Tag Archives: Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre

Step work in recovery: Step 2

This week, SANCA Wedge Gardens rehab centre takes a look at Step 2 in the 12-Step programme.

“In Step 2 we come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity,” says Karen Griessel, a Wedge Gardens social worker.

Step 2 gives hope and possibility of recovery as individuals find a power greater than themselves which is capable of healing hurt, calming confusion and restoring sanity.

“Furthermore, we learn to understand that insanity is defined as repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. The beauty of Step 2 encourages the individual to choose a power that is loving, caring and, most importantly, can restore us to sanity. The hope from working Step 2 replaces the desperation and no matter how painful the process of demolishing our denial, something else is being restored in its place within us,” she says.

It is important to remember that Step 2 is a process, not an event. It is a process of restoration to sanity where better decisions are made and, therefore, better consequences. Spiritual principles, including open-mindedness, willingness, faith, trust and humility, play a big role in this step. It is about moving on and working this step to gain hope and motivation to move to the next step in the recovery process.

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

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Wedge Gardens celebrates unity within diversity

Heritage Day on September 24 recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation and this year, the day provided the staff at SANCA Wedge Gardens rehab centre a chance to share their traditions with each other.

“We all dressed up and brought different dishes from our cultures to enjoy at a staff lunch. There was samp, chicken livers, milk tart and koeksisters,” says deputy manager Estelle Raath.

“Staff at Wedge Gardens represent many cultures and on this day, we are all reminded that South Africa belongs to all its people and that we need to build our nation and consolidate our national identity as one of unity within diversity.”

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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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Bipolar disorder and addiction – An up-and-down swing of moods

Bipolar is classified as a mental illness characterised by extreme high and low moods. When people with substance abuse problems have a dual diagnosis of both addiction and a mental disorder, their path becomes extra challenging.

This is according to Karen Griessel, a social worker at Sanca Wedge Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg.

“With bipolar, the highs, otherwise known as mania, and the lows, marked by depression, can be experienced at different times or at the same time.

“Treating people diagnosed with bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder – which  is when an individual suffers from substance dependency – is extremely challenging, especially when they are in active addiction,” she says. “It is more manageable when the person is in recovery, which is why it is essential that people with bipolar disorder seek treatment for their addiction.”

Symptoms of bipolar mania:

  • Feeling overly happy for a long time.
  • Sleeping little.
  • Talking fast.
  • Restlessness.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Engaging in risky behaviour, like taking drugs, having risky sex, gambling and spending too much money, to name a few.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling sad for long periods.
  • Withdrawing from life.
  • Losing interest in things your normally enjoy.
  • An increased or decreased appetite.
  • Severe fatigue.
  • Cognitive issues.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

“The disease of substance abuse affects a person’s brain and behaviour and leads to the inability to control oneself. This can be truly debilitating. As professionals, we use integrated therapeutic treatment strategies and approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy within our primary care treatment programme at Wedge Gardens.

“This is complemented by controlled psychiatric medication and supportive group therapy techniques, as well as continued psycho-education.

“The good news is it can be treated and managed successfully but it is a continuous process,” says Karen.

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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International Overdose Day: 31 August

“I felt her body next to mine; she was cold. I tried to wake her, felt for a pulse, nothing. I carried her to the shower and tried to revive her. I did CPR but it was too late. Four years later, the scene still replays clearly in my mind. Such a waste of somebody with so much talent. I would trade places with her if I could.”

These words, by a former patient of Sanca Wedge Gardens treatment centre in Johannesburg, capture the devastation of losing someone you love to an overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day, held on 31 August each year, gives people a chance to remember those who passed on due to an overdose of either a licit or an illicit substance.

Worldwide, people are encouraged to show their support by wearing a purple or silver ribbon.

Wedge Gardens commemorated the day by inviting the men undergoing rehab at the centre to light a candle in memory of someone they have lost.

“We are here today to commemorate all those who lost their lives, accidentally or otherwise, as a result of overdose,” said Adèl Grobbelaar, who heads up Wedge Gardens.

“Every overdose is a loss; those ignorant enough to say they deserved it have absolutely no understanding of the epidemic we are fighting. With every overdose, someone loses a son, daughter, friend or loved one. Nobody has the right to judge.

“My wish for you is that you will never feel that hopeless, that overdose appears the only way out. Remember we are here for you and we care.”

International Overdose Day aims to:

Raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.

Acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends in remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

Spread the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

* 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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Be someone’s Piglet today

“There is no bigger joy than when our beloved childhood books continue to teach us about life even in adulthood,” says Estelle Raath, the deputy manager of Sanca Wedge Gardens treatment centre in Johannesburg.

