Recovery till the end … I was supposed to cause his demise. Really that was my plan. But it seems with Goemie, I misjudged him, his desire to live and his family’s determination for answers. But I won’t give up…
Let me introduce myself. My name is Alcohol. I have been around for millennia, and I am very, very powerful. I am loved by millions all over the world. I am a valuable part of society and intend to remain so. I am not just loved and adored but socially accepted everywhere. I am part of the everyday life of most people in society. People use me when they celebrate and are happy. They use me when they are sad and do not know how to cope with their problems. I am part of religious rituals and play a role in sports activities. People use me when they braai, cook or bake. They see me when they watch TV, read magazines and newspapers. When people buy groceries, I am on the shelf around the next corner. I have even managed to infiltrate some medications and toiletries. In fact, I am everywhere! Even Jesus turned water into wine. How can I be wrong? When people have problems or have difficulties they need to overcome- I step in and make them promises. I promise them I will make things better.
I know you do that! In Goemie’s case, you infiltrated his life 30 years ago when he used alcohol only occasionally. You know about the family history of alcohol abuse on both sides of Goemie’s family and that it made him an easy target. As time went by and the pressure at work increased, Goemie realized that he was not feeling well. You promised to make him feel better. It was a lie, wasn’t it? You actually planned much worse for him!
Well, calling it a lie is a little severe, don’t you think? I love him! He was actually one of my favourites, so it was easy to confuse not only him but his wife, children, and even his doctors! I started out with Goemie as an occasional buddy. You know how it works. Firstly the drink after work with friends. The pubs are great. People get together, chat, have a few drinks and very soon, they find me in their favourite watering hole. This is part of what happened with Goemie. I knew he would eventually choose me over everything else.
An easy way to do this is to interfere with his relationships. His wife wasn’t a match for me. Another handy way I get under people skins is to tell them that they will be manlier in this very male-dominated society. Before he knew it, evenings out with the boys became more important than his commitment to a wife and kids. Obviously, the marriage couldn’t hold up even though he has kids that he loves. Evenings out with me and the boys and doing the man thing and engaging in boys talk was more fun than the responsibilities of a home and a wife and children. I create a friendly, fun, accepting atmosphere wherever you find me. Much nicer than the stress of home life and even work. Eventually, I managed to get him out of his wife, job, his family and friends. That, of course, put me in an excellent position because I became his only most trusted friend. I always keep my promises. If you want me to make you happy, I will. If you want to feel less anxious, I can make you the heart and soul of the party. I can make you sleep better, feel better, be more socially accepted. I always have people laughing and joking and generally having a good time when I’m around. Now, with Goemie, I had a brilliant ace up my sleeve. He suffered from depression and didn’t realize it for many years. He always had this vague feeling that something wasn’t quite right with him, ever since he was a schoolboy. But you know how it is; when people have vague feelings of not being ok, they seek to alleviate that feeling. I am usually the number one choice. I’m not too expensive, I’m accessible, I’m legal, and I’m true: I always keep my promises. Oh, I can tell you so many stories about this where I’ve helped so many people feel better.
Goemie is an intelligent and very able man who has a very positive life spirit and life philosophy despite these vague lifelong feelings of discomfort. He is not afraid to admit when something is wrong. He repeatedly turned to specialists to assist him with finding answers. He wanted to feel better and started making plans for his healing with the help of his children. He consulted with various psychiatrists, who diagnosed him with multiple conditions. At one stage, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, having lost touch with reality. Goemie tells stories of becoming aggressive, chemically and mechanically restrained while in a clinic and heavily medicated. He also says there are experiences that he cannot remember at all. He hears stories about his behaviour but cannot recall any details. Although he did not feel that schizophrenia was the correct interpretation of his experience, Goemie complied with his doctors’ prescriptions and attended the follow-up appointments. He even studied three thick books on schizophrenia and, based on that information, was convinced that the diagnosis was incorrect.
Ja, well, I was hiding in the wings all the time, you know, watching this process and having a good giggle at the various doctors and their ideas.
Despite your interference with the medical process, Goemie did not give up trying to find a solution to his vague feeling of discontent. He kept on searching for an answer and for healing. That’s one of the most remarkable characteristics of this man. He has this positive attitude and energy that is an inspiration to many people who know him. He also has a feeling of self-worth, despite his difficulties and losses. He is well-dressed, well-spoken, with a quiet sense of self-respect and respect for others. He is honest and energetic, punctual and enthusiastic about life. It is most inspirational to know him because his life story keeps on despite many setbacks and failures.
I find his never-ending positivity is most irritating. I’ve always kept a close eye on him. There were times when he refused my advances, but I am very patient. I’ve been called a predator, and I quite like that description of me because I see myself as a lion or a tiger… Much as I enjoyed his setbacks and failures, thereby regaining a foothold in his life again- he kept searching for an answer for his problems each time. His daughter is also a problem for me, although she lives in Scotland. They have a very close relationship, and I have not managed to destroy that. I don’t like admitting to my failures, but they are so close that it doesn’t give me much of an opportunity to manipulate or move. But I will give myself credit… I was his constant companion for many years. I managed to infiltrate his thoughts to the extent that he would create opportunities to be with me. I interfered with his emotions. Eventually, he only felt really happy when he was drunk. And once I had his thoughts and feelings under control, it was effortless to control his behaviour. I even changed his physical health and brain function. Those successes belong to me. He even started to drink on the sly. When that happens I know, I am on a winning streak. What I couldn’t control was the love between himself and his children, though. Or his self-respect, despite a colourful psychiatric history. Or his desire to feel better and to find answers to his discomfort.
