Kamohelo Moalosi, who is undergoing rehabilitation at Wedge Gardens rehab centre, wrote this piece about his journey to sobriety:
I’ll start by acknowledging the divine, God! And I give thanks for His continuous mercy and everlasting love. It is a surreal realisation, one that can not be achieved without one being totally truthful and humble.
Me, the true self, has been dormant from suppression by what I understand as the enigma. There would be no reason to live to learn without its carefully planned existence. I by no means romanticise its persona, but I also do not disrespect it. Over the years and through a dreadful journey of endless days and drug use, I found out about many things. Most of which are polar opposites of who I truly am. But I did ask God to guide Me to understanding myself and that’s when The Enigma appeared. To learn and know what ‘it is’ I had to be taken to places where ‘it isn’t’, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and figuratively.
I begun to seek the unattainable and thought that rare knowledge would make me. It is actually sick and scary to want to be smarter than everyone else. It’s an illness that thrives off other illnesses – delusion to name one – and it infects perception of self and of the space one finds one’s self in.
Despite the enigma’s intentions, the true self stays true. That’s all it can be – true – and though it is dragged through the dirt and darkness it never ever dies. It is the strongest character I have ever met. It is darkness that discovers light, but it is light that gives birth to life. It is light that nurtures and strengthens minds and souls wholesomely. It is light that allows love. It is light that brings warmth and healthy growth. It is the light that reveals the treachery that lingers in the darkness. It is light that is the true self. And it is the true self that is the light.
The enigma stirs the need to pursue happiness, but happiness is but only temporary. The pursuit of happiness is a second rate ambition, only monotonous boring people are happy! It is easy to attain happiness – drugs, liquor, alcohol and many other frivolous worldly things can bring happiness. One can develop an obsessive compulsive personality whilst chasing a temporary chemical reaction – that’s happiness when thoroughly thought of – which is an illness! It is the prize for the meek.
Joy is the internal conquest uncovered. It is not found through and by inebriation, it cannot be summoned by the external feeble offerings of the world. It is not delivered by the hands of the meek. It lasts forever, for eternity! It does not compromise the true self, for it is the true self that leads and guides one to joy. No fool knows joy; no well-seasoned thief can steal it. No chemical can educe joy. It can not be broken!
An interesting picture has emerged of Wedge Gardens rehab centre outside Johannesburg, following research done by Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, formerly known as Medunsa University.
The university’s research was done over the past year and involved 246 patients at Wedge Garden’s in-patient facility for men aged between 18 to 82 years old.
“The research highlighted addiction trends and provided valuable information regarding substance abuse for us as a treatment centre,” says Karen Griessel, a Wedge Gardens social worker.
“Our highest population age range is 18 to 39 and dwindles as the age increases. Racially, we assist more white men followed by black then coloured then Indian men.
“The population is made up largely of single men with a small percentage of married or divorced patients. Very few are widowed. Educationally, more than half have matriculated and a good portion of patients have diplomas or certificates,” she says.
Unfortunately, a very high percentage is unemployed. The report showed that in more than half of the men, their direct family is responsible for financially assisting them. “Some are self-sufficient,” she added.
Most also live with family members.
“Interestingly, half of the men were brought up in two-parent homes, followed by a large percentage of single-mother homes.
“Christianity is the major religion practised. Some of those researched have no religious affiliation while a few other religions are practised by a minority of the men.
“Half of the men have on average one or two children of their own,” says Karen.
Shockingly, more than half reported that they were between the ages of 10 and 15 when they first tried drugs. The next age group was 16 to 21 years.
Most first experimented with cannabis, alcohol and cigarettes.
The drugs used just prior to admission include dagga (39.4%), alcohol (32.5%), cigarettes (28%), tik (24.4%), nyope (24%), khat (20.3%) and cocaine (16.3%).
Karen says that in the years leading up to their admission to the rehab centre, many said they used dagga, alcohol, cigarettes and khat.
“Interestingly, prescription medication featured as well (19.1%).
“Another concern is that 38.8% of the sample population said that family members – mostly brothers and fathers – use drugs on a regular basis.”
According to the research, a very high percentage have been in rehab before, with some having taken the decision themselves to get help and other being urged to do so by concerned parents.
