The Cape Recovery Story – We Do Recover!
“My name’s Simon and I am an addict”. It took me a long time to say those words and even longer to believe them, I would have settled for any other explanation if I could but there was none. Eventually I knew it and embraced it because being an addict explained everything, it gave me a reason why living was so difficult in the past, it helped me re-learn everything I thought I knew and it gave me a future, a life after the fear, confusion and chaos of addiction.
Having spent decades living with the disease of addiction and unaware that I was even an addict, I’d essentially given up on ever finding a different path, I thought I was just destined to live a life of sadness, disappointing others at every turn. It was my reality, everything I did always went wrong and it confused me because deep down I knew I was a good person and would never knowingly hurt anyone close to me but it always happened regardless of the efforts I put in to stop it. It never made sense to me, why was I different, why was I this often happy and sometimes successful nurse from the outside whilst harbouring the worst pain and secrets within. Addiction is crafty and manipulative, it steals everything from you yet it keeps you coming back for more. Nothing I built up, worked towards or achieved ever lasted because it was destroyed, seemingly and illogically, by myself. This self-fulfilling destruction is not unusual and I know now that I am not the only one to have been locked inside the prison that makes living unbearable. When faced with a reality that makes no sense to you and even less sense to those on the outside looking in, what is there to ever look forward to? My cure and cause of more trouble were the same, drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t just the drugs and alcohol though; they were the symptoms, the things that were physical, that I could take hold of, consume and get an albeit temporary release from the confusion and loneliness of my existence. I held onto them with dear life because they were the only things that were keeping me alive, an existence without them was unthinkable. So, it’s not the drugs, the alcohol or the behaviours that are the problem, the way our addiction plays out is what shows the rest of the word that we are different, we have no control over life with these things but even less control without them. It doesn’t matter what type of addict you are, we can all relate to the way you’ve felt at many times during your struggle and that is what makes addicts the best possible people to help addicts recover.
How Did I get Here?
That moment when you realise that after decades of being locked in addiction, you can finally see a way of life without it, is the most incredible feeling ever, it’s like the weight of the world is lifted off your shoulders. I think what frightens people trapped in addiction is that they will never be able to live without it, the world is confusing and frightening enough with the crutch, it’s unthinkable without.
When my addiction to alcohol really took hold my behaviour became so bizarre that I was forced to make changes. I believe now that if it was just me that was being affected then I would have just given up and drunk myself to death. That’s not to say that I took to recovery like a duck to water, far from it. I was damaged beyond belief and the damage was so ingrained over decades that I didn’t even know it at the beginning. The fact that I worked in a rehab and that I was a nurse made no difference to the way I was. Knowledge is irrelevant when it is happening to the person, despite all the training and experience in the world. I found out the hard way in rehab, I had to humbly accept that although I knew a great deal about the disease of addiction and how to treat clients, I knew nothing about how to live any other way than stuck in the very thing I was attempting to treat in others. I found that addiction has no logic and when you are the addict and the drug of choice is the aim, it also has no rules or regulations.