Eventually, Goemie and his daughter decided that they needed to find real answers. His previous admissions to specialist psychiatric clinics had not been advantageous, but he did not give up. He was unhappy with his quality of life and his life choices. He felt so trapped. He had previously seen Prof Roos at Weskoppies and thought that he really heard and understood him. Based on this positive experience, Goemie sought admission to Weskoppies Hospital. He was admitted to Pretoria West hospital for observation for approximately a week, after which he was transferred to Weskoppies.
Yes, I know. I was not happy with this turn of events because I thought I had him for the long run. Besides, I wasn’t allowed into the hospital, so I sort of had to take a back seat while he was there.
His determination to get better, the medication, therapy and his in-patient stay at Weskoppies proved too much for you, Alcohol. There was no stopping Goemie. He felt like a new person. He wanted to experience new challenges in life. He was ready for a new lifestyle that did not include you in any way. He had the support of his children. He tells the story of the joy of finding the correct diagnosis and the proper medication. He said his medication was continually being adjusted by his psychiatrist to fine-tune it to meet his personal needs. One day, approximately four or five weeks into his admission, he said he was in the occupational therapy department when he felt the effects of another therapeutic regime. This worked! He realized that the medication he had been given that morning had a positive impact on him. He felt different. He was feeling good. He was feeling better. Hope came alive again.
Yes, I remember that day. Initially, I didn’t think this Weskoppiesadmission would do him any good, really. He had been treated by so many psychiatrists over the years, yet I always managed to get my foot in the door after discharge.
The Weskoppies experience changed his life. The doctors recognized that Goemie suffered from a longstanding seasonal affective disorder that had severely influenced his life. The program at Weskoppies was beneficial to Goemie on so many levels. They recognized his lifelong struggle with Alcohol and made plans to help him after his discharge. He joined Simcha Recovery for aftercare. At Simcha, he found a safe, accepting space to test preferred behaviours and how to withstand the constant invitations from Alcohol to regain entry into his life.
Yes, I’m not very impressed with Goemie’s decision to go to aftercare at all. It is usually after discharge that I manage to come back into my good friend’s life. But at Simcha, he exposes all my attempts at coming back. They are a small group of people who all have various histories with me and other alternative ways of being, and they support one another. I really dislike those two therapists who run the program. They seem to have worked out my modus operandi and believe in standing together with their clients against me. They’re not just happy to leave me be either. They try to poke holes in all the creative ways I’ve managed to keep myself going from strength to strength in society.
Yes, at Simcha Recovery, Goemie is not only learning new ways of coping with life’s stressors and remaining in recovery despite constant invitations from Alcohol. He is also experiencing himself as a role model to the others in the group, as an inspiration to them and as a valuable person in the group. He says it is a safe space to be honest about his past and present struggles and has a broader support base. He is active, busy, and continuously finds activities that stimulate him mentally and physically. He recently completed a cooking course and took it upon himself to be the house chef during the Simcha break away weekend in November! One of Goemie’s recent victories over Alcohol was attending a school reunion where Alcohol was freely available. He went prepared, backed by conversations at Simcha and his determination to have an evening of liberation instead of inebriation. He can undoubtedly chalk that up as a very successful moment in his recovery as he had fun without Alcohol. He could re-meet old school friends without resorting to a drink and feels very proud of this achievement. He had a great time without drinking a drop of Alcohol and was one of the last ones to leave the party.
What a disappointment! When he accepted the invitation, I thought this was my chance to get him back. He did not even consider having a drink! That was all I wanted. I wanted him to believe that he could have only one drink for old time’s sake. I would have had him back, but alas, Goemie’s resolve was more substantial. All he could think about was how to say “no” to me without explaining too much about his relationship with me. What was even more disappointing was that nobody was interested in any explanations. They just accepted the fact that he wasn’t drinking! Goemie is far more determined to make this recovery thing work than I ever thought possible!
Since being discharged from Weskoppies, Goemie made a choice to make changes in his life. He knew it was not going to be easy. Still, he enjoys the positive consequences of making choices that fit in with his new lifestyle. These positive consequences motivate him to continue on the road of recovery. Even the little things he does every day have a positive influence on all aspects of his life. When Goemie was in Weskoppies, he decided to be sober till the day he dies. Now he enjoys life so much he hopes it is not going to happen too soon! Goemie feels very privileged to have such a vast support network. His two children are most important to him. He acknowledges that he would not be so successful in his recovery without them. According to him, all his family and friends play a role in his recovery. His motto is: “Recovery till the end!” He wants to thank everyone for the help and support—he lives with joy in the space of gratitude for the privilege of having a second chance at life.
Recovery till the end … I was supposed to cause his demise. Really that was my plan. But it seems with Goemie, I misjudged him, his desire to live and his family’s determination for answers. But I won’t give up… I’m always around and very willing to take him back whenever he wants to come back to me…