Christina J. Drug Addiction Recovery Success Story
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.