my friends from the Keg and had what was to be my last beer.

I rolled into the First Step rooms the following Monday looking like an immaculately dressed balloon. I felt shy, unconfident and terrified. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even realise you had to stop drinking in the programme. But I told myself that I’m in a bad place and these guys know better than me. I decided then and there to shut up and do whatever they told me to. I surrendered completely to the programme. I realised I was powerless over my addiction. Intuitively, I realized that you can’t work the system so I internalized everything I learnt.

After completing the out-patient programme I joined the 12-week relapse prevention programme and ended up staying for 3 years.

In the programme I learnt that my past is my past. But it is in the past and I’m not going to let it to determine who I am and what my life is. That’s the beautiful part about recovery: you get to choose who you want to be. I had the opportunity to develop and learn to live the right way.

It isn’t just about not drinking. It’s about not living with addict thought processes, how you conduct yourself in your work and your relationships and how you treat yourself. The stories and voices you allow in your head can be far more damaging and I live with that seriousness every day.

Life in recovery hasn’t always easy but I’ve had the tools to cope with difficulties without turning to alcohol again. In 2009 I moved to Cape Town with my company. We were assured of lucrative contracts and well-paid work but none of it materialised. Fast forward eight months. I hadn’t earned a cent since moving, was living in a dive, didn’t have money for food and my debts were accumulating. I developed shingles and lost my short-term memory. But I was able to draw on the skills I had gained and the work that I did on myself in the programme. I realized that it is possible to cope with a huge amount of stress. This was my reward for shutting up and listening.

I returned to Johannesburg in 2010. Four friends and they helped me back onto my feet and slowly I began to rebuild my career. Since going into recovery I had been working out regularly and had lost a huge amount of weight. In October 2010 I started training two guys in a park in Johannesburg for R100 a session. And that is how I started building my business, Emet – Hebrew for ‘truth’.

Now I train rugby players, rowers, runners, cyclists, military personnel … and addicts. I’ve taken my skills back to the Houghton House programme where I train clients in the inpatient programme. Our training is results focused. We train for fitness not just the appearance of fitness.

I pursued this because I love it. My work in the insurance industry was for the money, but this is my passion. My goal is to provide a training facility for people who are desperate for change but don’t know how to facilitate it.

I have a quote in the gym at Houghton House from top combat shooter, Bryan Enos, which exemplifies what I have experienced: “Sport is about growth. You have the opportunity to challenge yourself beyond any means available to you in daily life.”

There are no gym bunnies in hot pants in my gym and that is how I want it. I think back to myself and how I was overweight and embarrassed to go to the gym. I’m providing a safe environment for people to grow, develop and learn to believe in themselves.

I was content to be single and make a go of my business, when my best friend’s wife introduced me to Carmit. When she first smiled at me I knew I would marry her. Now I’m a dad and a husband. These are the most amazing things in the world. I pinch myself and ask, “How on earth did this happen?”

The best day in recovery is today. I’m beginning to live the life I deserve and the rewards keep piling up. I’m living a life I never dreamed possible and through my work I’m helping to facilitate transformation in other people’s lives. In the insurance industry the reward was financial but I was selling my soul for it. And it wasn’t me. This is me!

The two things I live by daily I learned in the programme: Just one day at a time. And I will not touch alcohol.

one day

Oliver N Alcohol Addiction Recovery Success Story

oliver_new[intro]I guess that I had a relatively normal upbringing, and being born with a physical disability, I think I coped well in my early life. My parents got divorced when I was about twelve years old and we moved to Johannesburg from PE. I lived with my mom and I went into a primary school in Joburg, which I hated, because I would get teased relentlessly by some of the other kids. [/intro]

I thought that this was my cross to bear, and so I never told anyone about it. I thought that I could deal with all of life’s problems completely on my own. My false sense of independence – not being able to ask for help – would eventually lead me down the road of hopeless drug addiction.

I started drinking socially at about age 14. I guess I drank to fit in during my early high school years. Although I did have friends in high school, I never really felt like I belonged, and always felt inferior. I blamed these feelings on my disability. Drinking was a good escape for me, and made me feel as if I could talk to girls, and generally lowered my inhibitions. At this age, I dabbled with weed, but did not abuse it. In my high school years, I found that swimming was a great release for me. I could escape into competitive swimming, and not have to think about how difficult I believed that life was. I loved competitive swimming and took it very seriously. I even competed in the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004, where I placed 6th in the 100 meters butterfly event. On account of the training and drug testing, I continued to drink on and off, and abstained from marijuana in the competition seasons.

