‘I think I am losing my mind’ – Addicts struggle to cope with lockdown

Addicts are struggling to cope with the lockdown
Addicts are struggling to cope with the lockdown

He was a teenager when he took his first sip of beer, and since that fateful day Samora Mogomotsi* (30) has never been sober.

Mogomotsi, from Rustenburg in the North West, says he cannot survive a day without drinking two or more beers.

He describes the day he first tasted alcohol as a curse.

“I was in high school when I started drinking alcohol and I have never stopped. It all started with one beer, entertaining myself and having fun with friends. Little did I know that one day it would be an addiction,” he says.

I am always sweating and shivering, and I have constant headaches. I hallucinate and I struggle to sleep at night. I am short tempered and I think I am losing my mind
Samora Mogomotsi, alcohol addict

He had hoped that government would reconsider the ban on alcohol sales during the lockdown, but it is going to be a long haul for him and many others as government rejected the request by the Gauteng Liquor Forum for its members to be allowed to sell alcohol during this time.

On Friday, state attorney Arista Wasserman, on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa, sent a formal letter to the forum to inform its members that the ban on alcohol sales would not be eased.

Mogomotsi told City Press that he was disappointed by the president’s decision as it meant that he would continue to suffer because he is dependent on both alcohol and cigarettes.

Mogomotsi, who is a taxi driver, said he was not coping during the lockdown as he could no longer feed his cravings.

If you think that you have always been a functional alcoholic or social drinker, this might develop into a severe substance use disorder during this time
Hanan Bushkin, a psychologist

“I am always sweating and shivering, and I have constant headaches. I hallucinate and I struggle to sleep at night. I am short tempered and I think I am losing my mind.”

However, he said this period has helped him to reflect on his substance dependency and consider raising money so that he can check himself into a rehabilitation facility one day.

“I am learning to find something that will keep me busy, such as exercising. I am still adjusting to the new habit, although it hasn’t been an easy journey.”

He added that his parents had been supportive and willing to help him raise money to go to rehab.

His advice to other addicts: “Hold on and stay strong. May the lockdown be a time for us to reflect and find ourselves. Together we will conquer.”

Since the ban, we have been receiving at least 30 to 40 calls per day and about 800 WhatsApp messages
SA National Council on Alcoholism

SA National Council on Alcoholism (Sanca) spokesperson Thembi Msane says the organisation is overwhelmed by the high volumes of calls it attends to each day, as many people struggle to survive the lockdown without their drug of choice.

“Since the ban, we have been receiving at least 30 to 40 calls per day and about 800 WhatsApp messages,” Msane shared.

“Most of them cannot control [the urge to feed the craving the] body is used to and this leads people to have anxiety or depression,” she said.

Hanan Bushkin, a psychologist who owns the Anxiety and Trauma Clinic in Sandton, agrees with Msane that these are tough times for people who have a substance dependence.

Bushkin said the number of people seeking help from his practice had grown substantially since the start of the lockdown. He added that people with substance dependency always need to be examined by medical staff before being assessed for counselling and intervention by psychologists.

Bushkin said the reason for undergoing a medical examination first was that medication always reduces cravings.

Another option to help a patient suffering from an addiction is acupuncture
Hanan Bushkin, a psychologist

“After they have passed the medical method stage, we can then assess them and provide psychological method such as affirmation, visualisation and meditation.

“Another option to help a patient suffering from an addiction is acupuncture,” he said.

Msane, who is also a clinical psychologist, said Sanca was aware of the challenges faced by people who currently do not have their drug of choice available.

“This results in cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and it could trigger negative behaviour.

“Also, if you were a social drinker before, you might drink more during this time to cope with the stress and boredom,” she said.

Msane said binge drinking was a far more dangerous concern, adding that it was likely to increase during this time.

“If you think that you have always been a functional alcoholic or social drinker, this might develop into a severe substance use disorder during this time,” she cautioned.

*Not his real name

Kick bad habits, foster a new one
  • Keep a daily journal where you track your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
  • Explore how alcohol impacts on your life on all levels, both positively and negatively.
  • Write your reason for quitting and be honest.
  • Take up a hobby, do an online course and talk to your loved ones about your cravings and thoughts.
  • Do relaxation exercises, work in the garden, play a game, play with your child or pet.
  • Stay positive and ask for help from others.


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