SOUTHERN CAPE NEWS & VIDEO - Andrew Sullivan, a recovering addict from Plettenberg Bay, used to abuse a host of substances, but in the end alcohol was his drug of choice.
He says the focus of his story is his recovery.
"We all have enough knowledge to know how shitty and dark the life of an active addict is, but we are surprisingly short of info on the ways and means to tackle the issues we face," he says.
Here is how he manages to stay off the booze.
What motivated you to get clean?
The initial inspiration to get clean was down to my two beautiful daughters, Tilly and Molly.
Most addicts who enter recovery invariably have an external reason for wanting to get better.
It could be to save a marriage, save a job, or for family reasons.
But as I found out, to start healing I had to put myself at the top of the list. I was doing this for me, so that I could contribute positively in my various roles.
Where do you find yourself now?
I have dedicated all of my time and effort in recovery to raising the profile of the illness, and helping others find recovery.
I run a recovery support website called www.ajourneywithoutsubstance.com which offers insight, support and solutions to living life in recovery.
The site also houses the downloadable version of my debut book, A Year Without Substance, which chronicles my transition from active addiction, right the way through to celebrating my first "clean" birthday.
Statistics tell us that the first 12 months of any person's recovery are the most dangerous in regard to relapse, and any support, insight and wisdom an individual receives during those early, scary steps will help them.
I also have various social media platforms that enable me to proactively work with fellow addicts - you can find me at 'A Journey without Substance' (@AndrewSullivanAuthor).
Watch a video below:
Do you still get cravings?
It can be chaos in my head, as simple life challenges engulf my thinking, and make me want to crawl back under the duvet.
I can't give that voice in my head any attention. I focus on the next thing I have to do, and try and be present while I am doing it.
These tasks could be as simple as making my bed, having a shower, having a shave.
By the time I have completed those activities, I feel stronger and more confident.
I sometimes break down the adage, "one day at a time", to "one moment at a time". In the early stages of my recovery, cravings were a nightmare.
If you have committed to recovery, then you have to confront some terrifying, dark places you have spent a lifetime avoiding. It is in those moments that the addiction tries to convince you to run away again, through cravings, and you have to stand firm and tell yourself you are not going to run anymore.
I found that those dark places, those feelings that I had run from for so many years, weren't as scary as I imagined them to be.
Even after three years of living in recovery, I still have fleeting moments of envy when I see someone sipping a pint of ice cold beer on a hot summer's day - but it's not a craving, and that moment passes very quickly when I play the movie out in my head and see where it ends up… there is never a happy ending.
What are you hoping to achieve through your initiative?
The hardest part of acknowledging you may have a problem and asking for help, is the perceived rejection of the society that an individual lives and works in.
In my case, I would convince myself that I wasn't an alcoholic/addict because if I did, I would be portrayed as "weak".
Being a "man's man", it seemed inconceivable that I was anything close to being an addict, let alone admit that I was one.
The shame of it! That's why addicts hide their true level of usage of alcohol, drugs and any other addictive behaviours of choice (by that I mean addictions like gambling, shopping, sex etc), so as to avoid judgement and possible action.
It made it so hard for me to admit I needed help, preferring to remain acceptable to the world I occupied, regardless of how unhappy I was.
And that is the ultimate goal for me - loosening the very tight grip that our society has on us, and making a safe space for people who are suffering in silence to speak up.
I also want to help corporates get a better understanding of mental health and addiction disorders in the workplace - billions are lost every year because of employees who are struggling in silence and working to less than half of their productivity levels.
I want to create better understanding in those arenas by talking about my experiences of working in big corporate outfits.
Did you receive help?
Everything that I know today about recovery has been given to me by more experienced addicts who have already trodden the path that I find myself on.
I was fortunate enough to be placed into Twin Rivers, a rehab facility in Plettenberg Bay, at the start of my recovery, and received some incredible help from the owner, David Briskham and the head of treatment, Ryan Erispe.
The world of recovery is incredible, and all I needed to do was put my hand up and ask for help.
It's crazy that I resisted for so long, but that's how the disease operates - it convinces you that you are not sick, despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
What is your message to others?
Find the courage to simply speak up. Prior to my own recovery,
I truly believed that my dark and distorted thought processes and the actions I took to run from them, were unique to me. No one could possibly understand what went through my depressed mind, never mind help me.
I remember being so confused, lonely and frightened. If it hadn't been for the love and support of my family on my rock bottom day, 28 September 2014, I dare say I wouldn't be here to share my story.
You will find a million reasons not to get help, but none of them stand up in the real world.
If left untreated, your demons, your addiction will just get stronger and more powerful, and you, like me, might find yourself contemplating suicide, the ultimate escape. When you do speak up, the hands of help are everywhere, but you have to make the first move.
Trust me, it isn't as scary as you think, and it has to be better than the place you are in today.
I have a 'Need Help' tab on the website, which you can use in complete confidence.
Only I will receive your mail. Do that, and I will be able to give you a clear idea of what your options are, and help in every way I can.
Getting sober is easy. The challenge lies in staying sober. But one thing that you must understand is that your chosen weapons of mass destruction, your drugs of choice, are not the problem.
You are. And only you have the power to do anything about it. Those 'escape mechanisms' are just your preferred self-medicating solutions.
So to achieve success, you first have to accept that you have a problem, and talk about it.
Remain patient and trust the information and practices that are being given to you freely, then you will soon start seeing the benefits.
It's those benefits that make my recovery, my life what it is today.
Today, I'm at peace with myself and with the world, and that is all I could ever ask for.
It's not all rainbows and ponies all the time, and if you ask whether recovery is hard, I would say yes.
But if you asked me whether recovery is worth it, then I say: "Absolutely!".
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