South Africa is experiencing an epidemic – of substance abuse and addiction

PULL QUOTE: The twelve steps are a blue print for living life as a whole human being and consist of universal spiritual principles.

It’s no secret that alcohol and drug abuse is rife in South Africa. Since 2010, a new street drug, Nyaope or Wunga, which is a lethal mix of heroin, dagga, ARV’s and rat poison among other hideous ingredients, has hit the streets and is affecting myriad teens in townships. Tik has been a problem for some time now. The widespread use of these and other street drugs is effectively destroying our youth and therefore, our future.

The Department of Social Development’s Central Drug Authority released a new policy on substance abuse in July last year that moves away from focussing only on supply and towards a need for treatment centres. A more holistic approach that is also more realistic – it’s obviously important to disrupt and stop supply, but in the meantime it’s also vital to help those who are addicted to journey back into life.

Definition of addiction: The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

While it’s not something many people want to face up to or confront, if you have someone in your life who you think is in danger of becoming an addict, there are steps you can take to help.

Just as addiction is devious in nature, so too are addicts. The insidiousness of creeping addiction forces the addict to become sneaky and wily. Because of this, by the time loved ones become aware of a problem, the journey is often well on its way. In such a situation, hope and love become dangerous bedfellows, lulling you into a state of delusion that your addict loved one will eventually give up on their own. Or, guilt becomes a prevailing emotion where you believe you may have driven them to the state they’re in. All this stymies positive action.
It’s not easy to make the decision to confront an addict. And it’s not easy to do the confronting once you’ve made the decision to do so. But, for most addicts, intervention by people who care about them is often their only chance of survival.

If you believe a loved one has a substance abuse problem, whether it’s over-the-counter pain killers, alcohol or the latest street drug, do something about it – as soon as possible and before it’s too late. But do it respectfully, with love and after serious thought and planning. Here are some tips on how to stage a successful intervention. Remember always, that any intervention needs a good dose of care and understanding, as well as a heavy dash of resolve.

Get help: Form a planning group made up of concerned friends or family members who you know will bring wisdom and strength to the table. If necessary, consult a professional counsellor or social worker to assist you.

Get information: Do some research about the extent of your loved one’s addiction and the treatment options available. Find out costs, if treatment involves a clinic, and understand what you may be in for once treatment begins.

Get the message: Form an intervention team, which doesn’t have to include all the planning members, and spend time together formulating a consistent message that you’ll communicate to your addict loved one. It’s important that you are all in full agreement about the necessary measures

Get conditional: Decide upfront what consequences your addicted loved one will face should they refuse treatment. Each member of the intervention team must decide and stick to certain conditions; for example, the addicted person may be asked to move out of the family home if they don’t agree to treatment

Get the story straight: Before you stage the intervention, write down specific incidents where the addiction resulted in issues and the toll it has taken on the addict as well as members of the intervention team

Get going: Once your planning is complete, set a time and date for the intervention, without telling your addicted loved one what it’s about. Each member of the intervention team must take turns in presenting their concerns and feelings. Then present your chosen treatment option and ask for a decision to be made immediately. Reiterate the consequences of not accepting treatment.

If you don’t plan an intervention properly, it could easily backfire, leaving your addicted loved one feeling under attack and more resistant to treatment.

DID YOU KNOW: Between 40-60% of people relapse after addiction treatment and that opioid users have a higher rate of relapse than other addicts?

Addiction is a disease that has many facets? It’s not just about faulty willpower or moral ineptitude. It’s a vicious cycle that causes physical changes in the brain, leading to stronger and stronger impulses to repeat the damaging addictive behaviour.

Just about anyone can relate to giving in to temptation, but when giving in becomes compulsion, there’s a distinct lack of control that creeps in. widely used in rehabilitation programmes around the world, there’s a methodology for taking back control that’s given millions of people hope and freedom.

The Twelve Steps was originally designed by recovering alcoholics by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1939, along with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Since then, the steps have given rise to methods of dealing with just about any damaging behaviour pattern.

Recovering alcoholic Steve Castleman says that the steps are a blueprint for living life as a whole human being, not just a way to stay sober. ‘They consist of universal spiritual principles: tell the truth; treat others as you’d want to be treated; monitor your inevitable failures, apologise for them and make things right if you can do so without hurting others.’