So with my life seemingly in ruins, I had no choice but to seek some kind of help. My mental health was affected seriously by the alcohol addiction and my behaviour had become erratic all the time rather than sporadic. I literally lived to drink and drank to live, my colleagues at work had known there was something wrong for a while as had my wife. The strange thing about addiction is that people close to you also don’t want to believe the obvious, they care about you so they too want to see all other explanations first. The reality was that I was an end stage chronic alcoholic and addict and was on my last legs, the fact that I’d lived this long was a miracle and I was unsure if I had any desire to live any longer anyway. I hated being ill and reliant on anyone yet I hated not drinking a lot more, being drunk or unconscious was the only time I felt any peace. If there was no one else affected or involved, I was happy to lock myself in a room with an unlimited supply of vodka, nothing else, and just drink myself to death. What hurt me most, wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t do my job, or the fact that I had ruined my chances of a happy marriage and future. It was the fact that when drunk, I couldn’t see my young nieces and as I have no kids of my own, this killed me. Clearly the other things like the job and the wife were no match for the alcohol addiction, maybe the girls could be? I doubted even that, I just didn’t have the strength to face up to any of it. When you are an addict deep in addiction, your priorities change. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s not that you choose the drugs or alcohol over the people in your life. It’s a base, primal and uncontrollable instinct to priorities your substance over everything. You don’t need to eat, you don’t need comfort and warmth, you don’t even need other people to survive. You just need your substance and will get it at all costs. This is the sad reality, I never understood it and I always meant well. I certainly loved the people close to me with all my heart, I could just do nothing to avoid hurting everyone who ever cared for me. I find explaining this concept to a non-addict very difficult, it’s one of those things I guess, where to show true empathy, you need to have experienced it. This is not to say that a non-addict cannot understand addiction and addiction treatment, just that they can never understand what it is like to be one. It’s like as a nurse, treating a cancer patient, which I have done many times. I can understand the disease and the way it’s spreading through the body, I can talk about the prognosis and I can treat and advise the best that I’ve been taught to but at the end of the day I cannot and will not say I know what they are going through because I’m not the one dying in a hospital bed. The worst moment as a nurse for me was when I had begun my recovery journey and my dad was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer. I was two weeks into treatment and was starting divorce proceedings and I couldn’t stay sober. I drank, flew home to England and visited my Dad in hospital. The fact that I had an illness that was going to end the same way as him made things worse. He was blameless, I was an alcoholic, however much one compares the two it is impossible to have the same sympathy for both. My Dad was a good man and in my state at the time I begged God to let me take his place. The fact that this was impossible and the fact that I had his strength, kindness and legacy to uphold was probably the motivating factor of me not giving up, flying back to Cape Town and trying again to tackle this lifelong addiction curse head on. This is also, though unknown to me at the time, where the Cape Recovery story began.
I often used to look around whilst in rehab and judge others, youngsters who were in treatment after only a couple of years of problems and little remorse or damages holding them back. It seemed to me that it was so easy for them, I'd escaped death on many occasions, was dealing with divorce and the death of my father in the first weeks of rehab, I needed love and support yet was essentially bullied, one thing that I despise in some people today is the pleasure they take in sticking the knife in when someone is clearly and openly suffering, it's senseless. It turns out, again with the amazing gift of hindsight, that it was also my fault, I was combative, uncooperative and was displaying symptoms of borderline arsehole disorder. I figured at least there was a route cause for my behaviour and stand by my findings that today some people are simply just arseholes, thankfully for me it was only a phase and I thank God for helping me get through it. These days, I have the good sense not to challenge these types, you can't take on an idiot with words and logic. There was this one guy in particular who works is the recovery field in Cape Town today; He was relentless in giving me a difficult time, probably with hindsight, fuelled by something deep inside him, jealousy maybe but I can't judge. That's what I learnt early on, we all inherently make judgements about people and often these are correct and serve to protect us from negative forces, however, we cannot be ruled by them. It's simply an opinion, it doesn't need to be expressed. I now say live and let live but some cannot do that, it's taken me a long long time to even come close but I'm moving forward which is all one can do. All I can say is that I've learnt from the experience, you cannot offer someone Rehab Help if you don't understand people and the politics and workings of a rehab, the emotions, the weird way in which you think you are better only to realise 6 months down the line that you were still fucked up then. You cannot be self-obsessed and have an ego bigger than a mountain, again, humility is something that some people never grasp, whether in addiction or clean and sober. It's a process, often long and to quote many people in recovery, it really is about progress and not perfection. The process takes longer than we would wish but once you start seeing the improvements, it spurs you on to do more, this is the basis of how I treat and help addicts new in recovery today. Small, practical steps to improve things escalate and motivate a person to keep going. You also can't work in the field of recovery effectively if you are self-centred, wholly arrogant and un-caring, as I always say, the good will come out. After many relapses during this period, a painful one-year stretch of sobriety before a final relapse, I am where I am, two and a half years clean and sober. This is a miracle enough to make me believe in miracles! I even got stabbed and very nearly killed in early recovery this time, the irony wasn’t lost on me. It didn’t faze me though, it was very black and white, if I’d died then that would be it, I didn’t so I’m here to live and it makes me believe that I must have a purpose on this planet. That confidence in myself is refreshing for me to feel even if some might think it’s a bit of a weird take on things. It could have broken me and taken me back to square one but it didn’t, it spurred me on even more. So, that’s the background and where Cape Recovery was born so now we pose the question...........
