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Culture Of Addiction

The addict, regardless of drug of choice, is a chameleon.

Ask the addict for a self-explanation (life story), and the story goes through a kaleidoscope of changes depending on who’s listening.
Autobiographical accounts contain retrospective explanations and justifications that may have little to do with the person-drug relationship. The addict described by family members will never be the person described by others. Probation officers describe the addict from behind the criminality of the addict’s life. Clergy will describe the addict from spiritual emptiness aspect.  Anthropologists will describe the addict as being ‘naturalistic for that habitat’

Each view point exposes a different colour offered by and/or taken on by the addict

Intervention Guidelines

If a loved one is suffering from an addiction and you judge that they might be responsive to an appeal from family members and close friends to address their problem, an intervention might be a good course of action. 

By “intervention” we mean a deliberate, planned discussion initiated by those closest to the addicted person with the intention of encouraging him or her to recognise the problem and take action. 

The immediate objective of an intervention is to induce the addicted person to see clearly the impact of the addiction on themselves and others, without provoking defensiveness on the part of the addicted person or allowing the conversation to escalate into a conflict. 

In General, The Best Outcome Will Be Achieved By Adhering To The Following Guidelines


  • Ideally the intervention should involve a small group of people that are close to and care about the addicted person.
  • It is often helpful to write letters in advance, detailing the impact that the addiction has had on the writer. These can be read to the addicted person on the day.
  • You should educate yourself beforehand on relevant aspects such as the nature of the particular addiction, detoxification and treatment programmes – particularly those which suit the personality and needs of the addicted person.
  • The participants should plan in advance precisely how the conversation will unfold and should rehearse beforehand.
  • Each participant should be willing to offer concrete help to the addicted person in some or other way, within their respective means – e.g. attending family therapy sessions, financial support, care of children while the addicted person is in treatment.
  • The participants should be prepared to implement and act upon boundaries if the addicted person is not receptive to the request for intervention. Relationships will need to change. Everyone present must commit to cease enabling and codependent behaviour and be clear that there will be consequences for the addicted person if they refuse help.


  • The tone of the discussion should not be one of blame.
  • The discussion should not occur spontaneously when the addicted person is drunk or high.
  • The participants should not be overly prescriptive or authoritarian in the solutions presented.
  • Do not despair if the intervention ends badly. A seed has been planted.

Signs of an Addiction

Addiction is an insidious illness.  It usually develops gradually over time, making it easy for the severity of the problem to escape the notice of immediate family members.  On top of this, the natural inclination for close family is to deny and diminish the problem in order to retain some sense of normality. 

If you suspect that a family member may be addicted to alcohol or substances, but you are unsure of the severity of the problem, consider whether any of the following apply to the person:

  • An inability to stop using. The individual has made at least one serious but unsuccessful attempt to give up the substance or behaviour.
  • Use and abuse of substances continue despite health problems. The individual continues regularly taking the substance, even though they have developed related illnesses.
  • Dealing with problems. The substance or behaviour is resorted to in order to (or as an alternative to) dealing with problems.
  • Obsession. The individual has become obsessed with the substance or behaviour, spending more and more time and energy finding ways of getting access to it.
  • Taking risks. The individual takes risks to obtain the substance or engage in the behaviour.
  • Taking a large initial dose. This is common with alcoholics. The individual may rapidly consume large quantities of alcohol in order to feel its effects as soon as possible.
  • Sacrifices. The individual is willing to give up activities that they used to enjoy in order to carry on taking or having access to the substance.
  • Maintaining a good supply. The individual will ensure that they have a good supply of the substance of choice even if they cannot afford it or are put to serious inconvenience.
  • Secrecy and solitude. The individual uses the substance alone or in secret.
  • Disregard for safety. The individual consumes the substance in amounts which are unsafe (particularly in the case of alcohol and heroin).
  • Maintaining stashes. The individual maintains small hidden stashes of the substance in unlikely places (such as the car or the office).
  • Withdrawal. The individual experiences physical discomfort when their ingested levels of the substance drop below a certain level. Depending on the substance they may experience symptoms such as cravings, constipation, diarrhea, trembling, seizures, sweats, insomnia and uncharacteristic behaviours such as violence.
  • Appetite changes. Some substances alter a person’s appetite. Marijuana consumption, for example, might greatly increase their appetite while cocaine may reduce it.
  • Sleeplessness. While insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal, the use of illicit stimulants such as speed or ecstacy might also result in a disrupted sleep cycle.
  • A change in appearance. A person may begin to appear more disheveled, tired, and haggard, as using the substance or carrying out the addictive behavior replaces key parts of the day, including washing clothes and attending to personal hygiene.
  • Increasing tolerance. The individual needs to take more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect.

