Yesterday, Mayor Patricia De Lille commemorated the graduation of 140 patients from the Matrix Rehabilitation programme.
Many of these patients have been sober or as they would call it ‘clean’ for several years now and they were able to share their stories of drug abuse and the recovery process that they went through.
Paul* was motivated to enter rehab after he was forced to live on the streets, he has successfully been clean for one year and seven months.
This has been the longest period that he has managed to remain off drugs ever since he started using it almost a decade ago.
“I went to various rehabs over and over and I was basically doing the same thing over and over and seeing the toll that it was taking on my family led me to finally try recovery again…What really helped me with recovery was to do it for myself and for nobody else and to want a better way of life,” he explains.
Paul says that he was not ready to enter recovery for himself the first time, which he attributes to his previous failure of trying to get clean.
How did Paul ‘kick the habit’?
For Paul, the road to recovery was filled with obstacles. His family had isolated themselves from him in early recovery, since they did not believe that he could kick the drug habit.
“I had to make my main focus being clean and wanting another way of life,” Paul said.
Paul subsequently started the Matrix programme, which is a programme implemented and funded by the City of Cape Town in their attempts to create a drug free society.
“What made Matrix different is that Matrix pinpointed the problem, which was my thinking and my behaviour. The dependence on drugs does play a part, but I had to figure out why I was doing the same things and why i was using – that is what I got from Matrix.”
“I had access to therapy and to group therapy and a therapist was assigned to me and I was able to speak about what was bothering me,” explains Paul when talking about the difference between the Matrix programme and other rehab centres.
Matrix also offers assistance to the family of drug addicts so that they may aid in the patients recovery, as well as to address the issues that the family experieces when caring for someone with an addiction illness.
“The family go through their own form of recovery as well and their own active addiction because to cope with me the family developed their own behaviours to try and keep themselves sane,” Paul continued.
In addition, Matrix encourages patients to seek support from other rehabilitation groups, in order to support and facilitate the process.
“So that is what I am doing now. It is maintenance after Matrix, so I have a sponsor and I actively work the 12 steps so that is what kept me clean until today,” Paul stated.
How has Paul maintained his sobriety?
In the struggle to overcome his addiction, Paul says that staying clean in the beginning is a struggle because it is what he have known for the past 10 plus years so it’s basically waking up in the morning and saying today he am not going to use drugs.
“Sometimes, during the course of the day I was still getting used to the thought, [so] I would break my days down into hours [to] try to stay clean for the next two hours and then for the next three hours, until the day is over.”
Edwin*, another graduate of the programme, has been clean for the past five years and says that he had become addicted to drugs at a very early age as a result of peer pressure.
“I met up with the wrong crowd and because I was always pushed away from friends in school. That is how I got involved with these so-called friends, because they were doing the wrong things so I thought that if I was going to join them they will welcome me and they won’t push me away,” Edwin explained, not that he could have said no, but he wanted to feel accepted amongst his group of friends.
While his recovery process was not easy , he was encouraged by his parents to enter rehab after they threatened to remove his son from him if he continued on the destructive path.
“I got clean and in the first and second year I had so many cravings, but whenever I felt a certain way I could pick up the phone and call my therapist and they would help me so I had an amazing support structure,” Edwin continued.
Matrix was the only rehab that Edwin had attended because it was his first attempt at recovery and he says that ever since he went into the Matrix program he has never used drugs again.
For Cherrie*, the motivating factor to enter rehab was her children. She had lost contact with her eldest daughter as she refused to engage with Cherrie due to Cherrie’s continued use of drugs..
Cherrie is from Belhar and she says that the easy accessibility of drugs in that area is a nightmare.
“Drugs are so easily available’; it is on corners and at shops. It (drugs) is not invisible and you don’t even have to ask where the merchants are, you can find them so easily.”
What gave her courage to give up drugs?
What helped Cherrie at the program were the intensive counselling sessions that she received in treatment.
“They didn’t just take it from my using days, they did background checks on my life and there were a lot of things that I couldn’t deal with in my childhood that I actually dealt with in my therapy,” explained Cherrie.
“So when I went into the Matrix programme, my whole family went into recovery with me because I had the support of my sister and my brothers and our whole family’s lifestyle changed along with mine.”
Cherrie still receives support from the Matrix clinics even though her programme has come to an end, which she attributes to keeping her from using drugs again.
VOC (Umarah Hartely)