THE BLOG

Is There Only One Road to Recovery?

08/07/2014 14:56 BST | Updated 07/09/2014 10:59 BST

After reading about Robin Williams re admitting himself to rehab I was reminded of the journey I have taken as a recovering crack cocaine addict.

I took my first drug at the age of 40, so I was a late starter. I was also very ignorant about the various drugs available at that time. An employee of mine had overdosed on Ecstasy at a nightclub in Durban back in 1996 and died, but it was not enough to deter me from taking my first 'E' in 2002. I swore to myself that I would never do cocaine and was horrified when people wanted to snort lines in my house at an after party one weekend.

Eventually you become desensitized to people taking drugs and the drugs that they are using. I swore I would never inject drugs and to this day never have, so I did have a "cutoff" in my mind that I myself was never prepared to overstep. I knew heroine was bad, but the drug I knew nothing about was to be my stumbling block - crack cocaine. By the time I discovered crack cocaine I had overstepped my initial boundary and done some cocaine, but crack cocaine was an unknown to me. I was offered it and, unknowingly, I was hooked from my very first hit. There and then I became a crack cocaine addict. I always wonder if I would have tried it back in 2004 if I had known that only 3 out of every 100 crack cocaine addicts survive to tell their story.

Within 2 years I had lost nearly everything I had worked so very hard for, including my life. I was admitted to a detox psychiatric ward for a week in Durban prior to me going to rehab for 6 weeks in October 2004. I had to write my life story on ten pages within the first week. I battled to fill those; little did I realize when I got out of rehab it would end up filling a book, 'Secrets Make You Sick'.

My healing journey however was not quite the same as many other addicts. I totally support the 12-step program that I did in rehab, however the Narcotics Anonymous meetings that I attended after rehab did not work for me, but different strokes for different folks. I felt quite depressed going to these meetings and walked away feeling more vulnerable than I had when I walked into them. Sometimes listening to other people talk about their problems and challenges was just enough to make me want to walk out and use. I often think about how this immensely successful program just did not work for ME.

I had to find another way to stay sober, and one thing I realized was that I could not do it on my own, so I decided to go for counseling with a Psychologist. Uknown to me at the time, my childhood sexual abuse was holding me in a vulnerable state, at risk of relapsing and falling back into addiction. My Emotional Tank was full, and needed to be emptied.

I battled and had one bad relapse, which threw me back into full addiction for two months after a close friend was killed in a motorcar accident. Thereafter I had a few lapses. Maybe this is the time to explain the therapy path my Psychologist took me on.

After one relapse I experienced something completely new. I had suicidal thoughts, thinking this drug, crack cocaine, had got the better of me. I have always been this exceptionally strong person, Managing Director of a large corporate company, how can I be so weak and unable to overcome this drug? By this stage in my therapy I was in such a trusting relationship with my therapist that I would tell her every thought that crossed my mind at my weekly counseling session.

What she went on to explain to me is where my recovery can come across as controversial, but it saved my life. She first explained the difference between a lapse, relapse and full addiction. Lapse being when you fall off the rails and use your drug for perhaps a day or 2 but not longer than 48 hours and you realize what you have done and are able to pull yourself out and go back to your normal sober life. A relapse would be when you lapse but then end up lapsing every weekend, or every month end weekend, so there is some pattern involved. Finally, addiction would be when you are in relapse mode and you start extending your weekends and taking days off work or you start bingeing with no necessary pattern to it.

She explained to me that I would be a crack cocaine addict till my dying day. That I was going to fight this addiction daily and that there would be times that I succumbed to the deadly drug, but if I did, keep it a lapse and don't let it become a relapse. This statement saved my life and yes, it is controversial. I accept that many recovering drug addicts in the NA program will throw their hands up in dismay. Remember we are all different, what works for some people does not always work for others. This is what worked for me.

Yes, I did have the odd lapse after she told me this, and in a way it felt like she was giving me a 'license' to use. But this made me realize that I am human, I am going to fall off the rails every now and again, I am fighting an addiction that is one of the worst known to mankind, so don't bluff yourself to think it is easy or won't happen. That is when you become complacent and that is when it is dangerous and you can then end up having a really bad relapse and perhaps go back into full addiction.

My advice for everyone fighting a drug addiction is to try the Narcotics Anonymous program, however, if this does not work for you, don't give up. There are other methods of recovery that might work for you, that take your personality, strengths and weaknesses into account.

One Day at a Time.

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