What was the insanity of my life before recovery?
Well, at 38 years of age I look back and realize I’ve been a drug addict for well over 20 years. My relationship with drugs can best be described as a tortoise and the hare story with me being the tortoise. I slowly but surely got so attached to drugs that in the end it had engulfed me and I got to the end of the road where I had to choose, if I don’t change this now I’ll be one for the next 38 years or in other words for the rest of my life (knowing that if I continued I’d be lucky to reach that age).
It all started so paradoxically with my childhood. I came from a very loving, ‘normal’ family- my parents were strong Christians who made my childhood as comfortable as one could. We grew up in a normal suburb in Cape Town and did normal things growing up and grew up a happy, satisfied kid.
Things quickly changed with my parents getting divorced and before that the ambulances came to my house a few times after my mom had overdosed on pills, secondly my older brother (by 7 years) was seriously rebellious and by the age my Dad remarried (around 14) had embarked on a very serious drug addiction that would follow him for the next 20+ years. So now I was questioning my normal life and slowly questioning things like who I was and what I wanted to be and could be which are normal teenage thoughts. These thoughts were scattered from healthy ones of being anything I wanted to be to unhealthy ones of wanting to be the best and be different and cool and and, a neutral one being that I needed to understand this drug thing, it had affected my mom and my brother- my actual response years later would be far from healthy. I was not these things though, I was just a normal person yet I wouldn’t accept this. For this reason the concept of drugs took root in my life- being in a different state of mind was what I was looking for because it would make me better that what I was.
Actually doing it though started at the age of around 14 at a Christian guest farm which we would go to each year on holiday when I got drunk for the first time. Wow, this was great I thought, every ‘normal person’ does it and it’s so cool unlike my parents who’ve never been drunk in my lifetime. My stepbrother was smoking weed which too was wow.
Then it was drinking and smoking weed with my mates in my later teens. The effects of weed was something enormously powerful and one which I distinctly did not enjoy. However, the stigma that it was cool and chilled made me try relentlessly to overcome and get on top of it.
During and after varsity it was the powerful effects of E and cocaine that got me to realise the power of drugs. Watching a friend spiral into cocaine addiction made me realise that the strongest people can get addicted but my mind still couldn’t figure out why. Cocaine just didn’t do it for me. However I was still in control of my ‘teenage’ thoughts, drugs were bad, it was recreational and I could distance myself but the effects of drugs and alcohol had taken root- ‘they could change me’.
Going to Joburg to get back into architecture and taking Cat was the trigger. Here was a drug that I could apply to work/’bettering’ myself and to understanding the mysticism of why people get addicted to a little bag of powder. Basically it was exactly what I was looking for, staying awake working like a machine into the unpleasant long hours of the night when normal people were sleeping, I could design societies greatest buildings while understanding this in explainable habit of drug taking that caused people to go crazy and steal their mother’s TV.
This is where the real insanity started, for the next ten years I would consume copious amount of Cat while working ridiculous hours on all sorts of things, office work, personal goals and dreams, ideas etc. all in the hope of doing ‘great’ things. But the results were always the same, I would get my work done no better or faster, my amazing ideas remained just that- ideas. However, my life was a mess on all levels. All I was doing was working, flogging a dead horse. My friendships were failing. My financials were dismal, I blew a 10000 Swiss Franc (R100000) inheritance, sold my classic car and got into R170000 debt with my parents. I was in a classic drug addict state, loads of drug effort and only ruin to show for it.
Looking back, three things underline my naivety and progression into drug addiction. The first is the ‘innocent’ drinking- me enjoying what I saw a socially normal activity was the beginning of a lifelong lifestyle
Secondly, needing drugs for ‘fun’- this started to isolate me. It kept me in the zone where I needed ‘fun’ as an escape of everyday life.
Thirdly, using drugs ‘seriously’ to fix, understand, get things done etc. - it’s a complete contradiction and complication.
My relationship with God completely degraded. Before addiction it was based on what I had learned as a kid and the behaviour of my parents who are strong Christians. I had developed a very immature foundation. When I needed it most I found there was no commitment, no effort and no understanding on my part.
During addiction I pushed God away purely by my actions. I was doing things my way. Funnily enough I was always on the ‘telephone’ to God. Asking for help all the time, unfortunately this was limited to help with traffic when I was late, pleas for my salary to be in so I could buy, and begging for my voice to not stammer when trying to have a conversation high as a kite. Totally insane.
At the end my relationship started taking the form of where his power is shown- I was in a state of despair. I was rotten, broken and I really starting to ask for help.
My attitude to others was exactly like my attitude to myself. Before addiction I was easy going, shy, not too self-confident to be arrogant and liked most people. During addiction, as I started hating myself more, others became the problem too.
In the beginning I was curious. I needed to understand people through my drug use. People pleasing came naturally.