The reasons given for their drug use include: It makes them feel good (56.5%), stress (56.1%), curiosity (45.1%), chasing a high (43.1%), coping (39.4%), family problems (38.6%), availability (37.8%), needing something stronger (30.1%) and finances (17.1%) .
“Ultimately, it is important to understand the people we work with so we can better help them,” says Karen.
* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens)
The use of the drug tik alters normal functioning in a specific part of the limbic system that processes emotions such as anger and fear. As a result of this alteration, people using tik can easily develop paranoid, aggressive or violent states of mind.
“Crystal meth is typically sold in straws and costs between R15 and R30,” says Karen Griessel, a social worker at Wedge Gardens rehabilitation centre in Johannesburg.
Tik comes in many forms, from a fine powder to larger crystals. It can be snorted, orally ingested, injected or smoked, which is the most common method in South Africa.
On the street, tik has many names, including ‘tuk-tuk’, crystal, straws and globes. The powder or crystal is placed in a light bulb after the metal threading has been removed. A lighter is used to heat the bulb and the user smokes the fumes.
Tik symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, poor hygiene, increased irritability and a short-temper with out of control aggressiveness, dilated pupils, rapid speech, high anxiety, psychosis, headaches and insomnia. Addicts could still crave the drug months after using it.
“The affordability of tik means it has gained rapid popularity in South Africa. Tik is often combined with a host of chemicals and other harmful ingredients that cause mental health and physical health problems,” says Karen.
To understand it better we need to understand the limbic system, which is a collection of brain structures that includes the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala. The hippocampus plays a vital role in normal consciousness by converting unstable short-term memories into stable long-term memories.
In addition to a wide range of other functions, the hypothalamus acts as the origin point for a number of different emotions and sensations, including pleasure, thirst, hunger, anger, aggression and varying degrees of sexual satisfaction. The amygdala shares in tasks performed by the hippocampus and hypothalamus, including storage of long-term memories and the generation of pleasure, fear, anger and other emotional states.
Pleasure levels inside the limbic system are regulated by a chemical messenger inside the brain called dopamine. High levels of this chemical translate into an increased experience of pleasure. Like most other commonly abused drugs, tik triggers euphoria by boosting the limbic system’s dopamine levels.
However, while some drugs produce relatively modest dopamine increases (two to four times above normal), tik produces an extreme dopamine boost (12 to 13 times above normal). This extreme effect largely accounts for the highly addictive nature of the drug.
“Tik also affects the pre-frontal cortex which affects the ability to make decisions, forge healthy human connections and to have empathy. This changes the pre-frontal cortex’s control over the amygdala and results in feelings of paranoia. Addicts may think someone is out to get them, that lies are being spread about them, that their possession are being stolen or that their lives are in danger,” says Karen.
This fear often causes violent behaviour in habitual users.
Wedge Gardens rehab centre has a holistic three-month programme run by professionals who are equipped to deal with the complexities of drug and alcohol addiction. As challenging as it is, it is possible to get clean and recover from the personal losses suffered through addiction – whether these losses are physical, psychological, emotional, social or financial.
“Recovery is a lifelong process that needs holistic rehabilitation. It takes commitment and motivation to want a healthy and normal life again,” she says.
Wedge Gardens can be contact at 011 430 0320 or visit the website www.wedgegardens.co.za
The recent videos that have created a storm across social media highlight the dangers facing our children.
Several children who smoked what was an unknown substance had to be rushed to hospital where they were treated for symptoms including seizures, psychosis, nausea, vomiting and hallucinations. At least 14 people were hospitalised after smoking the substance on the last weekend in October.
Karen Griessel, a social worker at Wedge Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg, said that the increasing popularity of potentially-deadly synthetic herbs is a massive concern. Particularly worrying is the number of young children who expose themselves to synthesised chemicals while experimenting with what they often think are natural herbs.
The message is clear: Stay away from any substance similar to marijuana because one hit could land you in hospital.
In October 2016, Karen spoke out about patients who had used these cannabinoids, also called K2, Spice or Herb Blend, amongst other names. She also went undercover to prove how easy it is to purchase the substance.
“My concerns regarding this unregulated substance is that it is freely available and because the chemical compound changes in every other batch produced, it is a difficult task to pinpoint, prevent and, especially, to treat.
“However, the symptoms of smoking these herbs have obviously escalated to a whole new level which should not be underestimated – as illustrated so graphically in the videos currently doing the rounds.
