Tag: recovery

Tales of Active Addiction: Madness of the Ninja Poet

J.D recounts an episode of his active addiction, one that led to him getting the help he needed.

Poetry recitals don’t get more bizarre than this. I was standing in my entrance hall with just jeans on, brandishing a samurai sword while spitting angry stanzas at the front door. I was swinging the sword in curved arcs around me as I recited the lines to those outside trying to break in, “The violin strings have been unplucked; their stirring souls have gone mad and run amuck!” followed by the rest of it, the theme being:

An orchestra falling apart.

Just as my life had done. I was grieving the death of Walter, my cat, who, it felt like, was my child – he had a long dormant virus from the cattery I got him from. I had been in a hostile work environment after getting into a corporate knife fight with someone with more taste for ruthlessness than Hannibal Lector. And my strict diet of drugs and alcohol fuelled an addiction gone ravenously out of control.

A cocktail for craziness, and I didn’t so much go over the edge as rocket boosted off the darn thing.

Naturally, my family were concerned when I declared a holy war on the world, so they tried to get me committed to a psych ward. Being as responsible as a typical addict, I found it hard to commit to a new relationship, especially one with loonies, shrinks and overly manly orderlies.

So, one afternoon, as I lay trying to get some rest, there was a loud knock on the door, and a polite request, as polite as a border collie gone rabid, to open the heck up. When I refused to comply, they broke the lock. Suddenly, with the strength of ten Spartans, I bounded through the apartment and flipped over the dining room table, crashing it against the door – just as they attempted to open it, and push through.

I shouldered back, and with the table wedged there, they could barely open a centimetre before Le Resistance forced them to give up.

My white cat, Balton, my teenage kitten, who I adopted to help heal the hurt of Walter’s loss, scrambled whilst the melee, leaping out the one-story window. I rushed to it, in time to see him scuttle out the gate in the garden below.

An agonised scream issued forth from me, and I ran to the study to grab the samurai sword, and stood spewing words, as my father looked through the key hole in horror.

Poetry I shouted, like a war cry. Funnily enough, I was given the nickname ‘ninja poet’ when I was in high school, but I doubt anyone envisioned I’d get an addiction problem, and it would result in this.

The reason I’m mentioning this incident is because I was reminiscing this week. I was going through some old photographs and found one of a teddy bear. He was wearing a small, red boxing glove, while seated on a window sill, looking out of the brown, wooden shed through a window, to the blue and green world outside.Tales of Active Addiction

I took that picture with my iPad at the clinic for the sanity-challenged. But the psych ward wasn’t enough. It helped repair my mind. I later went to Houghton House, to repair my soul.

(As a side note: I found Houghton’s counselling team very knowledgeable about mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. They also have relationships with various clinics, who will recommend them as the best treatment centre for addiction. My doctor, especially, was enthusiastic when I told her I wanted to go there.)

We all have in our life stories multiple strands of chaos woven together by a loom of lunacy.

You might wonder, how did they get me? This guy, modelling last summer’s jeans in the throes of active addiction, was kind of dangerous.

I wish I was dangerous. It has a certain risqué sexiness to it. But Balton helped save me.

For years, I practiced with that darn thing. Good cardiovascular workout, really, swinging cold steel like a samurai. (This was a replica sword, by the way, the kind they use for movies – it couldn’t even slice bread.) Put on some action music from an intense movie trailer, and you really get the blood pumping. My cat would watch bemused. Sometimes, I felt judged.

Now, hours after the initial attempt to breach the door failed, the emergency team and my family considered calling the police to get involved. I think this would have ended my story in a gripping newspaper headline. Perhaps deadline is more like it.

It had grown dark, the Sun casting her last rays through my window. I still had the sword in my hand, like a child holding his teddy during a lightning storm. All I wanted to do was look for my cat, but I was terrified I’d be carted off the moment I stepped through the door.Addict holding sword

Then I heard desperate meowing outside my bedroom window. I ran to it and looked down. There was this little blue-eyed creature who wanted back into his home. I couldn’t deal anymore.

So I picked up the phone. Like a terrorist negotiating the release of hostages, I got them to agree to pick up my cat from the garden below, in exchange for me.