A person might experience a few of these symptoms or many of them. Substance use disorders manifest differently in different individuals.  In general, the greater the number of symptoms displayed, the greater is the severity of the situation. 

Most of the above symptoms apply equally (with the necessary changes) to process disorders (i.e. an addiction to a behaviour such as gambling or shopping). 

Helpful Information for Families

If you love someone who is battling an addiction and you are wondering what to do, please keep the following in mind:

  • Treating an addiction is about more than just about breaking the addict’s physical dependence on the substance – It is a common misconception that curing an addiction simply means abstinence from the substance or behaviour for a long enough period that it is eliminated from the addicted person’s system. This assumption fundamentally misunderstands the nature of addiction and the neurological processes that keep it alive.   As an addiction develops, new and distinct neural pathways are formed in the addicted person’s brain, establishing powerful linkages between the pleasure and relief provided by the substance or behaviour and the routines and triggers of everyday life.  This process might be compared to the formation of a well-trodden hiking trail.  The more we use the path, the faster, easier, and more familiar it becomes.  As we travel it more and more, it becomes wider, smoother, and easier to use.  It becomes a preferred route. The same is true of neural pathways. Over time, the brain forms familiar neural pathways, and these become habitual routes.   Recovery from addiction is about laying new paths and equipping the addicted person with sufficient coping mechanisms and motivation to tread them for a long enough period that they become the preferred route.
  • Sometimes medication is necessary – When treating addictions to opioids (prescription pain relievers or drugs like heroin or fentanyl), medication should be the first line of treatment, followed by some form of behavioural therapy or counseling. Medications are also available to help treat addiction to alcohol and nicotine. Medications are also used to help people detoxify from drugs, although detoxification is not the same as treatment and is not sufficient to help a person recover. Detoxification alone without subsequent behavioural therapy or counseling generally leads to resumption of drug use.
  • Be optimistic – If the addiction is acknowledged and decisive action taken, there is good reason to be optimistic about the future.  The last two decades have seen great strides in the development of effective evidence-based treatment methods and research shows that most people who consciously pursue recovery do ultimately succeed.   A substance use disorder is considered “a good prognosis disorder”. 
  • Be realistic – Expect recovery but be prepared for relapse. Although some people achieve recovery on their first attempt, for others it requires multiple attempts over multiple years.  Family members should also maintain realistic expectations in their interactions with the addicted person.   Your loved one is going to lie to you, and you will want to believe them. They might actually believe themselves. But what they are doing is protecting their illness, because the addictive behaviour or substance has come to seem as vital to them as air. This isn’t to say that you should excuse lying, only that you should understand where it’s coming from so you can take it a little less personally and avoid getting sidetracked by pain and resentment. Instead, keep the lines of communication open, but set clear boundaries that protect you and them, and that encourage a turn toward treatment.
  • You are not to blame – It is not unusual for the immediate family members of a person in active addiction to feel guilt or responsibility for the way that the situation has developed. This is not productive, and it is almost certainly not a true reflection of reality. No matter what you did, how you parented or whether you argued, you did not wish this life for your loved one and you did not cause the condition.  Whatever the circumstances were that led your loved to start using drugs or alcohol, you need to know that addiction is a complicated condition influenced by many factors, including genetics.  It is more than just an emotional or psychological phenomenon.  The structural changes that occur in the addicted brain exert an extremely powerful influence on that person’s behaviour – crowding out reason, common sense and even love. 
  • Educate yourself about treatment options and seek out support networks – A vital first step in moving towards a permanent solution for your loved one and your family is shining a light on the problem.  AlcoholicsNarcotics  Anonymous,  Sex Addicts Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous are well-established non-profit organisations with a robust global network of support for family members of people suffering from addiction.   If your family member is willing to undergo an assessment, Cherrywood House offers this service for free

