Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual
conversation with someone, pondering the meaning of life?
“I know I have, a number of times,” says Karen
Griessel, a social worker at SANCA rehab centre Wedge Gardens.
“It is in finding purpose that we also find
comfort in this life because we feel like we are contributing and ultimately
making the world a better place. Furthermore, living a life of purpose comes
with a rule book of values, morals and standards by which we can judge our
“This ties into our self-worth as human beings.
When individuals are in addiction, their meaning is to find and use drugs,
using any means necessary. They will sacrifice morals and just about anything to
get their fix, which gets intertwined with negative emotions and often
depression, due to living this mundane and often lonely and isolated existence.
She says finding purpose in recovery can feel
even more overwhelming because recovery from addiction in itself is challenging
and there are many issues that they have to deal with, never mind answering
this spiritual question. However, those in recovery can simplify this process
by implementing some of the following:
Make a daily to-do list and create
structure with daily planning.
Learn new ways of living by
gaining life and coping skills.
Take a deep breath and relax,
Practise cleanliness by
keeping yourself and environment neat.
Write in a journal to discover
yourself again, your fears and hopes.
Let go and let God, which ties
in with the Serenity Prayer.
Forgive yourself – this opens
the door to healing.
Work through the 12-steps,
which will lead to self-discovery and meaning.
Based in Johannesburg, Wedge Gardens offer holistic
rehabilitation for the body, mind and soul. Find out more at
Adaptation is a word in psychology that
basically describes changing to meet needs within a certain context and
It involves two processes, namely ASSIMILATION
– applying past knowledge to new situations and ACCOMMODATION – altering past
knowledge to fit the new.
“We all had to learn how to adapt within the
restrictions of the pandemic and, now and again, we have to adapt to the after-effects
of the pandemic, whether on an economic, emotional, psychological or relational
level,” says SANCA Wedge Gardens social worker Karel Griessel.
“By practising assimilation and accommodation,
we can all strive for a sense of equilibrium, which is the balance between our
selves and the world around us. As we encounter new things and interpret them,
we must make adjustments in order to survive. The good news is most of us have
resilience and the ability to apply these concepts.
“It is often said that change is the only
constant we can expect in life and those who are able to adapt, will survive
and even succeed. Here at Wedge Gardens, the process of rehabilitation can
initially be difficult for new patients but once adapted and settled, the
treatment process becomes progressively positive as the patient begins to see
that it is possible to find balance in their lives again.”
For help with addiction recovery, contact Wedge
Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg. Visit www.wedgegardens.co.za
or phone 010 534 6596.
SANCA Wedge Gardens toasted its nursing staff recently for
the excellent job they did in caring for their substance abuse recovery
patients during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
On September 4, the nurses were all presented with a
specially-made coffee cup that reads: Never underestimate a nurse who
survived the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Sister Estelle Raath, the deputy manager of the rehab
centre, says nurses demonstrate bravery, endurance and dedication.
“To all the nursing staff of Wedge Gardens, thank you for
all you are doing during the pandemic. We appreciate all your hard work. Thank
you so much for making sure the patients at Wedge receive the care they need to
be safe. You are all superheroes for working so hard during these challenging
Estelle says the hours put in by the nurses over the past
few months were gruelling and they were very aware that they were putting
themselves at risk of contracting the disease while the majority of South
Africans sheltered at home.
“My hope is that everyone will come to have a greater
appreciation for those who work in the medical field.”
With regard the ongoing pandemic and possibilities of
further surges in the infection rate in South Africa, she says: “Let’s take it
one day at a time. Don’t let scary thoughts win; continue to fight and never
quit. We will beat the virus, overcome our fatigue and find the strength we
need to carry on.
“May God bless you all for doing this difficult job every day
with a smile on your faces!”
South Africa has banned the sale of cigarettes
during lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 but the big illegal cigarette
brands are now the best sellers around the country.
“As most of us know, smoking is one of the
leading causes of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases worldwide. Unlike
legally produced cigarettes, illicitly produced cigarettes do not comply with
manufacturing and safety standards,” warns Estelle Raath, the deputy manager of Johannesburg-based
Sanca Wedge Gardens rehab centre.