Then I surrendered. I dropped my sword on the floor, grabbed a cat carrier bag, and walked through the barricade, before opening the door and stepping outside. Carrying no suitcase, nothing, just the cat carrier bag, I begged them to find him.

Meanwhile, off I went to the psych ward in a pretty ambulance, lights flashing and all.

My parents found Balton, and took him to stay at a relative, with cats of her own, who he became best friends with.

Pets tend to be ill-treated in active addiction, and end up with neurotic behaviours. I’m proud to say my cat had a tranquil personality, and a friendly one, where he would introduce himself to strangers without being skittish.

I took care of him, because sometimes even drugs won’t destroy who you truly are. For those reading this, those still stuck in the throes of active addiction, you’re a good person, maybe you’ve done bad things in addiction, but maybe your goodness shone through despite everything. Hold onto that, and get help, for your loved ones’ sake.

He had a lovely, trusting way about him. Had. Because, and I will never forgive myself, one of this relative’s cats had the feline leukaemia virus. Contractible as easily as by the nose-bumping cats do when they greet each other. It is always fatal. A gentle cat who fought a battle against his illness as long as he could, for another year. Then, the day eventually came when I walked, with a heavy heart, into the veterinary hospital carrying him in his carrier bag.

His illness now caused him pain, and we decided prolonging his life any longer was selfish. I didn’t want to let go, but it was time to. I was there with him the whole way through. When the vet said it was time to say goodbye, I kissed his little white, furry, forehead. I used to pick him up when I got home from work, and did it all the time. This was the final time.

He meowed, so confused, at the tube inserted into his slender leg, his baby blue eyes looking to mine for answers. Then the vet asked if I was ready. I wasn’t, but this was now about him.

She plunged the lethal dose of anaesthetics into him, and barely a second later, he turned rigid, tongue out his mouth, and fell over. He had gone from my loving, soft, little creature, who would nip me on the nose in the mornings while I was half-sleeping, as he kneaded the pillow, to just a thing.

“Do you want to touch him? Some people find it comforting,” the vet said.

“There’s not point now,” I replied. “He’s gone…”

He’s gone.

Samurai were said to be the fiercest of warriors, who showed no signs of human ‘weakness’.

They didn’t cry. They certainly didn’t bawl like a summer thunderstorm had erupted in their tear-ducts.

But I’m no samurai. Thanks to my time at Houghton House, I don’t need to be. I don’t have to constantly fight against the world anymore. I was free.

My little white cat gave me the greatest gift one can have bestowed.

The only way I could win the war against active addiction was to wave the white flag of surrender.

For me, I no longer need to carry arms because that war is over.

I hope yours is too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matrix of Addiction

Going Into The Matrix of Addiction

“Denial is a big part of drug matrix of addiction. And I certainly deluded myself a lot during active addiction. What I believed of myself. And what I believed of others, which included being deeply distrustful.”

by J.D

In The Matrix, young hacker Neo is in search of the truth about the world he lives in. Finally, after he makes contact with the mysterious Morpheus, he’s offered a choice: the red pill, which will show him what Reality really is, or the blue pill, which will allow him to live the comforting lie he always has.

I think addicts would have taken both pills. We being all about excess.

Now living in Recovery, thanks to the help of Houghton House, I need to control my desires for excess. Too much sex leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. Too much gym leads to too much real sex, which leads to too many crabs. Too much cake in the morning leads to insulin injections. Too much broccoli leads to too many hippy-flavoured farts.

Too much time on my computer leads me to feeling like I’m living in a virtual world, same as Neo. But that’s okay. Being an addict, I’m a natural blue piller, and I prefer that “reality’.

But that was taken away from me recently. I discovered I had a particularly nasty bit of malicious code (malware) on my laptop. Trying to get rid of it nearly drove me over the edge of sanity.

This actually happens, for one reason or another, fairly often.Houghton House - Going Into The Matrix of Addiction Imagine, if you will, a ninja. Dressed from head to toe in black, with only cruel eyes showing, and an ability to hide completely in the shadows. Able to bypass the guards at J.D Castle, while going about the business of espionage and the possible assassination of your financial affairs through stealing credit card details.

