Hello, hope everyone is well coming into this festive season? It's a poignant time for many, including myself. A time when those surrounded by family and friends can hopefully give thanks for these people in their lives and a time when those who have no one significant in their lives, inevitably suffer more with the encroaching sense of isolation and loneliness. Christmas has always been either one of those extremes to me but I tended to live a life that dealt in extremes of everything, never finding the solace of a ground in between, that I have today. My heart goes out to lonely people at this time of year and fills me with gratitude for the family and friends I have left after various departures via death or as a result of my fucked up behaviour, back in the day when I was trying to make some sense of all this. Today marks the 16 month point in my current sobriety, again the longest ever in a quarter of a century, although it's not so much a milestone, just another day in my life. That statement is no small thing with everyday continuing to be miraculous and having an actual life rather than an existence is still an exciting place to be. There has been a ominous trend over the last few weeks, one that is not out of the ordinary but still deeply saddening. Three people who I know, not my closest friends, but fellow addicts or alcoholics, have killed themselves in the last three weeks. These are people who suffer from this debilitating disease and everything that goes along with it. People who have long put down the drink or drugs but continue to be plagued by the all encompassing feeling of hopelessness. As I say, it's not unusual and there will be further suicides along the way but it doesn't make it any more acceptable. One thing it does do however is keep me alert to my own recovery battle and guards me against complacency. It also gives me an extra boost to work hard and make a difference to the still suffering addict, however small that is. Just spare a thought for those who are without hope this Christmas, it's a hellish place to be, I've been there and never wish to return.
As you know by now, I reside in Cape Town, South Africa. A stunning place and I still have to pinch myself sometimes to remember that I am actually lucky enough to live here, writing and working in the sun and beautiful surroundings somehow makes things feel straight forward, uncomplicated. I had a strange moment yesterday where I had to bite my lip, unusual for me as anyone who knows me will testify, faced with what can only be described as loathsome racism. Now, let me not beat about the bush here, South Africa is an inherently racist country, it's hard to apportion blame sometimes when one knows it is born from constitutional, deep-seated, ignorance. I don't believe that this however excuses such things as I have heard and witnessed in my three years living as part of all this. I can't change things that have built up over decades and centuries but I can do my little bit to counter what I experience. I love the cultural mix in South Africa, I love that I can walk 100 yards and be away from my relatively comfortable lifestyle and really feel that I am in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an authentic African experience, the fact that I am the only white person in the mix is often overlooked by me as I submerge myself with people and for the most part it also seems to be overlooked by everyone else, this is how I want to live. I haven't even really thought much about a racial divide until it's affected me personally and in essence I'd rather not have to address it as I'd prefer that it didn't exist at all. Anyway, you may know I was stabbed and nearly killed on a train here, just over 6 months ago. Now this is something that has happened and I have not been affected by it mentally at all which many people find disturbing or unnatural but I believe some people are just better at dealing with trauma than others. Having said that, put me in a place where I'm faced with huge emotional trauma such as a break-up in a relationship or the death of a family member and I'm aware that my coping mechanisms in the past have been disastrous at best. I found the whole stabbing incident easier because one minute I was going to die and I was at peace with that and after a short time in the resuscitation unit at the hospital, I was going to live and I was even more at peace with that! Rehabilitation would be painful and time consuming but the life/death, black/white, 100% or nothing thing appealed to my addict nature I guess. The overriding memories of that attack are two fold, on one hand there was the people who saw me dying on the floor of the train and said things such as 'he's just a whitey, leave him' which provoked disbelief in me rather than anger, maybe naively. On the other hand there was the woman who gathered my belongings and sat and prayed with me whilst we waited for help. Two sides of the same coin, people who lived in the same area, similar upbringings no doubt but opposite in their outlook and attitude. I mention this to emphasize the fact that despite that incident, I still have no anger towards the people that did it to me and my view on the disgusting nature of racism hasn't altered one bit. So, yesterday I was doing a bit of work at home and the doorbell rang, I answered it as I always do despite it mostly being people asking for money. There were three people at the gate and I wouldn't normally feel the need to say that they were coloured (a word that is seemingly acceptable over here but still makes me cringe every time!). They had spotted a tent in one of our bins that a housemate had thrown away and they wanted to fix it up for one of their children for a Christmas present. Of course I gave them it and told them to pop back in a couple of days as I'm going through some stuff that I no longer wear and offered it to them. Not a huge deal, only a couple of minutes out of my day and I didn't think any more of it. That is until a white family from one of the other huge houses on the estate rang the bell. The woman spoke as I opened the gate, 'did you see them?', she asked. I genuinely had no idea what she was talking about so said 'no...seen who?', I was beginning to feel that weird excitement you get when you're about to hear a bit of gossip or when somethings kicking off and you can't help but look until she half whispered and half shouted, which is an incredible thing in itself, 'the Coloureds! Did you see them?', her husband and little girl nodding enthusiastically as I had a glimpse of how the Nazi's probably spoke about the Jews all those years ago in a not too dissimilar situation. I wish I wasn't so taken aback and able to respond in a humorous way but it shook me so I just told her that yes, I had seen them and in fact they politely asked me for something that was going to be thrown away anyway, so I handed it to them. She told me to watch out for them and I understand that she may mean well, being a considerate neighbour and all that but my sympathy for her and her family was thrashed to bits so I remained quiet and offered no thanks for the heads up. I can't even begin to offer up a solution to the racial problem that we are faced with but maybe trying to treat humans as humans is a starting point? I don't know why this even annoys me so much, I can't change generations of teaching and developing of attitudes and beliefs. I just can't bring myself to either fear or despise an entire group of people based on nothing but ethnicity, despite being nearly killed by a couple of these 'coloureds', and I don't think that's ever going to change. I feel happy that I am that way, not proud or egotistical, just at peace.
The final thing I wish to talk about is the forming of Cape Recovery aka Homedetox South Africa in partnership with Homedetox UK. Things are really taking off and I believe that this is because I have let the worry and financial concern go and in it's place is just a transparent desire to help others. I don't have any moral issues about making money in the recovery game if done openly and as a client based concern. Unlike many of our competitors, it's not about milking people for every penny we can, it's about giving the best deal possible from the inside, through partnerships with high quality treatment centers and through personal knowledge and experience from both sides of the fence. It has been a leap of faith and I've spent most of my savings on a new car in order to ferry people around and give a seamless service. Some would say that I have put all my eggs in one basket but that's ok, I'm happy and I live by faith that things are going to continue getting better and better, the signs are all good so far. I have developed this inner peace and I guess this must be what they talk about when they natter on about the joys of recovery at the beginning when all you really want to do is punch them in their smug faces. Things change and stuff gets better. I'm laid back! Some would say I always have been but in truth I never was. I just appeared that way. I was broken inside and procrastination was heavily disguised by doing the minimum nessasary to just stay afloat but I was never happy. Now I'm laid back because I have things in place and simple things don't fill me with fear anymore. I believe that the key to this inner peace is that I no longer have anything to hide, no secrets to conceal. This is what sobriety gives me and for that, I thank God (I speak to him regularly, and now, rather than telling him what I want, I just give him ideas to work with. It's ultimately up to him but I think we're more on the same page now).
Life is good right now, if you know anyone who needs help accessing treatment or just advice drop me a message on http://www.facebook.com/caperecovery and I'll get back to you straight away or visit CapeRecovery to see what the options are. It doesn't have to be complicated and it's not so problematic any more living with the alcoholfreeme.com