The steps encourage deep introspection and honesty. It’s not an easy process for anyone, but it’s certainly cleansing and freeing.

STEP ONE: Breaking the denial about your addiction so you can gain full acceptance that it’s no longer an option.

First and foremost, you have to admit and acknowledge you have a problem: ‘Hi my name is ___________ and I’m an addict’. While some critics believe the consistent ‘labelling’ of yourself may well be damaging and stigmatizing, the act of identifying yourself as an alcoholic or addict solidifies the powerlessness you have over your addiction. It refers to your inability to control your compulsion in spite of any negatives consequences you’ll have to endure as a result.

STEP TWO: This step works on the belief that there is a solution and relies on asking others for help. This was originally based on believing in a higher power and asking for strength. Now, although spiritual belief is encouraged, it’s not prescribed. This step also teaches addicts how to ask for help healthily, without manipulation.

STEP THREE: The decision to commit to a new way of life that’s steeped in acceptance and trust.
While this may seem an easy enough thing to do, the reality is that so much discipline comes in here. Commitment takes work and if you’re not willing to do the hard work, you may need to go back to the first step and begin again with truly accepting that your damaging behaviour is simply not an option.

STEP FOUR: Observing and exploring, honestly, harm and resentment from the past caused by your addiction. It’s difficult to admit when you’re wrong – in fact it’s much easier to blame just about anyone else or any circumstance for your behaviour. While your current addiction may be uncontrollable, the behaviour patterns leading towards your addiction were actually a series of choices.

STEP FIVE: Confessing – telling someone else about the harm and resentment that you’ve played a part in due to your addiction. Building up your self esteem is a part of the recovery process and in confessing to someone, you learn your story is worth listening to and that you’re worthy of forgiveness and respect. Many people choose to do this step with a sponsor (a person who has completed the steps) as they’re more likely to be compassionate about the journey you’re undertaking. Whoever you confess to, it’s important to choose someone who is likely to help maintain perspective and keep you from slipping in to ‘blame’ mode.

STEP SIX: Confronting your personality traits that have contributed towards your addiction.
As you can see, the steps begin to peel off the layers of self-lies and denial that have helped you sustain your addiction. It’s all part of regaining control by identifying what could be leading you towards addiction and compulsive behaviour. One blogger wrote that after going through steps four and five, he wasn’t sure if he needed step six. However, after contemplating the step he realised that some natural instincts can be enhanced to damaging levels; for example, pride in its natural instinct can lead to a good self esteem, but when left unchecked, it leads to arrogance.

STEP SEVEN: Committing to change your damaging personality traits. Once again, that commitment may sound a little trite; however the goal of this step is to teach you humility. To surrender to change.

STEP EIGHT: List, honestly and comprehensively, the harm done to others and be willing to make up for past behaviour. There may well be a crossover from Step Four where you listed all your resentments – but this step gives you the opportunity to really consider your part in interactions you had with people in your past, whether they hurt you as well or not.

STEP NINE: Make amends with the people you listed in Step Eight as far as possible. There’s a caveat to this step in that you should only make amends as long as it will do no further harm to the person. Rather than place insult upon injury, there may be some times when you’re unable to apologise or make amends. In most cases, you’ll be able to do the work though. But be aware that your apology is for the person you’re apologising to and should be given without excuses or hidden agenda. Make amends where possible and if it’s not clear cut, such as money owed, then ask the person you’re apologising to how you can make amends for your past behaviour.

STEP TEN: Keep track of your behaviour and emotions daily. Many different systems of psychotherapy encourage journal writing as a way to effectively express your feelings and assess your day. Writing a daily list of what you’ve been through is an important part of staying on track and identifying possibly damaging behaviours or triggers.

STEP ELEVEN: This is about developing skills to quieten your mind and allow intuitive thoughts or the wisdom of a higher power to guide you. Meditation, prayer, mindfulness – all these and other methodologies to still your mind and allow you to pause before taking any course of action are an important part of ensuring changed behaviour patterns remain positively changed.

STEP TWELVE: Help others on the journey towards freedom. There’s nothing quite as powerful as teaching in order to learn. While helping others through the process is deeply rewarding, it also helps to solidify all you’ve learned and is a fantastic reminder of what you’ve left behind and how far you’ve come since you first admitted you have a problem.