Outgrowing Early Recovery

How to outgrow early recovery

 I’m taken back into those first few months of early recovery, some fond memories, some hard battles. Some lost and some won, one thing was certain from the start, recovery needed to be more than just not using. I wanted a new life, I’ve so often heard people say, ‘I want my life to go back to normal’ the way it was before I started using. The truth of that matter is the life you used to have, you needed drugs to cope, so I knew straight away I wasn’t interested in what life used to be like. It was time to outgrow that old life but also, I had to keep growing.
You see one thing I didn’t realise before was the change had to be continual. I wanted more than what the steps had to offer, I wanted more than what the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous had to offer. I was so comfortable in those rooms, surrounded by dysfunction. Yet when I was around “normal” people I felt uncomfortable and out of place. That dynamic had to change for me, I wanted nothing more than to be a productive person. It’s not that I wanted to be normal, I just wanted to feel like a human being. I was so sick of feeling like I was evil, I was sick of lying and hurting everyone I cared about.

So, the process started, I wanted to know why I was an addict or what made me behave in this strange way. I started writing and reading a lot about different theories because the disease theory on its own didn’t make sense to me, I remember a lecture at the treatment centre where I cleaned up, where they said if addiction is a disease then I don’t have it. That statement made a lot more sense to me than some victim angle, blaming disease as the culprit for my disastrous behaviour. So, what then was left to answer the question, why am I an addict?

This question bothered me for months, I read books, researched and watched YouTube till I was blue in the face. I really liked the direction Dr Marc Lewis was going. The neurological side of addiction was very fascinating to me, I wanted to understand what happened in the brain that caused me to go back and back for more “pleasure” at the expense of everything around me.
I found the harder I looked, the less I understood. The less I understood the more questions I asked. Eventually leading to a place where all those questions became irrelevant.
I wasn’t going to solve the mystery of addiction, I was an addict, full stop. It started there and it ended there. Something new surfaced, how did I stay clean this time and what was different to all the other times I had tried to clean up in rehab?
There are a few important points to make here.

  1. Knowledge within itself is useless. For many years I knew all there was to know about what I believed was recovery. I still couldn’t get through a day without using. If knowledge equalled recovery most of us would have got clean a long time ago. Knowledge becomes useful when it is backed by action, dreams, ideas and goals are nothing without applying yourself and making the necessary changes. This is a program of action after all.
  2. Understanding the fundamental basis for recovery became everything. Here is what it means to me. Within myself I did not have nor would I ever possess the power to control my addiction. Once I start the ball rolling, I use over and over again until it kills me, it was that simple. Powerlessness.
  3. I needed to able to stay clean and sober and most importantly sane without NA and AA before I could walk into those rooms and carry any sort of message of hope. I was sick of always having to depend on something. I had always heard throughout every rehab that it was NA or die, I didn’t want to live that life. What if I find myself in a situation where the rooms are not accessible? I would eventually relapse because my recovery depended on being able to get to meetings. There must be a way to apply the same principals in a different environment.
  4. I was not the man of my ideas and intentions. If I was I would never have been an addict or broken all those promises to the people I loved. I would have stayed clean the first attempt and lived a successful life. It was and still is too some extent easy to live in that fantasy, it’s easier to see myself as what I project I want to be rather than the recovering addict in early recovery. Staying present and accountable helped me see myself for what I was, the ideas were important but I was not that person, yet.
  5. I gained an understanding of myself more than anything else, I learnt where I fall short, where my weaknesses are, I also learnt where my strength lies and how to ask for help. Understanding those few points is what keeps me in recovery. I don’t over-estimate my importance any more than I under-estimate it. I believe I have a realistic view of myself and my abilities. I’m not scared to try new things or admit that I’m struggling.

On concluding I feel that it’s important to say that we are not and never will be perfect, we as humans are fallible, we as addicts are hyper-sensitive and critical. Finding the balance between easy and firm on yourself is the key.

