All posts by Alison Cooper

SANCA Wedge Gardens’ clients let go of the past

SANCA Wedge Gardens treatment centre clients recently took part in an occupational therapy activity that helped them to let go of the past.

“Each client received a piece of paper with bubbles drawn on it. They wrote down aspects of their lives that they would like to ‘blow away’, inside the bubbles,” explains Caryn Berman, SANCA Wedge Gardens’ occupational therapist.

“Then they went outside and ‘blew away’ these aspects of their lives. Some even decided to then burn their paper, as a symbolic act,” she adds.

SANCA Wedge Gardens has some outdoor fun!

SANCA Wedge Gardens treatment centre held a lovely boerewors roll braai and entertainment morning for its clients on 31 March.

“After enjoying the boerewors rolls, we were entertained with superb talent, including singing, rapping, poetry and some talks.  It was a lovely, relaxing and entertaining morning,” says Caryn Berman, SANCA Wedge Gardens’ occupational therapist.

Substance use disorder in the workplace: What can employers do?

Substance use is on the rise in South Africa and is even more prevalent than HIV/Aids.

This is according to Adèl Grobbelaar, the manager of Johannesburg-based SANCA Wedge Gardens, a substance use treatment centre.

“The latest crime statistics reflect that 170 people died daily from alcohol-related incidents and illnesses,” says Adèl.

“Taking the statistics into consideration, it is possible that a significant number of people and/or their loved ones may encounter substance use-related problems that can impact their productivity in the workplace,” she adds.

As employees are a company’s greatest asset, effectively dealing with substance use in the workplace is essential.

“Dismissal of the employee, which many employers consider as their first course of action, could result in the company losing trained and valuable staff and increasing its costs, as new employees would have to be hired and trained,” says Adèl.

“SANCA Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre can assist companies with these employees and help them deal with the substance use problem as efficiently and effectively as possible,” she adds.

The early warning signs of substance use that employers should look out for include poor time management (missing deadlines / lateness); ineffective decision making; excessive use of sick and annual leave; extended lunch hours and leaving work early without permission; changes in appearance; being involved in accidents or having near misses and making errors; changes in behaviour and attitude (mood swings, anxiety, depression, aggression, being oversensitive, agitated, volatile, fatigued and a loss of interest); smelling alcohol or dagga on an employee’s breath; signs of intoxication, including dilated or constricted pupils, poor fine or gross motor skills and red eyes; and theft and deviance.

“When dealing with substance use in the workplace, an employer should gather facts with regard to the above-mentioned signs of substance use so that they can confront and discuss the matter with the employee,” says Adèl.

“SANCA Wedge Gardens conducts drug testing and can provide an assessment of the employee to determine the severity of the substance use disorder. We also offer substance use detection training for management, so that mangers are able to detect problems early; and we participate in wellness days to create awareness around substance use disorder,” she adds.

When dealing with an employee who has a substance use disorder, employers can involve unions and start a disciplinary procedure against the employee.

“Assisting an employee with rehabilitation should be considered if the person does not endanger lives at work. Once given the option, if an employee does not comply with the full treatment (in-patient or out-patient and aftercare) they can be fired. However, dismissal should only be an option when an intervention has been conducted by the employer,” says Adèl.

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens’ Full Circle Recovery Programme,  employers can contact Adèl at 011 430 0320 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za.

Wedge Gardens’ OT department celebrates the festive season

The festive season started quietly at SANCA Wedge Gardens’ occupation therapy department, with clients experiencing some anxiety about coping with the holiday period while maintaining sobriety. 

“To assist, we held sessions on triggers and coping mechanisms for anger and disappointment, which could lead to relapse. We also held sessions on how our clients could handle not seeing their family and friends, and coping with their feelings,” says Caryn Berman, SANCA Wedge Gardens’ occupational therapist.

“On the fun side, we decorated the department, including using recycled decorations such as Nespresso pods, and clients started making gifts for friends and family. They learnt how to make Christmas chocolates, which were packed with biscuits that they baked, decorated and placed under the Christmas tree to be distributed to all,” she adds.

Some of the clients also made Christmas cards for friends and family. “They also made beautiful gifts, including mobile phone stands, necklaces, keyrings and gratitude rocks to assist with feelings of gratitude. They packed and wrapped them and learnt how to make bows to decorate the gifts,” says Caryn.

Groups were more ‘relaxed’ at times, as games and competitions took place with fierce determination and great competitive spirit.  “These included ‘table golf’ with candy canes and marshmallows, and scavenger hunts. The activities helped our clients to enjoy the festive season, while dealing with all of the emotions that it evokes. Some went home to celebrate, while others remained at SANCA Wedge Gardens,” says Caryn.

The power of adaptability: How to adapt to anything life throws at you

SANCA Wedge Gardens treatment centre recently held an ‘adaptability’ workshop for its clients, to help them cope with the ever-changing reality of life.

