Updated: Oct 19
My wife recently wrote an amazing blog about how our journey started. This journey of how PRC Recovery started truly is a beacon of hope and my wife, a true inspiration of grace and commitment, who without, I would probably not have been clean and sober today, thank you, and love you. My focus in this story, however, is more focused on the destructive pattern of an addict before recovery and in recovery.
The key thing anyone needs to understand when talking about addiction is that addiction is a disease. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) described this so clear to me that without a doubt I realised that I truly suffer from a progressive illness and while they only talk about alcohol the same applies to any substance or behavioural addiction I suffer from, and it is especially true when I say “suffer from” as I continue to live with this disease, one drink or drug away from a relapse. The Big Book says that the obsession to use will be lifted and while I might not have a problem drinking or doing drugs nowadays I’m still prone to other compulsive, obsessive and self-centred behaviour.
The Big Book or the Doctor’s Note in the Big Book describes the effect that alcohol has on the body and mind of an alcoholic. Dr Silkworth firstly describes the effect of the body as an allergy, and that made complete sense to me, once I start I cannot stop as the effects of alcohol aren’t processed out of my system like normal, non-alcoholic drinkers. Secondly, he describes the obsession of the mind that makes me believe that I can somehow drink successfully, have one or two drinks and go home but this never worked. I always told my wife we just going for 3 beers, I’ll be home at 10. I always mixed it up, had 10 beers and got home at 3 and the insane thing was I thought that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this.
My wife made this story sound like a fairy tale while in fact, it was a complete opposite horror story to me looking back. My story probably much like that of another addict/alcoholic, out-of-control, at the point of bankruptcy and divorce, hopeless and despaired, and in full denial of my problem. In Bill W's story (Chapter 1), he describes this state of the alcoholic perfectly, "No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master." Yet I was still convinced that “I don’t have an addiction problem”, I’m functional, paying my bills, putting food on the table, doing my job. As an Executive in Corporate business, client entertainment was part of the job, the problem was, I just never seemed to be able to stop when everybody else did and besides tarnishing my reputation I was causing serious distrust and misfortune in our company.
I remember how my parents and in-laws just kept protecting me, telling my wife that he just had a rough day, he’s just dealing with stress, he’ll be fine tomorrow, but in reality, tomorrow never came as my addiction took me deeper into isolation, despair, shame, guilt and remorse. My wife was getting rather fat (just joking) because of all the chocolates I bought each week. Apologetically buying flowers and chocolates to hide the truth. Needlessly the mental and emotional abuse I caused led her to become isolated, sinking into despair and depression and my negative reinforcement of blaming her was not only busy destroying my marriage but my wife as well. While a few years after I went to rehab my wife's recovery merely started after walking around on eggshells for the first 1-2 years in fear of possible relapse.
Addiction is a family disease and it affects each and every area in our lives, personal, work, social, family, financial, physical, and mental. Everything becomes the addiction, unable to function without the particular substance or behaviour, the drug becoming the only normal I seemed to know which spread into all facets of my family. Being conservative, alcoholism like any other deniable family secrets was just swept under the rug even after I put my first business in my nose by age 20, after being drug tested at the point of losing my first business before my 21st birthday.
Just like any other addict in countless vain attempts before going to rehab and finding the solution I tried to stop on my own. In vain attempts which include fatal car accidents, changing people and places, and years of further abuse. Starting, stopping, and starting again, changing spirits, changing beers, with no obvious inclination that any of that worked, but rather in the sense of a progressive disease my addiction manifested into other areas of my life including gambling and sex. I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t continue this way, bankruptcy again and divorce stared me right in the face. I was at a point in my life where every day was exactly the same, if I wasn’t in the pub by 11-12 I would physically, mentally and emotionally lose it. I would sit there till 5’o’clock, pick up my kids, go home, continue drinking at a steady pace and wait until everyone is in bed before downing another half-bottle of clean spirits before I could actually fall asleep if you want to call it that.
Day-by-day this continued until one morning I came home at about 6 and stood at a crossroads, I was either going to get real professional help or lose it all. That's another reason I love AA because they put so clear what I was denying all my life, I was either going to change everything about myself or go insane and surely die. My wife and kids had previously moved out after one of my binges so she was well prepared to do that one final time. The first time she did that my response was simple, great, no wife, no kids, let’s drink, pure insanity.
I cannot describe to a non-addict the places where I’ve been nor can I even begin to explain what addiction did to me. For a brief time in recovery, I was going through a cycle of analysing my disease as both a curse and a blessing but at the end of the day, it remains something I need to accept daily to recover.
I was fortunate to have been able to go to Rehab and blessed to have gone to Crossroads Recovery Centre, one of the best rehabs I know and trust me when looking for rehabs do not compromise and stick to registered rehabilitation centres that follow strict AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) 12 step programs because it offers the support needed to remain sober after rehab. Step 1 merely addresses the problem much like a lot of other rehabs while the other 11 steps treat the person. Always look for a rehab that not only addresses the problem but also treats the person as the problem. Like I've said previously I didn't have an addiction problem, I had a problem of being me and I reason I drank so much was to deal with that specifically but after having admitted that I am an addict everything else started making sense and I could start treating myself, dealing with that void, the guilt, the shame and instead stare my destruction directly in the face rather than those fears destroying my further. We know how it feels and if it worked for me, it will surely work for you.