Managing Pain in Recovery

Article written by Anne Foy

If you’re a recovering addict, dealing with chronically painful conditions can be even harder than it is for most people. For a start, chronic pain is strongly linked to mental health problems like depression – which is in turn strongly linked with addiction relapse. People in pain need to take extra care of themselves, in order to avoid succumbing to relapse. However, this is further complicated by the fact that modern medicine’s best line of defence against chronic pain is, currently, opioid-based painkillers. Needless to say, people with a history of addiction (particularly opioid addiction) would be best off avoiding these.

So what’s a recovering addict in pain to do? It seems a question of either living with perpetual pain – which risks relapse through pure misery – or taking opioid analgesics, which risks relapse through exposure to an addictive substance. Depending on your doctor or insurance, the opioid option may not be available even if you want it, given the inherent risks in allowing narcotics to someone in recovery. So is there any way out of the dilemma?

Don’t despair. There are a few options available which may help.

How to manage pain during recovery:

Non-Addictive Painkillers

There are non-addictive pain relief options out there. Unfortunately, none of them are as comprehensive or as effective as opioids. Some people believe that medicinal marijuana could be beneficial in circumstances like these, but other addiction counselors warn caution with this. Currently, researchers are looking into the potential of non-addictive pain-relieving drugs, and it’s likely that we will see a less dangerous alternative in the near future. However, at present, it’s best to opt for one of the less-effective non-addictive options we have available at the moment. While these can’t kill severe pain completely, they can ‘take the edge off’. If combined with some other methods (read on…), their impact on quality of life could be significant.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A lot of pain is caused by inflammation of the body. Working to reduce inflammation can, therefore, go a long way towards reducing pain. There are a number of ways to do this, including anti-inflammatory drugs. However, one excellent way of keeping inflammation down is through your diet. A diet rich in vegetables and low in saturated fats is thought to reduce the body’s inflammatory response, resulting in a reduction in pain. It will also provide a payload of nutrients and fiber to keep you healthy – which will in itself enable the body to deal more effectively with pain on its own terms. Many swear by anti-inflammatory diets, and some claim that the change in their quality of life since adopting anti-inflammatory diets has been nothing short of miraculous. You can find out more about anti-inflammatory diets here.

Yoga And Meditation

It may sound hokey, but a lot of rational medical doctors swear by the pain-relieving properties of yoga and/or meditation.

For a start, yoga can help to correct the posture and align the skeleton, as well as strengthening important structural muscles. This alone can help to alleviate a lot of Musco-skeletal pain.

However, it goes deeper than this. Yoga and meditation are great for stress. Stress is associated in many ways with pain – researchers think that cortisol can enhance the experience of pain, and even provoke new pain in certain cases. The more relaxed you are, the less pain you’ll feel.

Practising meditation can also give you a degree of control over your pain. We now know that a lot of pain is located in the brain. It’s experienced emotionally, rather than physically. It’s a confusing situation, which neurologists don’t entirely understand – but a lot of physical pain is, quite literally, ‘all in your head’. This doesn’t mean that your experience of pain is your own fault – far from it! But it does mean that focusing techniques like meditation can help you to lessen your experience of pain. Studies have found that people with chronically painful conditions who meditate regularly experience a greater quality of life and report lower levels of pain than those who do not. However it is that this occurs (and scientists still don’t really know how it works), it’s definitely something which has helped a lot of people, without the need for opioid medications. Plus, it could really improve your mental health into the bargain – win-win!

Transition from Treatment to Early Recovery

Part 1: Transition from treatmean to early recovery 

The majority of relapses happen within the first few months after leaving rehab; having a solid foundation is one thing, the other is having an understanding of transition. The aftercare process is vital and is being overlooked by many treatment centres.

Below we will address some of the important dynamics that people in early recovery will face once they leave rehab.

(Please note that everyone has different circumstances and these points might not apply to all)


If it’s your first time in rehab, you might be expecting everyone to welcome you back with open arms. You might expect that everyone will be different and the world will have changed. 

This is not a realistic expectation to have, addiction comes with distrust, broken promises and destruction. The majority of the people in your life will have been affected negatively by your addiction and the consequences of this will take time to heal. Expecting people to trust you straight away because you’ve been in rehab is going to set up disappointments for yourself and for the other people involved. Just because you want it to be different doesn’t mean it’s going to be different.

