Phuza nation: ‘I got it under control’

2015-02-01 15:00

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Xolie Langa

Xolie Langa

It started with stealing sips of home brewed sorghum beer sold by her grandmother. Before she knew Xolie Langa was hooked on alcohol at just 12 years old.

It was not so much the taste that kept her coming back for more, but the feeling of being the centre of attention when she was tipsy.

“I use to sing and do all sorts of funny things when I was tipsy,” Langa said.

“People use to laugh; I was thinking it was cute. I enjoyed the attention, I guess because I was young and did not see anything wrong about drinking alcohol at such a tender age,” she said.

Langa, now in her thirties moved to the United States a few years later, to live with her uncle. This is when she became a “seasoned drinker” after being introduced to cider, wine and other drinks.

In America, she said, “we were allowed to have a glass wine or a cider during or after dinner.”

“A glass turned into glasses and no time I became a seasoned drinker,’’ Langa said.

Her story is not unusual. Research shows that many people who drink alcohol as adults started by stealing sips of their parents’ drinks. For some, sips turn into glasses, and glasses into bottles.

Fortunately for Langa, who works for a media company in Sandton, her drinking never reached the point where she needed intervention. But there was a tine in her life when she binged on booze.

“Like most young people I would binge drink when I go clubbing with friends. The good thing though is that I never woke up in a place where I didn’t know I got there.

Those were her university years in Durban. Today Langa drinks moderately and at some she stopped drinking for 18 months due to health reasons.

Dinesh Pillay (53): I reached rock bottom

Dinesh Pillay was about to lose it all when he decided enough was enough. Family and friends told him to stop abusing alcohol but he thought they were crazy and wanted cramp his style.

He received his wake up call when his wife and two children left their Lenasia family home, but it was a little too late.

He had already lost his job as debtors clerk in a law firm and destroyed the lives of those who loved him.

Pillay, a recovering alcoholic, says he regrets not listening to his wife and family when they told him to seek medical help to deal with his alcoholism.

“I was in denial,” he said.

“I thought that I was in control and my wife was just nagging and cramping my style because she lived off my salary because she was unemployed. We would argue about my drinking problem and arguments soon turned violent,” he said.

“She persevered for some time but I guess she got tired of me physically and emotional abusing her – especially when I lost my job and became frustrated.”

Pillay was fired four years ago after a receiving a series of warnings for absenteeism on Mondays and month ends, as well as coming to work drunk. He cashed in his retirement savings and blew it all on booze.

Soon the family started going to bed hungry and tensions increased at home. Pillay started drinking even more heavily and became increasingly violent because of his frustration.

“I hated myself for what I had done. I took it out of my wife because she was the closest person I could take my frustrations on,” he said.

“I destroyed my family and didn’t realise until my wife packed her bags and left with our kids. I was left alone and friends who used to drink with me disappeared, in fact many started disappearing the day the money dried out.”

Pillay then received help at a local rehab, and has been sober for about three years.

“I take it one step at a time. When I see alcohol I am tempted to drink but I remind myself that I am coming from the dark and do not want to return to it.”

Pillay and his wife have reunited and he is working contract jobs in the retail industry.

Tara Weber: I won’t quit

Tara Weber

Every time Tara Weber goes on a drinking spree she wakes up feeling like she has been hit by a bus, then a truck, before being run over by a train. Nevertheless, the collection manager who works in an arts industry has no plans to quit.

“I don’t think I can ever stop drinking. Drinking alcohol is part of my social life and I can’t imagine what I would substitute it with if I were to stop now,” she said.

She dismisses suggestions she may have a problem after saying she cant imagine anything that would take the place of alcohol in her life.

“I just love my drink, that’s all. Besides I drink occasionally and in most cases it’s because I’m out socialising with friends or family.”

Though she considers herself a social binge drinker who sometimes overdoes it, Weber said she hasn’t reached a stage where she needs professional help.

“My partner, who was a non-drinker, once told me that I drink too much but he was the only one. I guess his gripe was more about me drinking a glass or two every day than binge drinking often,” she says.

“People who don’t drink tend to think that a glass or two everyday means that you’re dependent on alcohol but that’s not true.”

Weber and her partner broke up. But she would love to be in relationship with a teetotaller because she’ll have someone to take her safely home after weekend drinking sprees.

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