That’s a rootkit. Called “root” because they gain access to your root directory, they can make changes on your computer as if they were you. They also, like that popular (but dangerous) kid from high school, will organise a party at your house while your parents are away – the kind of party that makes you think, “Maaaybe this wasn’t a good idea.”

Then they invite the most unsavoury bunch of delinquents they can think of. For instance, viruses, those replicants who infect your machine much the same way as floating bits of DNA would infect your body and give you a cold. Or, if you’re a guy, man-flu.

Agent Smith was very much a virus in this respect. Hugo Weaving, the actor who played him, is Australian. And as anyone who follows the Hollywood scene would know, the Australians have been multiplying like viruses there for eons.

Viruses on your computer are just part of the line-up. Think also keystroke loggers, trojan horses, adware, spyware, elopewithyourdaughterware.

My machine would constantly go on the fritz. Applications I’d load up would hang. Haaaaang for a very long time. Or the screen would flash, as if to say: “I’m about to explode in your face!”, and then go back to normal: “Juuust kidding!”

This is incredibly stressful as my computer is how I make my living. I can’t go back to typewriters. What would I do without spellcheck? Ut wouldm’t look prretty.

Back to the rootkit metaphor, finding the f#$kers is really difficult. Deleting them more so. And they hide the existence of all the other malware so it’s like your parents are now back from holiday. They see their prize poodle floating away on a dagga cloud, but they don’t see the circle of reprobates puffing on the porch. They can’t understand why the pool is the colour of beer with a floating crate in the middle (and it isn’t that colour just because of the beer). Your parents certainly don’t see the cause of the broken bed in the guest room. They just know they never, ever want to take a blue light in there.

I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of this thing, which I was barely able to detect. The logs your Windows system keeps will have their entries deleted by the rootkit to hide its nefarious activities. But Karspersky, my anti-virus programme, does keep its own logs, and they appear as incorruptible as an isolated government official on Mars. Through them, I saw dodgy entries of executable files being downloaded and run, files with names like imperfectlylegithehheh.exe.

I took it to a company I for the sake of decency won’t name here, but let’s call them Incredibly Incompetent. (Wait for my post on Hello Peter for more.) A gent there was asked to do a clean reinstall of the operating system. That’s when a copy of Windows is booted up through an external DVD drive, and the entire hard drive is formatted before placing a completely fresh installation of Windows on it.

Clean reinstall. I think that’s a lot like what Houghton House did for me. My own operating software was faulty thanks to the rewiring that happens through drug abuse and addiction. They performed the reboot I needed, to take me out of The Matrix-like fabrication I had spun myself into.

Denial is a big part of drug addiction. And I certainly deluded myself a lot during active addiction. What I believed of myself. And what I believed of others, which involved a deep distrust of them.

If anything, I’ve become a bit too trusting of people now as I walk the journey of recovery. This chap didn’t do a clean reinstall. He merely hit a button I could have pressed, and reset my system. Heck, I could have done the clean reinstall anyway, I just didn’t have access to a clean computer to download the Windows install files needed.

Enough of this technical talk. I found out later he lied, because the rootkit came back and when I revisited him, he let slip. Rootkits have this ability to hide in another section of the computer – and a system reset isn’t going to kill them. So they can then reinfect you. But, they “blue pill” you into thinking everything is fine. For awhile. Eventually, just as Neo sensed something was wrong with his world, I sensed something was wrong with mine.

Finally, I found my Morpheus. He wasn’t as suave as Lawrence Fishburne, but he wielded the screwdriver that opened my laptop’s casing like a katana, and after removing the hard drive, he cleansed it in a bullet-time salvo strike that decimated all enemy code into ashes. Of course, there could still be a rootkit lurking in the motherboard’s firmware. It could be blue pilling me into thinking I’m safe. I don’t trust oddities in my laptop’s behaviour anymore. I am more suspicious of sudden quirks than a counsellor at Houghton sniffing naughty behaviour (oh yeah, you’re not allowed to insert your “USB” into anyone’s port at any treatment centre – one of the reasons is, it could ruin your chances of keeping clean, more on this in a different blog post).

But at least I don’t live in the manufactured (by chemicals) world of active addiction. Like Neo, I’ve been liberated from my personally made Matrix.

Because at Houghton House, they teach you the truth about your matrix of addiction.

