It’s extremely common for those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression to become over reliant on medication or even alcohol and drugs. Many of us grow up in abusive family environments and learn to cope in different ways. An alcoholic parent can wreak havoc on the psychological development of their children. These families typically are involved in a day to day struggle in coping with the alcoholic and in most cases abusive parent. There is not time or money or even consideration for therapy. In most cases these families are oblivious to their plight, the parents so caught up in their own drama that they are ignorant of the damage being done to their children. These kids will learn their own coping mechanisms and a large number of them will grow up becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol themselves in a misguided attempt at suppressing their own painful emotions. For the lucky few that manage to seek help or find their way to a rehabilitation center, this is only the first step. A rehabilitation center can provide a person with shelter from the harmful environment from which they came, and ensure that they are drug and alcohol free whilst in the center, but once that person leaves, the maintenance of their recovery is in their on hands and they need to rely on the tools they were given whilst being treated for their addiction.
I recently treated a patient who had returned from South Africa where they had spent time in a treatment center for drug addiction and then moved on to stay in a sober living house in Cape Town for a further three months. For the purpose of confidentiality I will merely refer to him as “Ben”. Ben grew up in a a middle class family that appeared to the outside world as a happy one. In reality, this was not the case. Ben’s parents fought continuously and Ben’s father was an undiagnosed alcoholic. He grew up in an environment where he had to walk on egg shells most of the time, and often recalls hiding under his bed or in a cupboard with his siblings whilst his parents screamed and shouted at each other. In some cases the verbal abuse progressed to physical abuse. Ben grew up to become extremely codependent and sought out a partner that he could “look after”. Typical of most codependent relationships, it was a tumultuous one. A continuous push/pull, love/hate cycle of fighting and making up with a gradual build up of resentment.When Ben discovered his girlfriend of five years was cheating on him, he fell back on what he knew best – escape. Ben escaped by quickly developing a drinking habit that was complimented by the use of tranquilizers to “numb the pain”. This went on for two years until eventually Ben’s life was in ruins, fired by his employer for being under the influence, and financially ruined, Ben finally realized he needed help and went to a rehabilitation center in South Africa where he gained great insights into his condition and learned how his childhood had shaped his him, how he suppressed his emotions and self medicated himself. On leaving the rehabilitation center, Ben chose to spend three months at the Scotswood Retreat, a sober living house in Cape Town. Ben explained how it was here that his recovery really began and how he learned to live on his own, manage his feelings responsibly and not act out on old triggers. A sober home or sober living house is essentially a safe environment where people who are in recovery can stay for a period of time until they are ready to go out into the world on their own again. Whilst living at Scotswood, Ben developed strong and healthy relationships with other recovering addicts and managed to find himself part time employment working as a waiter at a nearby local coffee shop. Besides a tranquil sober living environment, Scotswood Retreat offers its guests access to counselling and lifting to nearby 12 Step meetings. Ben believes that without spending the three months at Scotswood before returning home, he most likely would have relapsed on drinking and tranquilizers.
“It was there that I truly learned to stand on my own two feet and utilize the tools I had been given while in rehab. Living in a safe and comfortable environment, shared by like minded people that I could relate to, gave me a firm foundation on which to build and I am truly grateful for having had the opportunity to have spent those three months at the Scotswood sober house in Cape Town.”
Ben is not alone. There are thousand of young adults like Ben, that without the proper counseling and treatment will go on to perpetuate the cycle of abuse that stems from addiction.