So this life of mine changed when I went to rehab. The first 3 days in denial until another addict could reach me as no one else could. Not knowing anything about addiction, needless even admitting that I might have a problem eventually the light came on as I started reading the Big Book, doing step work and talking to other recovering addicts. I learned that I have a disease of addiction but before I just seemed oblivious to the destruction I caused. There truly is just something about rehab that works, needless my decision to find real professional help after months of marriage counselling, pastoral counselling, psychiatrists and psychologists led me nowhere, I needed a rehab that understood addiction and I needed other recovering addicts to help me see the truth.
Like my wife mentioned in her story I probably never worked so hard in my life. I only had one month and was desperate to recover. I needed a solution after I admitted the real problem (Step 1) and that’s where my spiritual transformation, the foundation of recovery, the guaranteed solution of AA became cemented into my existence (Step 2 and 3). I continued up to Step 6 in rehab but now wish that I could have stayed 2-3 months to have actually completed my 12 steps in treatment. My journey in rehab was anything but easy, it took me 4 years and starting our own rehab to really appreciate the love, kindness and hard work Crossroads put into me. Rehab was filled with tears and joy and I met some of the most amazing people who I am proud to call my friends till today. Junkies, prostitutes, professionals, normal people but for us addicts through the fellowship of AA and NA we are united, not normal but recovering addicts who share our experience, strength and hope with each other in carrying the message to the addict who still suffers.
It's been 5 years since I've made that life-changing decision and it had brought the guided fortune of having started our own rehab, continuing to grow and share the hope of recovery to as many people as possible. We are blessed to have been able to do this and our joint passion to recover and people have not only become our livelihood but also our purpose.
My journey in recovery has also had its ups and down, financial hardship, unemployment, relocating, starting a new business and I couldn't have done it without the support of NA, as I continue to go to meetings, do step work, talk to my sponsor, be of service and stay connected with the God of my understanding.
The importance of AA and NA is the critical support needed after rehab. While I wasn't in the pubs or clubs every night anymore I was attending an AA or NA meetings somewhere even if that meant driving 30km's to get to one. Meeting with my sponsor once a week and each and every other moment talking to some other recovering addict or listening to some kind of recovery literature. If it wasn't for NA I would not have succeeded to stay clean. Every day was tough but it does get easier. Besides bottle stores being anywhere and everywhere, needless drugs being just as freely available, every cellphone connected to the internet and these small little casino's popping up everywhere, some days were exceptionally difficult and that thought of drinking, using or acting out on my addiction haunted me.
I remember driving in my car from Johannesburg one day, tears rolling down my cheeks, desperately wanting to drink, on the phone with my sponsor. NA gave me the helpline and amidst speaking to my sponsor and other recovering addicts I could always rely on the serenity prayer to get me through tough situations.
A key element for me within AA and NA is this whole concept of a God of my understanding and that is why I encourage AA or NA following treatment centres. It's because this notion of God is so difficult for some of us addicts to comprehend. I'm self-centred and considering my former drug of choice I was surely confused in the God complex I've made myself to become over the years of substance abuse.
I once became astray from NA, where I became more involved in other religious forms but realised that nothing could give me what AA or NA could. I was so ashamed and resentful at God before doing step 2 and 3 that any idea of a Power greater than me was hard to imagine. How could I, who have done this, be anything to God. How could God have done this, how could I ever be forgiven and I see this a lot at PRC as well.
The ten commandments were like a wish list as I've committed every possible sin but that is precisely what Dr Silkworth talks about is the third component of recover. "When we overcome the spiritual malady, we straighten out physically and mentally" and that is precisely the spiritual awakening I had when I eventually made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understand him. It was truly one of the hardest things I had to do in my life and the effects of the third step prayer were truly profound as I admitted my faults to myself, to God and to another human being.
While this understanding continues to evolve I have recently learned that God in recovery is as progressive as my disease and I need to remain focused on Him to be freed from that compulsion, obsession and self-centredness.
My wife and I both stay connected in marriage and in recovery as both of us do step work, we've even tried the Recovering Couples Anonymous (RCA) program and we continue to talk to our respective sponsors, living in service through PRC Recovery and most importantly staying committed in faith in God as we've become to understand Him. Without recovery, without rehab, without AA and NA we would not have been here.
So that is our story, in a nutshell, a progressive family disease called addiction but with hope, recovery is possible. If you are like my wife and your loved one is suffering, trust that recovery is possible, your love, compassion and commitment will eventually affect the change needed for that person to become willing to seek professional help. If on the other hand, you are like me, still suffering, there is another way and the promise of freedom from active addiction is a reality. Like many other recovering addicts who've come before me, I had found a solution, a program that works as long as I continue to work it. I no longer need to live the life I used to. Don't hesitate, contact PRC Recovery today and find the help you deserve or let us help you start the conversation with your loved one.