A story of hope: Drug addict turns his life around

Randburg resident Jean-Pierre Devilliers Anderson (33), fondly known as JP, has been clean and sober for over 18 months, thanks to his full commitment to taking his life back and SANCA Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre’s Full Circle Recovery Programme.

JP, who grew up in Thabazimbi, Florida and Roodepoort, says while he had a normal childhood, he had a few demons in his closet.

“At 19, when I was offered khat, I went for it… I wanted to be cool. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be part of something. I wanted an experience to escape the reality of life.

“Once the addiction took hold of me, I needed to explore more and try stronger drugs. I moved on to crystal meth and ecstasy. In the beginning, it was good and fun, I felt fine,” he says.

As the years of addiction passed, JP says he reached a point of no turning back.

“Sadly, instead of getting the help I needed, I carried on. I hit absolute rock bottom a few times. I was completely alone. I lost my family and friends, as they all rejected me. I lost my job. I was not getting anywhere in life. I was going backwards. This lasted for nine years.

“I was filled with hate and anger and blamed everyone and everything around me for what I was going through. In my mind, I thought that I didn’t need anyone or anything. I thought I was good… I could still get a fix,” says JP.

Luckily, JP realised he needed help before it was too late.

“I was frail, skinny and daunting to the eye. This image frightened me. My family tried to help and had me admitted to SANCA Wedge Gardens,” says JP.

He was initially admitted in December 2019, but sadly relapsed.

“I no longer wanted to be a failure to myself, my son, my family and to God. I prayed. I tried so hard on my own to fix my life, but it was not enough. Eventually, I realised that I needed help and guidance. That’s when I called Wedge Gardens and begged to come back. By the grace of God I was allowed back there months later.”

Thanks to Wedge Gardens’ Full Circle Recovery Programme, JP is now a successful ex drug addict.

“The programme was truly interesting, helpful and helped me to succeed. I found my true self again… A man that I am proud to be,” says JP.

“I want so say a very special thank you to my psychologist and all the ‘sisters’ at Wedge Gardens. Without them, I don’t think that I would be where I am today. Their belief in me helped me to believe in myself again. It helped me to choose to turn my life around and I will be forever grateful to all of them,” he adds.

JP has been clean since 26 August 2019. “That’s 589 days and counting. I still struggle every day, but with faith and the love and the support of my family and true friends around me, I choose me and I will not go backwards again,” he says.

JP is now firmly focussed on building a successful business. “I would love for my son, Jayden, to join the business and take it over some day, if he wants to. I am now living my life for my son. I will do anything and everything for him. He is my world. I will prove to him the man I am, and I will be a dad that he can be proud of.”

JP now also enjoys cycling and training, which helps him to relax and reflect on himself and his life.

“The daily struggle is very difficult, but by the grace of God I have no cravings. My mindset has changed. I pray and my faith has helped to keep me clean. I choose to stay away from all substances, including alcohol. I will not go backwards, it is not fair on myself or my loved ones,” says JP.

His advice to struggling addicts is to keep trying. “You will only fail if you stop trying. You need to do it for yourself. We all have it in us to achieve our goals. We just need to believe and realise that we can be who we want to be. Remember your 12 Steps,” says JP.

As for the future, JP is taking it one day at a time. “I am thankful. I take each task and each day on with a sober, strong, Godly mindset,” he says.

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

SANCA Wedge Gardens welcomes OT Caryn Berman

Glenhazel resident Caryn Berman joined SANCA Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre as a part-time occupational therapist in February 2021.

Berman, who works at SANCA Wedge Gardens four mornings a week, believes that occupational therapy (OT) has a huge role to play in substance use disorder rehabilitation. She works with men at the rehab centre who are in the process of recovering from various addictions.

“I am fortunate to have a lovely big therapy department which enables me to run groups, while some individuals work quietly on their own.

“I generally screen people to evaluate their level of functioning and socialisation, before dividing them into groups. The groups are aimed at recovery, to help individuals develop the skills they will need after leaving the rehabilitation centre, good work habits and life skills,” says Berman, explaining that groups can take the form of discussions, games and crafts.

Creative groups introduce leisure activities and skills that can be emotionally meaningful and financially rewarding, and consist of activities such as bead work, cooking, leather work, woodwork, decoupage, drawing, adult colouring in, chocolate making and baking, among others.