During addiction though I was fully egotistical to prop up the failing image of myself and to the end of addiction I had genuine fear and paranoia of people.
My rock bottom hit over two stages
1- First was when I stopped getting work done
2- Second was when I realised I couldn’t stop
Although I realised I probably couldn’t stop I was getting loads of work done (or so I thought) and I could maintain my bluff especially in a crazy office environment of a previous company. However, very soon after I moved to a new company all this pressure was removed. I wasn’t expected to work late, they weren’t interested in getting loads done, and just a 9-5 and do what’s needed. My environment of years that required drug use was dissolved. So now I chose to use rather than had to and the effect was insane- I suddenly struggled to get the smallest thing done and on a small private job simply couldn’t even design a bedroom/bathroom addition. This shook me to the core and I had a feeling the time had come to stop.
Stopping was interesting, the more I tried the more frustrated I got and the more drugs I took. So I tried harder. The logic took care of the rest, I wasn’t stopping on my own!
I had been speaking to my brother about my problem and gone to my boss at work to let him know about my problem (mainly as a way to not get fired) and both of them had an attitude of “thank you for telling me” but “what are you going to do about it?” In my infinite wisdom I replied that I would fight this by myself as I believed there were two ways to go- full time rehab meaning months off work which I could ill afford or meetings where there was too much freedom. I knew deep down I needed to be tested regularly, that was the trick to getting me to stop, but I couldn’t find a programme or centre or at least not on the Internet. What happened next I can only describe as a miracle? About a week after telling my boss about my addiction one of the members of Mighty Wings, through his uncle who is at our office, started there to keep busy and sober and through chatting found out about exactly what I was looking for. A month later, after what could probably be described as a relapse within a relapse within a relapse practically every single day, I gave in to this madness and committed to attend the programme.
Walking a road of recovery is like taking the road less travelled, it is exactly the road God would want us to take because it is often hard and boy is it cool! My relationship with Jesus Christ has been revealed through my recovery. This is no mean statement as they are both intertwined- strengthening each one comes about from and strengthens the other. Recovery to me is about dealing with drugs, Jesus is about dealing with life. By dealing with one drug problem I now have two life solutions.
A relationship with Jesus has helped appreciate my Past, helped me appreciate my upbringing and my life till now- it is not a failure but a journey of discovery
It has helped appreciate the Present- it has given me purpose- my life is not unpleasant but rather one where there are gifts and happiness lying in every second of the day.
And it has provided hope for the Future- it has given me direction.
Working the programme, by being Christ centred, is already infused with Commitment, Appreciation and Hope. Actually working it develops and connects my mind and lifestyle, the two aspects I believe are needed for a life-long commitment.
- It provides Routine
This helped me to stop. The testing and twice weekly commitment eliminated all the mental juggling.
- It provides Content
This will help me to stop for the next 40 years. It deals with the core which is my mind and strengthens it.
On top of this there is there added bonus of meeting with a fantastic, unique and interesting bunch of people twice a week.
I am indebted to a single step of the 12 in the programme- that is the one regarding Sanity. To see that it is a fundamental step in recovery and understanding it purely by feeling it after some time was a wonderful revelation. There is nothing to think about or debate, it is purely the result of my actions and commitment to myself. That fuzzy feeling one gets knowing you are in this sane zone is in fact a fortress that protects me daily.
God has brought honesty and repair to my relationships. He has connected me to my good friends. He has allowed me to give and not just to take,
Drug use brought about some unreal aspects to my life- Mental chaos, the fundamental fear of what I was doing, deep down negativity, hopelessness, financial chaos.
Simply by staying clean I am doing two things that change my walk with God- I am respecting my body and mind and through this I am respecting God.
The fear is gone
Love for myself is developing
Gratitude to God for my existence has replaced constant pleas and thank you’s
I can start talking to God and asking for help and guidance in the ‘normal’ aspects of my life
The effort is rewarded
My walk with the programme is also not without benefit.
Peace of mind and elimination of the all-consuming stress- it’s now
Respect from my friends
Respect, happiness, freedom at work
Clarity of mind to pursue my studies
A vastly improved relationship at home with my housemate
Revived self-confidence, structure and routine in my life, maturity, I feel the adult in me- I am responsible for myself
Probably the greatest benefit of the programme has been the reversal of the ‘what you put in is what you get out’ principle. Before, by constantly putting in drugs I would constantly get out chaos.
-My encouragement to someone new is simple. Before I came to Mighty Wings but after I had admitted I had a problem I phoned my brother to chat to him about my problem and seek some advice of what he had been through. I asked him to please give me one piece of advice to sum up how to deal with addiction and his answer was as profound as it was ridiculously obvious- Just don’t do drugs! Well, finding yourself here, please know that you will be hard-pressed to find yourself in a more God-given and perfect environment to do just that.