“I think it is of major importance that a national education campaign around these substances be held. We need to protect our children and loves ones. The younger generations, many of whom are still naïve, are most vulnerable.”
She says the symptoms – violent temper tantrums, aggression, irrational behaviour, impaired mobility, slurred speech, panic attacks, seizures, reduced or elevated blood pressure, delusion, confusion and psychosis – are of grave concern.
“There are also rumours that the synthetic herbs are being laced with Flakka which could have terrifying outcomes because both are extremely dangerous drugs.”
Flakka is a synthetic drug but a cathinone similar to cocaine and bath salts (psychoactive designer drug). Symptoms include hyperactivity, strength, agitation, delirium and psychosis, changes in heart rate, cardiomyopathy and heart attacks.
“Now can you imagine mixing this deadly cocktail? More should be done across all sectors to safeguard our citizens. And citizens should be made aware and educated whilst the shops selling these products so openly should be exposed.
“Please use this information and share with others so we can be empowered to fight this enemy. If you have any information regarding these drugs and the shops selling them, please do the right thing and report it.”
Wedge Gardens can be contacted at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or visit their website – www.wedgegardens.co.za
Wedge Gardens is available to do drug and alcohol abuse awareness talks at schools and in workplaces.
The Sanca-affiliated rehabilitation centre, situated close to both Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, offers a diversion programme for employees whose work is being affected by addiction issues and who may thus need counselling or rehabilitation. This is in addiction to a full range of holistic substance abuse treatment programmes.
Always ready to help raise addiction awareness, Wedge Gardens participated in Rothe Plantscapers’ recent employee wellness day.
“We sent two staff members to talk about addiction and abuse, as well as what those affected can do to get help for either themselves or family members,” says Wedge Gardens’ Adel Grobbelaar.
Promotional material was also handed out.
For further information, call Gardens’ Adel at 011 430 0320.
Take a moment on June 26 to consider how drug abuse has the potential to tear apart families and even communities.
Since 1987, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking has taken place on June 26 to raise awareness of this debilitating social problem.
Wedge Gardens rehabilitation centre, situated just outside of Johannesburg, supports the Listen First initiative. Its aim is to get adults to listen to children and youth because this is seen as the first step to helping them grow up healthy and safe.
Wedge Gardens social worker Karen Griessel explains that Listen First in an initiative of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime.
“Conversation about drug use must start with children and youth to educate them about the realities they will face: on the playground, in their communities and later, even in their workplace,” says Karen.
Talk often and listen openly, she advises. “Conversations between individuals, schools and communities need to be promoted. Listen with an open mind, ready to learn and grow. Handle conversations respectfully, without judgement, assumption or bias.”
The Listen First project looks at demand and supply statistics, human rights, emerging challenges, new psychoactive drugs and national sentencing policies, with an obvious focus on prevention and treatment.
Karen says that last year 190 000 people died of drugs globally. This figure does not take into consideration the health implications – like TB, HIV and hepatitis – of those using drugs or the increased prevalence of drug trafficking and drug-related gangsterism.
According to the World Drug Report, synthetic and psychoactive drugs being spread through modern cybercrime and dark-net business deals is of concern. Development, health, peace and human rights are being attacked on a severe scale due to drug use worldwide.
* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook (www.facebook.com/WedgeGardensTreatmentCentre) or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens).
By: Karen Griessel, Social Worker at Rand Aid’s Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre
World-wide Worry is a phrase used to refer to someone who spends too much time using Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and other forms of social media – to the point that it interferes with other aspects of their daily life.
The cluster of behaviours associated with the heavy or excessive use of social media has become the subject of research.
Generally, addiction usually refers to compulsive behaviour that leads to negative consequences – when people feel compelled to do certain activities, which become a harmful habit that interferes with their responsibilities and activities.
A social networking addict could be considered someone who constantly needs to check their status updates or stalks others’ profiles for hours on end.
Does spending three to five or even seven hours a day online mean one is addicted, or could one argue that they are just networking or gaining information?
Researchers have found that self-disclosure stimulates the brain’s pleasure sensors much like sex and food do. With this physiological and biological addictive undertone, this finding is rather alarming.
Anxiety is a definite symptom of not being able to do an activity. For example, when a smart phone’s battery dies or there is no data, WiFi or electricity available.