“Many patients got involved in the creative activities and have been following through with them in their own time in the evenings and on weekends, which helps to fill the long hours when no therapy takes place. This is a realistic training process for life outside of rehabilitation,” says Berman, explaining that OT plays an essential part in rehabilitation as it provides a tool for leaving and functioning in the outside world. 

“Patients find it easier to discuss matters affecting them – whether these are their emotions, skills or work requirements – when they are busy with a practical activity. It is less threatening when performing activities and often more enjoyable, as one gets involved in the game or task that reflects the skills or attitudes required in life.

“Groups can become quite heated and competitive, and life skills become apparent as one plays the game! While doing crafts, one learns valuable skills, such as following instructions, correcting errors and trying again until you master a skill. The patients love taking home items that they have made and giving them to their families as reflections of how far they have progressed. This also helps to improve self-esteem,” says Berman.

Some of SANCA Wedge Gardens’ patients have skills which they are now teaching others. “This also has a positive effect on their emotional wellbeing. To take your place in society, you need to develop social skills, good work habits and a meaningful, healthy use of leisure time. OT is a meaningful, practical therapy to develop these skills,” says Berman.

She also works with the other therapists at SANCA Wedge Gardens to add value to their work, by assessing and evaluating patients and adding to their insights. 

“Through my own life experiences, I am able to add a mature vision and input. The patients see me as an older person who has had some ups and downs and sees life realistically.

“I enjoy the craft activities and love opening eyes to new skills and possibilities that have never been explored. I enjoy leading the groups and reflecting change to the patients. I find the men show me great respect and are willing to explore areas that they were reluctant to look at before, as these are done through activities which are less confrontational,” says Berman.

Berman graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1979. Initially working in the psychiatric field, with disturbed teenagers, people with eating disorders and adults with mental disabilities, she then went on to work with newly blinded adults before changing to paediatric therapy, where she worked with children with learning disabilities.

Also having been an associate lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand’s OT Department, Berman encourages students to do their practicals at Wedge Gardens.

“One day, I would love to have an open department where patients can work any time of the day to fill the empty hours. This is not possible at the moment, but I can dream,” she says.

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

Karen says farewell to Wedge Gardens

Social worker and Edenvale resident Karen Griessel has bid farewell to Wedge Gardens after being part of the therapeutic team at the rehab centre for over six years.

“I started at Wedge Gardens in 2015, doing my practical work there during the last year of my social work studies. I was blessed enough to start working there full-time in 2016 and over the years, gained much experience and knowledge.

“The most rewarding part of my time as a Wedge Gardens therapist was seeing men come into treatment as broken and lost souls, with the belief that they had no hope. Despite their many troubles and traumas, I witnessed their healing and saw them blossom into the authentic human beings God intended them to be. In many cases, they reconciled with their families.

“As you can imagine, successful outcomes cannot be guaranteed in substance abuse rehabilitation and, therefore, these successes and victories are what gave me the energy to keep on hoping and helping,” she says.

Karen believes another important part of her job was educating patients, families and society at large about the different aspects of addiction, to help lift the stigma that still exists.

“Now I know more than anyone the destruction caused by substance abuse disorder and respect the feelings involved; however, I believe knowledge and understanding can bring insight and comfort.

“During my time at Wedge Gardens, I decided to do my Honours in Psychology to continue with my personal development as I like studying and wanted, metaphorically, to keep my knife sharp in dealing with the psychological issues and dual diagnoses often found in patients so I can ultimately understand and help them better.

“So it is no surprise that my next step is a Master’s in Psychology, while I still have the study muscle. While I may get involved in part-time therapeutic work, I want to have more balance in my life and the time to practise self-care while continuing my education.

“I want to thank my manager at Wedge Gardens, Adel Grobbelaar, who was not only a great boss to me but also a mentor. She and the team have a challenging job and they do it with dedication.”

The dangers of ketamine

Ketamine is primarily used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anaesthetic but is abused by users as an hallucinogenic dissociative drug.

According to Karen Griessel, a social worker at SANCA Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre, ketamine is usually sold on the street as a bitter tasting, grainy, white powder. Users usually swallow, snort or inject it.

“As a general anaesthetic, ketamine reduces sensations in the body, with effects lasting a couple of hours. These effects include being detached and dream-like, relaxed and happy, because it alters the user’s perception of time and space, which leads to hallucinations and numbs pain,” says Griessel.

