Category Archives: Rand Aid Association

Meaning of life in recovery

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 actions.

“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, practising mindfulness.
  • 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 www.wedgegardens.co.za

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A new normal

Adaptation is a word in psychology that basically describes changing to meet needs within a certain context and situation.

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.

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Cheers to Wedge Gardens’ inspirational nurses

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 times.”

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!”

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Illegal cigarettes and substance abuse

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 cigarette.

“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?”

To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

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COVID-19, mental health and substance abuse

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 happens.

Other measures to promote wellbeing during the pandemic:

  • Reduce or stop taking any non-prescribed substances if you can do it safely.
  • 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.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Seek professional help if you cannot do it alone.

Wedge 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

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Ten years sober!

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.”

To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

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Faith versus fear

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 recovery.

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.

To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za
 

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The nudge you need to stop smoking

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.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Get support.

Check out https://nicotine-anonymous.org/. For more information on Wedge Gardens, visit www.wedgegardens.co.za or call 010 534 6596.

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Wedge Gardens pays tribute to volunteers

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.

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Addicted to your recovery during the festive season

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 centre.

“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.”

Practical tips:

  • Attend support groups like AA, NA or Alanon.
  • Be accountable by talking to a sponsor, therapist or trusted friend.
  • Give of yourself by being of service to others.
  • Do good, like going to the SPCA to give food or walk a dog.
  • Avoid people who are judgemental or will make you uncomfortable.
  • Take care of yourself by getting enough rest, sleep, exercise and nutrition.
  • Have a recovery kit like the AA book, journaling and other recovery books.
  • If you attend holiday parties, get there early, leave early and bring your own drinks.
  • Have an exit plan for any uncomfortable risky situation you find yourself in.

For further information, contact Wedge Gardens at 011 430 0320 or visit the website www.wedgegardens.co.za.

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