To adapt to a new situation means to change yourself to it and change your ideas and behaviour to deal with it successfully, says SANCA Wedge Gardens manager Adèl Grobbelaar.

“People resist change because they think they are going to lose something of value and they are going to be unable to adapt to new ways. If it is a significant change to a daily routine it becomes emotional because it threatens safety and security and takes people out of their comfort zone,” she explains.

The ability to adapt to change is a soft life skill and can be learnt, depending a person’s openness to the challenge.

“Sometimes these evaluations or reinventions are done by choice. At other times they’re forced upon you – asking you to become adaptable,” says Adèl.

Some of them may be significant and difficult, such as:

• Getting married
• Having kids
• Starting your own business
• Overhauling your nutritional habits
• Ending a relationship
• Losing a loved one
• Starting college
• Taking a trip around the world
• Moving from one province to another and starting fresh

At other times, changes may feel small and insignificant. “Either way, people’s ability to adapt to these situations and become comfortable with the ever-changing circumstances in their life will influence their happiness, health, stress and well-being,” says Adèl.

Why is adaptability so important?

In a world that is constantly evolving, people’s ability to adapt can increase their chance of being successful in their career, relationships, health and more.

Adaptability showcases their ability to be resourceful, display leadership skills, display analytical skills, be determination and so much more.
“In life, we will always experience unpleasant and uncomfortable things. Some of these things are within our control. While others are not,” says Adèl.

Some ways how to adapt include:

• Trying to find the humour in a situation.
• Talking about the problems around it, not the feelings.
• Don’t stress about stressing about it.
• Focus on values instead of fears.
• Accept the past and fight for the future.
• Don’t expect stability.
• Let go of ‘that’s the way it was always done’.
• Force yourself to take some risks.
• Encourage others to be open minded.
• Embrace learning.
• Initially brainstorm and then organise your thoughts.
• Stay positive and get a fresh perspective.
• Focus on what you are able to do.
• Set new goals.
• Stay connected to people.

After attending the workshop, SANCA Wedge Gardens asked its clients to write a motivational letter to others who are battling substance addiction. This is what they had to say:

“Don’t let your past influence your future.”

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

“Your whole life can and will change.”

“You gave up everything for one thing. Now give up one thing for everything!”

“Be the best version of yourself.”

“Be who you are. Change your situation by changing the world. Recover and live a life of blessings.”

“What I survived might kill you!”

“Stay strong. Stay focussed. Don’t be afraid of change. Embrace your new life. Losing your happiness is not worth going back to your old life.”

“Embrace the change. It’s easier than trying to resist.”

“It’s possible. It takes dedication. Know yourself and love yourself.”
“Stay strong. Have heart. Be free!”

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens, visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

SANCA Wedge Gardens welcomes OT students

Four Wits University occupational therapy (OT) students are completing a four-week practical training block at SANCA Wedge Gardens treatment centre.

Rebecca Aitken, Dalya Abadi, Batya Naparstek and Ari Jacks, all third-year students, started their training at SANCA Wedge Gardens on 23 August, under the guidance of the treatment centre’s part-time occupational therapist Caryn Berman.

Caryn, who joined SANCA Wedge Gardens in February, is also an associate lecturer at Wits University and is thus playing to two roles to assist the students – that of mentor and that of assessor.

The students were meant to begin their practical training last year, but were unable to do so due to Covid-19 restrictions. “This is the first time that they are putting their theory into practice,” says Caryn.

Dalya says her experience at SANCA Wedge Gardens has been unbelievable so far. “Wedge is so willing to have us. The people who work here are really special and the vibe is amazing. Everyone is so accepting and loving. It feels like we are part of a big family.”

“It has been overwhelming and amazing at the same time. The friendliness and support we are receiving is not what we expected,” says Rebecca.

Caryn explains that many OT students feel overwhelmed when they first start their practical training. “These students, however, have so much more to deal with due to how their way of learning has changed due to Covid-19. Everything is new for them, not only dealing with patients for the first time.”

Batya says being exposed to addiction first-hand and getting to understand Wedge’s patients has been eye opening. “We are sharing their life stories and experiences with them, it’s not only about a diagnosis,” she says.

Ari says Wedge is such a nice environment to work in, they don’t want to leave! “We were previously unaware of OT’s role in substance abuse. Working here has made a huge difference to our understanding of these roles. It’s very satisfying,” she says.

Caryn says it’s wonderful to have the students at Wedge. “Our patients are now also able to receive one-on-one OT sessions, which they are really enjoying and benefitting from.”

All four students agree that Caryn is the ‘best supervisor’ they could hope for. “To see the way she does things, how she implements OT at Wedge and how the patients open up to her and us, as a result, is wonderful,” says Dalya. “It’s exciting to come to work, the atmosphere is really amazing,” adds Ari.

Dalya decided she wanted to become an occupational therapist as she wants to help people to help themselves. “Especially those people who don’t have the opportunity to work with an occupational therapist. They have never had access to OT tools before.”