Cigarettes contain the addictive drug nicotine,
as well as other toxic chemicals which are carcinogenic (cancer forming).
“There is no safe method of smoking. Nicotine
in tobacco is a very powerful addictive substance. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your
brain, but these effects are temporary, and that is why you reach for another
“The addictive nature of nicotine and
withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit are what makes nicotine dependence a
chronic relapsing disease.
“With the current cigarette ban, my question is
‘If the smoking of legally produced cigarettes can cause so many diseases, what
are the illegal brands doing to smokers?’
“What other effects will smokers be sitting
with post COVID-19 and will we see a rise in substance abuse figures if these
illegal cigarettes contain chemicals that will leave smokers with more severe
symptoms and withdrawals?”
People who abuse drugs or
alcohol often do so to cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health
issues. A global pandemic like COVID-19 can trigger a wide range of emotional
reactions, causing high levels of anxiety and stress for all of us.
“Substance use and abuse
during this time should be avoided but ironically, people turn to substances to
cope with the stress and trauma,” says Estelle Raath, the deputy manager of
Johannesburg-based Sanca Wedge Gardens rehab centre.
People often cope by using
substances, primarily things that are easily available like alcohol, tobacco,
cannabis and non-prescription medications, she explains. “That’s why substance
abuse may rise during COVID-19. Substance abusers might look for a way to feel
better and escape from the traumatic and stressful circumstances. When they use
drugs or alcohol, the reward pathways in their brain are triggered.
“Many substance abusers
have underlying medical conditions, which often place them at great risk of
contracting COVID-19. The fear that they might get the virus by leaving their
homes or going back to work can cause extreme anxiety for many and anxiety and
stress are huge triggers for relapse,” says Estelle.
She explains that when a
person’s stress overwhelms their coping skills, they are more likely to abuse
substances, to relapse or to increase the substances they already use.
“We are social beings and
in need of human contact. COVID-19 has exposed people to isolation,
relationship challenges and financial insecurity. During isolation, no contact
can have a negative impact on mental health and again there is a correlation
between mental health and addiction.”
For those at risk
of relapse during this time, it is important to reach out for help before it
Other measures to
promote wellbeing during the pandemic:
Reduce or stop taking any non-prescribed substances if you can do it
Take prescription medication as prescribed.
Reduce the intake of caffeine and alcohol.
Connect with loved ones while maintaining physical distances.
Join addiction support groups; there are many groups available online.
Seek professional help if you cannot do it alone.
Gardens offers a professional substance abuse treatment programme based on
various psychological theories which were pioneered nationally. It is run in
conjunction with the 12-step professional programme.To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596
or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za
My life revolved around alcohol, says 51-year-old
James Algera who recently celebrated 10 years of sobriety.
After growing up in Rustenburg in the North West,
James – like all abled bodied South African boys at the time – was conscripted
into the South African army for his national service. It was while in the army
that 19-year-old James first started drinking.
It was to be a long 20 years before he got clean and
in that time, alcohol nearly cost him his family and livelihood. Today, his
life is on track and James says he is in a good place, working as a structural
aircraft technician (sheet metal) in Saudi Arabia.
On July 19, 2020, he had been clean for exactly one
decade and to commemorate the milestone, he sent an email of thanks to Wedge
Garden’s Adél Grobbelaar, who has headed up the Sanca rehab centre since 1998.
“Today, 10 years ago, I asked my work to allow me to
be booked in at Wedge Gardens for alcohol abuse. I can proudly tell Wedge
Gardens today that it has been 10 years and I have never touched a drink again.
It has been a long and difficult road but with all Wedge Gardens’ teaching and
care, I made a difference in my life and society. Thank you, guys, so much for
my time there and all the care you took of me,” he wrote.
Looking back on his early days of drinking, James says
that the impact of his addiction was initially ‘not too bad’.
“As I got older, alcohol became a priority in my life
– everything revolved around it,” he says.