Don’t be Discouraged

The transition period from distrust to trust is a long process filled with progress and setbacks, but stay clean/sober and everything will work out the way it should. People will come and go in recovery, but one thing MUST remain constant; your sobriety.

Recovery is Not the Same as Treatment

Some people do very well in treatment and leave the centre feeling like they are 2 meters tall, able to fly and bullet proof, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that doing well in treatment is not recovery. Recovery is proving yourself over and over that no matter happens in your life, you weather the storm and stay sober. Treatment is “discovery” not recovery.

An attitude of “I’ve got this waxed” is a fatal flaw in early recovery. You don’t know enough to have this waxed, there are still many lessons to learn and leaving treatment with that attitude will render you unteachable, arrogant and most probably high or drunk. Stay open to the fact that you are going to need as much help as possible to get through this transition process and that your best thinking got you into rehab in the first place.

Next Steps

We hope that you found this article about the transition from treatment to recovery helpful and encouraging. If you are struggling with an Addiction or know someone who is. Please feel free to contact us and we can help you with your next steps.

Cherrywood House is a rehabilitation centre for people suffering from substance and other addictive disorders. It is situated in the tranquil, semi-rural environments of Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa. We offer  Residential Programmes, Aftercare Support Services, Outpatient Programme, Family Support Groups. For more information. Visit our Website Here.

10 ways to stay sober during the holidays

Who said The Holidays were all fun and games? We’re guessing it wasn’t someone in recovery struggling to remain free from their drugs of addiction.

Family, food, presents, work, community events, and in some cases, travel can all add up to a huge amount of stress for anyone. Factor in an ongoing issue with drugs and alcohol and a history of turning to substances in order to manage stressful situations, and the holidays may feel like nothing more than an obstacle course with triggers for relapse at every turn. So, how can you get through The Holidays in addiction recovery with grace and strength? We offer you some tips here. Then, we invite your feedback or comments in the section below.

Cross Addiction

If you understand the fundamentals of addiction, you’ll understand that it was never about the drugs or alcohol or other self-destructive behaviours.

What characterizes addiction is the obsessive and compulsive nature of the behaviour and also what happens when we do act out on that behaviour. We start a process that is exclusive to our condition, POWERLESSNESS. Powerlessness means that we lose control and our lives become unmanageable. Unmanageability can be characterized by looking at certain areas of life.

Socially, Financially, Spiritually and emotionally. If we take an honest look at those areas of our lives, we will see, specific examples where the powerlessness has affected our very core.
Cross addiction is when you swop one drug of choice for another, quiet plainly it’s just allowing the manifestation of obsession to filter into different areas.
The way the brain works in addiction is like this. Our pleasure centers get overloaded with dopamine to name but one chemical.
Dopamine is a brain chemical involved in many different functions including movement, motivation, reward – and addiction. Nearly all drugs of abuse directly or indirectly increase dopamine in the pleasure and motivation pathways and in so doing, alter the normal communication between neurons.

New Relationships

Through our using we came to believe falsely that we were self-sufficient; that we didn’t need anyone else, we couldn’t stand anyone else as long as we had our drugs.  Through this thinking, our interpersonal skills and abilities to communicate with others were put on hold and very possibly damaged.  We were not designed to live in isolation, yet this is where addiction takes each one of us.  Coming into recovery we need to un-learn these self-sufficient survival skills we taught ourselves in our addiction and learn healthy interpersonal skills in order to communicate in healthy ways with other healthy individuals.  At first it is daunting to allow ourselves to become vulnerable around others; and we need to start deciphering what and who is safe, and what and who is not.  We will make mistakes which are all part of our journey,remembering that learning from our mistakes is how we grow; and that believing  that it is possible, we slowly learn how to build our skills and healthy relationships with others.

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Next Steps

We hope that you found this article about new relationships helpful and encouraging. If you are struggling with an Addiction or know someone who is. Please feel free to contact us and we can help you with your next steps.

Cherrywood House is a rehabilitation centre for people suffering from substance and other addictive disorders. It is situated in the tranquil, semi-rural environments of Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa. We offer  Residential Programmes, Aftercare Support Services, Outpatient Programme, Family Support Groups. For more information. Visit our Website Here.