Further research is exploring the impact of social networking on real-world relationships, especially marriage, and some have questioned whether the excessive use of social media could play a role in divorce – because it weakens human ties and ironically leaves the individual feeling more alone.
The big question then is, can social media use develop into a pathology or mental disorder? We know, for sure, that it has the potential to cause long-term damage to our emotions, behaviour and relationships. The harm lies in a person’s change in behaviour, which has been linked to depression and loneliness.
There is an unrealistic expectation that your online friends will be there for you in real life, which is rarely the case. The problem with social media is that self-image relies mainly on others and their opinions.
There is no recognised treatment for social media addiction. Although there is research being done on it, there is no social media addiction classification.
Things are a lot more black and white at Wedge Gardens treatment centre these days.
The long-anticipated giant outdoor chessboard has been completed and is being enjoyed by the gentlemen at Wedge Gardens.
“A special mention needs to be made of those individuals who made yet another occupational therapy department (OT) project possible,” says Kendra Neethling, who heads up the OT department and played a big role in the project. “Our thanks go to Rand Aid CEO Rae Brown and the Rand Aid Association, groundsman George Vermeulen and his team, as well as the patients at Wedge Gardens.”
Leisure boredom – or unproductive free time – is considered a precipitating factor in addiction and substance use. The OT department at Wedge Garden strives to instil balance within the lives of the patients at the rehabilitation facility by stressing that through meaningful occupational engagement, an individual is better able to cope with life stressors, feel a sense of worth and meaning within society and find enjoyment in healthy and constructive activity participation.
“Not only is the chessboard a space for the gentlemen to learn to use their time in a productive manner, but it is an area at Wedge Gardens where they can learn social and cognitive skills,” says Kendra.
It is a known fact that substance abuse negatively impacts cognitive health. “A chessboard is a fantastic mechanism to promote cognitive skills such as concentration and attention, memory, problem solving, judgement and executive tasks. Furthermore, as the game requires at least two players, the patients at Wedge are exposed to social interaction, which aids communication and conflict management skills,” says Kendra.
The OT department believes that through the creation and completion of projects such as the chessboard, the patients at Wedge Gardens learn numerous skills on an ongoing basis.
As such, they were involved in the planning and construction of the project and the procurement of donations. “A sense of altruism is instilled in the patients because when they end their treatment programme, they leave having been a part of a project that can be used by future patients.
“I am exceptionally proud of my patients and the work they have done to complete another OT project. Through encouraging proactive use of the facilities at Wedge Gardens, we are equipping our patients with skills for the re-integration into society, which is fundamental to any recovery programme.”
After relocating last year, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) is settled in at Wedge Gardens treatment centre in Whitney Gardens, Lyndhurst, just outside of Johannesburg.
Both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is situated in extensive grounds easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.
Wedge Gardens officially become a member of the Sanca family in 2016 after going through the approval process with Sanca’s National Management Board.
“With the Sanca head office on the premises of Wedge Gardens, a closer working relationship has been established. Numerous clients have been referred for treatment through the website and WhatsApp helpline. In addition, other stakeholders visiting the National Sanca Office get to know about Wedge Gardens,” says Sanca spokesperson Adrie Vermeulen.
“Wedge Gardens offers a safe, secure and welcoming environment. We feel at home and have received excellent support from the maintenance and gardening services,” she adds.
“The management of Wedge Gardens, Ayanda Matthews and Adel Grobbelaar, has been wonderful and helped us settle in. It is a mutually supportive and beneficial relationship.
“As one of the oldest rehabilitation centres in the country, Wedge Gardens is one of the flagships of the type of services which should ideally be provided to treat substance use disorders in South Africa,” says Adrie.
Established in 1956, Sanca has a proud history of contributing to the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug dependence. It has evolved over the years to meet modern challenges and today boasts an Academy of Learning that offers Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority-accredited courses for those who have a passion for working with people.
“We offer a basic counselling course and online courses,” says Adrie.
Sanca has a presence in eight of the country’s nine provinces. Wedge Gardens is one of 30 Sanca treatment centres.
“We are proud to be part of this hard-working and effective non-profit organisation,” says Ayanda.
* For further information on Sanca or to enrol for one of the courses offered, visit their website www.sancanational.info. You can also use their WhatsApp helpline: 076 535 170.
* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320 or visit their website: www.wedgegardens.co.za