THE festive season is upon and while the season to be jolly means for a much-needed break for some, for recovering drug addicts it is the hardest as temptation roams far and wide, said owner of Recovery 911 in KwaZulu-Natal Pastor Benjamin Manning. Furthermore, it is also an easy time for experimenting youths to pick up the habit, he says. Speaking to the Gazette on Friday, manning said after eight long years of agonising addiction on various types of drugs, including heroine, and four years experience in rehabilitation centres, his advice to those tempting drug offers that might arise during the festive season is to run as fast as you can. “Most addictions start off with party drugs like ecstasy, cocaine, crystal meth and the like. Even though none of these have an addictive component in them, users easily get addicted to the feeling they get from them and move on to harder stuff which is harder to come off from,” said Manning. Manning, who is originally from Klersdorp, said like most addicts his drug use started with the aforementioned “party drugs,” however, as they provided an escape from what he felt was a troubled family life, by the age of 21 he was addicted to a myriad of substances including cocaine, crystal meth and heroine. “My parents went through a divorce, which I saw take it’s toll on my mother as well as on myself. Thereafter I did not get along with my stepfather and so I turned more and more to drugs. “I wanted to hurt my family the same way I felt that they hurt me,” he said. Manning’s spiral of hurting his loved ones and himself through his drug addiction went on for the next eight years. “There was nothing I would not steal to support the habit, and I had been in and out of hospital due to overdoses more times than I can remember. “I had seen my friends that I had been using with wither and die or move on with their lives. It was a very lonely road.“One day I was in church, high as a kite, and I heard a voice say to me ‘if you don’t stop doing drugs today you will die’,” said Manning. That day he said he went back to his apartment and looked in the mirror and saw all the harm that he had done to his body and his loved ones and he decided to give up the habit. Manning says he went on a 30 day detox where he detached himself from the outside world and the drugs until he was ready to re-emerge and seek professional help. After undergoing rehabilitation himself, he says he decided to also train to become a pastor and help those in a similar situation as he was. “Our programme is a minium of six months programme because at the end of the 30 days, or the 12 step programme, that is when your emotions start to come back and the addict is faced with having to deal with the very same emotions that created his addiction in the first place,” said Manning. The recovery 911 rehabilitation centre is set for an official launch early next year. The team consists of Benjamin Manning; Kelvin Te Baerts, who does the office admin; and Emile Conradie, who is the fitness guru in the team to keep addicts active.Pastor Benjamin can be contacted via whatsapp at 067 246 9981 for those seeking urgent assistance. Alternatively, Te Baerts can be reached at 076 040 1084 and Conradie at 083 345 8808 Recovery 911 will also be accepting sponsorships, partnerships and any donations towards the centre. The South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) offers a programme called #SupportRecovery which supports addicts in recovery during the festive season. Tips for the family to help a recovering addict include:• Remove all alcoholic beverages at home.• Don’t use alcohol in food or puddings.• Warn the person if something does contain alcohol. Even the taste and smell of alcohol can lead to a relapse as it works on the memory linked to our senses.• Make sure before accepting an invitation that it will be a safe drug-free, environment for the recovering addict.• Prepare the recovering addict before the time if alcohol will be available in unavoidable situations and give them a choice to stay home with a reliable friend or family member.• Set boundaries with the recovering addict and mutually agree on what the rules will be on both sides.• Know the recovering addicts triggers such as money, places, using friends, places where they used before, dangerous people and then reduce the risks. An example is giving the recovering addict large sums of money or expensive gifts that they can pawn.• Encourage open, honest communication about their feelings, thoughts, and cravings. It doesn’t mean they will relapse if they talk about it — this is what they are taught in rehab, to share these fears so that the logic part of the brain will override the irrational part of the brain linked to relapse.