At Holina, we understand that that when it comes to a long-term successful recovery, addiction treatment in residential rehab is only the beginning. But it’s such an important beginning!.
It’s time to get back to yourself.
It was in Primary School that I first learnt to be dishonest. A group of friends and myself had been smoking on the top field when a girl named Marissa spotted us. A few days later, after many threats, she eventually told the school principal. I can remember an extreme fear of consequences. What will my parents think? What trouble will I get into? It was from this fear that I plotted a dishonest plan. I told the whole group (Apart from a friend named Steven) to let me do the speaking and they should simply nod and agree with me. Of course, Steven had no idea what was coming. When questioned by the school principal, I spun all the blame onto Steven, convincing him that he was the only one smoking and Marissa got confused when she saw smoke around all of us. I assured the principal that I was not upset with Marissa and in fact, understand how she may have misunderstood the situation. The rest of the friend circle stood there nodding, while Steven understandably looked confused. This act of dishonesty alleviated immediate consequences, but 10 years later would catch up with me when I could no longer hide behind a wall of lies.
I attended an all-boys high school in Durban South Africa. It was a school of approximately 1100 boys with a really good reputation for nurturing young boys into men who would later go on to be respected members of society. It was a school that boasted high standards, with strict tradition and discipline. Being the compliant, rule-following boy that I was, I’m sure you can imagine we had a good, trouble-free relationship…
My high school career was filled with trouble for me, not due to the school, but rather my rebellious nature and inability to see the amazing opportunities I had. Although I don’t regret the past, I often look back at my high school years and think about how well I could have done if I had the mentality and understanding of life that I have now. I remember being overwhelmed by fear as it was just myself and one other friend from Primary school that attended this high school. He seemed to make friends very quickly, while I struggled to find a group to feel a part of. I remember being afraid of break times because I didn’t know who I was going to sit with, so I often just bounced around aimlessly while eating. Eventually, I did settle down into a group of friends who shared the same rebellious and wild nature I had at the time.
By grade 10, I had developed the reputation for being a half-measure kind of guy who got a kick out of breaking rules, back-chatting teachers and prefects and showing no respect for the ethos of the school. What frustrated the teachers and school, even more, was the fact that I was the polar opposite of my brother. He was a perfect, school war-cry leader and also a devoted sportsman. I stopped sports, bunked regularly and was far from devoted to school. There was no way I was going
to continue with sports as it got in the way of my “smoking time.” I had just enough time after school before my parents got home to get high off a few joints of marijuana, eat a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and fall asleep in time to wake up sober without arising too much suspicion, apart from the
fact that I was always asleep when they arrived home. It saddens me to think how many great times I missed out on in favour of the same repetitive afternoon routine.
I smoked my first joint at the age of 14 with a group of newly found friends in high school. Some were already familiar with smoking weed, but for me, it was my first experience. I can honestly say that this was not a mind-blowing experience the first time. I don’t recall being blown away by the effects to the point where I was instantly addicted, but I found fun in the mischievousness of the whole experience. The act of knowing I was doing something illegal and dishonest appealed to the rebel inside of me. Before I knew it, my life revolved around 2 things; drinking and smoking with friends whenever we had the chance and spending time with my high school sweetheart who I met in my early years of Grade 9.
We would go on to date for many years. Of course, she did not know about my drinking and smoking at the time, as I had learnt to master the art of living a double life. To her, I was a kind, loving, non-drug-taking gentleman from a reputable school, to my friends I was always down for trouble. Despite my lack of interest in school and constant weed smoking, I managed to pull things together in my final year to do fairly well academically. Thank God school was over…I finally felt free to do what I wanted. What I did not realize at the time, was that this was the beginning of a rapid unwinding for me and a spiral deeper down the rabbit hole of addiction.
What followed for the next year of my life were arrests for drug possession, constant blackouts and an immersion deep into addiction within a relatively short space of time. Ecstasy became a regular weekend activity with the same friends that I smoked my first joint with. I was not working yet as I decided to take a “gap year”too find myself. This did not happen; I became more lost. In 2014 I eventually landed a job as an intern teacher at a school near my home town and tried to get on track and begin doing this thing called life properly. It wasn’t long before I found myself struggling in this environment as a result of my drug addiction. My addiction had progressed to the point where I was doing ecstasy and amphetamines multiple times a week, often arriving at work on the back end of a drug come down with minimal to no sleep.
I would lock myself in the classroom during break timestoo get some rest, promising myself to go home in the evening and have an early night, only to use
it again that evening and repeat the same cycle. I am not proud to say that I taught children high or coming down off drugs, but as drugs climbed my hierarchy of needs, all morals took a back seat. My relationship with my high school sweetheart was taking strain, not because of her, but because of my inability to think of anyone else but myself at the time. Addiction is a disease based on complete self-obsession and self-centeredness. The sufferer’s only objective is to change his/her feelings at all costs and I reflected on this sort of behaviour. I stayed locked into this cycle for 2 years.
The cracks started to show in my life. Work was becoming suspicious because I was always taking days off, my family got concerned about my isolation and strange behaviour and I was so distant and unpredictable in my relationship that my girlfriend thought I was cheating on her. My addiction at this point had progressed to almost daily usage of both amphetamine and marijuana apart from the days that my body demanded a break and I just slept. Of course, I could not fund my level of usage, so stealing became a regular practice from both loved ones and strangers. I became a master at identifying metals that I could steal and sell at the scrap yard to make quick money for a quick fix. I was using to live and living to use. I could no longer function at work, so I quit my job with no plan at all.
At the age of 21, I had already found myself completely addicted to the point where every area of my life and relationships had been affected. It was at this age that I got honest with both my parents about the full extent of my problems and reached out for help. Before this, I had seen doctors and psychologists and was given anti-depressants which did not work. I went into a rehabilitation centre for the first time in South Africa following my ask for help. This was my first exposure to the 12-step program which would ultimately become my pathway into a new way of living that would give my life meaning and fulfilment. I wish I could say that I found recovery straight away, but this was not my experience. The next 2 years of my life would be a constant struggle between recovery and relapse. I would experience
powerlessness like I never have before and understand the loneliness and suffering only another addict would be able to identify with. Over two years, I spent a total of fifteen months in an addiction treatment centre, twelve months in primary treatment and three months in secondary treatment. This was due to my inability to remain clean.
It was on the 15th of October 2017 that I finally found recovery and have not had any mood- or mind-altering substance since then. It was a journey getting there, but it has been the best thing to have ever happened to me. Finding recovery at a young age has many challenges and I have seen these barriers in young people I have tried to help, as well as many of my friends. I am grateful to have hit rock bottom at the age I did. It was rock bottom that broke down my arrogance and allowed me to become both lovable and teachable. I started volunteering at the rehabilitation centre where I found recovery and also started training towards becoming an addiction counsellor. I completed both my addiction counsellor qualification as well as a teaching degree and went on to become a senior counsellor at the facility,
holding group sessions and managing my caseload of clients.
Working through the 12-step process and living in recovery has allowed me to mend relationships that were destroyed through addiction and ultimately use my lived experience to try and help others every day. I decided to expand my experience in the field of addiction by moving to the beautiful island of Koh Phangan and working at Holina. Holina is a beautiful place for any addict looking to find recovery. A combination of the 12 steps and trauma-informed care makes for effective treatment, with no better place to do it than on this beautiful island. I am very grateful to be part of the Holina family and look forward to helping others who have walked the same journey as myself.
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