Sharing the strain of recovery

2019-04-10 06:01
The group of facilitators from Heal Kloof and Hilton.PHOTO: supplied

The group of facilitators from Heal Kloof and Hilton.PHOTO: supplied

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STARTED by Johannesburg-based recovering addict Graham Moore, who has been clean for 15 years, the Healing & Educating Addicted Lives (Heal) organisation opened a new support group in Hilton with locals Sue Bentley and Dorothy Marshall facilitating the group.

Realising that there was no support structure for recovering addicts after rehab, and seeing that families were not being educated enough to deal with the challenges of recovery, Moore opened Heal, which now has 10 centres across South Africa­.

“Dorothy and I both have sons who have spent almost two years each in rehab. We both have spent time at rehab centres on family educational weekends and have also spent several years attending Heal groups in Westville and Umhlanga,” said Bentley when asked about her experience in dealing with recovering addicts.

Bentley said that their aim was to educate families about addiction and about concepts such as denial, setting boundaries, enabling and co-dependency. “Most family members are normally completely ignorant about these concepts, and of how their own behaviours can in fact cause the addiction to continue.

“We also provide information on rehabilitation centres, court procedures, drug testing procedures, relapse prevention plans etc.

“The addict group focuses on keeping their members accountable by challenging their behaviours, drug testing, etc. The group is often confrontational as the recovering addicts ‘know all the tricks in the book’, so to speak,” said Bentley.

For the time being, the group in Hilton will be for supporters only. Once the group grows, Bentley hopes to introduce an addict group but, understandably, the facilitator of this group needs to be carefully identified and chosen so as not to endanger the recovery of other members of the group.

“When my husband and I were going through our battles with our son, we felt we were simply floundering in the dark without direction as information was simply so difficult to access, even from professionals,” she said.

Intervention by professionals, though always well meaning, is not always helpful if the therapist does not have specific experience in the field of addiction.

“The common pacifying statement made by friends of ‘it’s just a phase he’s going through’ was also at odds with my gut instinct. Now that I have been somewhat educated, so many things become crystal clear, but things are not at all clear when you are in that murky dark place,” said Bentley.

Run on Christian principles but open to all members of the community regardless of faith, Heal is an ongoing group which will fluctuate from week to week, with people coming and going as their needs and circumstances change.

“Our role is to facilitate the group by encouraging group members to listen to one another and offer advice/information from their own perspectives and experiences. We are not qualified counsellors but speak from our own experiences,” said Bentley. No referrals are necessary, people may come and go as they need.

The groups are not restricted to substance/alcohol abuse issues, but are for all types of addiction, including gambling, eating disorders etc.

Meetings will be held at the HCF Church opposite Grace College School every Wednesday evening from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.

“We hope in some small way to help the community. We hope that our endeavors, however small, may help to educate our local community about the complexities of addiction,” said Bentley.

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