James was working in the aviation industry and he and
his family were living in Kempton Park. “Those years, using alcohol was the in
thing with the ‘boys’.
Eventually, he hit rock bottom – unable to function
properly at work or as a husband and father.
“My finances were in a bad way and I would drink to
make my problems disappear. I would make up with a hangover each day and my
problems just got bigger and bigger. Eventually, my wife said that I had to
choose between the bottle and her and our children.”
James had previously been told about Wedge Gardens by
his employer and made the life-changing decision to ask for help, thus starting
a new chapter in his life.
“The Wedge Gardens programme taught me to face life
without using alcohol to cope,” he says.
After leaving Wedge Gardens, James still faced a
number of challenges in reclaiming his life. “It was difficult. I had to leave
my old ways behind and get used to a new way of life – like fishing and camping
without a beer in my hand. I avoided so-called ‘friends’ who, it turned out,
only wanted to know me when I bought them drinks or drunk with them.
“I had to change my lifestyle and make new, sober
friends. Basically, at the age of 40, I had to start over again. This time, my
wife and two children were my priority.”
James says that four years after leaving Wedge
Gardens, his finances were still very shaky and he decided to apply for an
aviation job in Saudi Arabia.
“By the grace of God, my application was successful
and I have built a good career over the past six years.”
James’s wife lives in Saudi with him and their son
spent three years there with his parents but now lives in Kempton Park with his
sister, who is married and has given the Algeras two beautiful grandchildren.
James says he no longer thinks of drinking and
describes his emotional state as strong and positive.
“My advice to people battling alcohol is to focus on
God because He will help you through your struggles. Have faith and believe you
will get through the recovery process. Forget the world and focus on yourself.
“Do not be afraid to ask your family or, if you are
employed, your work for help. You will succeed; stay strong.”
KAREN GRIESSEL, A SOCIAL WORKER AT JOHANNESBURG’S SANCA WEDGE GARDENS TREATMENT CENTRE, TALKS ABOUT FAITH VERSUS FEAR AND HOW HAVING FAITH CAN HELP THE ADDICTION RECOVERY PROCESS:
During these trying times, a common experience
many are having is the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds.
There have been many job losses and few
opportunities exist. Then there is the pressure to maintain livelihoods within
the challenges of families and relationships. If substance abuse is added to
the mix, it paints a dim and unsettling picture.
Fear of the future not only keeps people
trapped in addiction, it also prevent them from making progress in recovery.
The most common fears that people experience include financial insecurity,
worry about how they will cope without alcohol or drugs, death, disease and
illness, relationship worries or that recovery is bland and boring with no
happiness, good feelings or the temporary comfort substances offer.
Another trap so many of us fall into so often
is worrying about things that have not happened – or may even never happen. It
is hard for people to let go of their concerns over what may happen and instead
focus on that which is in their control, which is preparing for the future.
The opposite of fear is faith, which is defined
as believing in that which is unseen in the hope that all will work out for the
good if we do the right thing.
Others forms of faith include having faith in
one’s own ability or in trusting others like a therapist or a support group or
a trusted friend or loved one. Even better is having faith in a higher power
for strength beyond understanding. A faith community also gives a person
support and structure, which may increase feelings of hope and the chance of
There is no amount of evidence that will
convince someone during active addiction that they can do without the
substances because the individual must be willing to take a leap of faith to
get the recovery ball rolling.
It is difficult to stop smoking. You will have intense cravings, be irritated, may feel depressed and anxious and may even have slight flu symptoms such as a headache, cough, sore throat and even nausea.
“There is no magic pill,” says Karen Griessel, a social worker at Sanca rehab centre Wedge Gardens, based in Johannesburg.
“With the ban on tobacco products during the national coronavirus lockdown, people have been forced to buy on the black market. These cigarettes are of poor quality and can be over four times more expensive.
“We all know smoking that cigarettes are bad for your health and that there are many harmful additives in smokes. Imagine how much worse these cheap cigarettes are, considering that there are no regulations governing their manufacture.
