It's the first time I've visited the UK in four years, the last time being my Dads funeral. I think I was always anxious about coming back because of all the chaos and sad memories of my last trip. For anyone who doesn't know, that trip consisted of a major relapse, a final visit to my father who was dying in hospital, a week in the same hospital myself after nearly dying of alcohol poisoning and finally, just prior to flying back to Cape Town, my Dads funeral and all the anxiety, sadness and confusion that came with it. It was a testing time for everyone involved and though I believe I had no control at the time, I made a sad time even more difficult for everyone. My Dad was a great and humble man and amongst all the chaos I was able to speak to him for the last time on his hospital bed and I promised him that I would get well again. For that chance I will be eternally grateful and though regretful things happened I stand by my decision to make that final trip.
Today, four years on and a bit over two years clean and sober, the longest in well over 25 years, life is a little different. It's not to say that I don't think about those times or indeed feel anxious anymore, just that all that stuff is gone and a reminder of where I will be if I ever have a drink again. I wandered around London, a place that I've lived in for a few years and a place that I enjoy even if it wouldn't be my first choice of somewhere to live. The thing that struck me was how enjoyable it was to just walk around with no agenda, no secretiveness and no guilt about what I was doing. In the past I couldn't go anywhere with a clear head and I wouldn't get past the first pub without popping in for a drink or two. This freedom is something I cherish, probably something that most people have on a daily basis but to me it felt profound.
Another thing that struck me on my visit was the ease at which I fitted back into other people's lives, my three nieces in particularly. There's been a lot of hurt caused to my family in the past but by grace people were just happy to have me and I was happy to be there without any distrust, sneaking around or other agenda. My nieces especially seemed to be delighted that I'd actually come to visit after all this time and doing 'normal' things like taking them to school in the mornings felt like an real event.
There's still a lot of work to be done and I felt I needed a good two years of sobriety under my belt before I could be confident that the visit would be a positive experience and I hope now that this is the catalyst for me to be a real player and a positive influence in the lives of my nieces.
The acceptance and encouragement from everyone I've seen and stayed with has been incredible and I know it's because I have changed and come a long way in my recovery but it's still gracious of them to have such belief in me.
I took the time to meet with a couple of old friends in London. Something that although I've always had good intentions to do, it never actually happens! This is again due to the distance and the confidence to revisit old places. I find that there are only a handful of friends in life who will be there no matter what and although this was never actually lost on me, the confidence to travel halfway around the world to see them was lacking for a long time. This time, it was a great experience, we took off where we left off and the notion that we hadn't seen one another for years was not even present. These people have their own lives to lead but are still delighted to see me how I am now and are a huge encouragement to me. Friends are important and I cannot afford to let myself forget that when life gets busy.
As many of you will be aware, I have been working hard at, establishing Homedetox in South Africa and building CapeRecovery in Cape Town. These ventures are successful and I really enjoy the work I'm doing. I find it a blessing to be able to assist the still suffering addict in my day to day stuff, it doesn't really feel like work! It's a privilege to be a part of and unlike many other people in the field, money isn't the overriding motivation. There is such a need and so many people who's lives are being destroyed by drugs and alcohol, including those not addicted but affected by the addicts behaviours, that something needs to change and we need to offer affordable addiction treatment to everyone, not just those with lots of money. This has now become my primary focus and motivation and I am currently writing up a proposal for the first of our all-access recovery centres in Cape Town. I have a potential funder and I'd ask those of you who pray to do so as this could be an effective way of reaching everyone who needs help. It seems a little overwhelming and should we get the support we need, the task ahead would be huge but I believe you have to have a passion and a vision before anything will happen so let's see how that one pans out?!
Although live can still be difficult and I don't always feel great, it's a million times better than it was and I can go to bed sober taking heart in the fact that tomorrow is another day. Nine times out of ten I wake up feeling hopeful and this is what was lacking in my drinking days. If anyone out there is still struggling, there is hope, though I found that difficult to believe in the early days. If you want to start on a journey where there is hope, Cape Recovery can help you access the best treatment suited to you. To everyone else, thank you for your continued love and support, it means a lot and long may it continue for the www.alcoholfreeme.com