‘I didn’t even know alcohol is a drug’

2011-03-19 19:18

Lindiwe Ndaba had her first taste of alcohol when she was just 12.

She had been on a picnic with her cousin and got blind drunk.

“I remember that day so vividly like it happened yesterday.

I was drunk out of my mind. I passed out, I puked,” she says.

Her family packed her off to boarding school, where she promptly got herself expelled in grade 8.

She recalls regularly sneaking off to clubs to drink. Fortunately, a convent school gave her a second chance.

After matric she went to Rhodes University – and by this time she was a pro at drinking.

“My memories are much clearer now that I’m in recovery. Going through treatment brings back all those memories.

One of the things I remember, and then it was supercool, is sitting in a third-year’s room and drinking a whole bottle of champagne by myself.”

She came back home without a degree and couldn’t find a job and so enrolled at Birnam ­College. But the drinking didn’t stop.

“I think that was when the wheels started rattling.

They didn’t fall off yet but they were rattling because from then until I got into treatment 18 months ago, I was drinking and doing cocaine.

I always thought alcohol was acceptable because everybody drinks.

I didn’t even know it is a drug – that it is like taking heroin or cocaine.

“Alcoholism is the obsession and compulsion to drink all the time and, once having started, that compulsion to have ­another and another, and then not being able to stop.”

After 19 years of heavy drinking, she finally realised that something was wrong when she started drinking on her own.

Her father is also a recovering alcoholic and has been clean for 17 years now.

Alcoholism is genetic, and Lindiwe says: “I know that there’s an alcoholic gene in my family because the majority of my family drinks, so I triggered that gene. But I never thought about myself as an alcoholic.”

Lindiwe estimates that she has had about 15 jobs.

She now works at Blue IQ as an assistant to the chief executive.

Teen binge-drinking

Children as young as nine are ­experimenting with alcohol and ­teenagers drink just to get drunk.

“We’re finding youngsters between nine and 10 who are drinking and become fully hooked between 11 and 13,” says Shamim Garda, national executive director at the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

The Medical Research Council’s 2008 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey found that three out of 10 teenagers had used alcohol prior to the survey.

Western Cape high school pupils are the worst drinkers, with 53% saying that they get wasted on alcohol.

Teen binge drinking was also the most prevalent in that province at 41%. The national figure is 28%.

Garda says teenagers tend to binge during weekends and holidays.

Parental drinking behaviour is a powerful force in moulding children’s drinking behaviour.

Where parents use alcohol as a coping and destressing mechanism, children, in turn, start emulating this behaviour.

Says Garda: “Children observe their parents having a drink at night.

They (parents) leave some afterwards and children start sipping on the leftovers.”

Other reasons teenagers drink ­include peer pressure, emotional ­instability induced by going through puberty, rebelling, and testing and pushing limits. – Silindile Nyathikazi

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