Beware, One First Drink Can Be the Beginning of Your End! [opinion]

One of my close friends is a recovering alcoholic, he has been to a rehabilitation centre twice. He once checked himself out of rehabilitation after deciding that the counselors there were not sure of what to do with him.

He started drinking not long ago but went down the drain fast. It started after he was deported from the United Kingdom. He was in school abroad and got deported for an offence he says he didn’t commit. He was in the wrong place, with the wrong people and at the wrong time. His path into alcoholism, like many, was more like a slow fade. He was never destined to be an alcoholic. He began with a few beers to pass time when he was bored and ease stress, but sooner he began losing count of how many he had taken. Then he moved on to the “hard stuff” and eventually was dependent on alcohol. He was and still is knowledgeable, the kind of guy who reads not because he has an exam coming, so it surprises most when he turned out an alcoholic. He says recovery from alcoholism is not as easy as they make it sound in self-help books.

When he quit for the first time and went to rehab, he was diagnosed with Reactive Depression, which had been a result of the sorrow he was dealing with. Soon after he went back to excessive drinking. Darikayi Burutsa, a counselor here who has previously worked with an Alcoholics Anonymous group, says that a good number of people who turn out to be alcoholics, are mostly forced by circumstances. “Most of the cases I have come across are people who had been on the right path but got distracted by hard times. Most of them are not as experimental and rogue as you would expect them to be. They are tortured by circumstances and alcohol or drugs are a quick way to forget their circumstances,” he says

“Society mostly looks at people dependent on alcohol as misfits, who chose their fate, but if you spend time with most of them, you would understand that most of them were previously innocent. It is easy to judge them as people who chose to have a good time, and lost the path and that makes it hard for them to get help from their families or friends. Most times when one has an alcohol or drug problem, their friends and relatives tend to step back, causing them to sink deeper into their only “solution”. If family and friends take time to understand them, it would probably be easy to help them get through it,” Burutsa says.

While dealing with an alcoholic colleague, Michael Johannes, a 24- year-old teacher in the Epembe constituency in the Ohangwena region says the learnt that not all alcoholics are so because they are rogue. “A former classmate was discontinued from school and he probably saw it as a termination of his dreams. Normally teachers and parents tell you that nothing should stop you from pursuing your dreams but our inner strength differs and some of us can’t figure a way out. My classmate turned to drinking and smoking marijuana because he received a lot of backlash from his family. Former classmates were not helpful either. Since he was no longer a learner, he received little or pocket money and had to drink the cheapest liquor he could afford which did him a lot of harm. Thinking of it now, it is strange that none of his friends or classmates tried to intervene, they all probably saw him as a deviant and gave up on him.”

Francis Kambata says though they will never know, things would probably have been different had they tried to intervene. “I cannot be sure that we are to blame for his problem but it is like most of us watched it happen.”

Helena Hamutumbungela, a cashier at a Friends Bar and Restaurant here, believes that we are the masters of our destiny and it is weak to blame friends and family for not helping us out. “If we all expected friends and family to help us avoid substance abuse, then the world would be full of alcoholics. Most of those who resort to these ways are just people afraid of facing reality. We all have problems or hard times and do not use drugs. Saying that their circumstances were hard and there was no one who rescued is just an excuse and a way to seek sympathy,” Humutumbungela says

A common excuse amongst alcoholics is that they have been at it too long that they cannot walk away as they are fully dependent on it. They claim that if they ceased to use the substances, they would not be able to get on with their lives. But Dr George Kapa, a general medical practitioner at Eenhana District Hospital says that this is untrue. “Anyone can quit substance abuse if they resolve to but there are steps. It is aisable to consult a physician who will direct you and put you on a programme to get clean. Immediate withdrawal could lead to complications since one was previously dependent.”

Dr Kapa adds that those who quit on their own could easily stumble and get back to substance abuse. “At times when one quits without medical help, it is not because it is easy to get back to abusing substances but due to the strain they go through because of the withdrawal effects.”

It begins with a few sips of a drink or a drag of smoke and slowly they are enslaved and take on a new label. Who is to blame for them getting there may not be as important as who will help them get out of there.

Source : New Era