“Now is the perfect time to try and quit,” says Karen, “and there is a long list of benefits.”
Why you should quit
To minimise your chances of getting tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, as well as many other cancers.
Those around you who inhale your smoke are also at risk.
Heart disease has been linked to smoking.
Smokers have become outcasts in public places.
Financial reasons – do yourself a favour and calculate how much your habit costs you.
You will benefit from more preferential life insurance costs.
Studies have shown that non-smokers sleep longer and deeper.
You will cough less and your post-nasal drip will improve.
Your hands, mouth, hair and environment will not stink anymore.
No more yellow fingers or stained teeth.
You will get sick less often because smoking attacks the immune system and makes you prone to illness.
Tips for quitting
Stop pattern triggers for three weeks and, as we say in recovery, avoid people, places or things associated with smoking.
Exercise until you sweat because this will help your body get rid of the nicotine.
Do not toy with the idea that you can have just one more.
Rather go cold turkey than cut down.
Keep your hands busy by doing practical tasks.
Do not be fearful of getting fat; practise healthy cooking and know that even if you do gain some weight initially, it will stabilise.
Talk about your challenges because quitting is a mental struggle.
Practise mindfulness techniques like deep breathing.
Know that cravings will lessen, so tell yourself: ‘This too shall pass’.
Find 10 reasons why you want to quit and repeat them morning and night.
Do not be around smokers.
Brush your teeth after eating instead of having a smoke.
Do not drink coffee or alcohol if you associate these with smoking.
Chew gum when driving if you used to drive and smoke.
Volunteers who give of their time to help Wedge Gardens rehab centre patients reclaim their place in society are owed a huge debt of gratitude.
This is according to Adèl Grobbelaar, the manager of the Rand Aid-run treatment centre in Johannesburg.
Wedge Gardens hosted a thank you function on December 6 at which tribute was paid to the centre’s dedicated volunteers.
“Our volunteers make a huge difference. Their generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on our services. Their willingness to share both their time and talent says a lot about each of them as a human being and their willingness to give selflessly to help others speaks both to their strength and the quality of their character,” said Adèl on the day.
“A volunteer makes a commitment to share the most precious of their resources – their time – to make life better for those in need. Volunteers choose to render services without any expectation of reward or recognition.”
Each volunteer was presented with a pretty sugar spoon bearing the following tagline – They don’t necessarily have the time; they just have the heart. Thank you!
After the formalities, volunteers and staff enjoyed a delicious tea and a chance to catch up.
A thank-you function was held at Wedge Gardens to pay tribute to the rehab centre’s wonderful volunteers.
A sugar spoon was presented to each volunteer as a token of gratitude.
During the festive season, it is especially
challenging to stay clean or sober.
“Emotions, stress and exposure leave those suffering
from a substance abuse disorder vulnerable and loved ones should be extra
supportive,” says Karen Griessel, a social worker at Wedge Gardens rehab
“For many families, this time of the year is even more
difficult due to the losses and pain caused by active addiction. Having to
manage expectations to be a loving festive family can add stress and anxiety.
“Another issue that causes distress is the
expectations of loved ones that those in recovery be happy when the reality is
that they are trying to cope without using substances. This is a huge challenge
for the individual. Loved ones need to be empathetic and show restraint and
understanding,” says Karen.
“Possible relapse is also at the back of everyone’s
minds and therefore an active relapse prevention plan is always a good idea.
The truth is that alcohol consumption increases over this time and even
innocent acts like cooking with alcohol can be a trigger. All round, self-care
for everyone involved is essential to keep things calm emotionally.”
support groups like AA, NA or Alanon.
accountable by talking to a sponsor, therapist or trusted friend.
of yourself by being of service to others.
good, like going to the SPCA to give food or walk a dog.
people who are judgemental or will make you uncomfortable.
care of yourself by getting enough rest, sleep, exercise and nutrition.
a recovery kit like the AA book, journaling and other recovery books.
you attend holiday parties, get there early, leave early and bring your
an exit plan for any uncomfortable risky situation you find yourself in.