“If you take too much ketamine, you go into the ‘k-hole’, which users describe as feeling detached from sensations and their surroundings, as if they are floating outside their body,” she adds.

Physical risks to one’s health include increased blood pressure; memory loss; bladder problems; urinary tract issues, due to kidneys being affected; and liver damage. Mental risks include depression, mood changes, personality changes, psychosis and addiction.

“Sadly, this drug is also abused as a date rape drug, as the person who it has been given to finds it difficult to move,” says Griessel.

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens and its Full Circle Recovery Programme, contact 011 430 0320 or 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za.

The dangers of khat addiction

Khat refers to the leaves and shoots of Catha edulis, a flowering evergreen shrub that grows in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

It is used by chewing the plant’s fresh leaves, which have the most potent effect, and by smoking it, making Arabian tea from it or sprinkling it on food.

Although some users compare khat to coffee, it actually has more similarities with cocaine and other amphetamines, says Karen Griessel, a social worker at SANCA Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre in Johannesburg.

She explains that Cathinone and Cathine are the primary psychoactive ingredients found in khat. Both are chemical compounds, with structural similarities to amphetamine.

When consumed, khat users feel increased alertness, excitement, energy and euphoria and can become more talkative. While their appetite decreases, their heart and breathing rates, body temperature and blood pressure increase.

“Because their appetite is reduced and fatigue is lessened, khat users often rely on the drug to get them through work,” says Griessel.

Khat addiction then develops as the user has a psychological dependence on it.

“Some symptoms of khat addiction include cravings, a preoccupation with the drug and giving up social or professional responsibilities to use it,” says Griessel.

“Chronic khat abuse can lead to mental health impairment and behavioural changes,” she adds.

Griessel explains that high doses of khat, combined with a lack of sleep, can cause paranoid or grandiose delusions, violence and schizophrenia psychosis. Hallucinations may also be present, caused by the high accumulation of dopamine in the brain.

“The long-term effects are potentially life threatening and include anorexia, hypertension, gastric disorders, liver damage and an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks and cancer of the mouth,” says Griessel.

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens and its Full Circle Recovery Programme, contact 011 430 0320 or 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za.

CAT addiction treatment at SANCA Wedge Gardens

CAT, also known as Methcathinone, is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and the rest of the body.

According to Karen Griessel, a social worker at SANCA Wedge Gardens, CAT is synthetically created in laboratories from chemicals and comes in different forms, including white powder, crystals, capsules and pills.

“However, the addictive psychoactive substance is most commonly snorted,” says Griessel.

“CAT has various effects, including making one happy and energetic, alert, anxious and paranoid. It also causes insomnia, hallucinations and psychosis, to name a few,” she adds.

Withdrawal from CAT takes place within two days and can continue for weeks. Users can experience cravings, depression, irritability, being overemotional, having a blocked nose and headaches.

“Unfortunately, the long-term effects of using CAT include permanent brain damage, psychosis, mood irregularities, behavioural and cognitive impairment even delusions and hallucinations,” says Griessel.

SANCA Wedge Gardens’ Full Circle Recovery Programme for males with substance abuse disorder is a holistic, systematic, problem-solving and reality therapy approach that makes use of professional counsellors, including a clinical psychologist, social workers, medical practitioners, nursing practitioners and a spiritual therapist.

The Full Circle Recovery Programme includes detoxification, in-house treatment, family sessions, family accommodation, a halfway house, aftercare services and outreach programmes.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from an addiction to CAT, contact SANCA Wedge Gardens at 011 430 0320 or 010 534 6596. For more information about the treatment programme, visit www.wedgegardens.co.za.

Beware of the addictive herbal supplement kratom

When we think of herbs, we usually associate them with health benefits because they are plant-based and should therefore be natural and safe to use. This is, however, not always the case.

According to Karen Griessel, a social worker at SANCA Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre, the centre recently had an enquiry about the possible need for substance abuse treatment for the abuse kratom – a herb openly sold in health shops as an energy booster, mood enhancer and pain reliever.

Kratom comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree grown in Southeast Asia. “It is believed to act on opioid receptors and some people take it to avoid the symptoms of opioid withdrawal,” says Griessel.

She explains that opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. They work on the brain to produce a variety of effects, including pain relief. “Many of these drugs can be prescribed as medications and are often referred to as painkillers or the street drug heroin,” says Griessel.

