Live Well — Part 1/3 | #MyFridayStory №116

On the 26th of December 2005, I booked into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

The problem had started slowly many years before but had now fully manifest. Over a period of 5 years, I went from being a social drinker to having regular bouts of binge drinking. To further exacerbate the problem, I was introduced to drugs and quickly became addicted. It wasn’t long before my life started unravelling on every level.

The decline into the dark abyss of substance and alcohol abuse was sure and steady.

When I was in high school, I remember listening to an ex-addict that delivered a motivational talk on his personal journey of recovery. I assured myself and my friends I would never allow myself to be drawn into a situation like sad sole. I since learned that certain schools discourage such talks. They argue that students can infer that if the ex-addict can ‘survive’ addiction, then so can they. (I disagree, but that’s for another time.)

I was certain I was not one of those peoplean addict or alcoholic.

I can’t say I was lured into alcohol or substance abuse. My relationship with alcohol started in earnest in my early 20s. Then, over the years, I drank more, which peaked towards the end when I was binge drinking and using together. What started out as experimenting with party drugs, soon took on a far more sinister guise. Chasing the ever-increasing craving to be high, I was soon looking for reasons to party. It wasn’t long before I progressed to stronger drugs in search of a ‘better’ high.

That Boxing Day back in 2005, it was my brother and minister that drove me to the rehabilitation centre. The day before, on Christmas Day, I surrendered to the fact that I needed help. I knew I was sick. I also knew I wanted to be better again. I knew I didn’t want to continue living as I had been.

I don’t want to go into the sordid details of my journey with alcohol and substance abuse. I knew I had lost my homing beacon.

Rehab over Christmas and New Year’s is notorious for its higher-than-usual failure rate. Firstly, more people are inclined to overindulge over this period. But more sinisterly, addicts and alcoholics will often agree to rehab over this period. If confronted with their addiction and given an ultimatum, they agree to go. This is mostly to go to ‘clean-up’ or detox, with no real intention of ever being clean.

The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book claims the AA has about a 50 percent success rate, with another 25 percent staying sober after relapsing once or several times. The way most rehabilitation programs deals with relapse is to accept it as a reality that can occur, but that it is not a failure.

Failure is not trying again.

Over the duration of my stay in rehab, I met 45 other patients. I saw patients come and go as their treatment either started or ended. For the last week of my rehabilitation, a new patient became my roommate. As someone that was also serious about getting better, we became friends instantly. The benefit of having someone that understood the illness, with the relevant amount of empathy, firmness and encouragement, was undeniable.

On that Christmas Day back in 2005, my minister called my brother and told him they were booking me into rehab and my brother immediately came over to the church office. When he arrived, he grabbed me and gave me the biggest bear-hug and said:

This is the best Christmas present ever!

After my therapy, on the day I was leaving the centre, some therapists and doctors asked me how I felt. I remember saying I was feeling confident yet pensive. I was confident I never wanted to go back to living that life. And pensive because leaving the relative ‘safety’ of the centre, the same environment that caught me, still exists out there. Then my therapist came over to my window as I was driving out to leave, and left me with these two words:

Every day since, I try.

Have an awesome weekend! 😁

Happy New Year!

Originally published at https://www.leapfirst.co.za on July 19, 2020.

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Frans Nel

Frans Nel

Curiousor and curiousor

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