And the truth shall set you free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Active Addiction

My Shield Against the Demons of Active Addiction.

 

by J.D

A mass of demons, far as one can see. Glimmering malice in their eyes as they rush forward, relentlessly charging.

But before them, stands a single man.

Muscular, blue, spandex costume, with an iconic five-pointed star on his barrelled chest, Captain America swings his arm, and in a blinding speed, his large round shield, made of the near-indestructible vibranium alloy, shoots at an angle and ricochets off dozens of these demons’ heads – causing them to explode in fire and brimstone – before spinning back to his outstretched hand.

Yet, the demons still come, and yet he still unwaveringly faces them.

This is my most recent dream of the most noble of the Avengers. Why is he so recurring? Maybe because I always get a sense of feeling safe in these dreams, protected by a symbol of selfless struggle in defence of the defenceless.

I guess I fear falling to my own demons. I struggle with them every day. And not just with Addiction, but my bipolar disorder – which is caused by how my malfunctioning frontal cortex processes emotions.

And I do get so, so emotional…

There was an advert I saw off YouTube. An award-winning ad.

The music that plays throughout is soulful and a little sad. An old man lives in an apartment with his dog. The ad starts off with the veracious canine leaping onto this older gentleman’s bed and licking his face with great affection. Now awake, the old man enjoys a cup of tea while petting his best friend. And then, goes out into the city, with his sweet-natured animal companion always by his side.

The old man walks about, stopping off at places such as a bakery or a cafe, and his best friend sits waiting patiently outside.

The ad cuts to the old man in his apartment, watching TV on a sofa, his dog beside him. Suddenly, he holds his head in pain. Next, our ears hear the whine of an ambulance’s siren, as the old man sees, through its backdoor window, his loyal companion chasing desperately after him.

The old man is wheeled into a hospital on the ambulance’s stretcher, with medical staff attending to him. One of the medics closes the hospital’s doors just as the dog tries to come through.

The sad, but soulful, music continues to play. There is a quick flit of scenes, all with the dog waiting close by the hospital entrance, to show time passing. Waiting patiently for the human he loves. Day. Night. Sunshine. Rain.

The dog rests his head on the ground, and we can feel his weariness, but undying loyalty.

And then, finally, the hospital glass doors are opened, and a woman is wheeled out by her family. The dog gets up, no longer mournful, and runs to her, putting his paw on her lap. She strokes his face as she smiles.

The screen fades to black and we see:

Become an organ donor.

I watched it while around people I work with. I started choking and rushed to the bathroom, where, once out of sight, huge blobs of tears streamed down my face.

I tried my best not to think of that ad for the rest of the day. When I came back to my desk, my work partner looked at me knowingly, and then said – as his eyes darted back to his computer monitor – “Quite an ad.”

I just nodded, suddenly struggling to breathe.

Most people were moved by that ad. But I nearly dried into husk from the water lost through my tear-ducts. That’s my experience of living with an intense mood disorder, which I once used strong spirits to inure myself from. Alcohol did the trick. Till it eroded away my life, and I drowned in demons I couldn’t deal with in a functional way.

Now I’ve learnt how to live with bipolar. Even though every emotion is overwhelming. Anger threatens to boil into an all-consuming rage. Love throws me headfirst into an enveloping ecstasy of madness. Anxiety reverberates the world around me – I can’t breathe, I can’t do anything, but silently scream desperately to escape. And sadness spins into a storm of misery, quenching the sun from the sky.

And the worst. Rejection, from anyone, especially friends or romantic partners, is like being cast out of Eden, forever. Feeling like your soul was laid bare and found severely wanting.

Using substances became such a demonic way to control or suppress my emotions. Now I cope with them through writing, by painting, and photography. I cope with them by following the suggestions of Houghton House’s staff. And of course, through implementing, in my own way, the tenants of recovery.

When I was in my darkest place, in the depths of active addiction, when the horde was overcoming me, Houghton House rescued my soul. And now, because I continue to see my councillor every week, she stands by me, making sure I always hold a shield made of indestructible hope, ready to be hurled spinning against the darkness.

I don’t know if I’ll ever defeat my demons. But I’ll be damned if I ever give up the fight.