The latest research on kratom shows that its side effects range from chills, nausea and vomiting, to liver damage, muscle pain, delusions, depression and seizures.

“Even more alarming is that when it is used with other prescription drugs, it can cause abnormal brain functioning with effects such as severe headaches, loss of communication or becoming confused,” says Griessel.

She adds that numerous research articles and studies have been conducted on Kratom, one of which shows that using it long-term causes withdrawals and cravings similar to those that opioid users experience.

It is therefore an addictive substance and people who use it should be aware of this, says Griessel.

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens and its Full Circle Recovery Programme, contact 011 430 0320 or 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za.

Alcoholism is a disease

The banning of alcohol sales in South Africa for the second time, as a means to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, has again highlighted the dangers of alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease characterised by uncontrolled drinking and a preoccupation with alcohol. Alcoholics are not able to control their drinking due to both a physical and emotional dependence on alcohol.

According to Karen Griessel, a social worker at SANCA Wedge Gardens, alcohol is a depressant that slows down the messages travelling between the brain and body.

“Drinking more than two standard drinks a day can affect your health over a lifetime, and can lead to addiction. Alcohol dependency is linked to depression and anxiety,” says Griessel.

“Alcohol dependency, also known as alcohol use disorder, is a medical disease characterised by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite social, occupational or health consequences,” she adds.

Another form of alcoholism is binge drinking. This is when a person doesn’t drink alcohol daily, but when they do drink, they are unable to stop.

Alcohol affects everyone differently.

“In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms start four to 12 hours after the last drink. Symptoms range from sweating, tremors and nausea, to anxiety, irritability, fits, delusions and headaches, to name a few,” says Griessel.

“Some long-term effects of alcohol abuse on one’s health include high blood pressure, heart-related disease, liver disease, permanent damage to the brain, malnutrition, ulcers, gastritis, cancer, alcohol poisoning, diabetes and mental health problems,” she adds.

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

2021 – HOPE is essential

Hope is needed for our mental and physical health, for survival of our communities and life in general.

This is the opinion of Wedge Garden rehab centre social worker Karen Griessel.

“The definition of hope will have different meanings depending on the person. In the spiritual context, it means believing good things will happen with faith in a higher power and prayer is the instrument of hope. For others, it might mean always looking on the bright side of life and seeing challenges as opportunities by literally hoping for the best.

“Whatever the details, hope in general means a desire for things to change for the better and it is essential that we cultivate this type of thinking in these COVID-19 times because hope decreases stress and negativity by altering perception and outlook, decreasing powerlessness and improves a person’s coping ability.

“This ultimately enables us to carry on, despite the hardships we face. Hope is especially important in recovery from substance abuse because the adversities and challenges can feel overwhelming.

“Hope enables people undergoing treatment to face the realities of the consequences of their actions in active addiction. It also better enables the person to deal with life on life’s terms,” says Karen.

She shares the following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear the hardships today.”

SANCA Wedge Gardens is a professional rehab centre in Johannesburg. Visit www.wedgegardens.co.za for more information of the services offered or phone 010  534 6596.

Step work in recovery: Step 12

Having had a spiritual awakening, as a result of the previous steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice the principles in everything we do.

Step 12, simply explained, is a solution to the disease of addiction or alcoholism.

“Ultimately, it’s about having a spiritual awakening, which has different meanings for different people. Simply put, a spiritual awakening is a psychic and personality change and takes the desire and obsession to use or drink away. For some it’s a powerful and immediate experience, while for others it’s a slow, ongoing process,” says Karen Griessel, a social worker at SANCA Wedge Gardens.

The second part of Step 12 is about carrying the message of recovery to other people… This is because ‘we keep what we have by giving it away’.

“To explain it easily, when we work with others, our lives change. Sometimes carrying the message can be as simple as making sure that there is a warm, caring, non-judgmental place for others to come back to, and a handshake or hug that lets them know that we are here for them and they should keep coming back,” says Griessel.

The following principles are used to live by: honesty, hope, faith, action, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, brotherly/sisterly love, discipline, justice, perseverance, spiritual awareness and service.

Ultimately Step 12 teaches us that by helping others, we help ourselves.

For more information about SANCA Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre, visit www.wedgegardens.co.za or call 011 430 0320.

Copyright Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre 2016