I decided to give up competitive swimming at the end of 2004 and ended up registering for a BA degree at Wits University. At university, I began to seriously abuse alcohol and marijuana, smoking before class and going to lectures drunk on occasion. Somehow I manged to pass my BA and registered for an honours programme. On my twenty-first birthday, I tried cocaine for the first time. I had finally found what I’d been looking for, because I could be confident with women, and party until all hours of the morning. I thought that life was all about partying and picking up women. I had such low self esteem that when I was fueled on booze and coke, I thought that I was invincible, confident and likeable. My using was at first sporadic, but started to gain momentum over a five-year period.

I got into my first serious relationship at age 26 and I think this is where my using really started to spiral. I’d party hard with this woman, and our relationship was very tumultuous. We broke up and got back together umpteen times. At one party we went to, I tried kat for the first time and loved it. Slowly but surely, I’d use more and more kat, eventually starting to use on my own. Eventually we broke up for good, and by now I had cultivated a full-blown addiction. In the last year of using kat, I racked up serious debt with the bank, and was using daily, sometimes three or four bags a day.

After a weeklong binge without sleep in July of 2013, I had had enough of the physical and emotional pain I felt. I decided to check myself into Houghton House. At first I was frightened and ashamed to be in treatment. I treated my four-week stay in primary care as some sort of test, which I had to pass in order to stay clean. I was so wrong. I decided to then do three months of secondary treatment at the GAP, which was a great decision. At the GAP I really got into working on my behaviour – I was still arrogant, controlling, self-righteous and judgemental. These were serious character defects, which at the time I believed were assets! The GAP equipped me with the tools I need to stay clean and slowly begin letting go of my defects, which were keeping me sick. I am currently attending the relapse prevention programme offered by Houghton House, which I find incredibly supportive and helpful.

I am absolutely in love with recovery. I have made so much progress in that I feel comfortable in my own skin, for the first time ever, without having to use drugs and alcohol. I have begun to realise that I have really great characteristics, which come out when I let them.  My continued happiness and peace of mind relies on me first and foremost, abstaining from all mood and mind altering substances, regularly attending NA and AA meetings, doing stepwork and speaking to my sponsor. I am now approaching 1 year of sobriety and my life is becoming amazing, slowly, one day at a time. Houghton House has given me my life back and I am finally starting to participate in life, instead of trying to be a spectator of life.


Christina J. Drug Addiction Recovery Success Story

Christina J. Drug Addiction Recovery Success Story

[intro]I grew up in a privileged home with loving but very controlling parents. When I was a young child my dad started his own business. He was a workaholic and wasn’t really around while we were growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and everything had to be done her way. It was all about appearances and doing the right thing. [/intro]

My younger brother and I weren’t encouraged to express our emotions. What counted was going to the right schools, doing the right extra-mural activities and looking good.

When I finished school I wanted to do hairdressing but my mom insisted that I go to university. I didn’t have much direction so I did a Bachelor of Arts degree and then went on to do my honours in psychology. It was a pretty aimless time. My friends and I came from wealthy families and we spent most of our time doing lunch or shopping. In the evenings I started partying and drinking quite heavily. I would go to bars, clubs or raves and started experimenting with party drugs.

I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted. Up until then my parents had made most of my decisions. When I was 21, I got into a serious relationship with a guy. My parents didn’t approve of him because he didn’t fit into their mould of the ‘right guy’. Three years later we got married and I immersed myself in his world.

While I was married, I completed a law degree and then did my articles but wasn’t really interested in working. Fortunately, my husband was financially successful so I never had to work. He was a recovering addict so I didn’t drink or take drugs while I was married. But there was a void in my life that nothing could fill. I never felt good enough. I thought I would feel better if we had a child, or went on an overseas trip or bought a new outfit. But nothing ever filled that emptiness or made me feel good enough. Looking back I can see that I was an addict, even then. But I was acting out through excessive shopping, dieting and exercise… and my codependence.

We had two children together, but not even motherhood could give my life a purpose. I didn’t really know how to be a parent and left my kids with the maid a lot of the time.

After nine years of marriage I discovered that my husband was having an affair. I was destroyed. I left him and moved back in with my parents. In hindsight I can see how my parents enabled me in their own way. I didn’t have to work and was given as much money as I needed. My mom took on my kids and my dad was happy to be in control of me again. I was 33, with money, time and a destroyed soul.