What is Cape Recovery?
It is a dream, a vision if you like. It still feels a bit like it because it has been difficult and that’s only served to make the determination to be successful even greater.
Firstly, when it comes to spending hard earned cash on rehab, people are intrinsically suspicious. I don’t blame them, I personally spent all my savings that was meant for a first house on treatment. We are talking tens of thousands of pounds. The motivation for attracting people to Cape Town from abroad is to give them the best possible treatment at the best possible price. This often leaves us with little or no profit but that’s not why we do it. We are not agents or middle men, there's too many of them around, looking to make a quick buck at the addicts or families expense. We regularly give time, money and exposure to local Cape Town charities. We look after our clients so they aren't sucked in by one rehab, forced to stay with threats of relapse if they leave, or pushed by a psychiatrist who only refers to one clinic because he owns shares in it or receives huge payments for clients. We don’t entertain any of that nonsense that is so rife in the rehab game all over the world. What we strive to offer is informed choice. Yes, I have my favourites, but that is from personal experience of having been in the majority of the centres as a patient myself. We love recovery and we live in the recovery community, we actively work at our own recovery so that we can give the most valuable gift, the one of recovery, to anyone who truly desires it. It breaks my heart when I simply can't help someone and it happens but it doesn't stop me trying. One of these rehab agents in Cape Town actively tells his staff to 'get them off the phone' if they have no money available. That to me is incredible and not in a good way! We Do Recover and not always because we attend the most expensive rehabs. We're dealing with human beings, people's lives! We will spend time listening, advising and encouraging alternative routes with anyone because what's the point of doing this job if you cannot help every person in some small way? I respond personally to every comment on the Cape Recovery Facebook page because people are on there for a reason, they want to know what makes us tick and they want answers to questions. You cannot provide the answers without professional knowledge and personal experience. Recovery is all about passing it on and that's what we are always striving to do. It may take up a bit of time but it's priceless to the person calling or e-mailing or simply commenting to even be acknowledged, believe me, this doesn't always happen with other organisations.
It won’t come as a surprise that I often get criticism for saying what I think but I believe that transparency and integrity are the most important things in any business. People are inherently suspicious and if you can alleviate that suspicion by just doing what you do and not justifying it then it's perfect. People just want honesty, there's nothing wrong with telling someone you can't help them with one thing but can advise on what the best course of action should be. I'm quite passionate about this and I've noticed that the ones who knock my progress are the ones who stand to lose out, but they have been getting away with providing a self-serving, sub-standard 'service' for too long.
The future’s bright, the future’s Cape Recovery.
So, there we have it. We are promoting recovery for everyone, not just the rich. Believe me, it’s easy to just say this stuff but in a country where money is in short supply for the average person, it is very hard to practice it and initially it’s been expensive to even come close to helping the number of people we want to. I’ve personally put the remainder of my savings into the business so that we can stand by what we claim by supporting local charities for children in a township and offering free treatment to a group of homeless people in Cape Town. This is just the start and we also have a pledge to pay for quality rehab for one local person for every ten we can get over from the UK. I have faith that this will happen and will help Cape Town people in all sorts of ways, particularly as part of what we do is to encourage the overseas visitors to assist with our Cape Town charity work. The thing is, if you claim to be helping the people of Cape Town, you must help the people of Cape Town regardless of their status. It’s our small bit but it’s 100% more than anyone else in this game is doing. I honestly wish we could help everyone and the only way we can get close to that goal is to keep doing what we’re doing and for our supporters to keep supporting us and spreading the word. Just reading this shows that you share the Cape Recovery vision so thank you each and every one of you for your loyal support and love. If you yourself or if you know anyone who would benefit from a period of rehab in beautiful surroundings then e-mail me or fill in this form and we will do everything to help. Let’s make Cape Town Recovery the very best in the world. Love as ever from the alcoholfreeme.com