“This little excerpt from the famous book by AA Milne offers us a timely reminder of why it is very beneficial for everyone to have someone to ‘be there’ for them. We all need the support of others and knowing they are there makes such a difference to our mental health and wellbeing.

“So let’s be that ‘Piglet’ to someone in our life today who is anxious and afraid. Sending thoughts to those having a Difficult Day today and hope you have your own Piglet to sit beside you,” she says.

“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.

There was a pause.

“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.

“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”

“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.

“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.

“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.

“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”

And, as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.”

AA Milne

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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Former addict lights the way for people in recovery

At 11 years of age, James Donovan started drinking. At 13, he was smoking weed and when he was barely out of his teens, he exchanged a sexual favour for a meagre R50 hit.

The boy who just wanted to fit in became the adult who lived on the streets, who was unemployable and virtually unlovable. After the first failed rehab attempt, his family made the tough decision to cut ties with him.

Then the kindness of a stranger changed his life. “I was living on the streets of Windsor in Randburg, Johannesburg, having lost everything and everyone in my life. Everyone was tired of me and I was completely alone with nothing but the consequences of what my addiction had become. Then one day I was hustling for money when this stranger I had tried to hustle extended a helping hand,” recalls James.

The man was determined to give James another chance. He contacted Sanca Wedge Gardens treatment centre and helped James apply for a government-subsidised bed in the Rand Aid Association-run facility.

Put on a waiting list, James remained on the streets, with his benefactor bringing food and blankets.

Six weeks later, on July 29, 2014, space for James became available. The 29-year-old arrived at Wedge with nothing but a plastic bag of clothes he had dug out of dustbins. “I was fearful and didn’t know where I would go after treatment but all that mattered in that moment was getting the pain to stop. In retrospect, the pain outweighed the fear of letting the drugs go,” he says.

James has been clean since that life-changing day, six years ago. Today, he works as an addiction counsellor for a Pretoria-based treatment centre, is in a stable relationship and has made amends to his family.

Of his partner, James says: “I am extremely grateful as she is also my accountability partner.”

Remembering his early days at Wedge Gardens, James says that ‘by doing the next right thing in that moment, allowed tomorrow to take care of itself and my life started falling into place’.

A journey to hell

Raised in Craighall Park, Johannesburg, and currently a Pretoria East resident, James says his childhood substance abuse allowed him to feel part of something.

Soon, however, the very thing that he thought was enabling him to fit in with his peers, alienated him from society.

“The impact substance abuse had on me was catastrophic. I lost numerous jobs due to lack of attendance, theft, abusing substances during work, lack of performance and even being caught buying drugs while driving a company-branded vehicle. I have also lost two job prospects because of my criminal record for theft and fraud.

“My education was greatly affected too. I was abusing substances in school and selling illicit substances – mainly cocaine and ecstasy – on the premises to other students. My juice bottle was often filled with vodka.

“I would steal from my family and was not an active member of my family structure. I would isolate and withdraw, leave home for days or come in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night. I would be high at family functions and events or just not pitch up at all. The police raided my family home looking for drugs and my mother would see me begging at robots, which broke her heart.”

Eventually, his mother gave him an ultimatum – go to rehab or leave home. James went but the day his treatment ended, he relapsed. Eventually, they turned their backs on him. “I had stolen the smiles off their very faces and caused them to live like prisoners in their own homes, with locked doors and hiding valuables for fear of me stealing or pawning their personal belongings.

“Drugs helped me escape, to alter my perception of reality and to temporarily fix how I felt inside.”

The family moved to the UK when James was 16 but after being bust for burglary, he was put back on a plane to South Africa. “Drugs were so much more expensive there, so I turned to criminal activity to support my habit.”

Back on home soil, James started to experiment with party drugs such as magic mushrooms, cocaine and khat. “I was mixing drugs and found that combinations of drugs could give me different highs and effects. All of this while trying to balance school and this secret life I had been living. Narcotics created an illusion that my life was manageable.

“I then progressed into experimenting with crack cocaine and heroin, which became my drug of choice.”

James’s life spiralled out of control. “Addiction was a bottomless pit of emptiness inside me that could never be filled.”

After being told to leave the family home by his mom, James lived on the streets and soon found himself in Sun City prison in Diepkloof, Johannesburg, for shoplifting.

“I remember telling myself in prison that I was done with drugs but when I was released, I went straight back to them. I was powerless in the face of my addiction and could not give up the very thing that was taking everything away from me, including my sanity.

“I became just another junkie on a street corner, living to use and using to live.”

Over the next few years, James spent a cumulative two years in prison and went in and out of rehab. In 2011, he was sectioned to a government treatment centre and ordered to complete a three-month programme or go back to jail for theft.