Living a life of recovery, that is my shield. It helps me become something I never thought I could be: to myself, a hero.

For standing against our demons no matter what…

We are all heroes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JD's Blog on Addiction & Recovery

An Addict’s Journey in their Recovery from Addiction

Welcome to Houghton House’s new blog, which features an addict’s journey in their recovery from addiction, as written by recovering addict J.D.

Every week, he’ll regal personal experiences and insights as he makes his way through a life of sobriety.

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Winter Has Gone  

 God knows what Season 7’s epic finale will bring (I haven’t seen it yet, so no spoilers). But I’m sure Game of Thrones will never be the same. Like in all the other seasons.

Remember when Ned Stark was like, “WTF? But I’m the main character!” as he kneeled before the chopping block, about to get a short, back, and sides? The nature of the show’s twisty-turny narrative structure revealed itself then. And, of course, GoT has since built up quite the army of devoted fans, moi included, who just have to imbibe the next episode, as it happens.

Game of Thrones is basically TV crack. If you smoke that sherbet, you’re going to have more.

Reminds me of active addiction, obviously, where I had to play head-games with myself just not to take another hit of white gold. “Save it for later.” “Make it last.” “Don’t sell your child into slavery quite yet.” These are the kind of conversations I used to have with myself.

Thanks to Houghton House, now the only white thing I chase is Jon Snow. Totes hot.

Fortunately, my nasal passageways aren’t under assault by white walkers any more, since my time in Houghton House taught me a few important things:

Rule 1. Don’t use.
Rule 2. Don’t f’ing use, ever!

Rule 2. is especially helpful to me, as I’m one of those addicts who needs to be swatted around the cranium a few times for the message to sunk in. It’s now been close to a year since I walked out Houghton’s gate a free man. And by free, I mean, don’t count decadent desserts, video games, or Tinder. Nor, obviously, binge watching my favourite TV shows.

Because I know I can’t control my addiction. It’s like the KGB. In Mother Russia, Addiction control you. And in everywhere else. Even Westeros, and this isn’t a spoiler I promise, Tyrion WILL eventually die of a sexually transmitted disease. Or liver failure. Let that be a lesson to you. Oh, he’s having fun now, but just wait until he’s on his deathbed, moaning, ‘My little Tyrion is burning hotter than wildfire!’

Which reminds me. If you have a sex addiction. And it’s getting out of hand (see what I did there?) maybe it’s time. You called. The H-Team.

They do help with process addictions, and if you don’t know what process addictions are, this is a quick primer: you visit so many porn sites, even your laptop has an STD; you game till your eyes bleed; Montecasino now owns your house; or / and you eat enough to create your own gravity well, then… you probably have a process addiction.

Different from chemical addiction in that it’s not external chemicals (except maaaybe with food) that are altering your brain chemistry, but a complex biochemical reaction in your brain ‘rewarding’ you for the activity you just did. And you want mooore…

Simple example: you’re playing Candy Crush. Every time the screen flashes with “SUPER SUGAR HIGH!” in pretty letters (because a random placement of sweets allowed you to clear a bunch of boilers), dopamine gets released in your brain. You want more. Just one more level. Meanwhile, your kid is still waiting to be picked up at school. And it’s midnight. On Saturday night.

But whatevs. They will never take Game of Thrones from me. I will binge if I want to. How would that go down in rehab?

“I’m in for crack.”

“Oh,” I’d reply. “I’m here for mainlining Lannisters.”

I actually started getting into it while I was in Houghton House’s secondary facility The Gap. If you know the show, you know the Starks love their little Wintery motto. Finally, after dicking around for six seasons since its promised arrival, Winter came to the show.

Winter in Westeros lasts years. Funnily enough, the same applied to me. 10 long years of Winter. And it snowed. Eventually, I was so frozen by my addiction, I started contemplating joining the white walkers’ army of the dead. I was so desperate for an end to my misery. I felt like the world was slipping away from beneath my feet and I was left to tumble weightlessly through the void.

Many addicts get to that point. Where it feels like there’s actually no point anymore. Why carry on? Still, a single, lone voice called out from somewhere, in the depths of despair, a voice I finally listened to.

“Ask for help.”

For help brings hope, and hope Springs eternal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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”

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

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.