Recovery Matters

Oliver N Alcohol Addiction Recovery Success Story

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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.

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.

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