I met a tattoo artist at gym and we started going out. I reasoned that coming through a tough divorce it was my time to let loose and party. He was an addict. I started drinking heavily again and he introduced me to cocaine. It was a roller coaster! In the beginning cocaine healed me. It filled that hole and made me feel complete. My boyfriend was my new addiction. It wasn’t long before my kids and I moved in with him but gradually our relationship started becoming toxic. I had lots of money from my divorce and my addiction took off. We took lots of drugs but we fought a lot too.

In 2012 my parents found out I was using drugs and they put me in my first rehab. My kids moved back in with my parents while I went into treatment for four months. I managed to stay clean while I was there but I wasn’t ready to give up drugs. I still loved the chaos. When I came out I moved back to my parents, got back together with my boyfriend and started using again. But I’d learned to be clever. I knew how to hide my drug use from my parents. I put on a mask – I looked good and that’s all my parents cared about. I had become friends with a guy in treatment who had also relapsed and we started using crystal meth together.

That Christmas I went on a cruise with my parents and children. I couldn’t use for twelve days. As soon as I got back my children went away with their father for two weeks and I went to stay with my boyfriend in Pretoria and used meth all the time. I reached an all time low and the day I was meant to fetch my kids I realized that there was no way I could go home. I was broken and destroyed.

I didn’t go back. My kids moved in with my ex husband, who was now engaged and I stayed in Pretoria with my boyfriend. I was so devastated about losing my children that I tried to kill myself. In moment of clarity I realised if I didn’t leave my boyfriend I was going to die. I got in my car and drove to my previous treatment centre – not because I was addicted to drugs but to get away from him. I thought he was my problem. I believed that if I could get off him I would be okay. I wasn’t ready to admit drugs were my problem.

I stayed there for six weeks and used drugs throughout, but I did get over him. I moved back to my parents, continued to use crystal meth and steadily descended towards my rock bottom. I couldn’t live without drugs but they weren’t working anymore. Based on my experience of treatment I thought there was no hope of recovery for me. I lost my will to live.

Eventually my parents threatened to kick me out and cut off all their support unless I agreed to go in to treatment at Houghton House. So in June 2013 I entered treatment at Houghton House because there was nothing else I could do. I was broken. My ex-husband had told me I would never see my children again, my brother didn’t talk to me and my parents were ready to cut me loose.

Those first six weeks in Houghton House are a blur. I still didn’t feel like there was a reason to keep going. For the first time I was forced to face what I had caused. I had to sit with my guilt over losing my kids. I felt like I had lost everything.

But there were small glimpses of a better life. I didn’t trust anyone, especially not men or myself but I started to trust my counsellor, Nikki. I could relate to her and I decided to follow all her suggestions. So when, after six weeks, she recommended that I go into Houghton House’s secondary care programme, the GAP, I went with it.

This was to be my most life-changing experience. The staff at Houghton House were so caring and genuinely interested in helping me.
The group sessions were pivotal in my recovery. The feedback I received from counsellors and fellow addicts was invaluable. It enabled me look at myself, my defects and my denial. I had never had real friends in my life and at the GAP I developed the most amazing close friendships. I felt like people were ‘getting me’ for the first time in my life.

I finally started learning how to live life on life’s terms. I had always felt like a 16 year old not knowing how to take control. But through the programme I was given the tools to be able to live in the world. If you follow the programme at Houghton House, you have no choice but to recover, and then it becomes second nature. I stayed for five months at the GAP, and then progressed to tertiary care at Sommerville halfway house.

The way in which the different levels of care at Houghton House are structured has enabled me to gradually learn to stand on my own feet. Initially, the strict boundaries and the intensity of the programme at the GAP were just what I needed. Now in tertiary care there is a lot more flexibility but there is still support. It’s great to come back to the halfway house in the evenings and discuss the day with friends who have been in treatment with me since primary care. We also have aftercare groups and individual counselling sessions to make sure we’re talking through the new issues we are encountering and asking for help if necessary.
My life is starting to work out. I am working on my relationship with my ex-husband and I spend time with my children three afternoons a week and on the weekends. I’m not ready for them to live with me yet but I’m sure in time I will be. Houghton House teaches you that recovery is a process and it gives you the space to go through that process. You need to be committed; to do the work; and to follow suggestions. So far everything they have told me has come true.