Rebecca says she wants to help people and make a difference in their lives. “I’d like to see them get to a better place.”

Batya agrees, and says she wants to help people become independent. “Being able to use OT tools to assist them with their challenges will help them to become independent and not have to rely on others.”

Ari says she enjoys bringing meaning into everything she does. “OT is therapeutic, meaningful and powerful.” One of the first lessons she has learnt at Wedge is that an OT activity won’t necessarily help every patient. “If an activity doesn’t get through to a patient, we have to think on our feet and adapt quickly.”

“Everyone’s addiction is different and the OT tools used to help each patient may not be the same,” says Caryn. “OTs have to adapt, think on their feet and learn how to speak to patients in a way that gets through to them,” says Caryn.

“The students are so enjoying their time at Wedge that they are coming in early and leaving later, when they can,” she adds.

International Overdose Day – 31 August

Today, 31 August, is International Overdose Day.

Don’t let today go by without doing something to #endoverdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

Time to Remember. Time to Act.

www.wedgegardens.co.za

SANCA Wedge Gardens’ Rebecca Nkabi was awarded for 15 years’ long service

Rebecca Nkabi pictured with Rand Aid CEO Peter Quinn (left) and Rand Aid Chairman Paul Carter (right).

Congratulations to Rebecca Nkabi who was recently awarded for 15 years’ long service to SANCA Wedge Gardens.

Rebecca started working as a cashier at SANCA Wedge Gardens, a position she still holds today.

At the time, Wedge Gardens was situated at head office’s premises and Rebecca thus assisted with the move to new premises in Lyndhurst (which was a sight to see).

Over the years, Rebecca has empowered herself in various ways, such as getting her driver’s license and buying her first car. 

Rebecca is the most even-tempered person her colleagues have ever seen and she is an extremely loyal employee. 

She is positive, always smiling and never involves herself in negativity. 

Rebecca also has good interpersonal skills with her superiors, staff and patients. She handles telephone enquiries patiently, and will repeat the same information over and over if needed. She remains cool, calm and collected and is no doubt an asset to RAA.

This too shall pass!

By: Estelle Raath, Deputy Complex Manager SANCA Wedge Gardens

When will everything be back to normal? What is normal?

These are the questions South Africans are asking as a result of Covid-19, being back on Level 4 lockdown and the current civil unrest in the country.

These very same questions are the ones that those going through substance use recovery ask themselves.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we run out of strength and need to stop, take stock and reset.

It was Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said: “The only constant in life is change.” No matter what season your life is in, know that it will always be one of change. Just as tides roll in, so too do they roll back out. This reminds us that ‘this too shall pass’. The rain will stop eventually, ask Noah.

When you are suffering from a substance use disorder you must remember that this too shall pass. Your addiction could just be a season in your life that needs to change. Any change requires an action and your action could be deciding to go to rehab.

How does the saying ‘this too shall pass’ help you in recovery? Often people just feel overwhelmed with what’s happening in their in life at that moment. These unexpected twists, that we don’t plan for, can be hard to take. But your perseverance will pay off if you can just get through the process of withdrawal and begin to heal.

When you decide to go to rehab, you have to make a commitment to go to any length to achieve victory over your addiction – whether it be drugs or alcohol.

You will have moments when you are overwhelmed with mental, physical and spiritual pain. These feelings are entirely normal and strike most significantly during the stages of withdrawal.

As with Covid-19, if you find yourself dealing with a tough situation, know that it will be temporary and, if you overcome these feelings and stay on track with your recovery, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Also remember, when you experience bliss – enjoy the moment and keep moving forward.

I read a beautiful piece by Helen Keller that says: “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens treatment centre’s Full Circle Recovery Programme, visit www.wedgegardens.co.za.

Crystal meth and dagga, a lethal combination

Of great concern to nurses at SANCA Wedge Gardens substance use treatment centre in Johannesburg is the use of a combination of crystal methamphetamine (meth) and dagga.

According to SANCA Wedge Gardens’ deputy complex manager Estelle Raath, meth is a powerful stimulant that acts on the central nervous system.

“Most patients intentionally use meth and dagga at the same time, to take the edge off the meth high, which causes a temporary feeling well-being, increased alertness, energy and anxiety.

“The combination of meth and dagga that we see at our detox facility is all too common. Combined, it can cause significant brain damage,” says Raath.

She explains that combining meth with dagga enhances its harmful effect and the damage can be severe.

“Using the two together increases a person’s risk of mental health problems, including psychotic symptoms, especially in those patients with existing mental health problems,” says Raath.

“Meth destroys part of the brain and its long-term effects have shown a decline in thinking and motor skills and a severe change in the structure and functioning of parts of the brain,” she adds.

Mood disturbances, confusion and insomnia are some of the common symptoms of chronic meth use. Most patients develop symptoms of psychosis, memory loss and delusions that can continue for months or years after they’ve stopped using meth.

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens’ Full Circle Recovery Programme, visit www.wedgegardens.co.za