For the first time, James was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous’s (AA’s) 12-step programme. He found a sponsor and attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings but 16 months into his recovery journey, he started to obsess about drinking. “In my mind, I never had a problem with alcohol. I was drug tested often so alcohol would be the one thing I could get away with.

“They say that this disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. My own mind convinced me that I was just going to have one drink, that no one would know.”

The consequences of that decision saw James back on the streets as an active addict. He also stayed and worked for a while at a Nigerian-run brothel where, he says, the girls were kept virtually captive.

“My pattern became clear to me. I would get into a rehab, rack up some clean time, relapse, lose everything, end up back on the street and then go back to prison.

“That last time, I was convinced that I was going to do things differently. I was going to try not steal and turned to begging instead. My career became dishonesty, lying to people about some elaborate story of needing petrol for a car that did not exist, or needing nappies and formula for a baby that was not real. There were days when begging was just not enough and I would need to steal, risking my freedom in exchange for sucking my soul through a crack pipe.”

It was at this rock-bottom point that James, hustling for money, met the person who cared enough to help a stranger get into Wedge Gardens rehab centre.  

A new beginning

“One of the most profound things I learnt at Wedge Gardens is that ‘addiction doesn’t come in bottles and pills; it comes in people’. The drugs were but a symptom of the actual problem and the problem was me.

“I learnt through AA’s Big Book that my addiction centres in my mind rather than my body. Neither drugs nor relationships, money, validation, affirmation or status could fill the void in me. No amount of any of these things could keep me clean. A quote to this effect is, ‘My outward circumstances do not change my inward reality’.

“I heard this saying once that made complete sense and reinforced the above. It states: ‘I live in a body that wants to live with a mind that wants to die’. I have a mind that tells me that I don’t have a disease, I’m not good enough, this isn’t going to work, that I don’t deserve recovery and I have a body that ensures that I do not stop once I start.

“Carl Jung, a leading psychiatrist and contributor to the AA Big Book, believed that spiritual development could cure mental illness. When we work on our spiritual aspects, we straighten out mentally and physically as well.”  

James says his time at Wedge Gardens was incredibly informative. “I think the desperation I had when I walked in there is the very thing that allowed me to go into recovery with an open mind. Completely defeated by my addiction, I had become willing to do whatever it took and follow whatever suggestions were made.”

James attributes the fact that he has not relapsed to his willingness to work the 12-step programme. “It’s not been so much the intensity of the programme, but rather the consistency of the programme I work. To this day, I have a sponsor, work the steps, have service position at NA meetings, attend the fellowship meetings and maintain my relationship with a higher power… and I’m still standing as a result of it.

“The process of rebuilding my relationships continues and I have learnt that the best apology is changed behaviour.

James says his work as an addiction counsellor enables him to ‘turn the mess of my past into a message of hope for others’.

“I know I am always one bad decision away from the worst day of my life. That knowledge is what keeps me committed to the 12-step programme.”

* Sanca Wedge Gardens offer holistic rehabilitation for the body, mind and soul. Find out more at www.wedgegardens.co.za

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Anxiety in COVID times

Registered nurse Estelle Raath shares her experiences of the general anxiety that has become so commonplace during the global coronavirus pandemic:

I am not even an anxious person – organised, but definitely not anxious. So what is happened to me during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think as a frontline worker, the fear and anxiety cause by this new disease and what could happen to all of us was overwhelming in the beginning. While most of the country stayed in level 5 lockdown, we had to drive the empty highways to work, not knowing what every day would be like and fearing that we would be the ones bringing COVID-19 into our homes.

Anxiety and stress during COVID-19 can cause:

  • Insomnia
  • Lack of concentration
  • Deterioration of chronic and mental health conditions
  • Increased use of substances.

I remember waking up during the middle of the night, my heart pounding and worrying about so many things, then trying to talk to myself to stay calm and breathe, and then my thoughts were: “If I am going through this, what is an anxious person going through right now?”

I knew that I was not in a good place and that I needed to get out of it. Looking back now, I realise that staying in routine and going to work every day, although I was scared, it was my saving grace.

People with pre-existing anxiety or substance use disorders may be extra vulnerable during COVID-19. Anxiety affects a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, behaviour and daily functioning. There are so many factors that can affect the way we respond to anxiety in a pandemic. People with pre-existing anxiety should continue with their treatment and if the symptoms increase, they must contact their healthcare provider immediately.

One thing that I realised was that I first have to take care of myself and my thoughts, before I can help those around me. So many people around me are struggling with anxiety caused by COVID-19 but I think we will only see the real effects much later.

“Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly” – Ali Ibn Abi Talib

* Estelle Raath is the deputy manager of Sanca rehab centre Wedge Gardens, which is situated in Johannesburg. To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit www.wedgegardens.co.za

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