Victory Over Drug Addiction [analysis]

…while some think it can’t be done, John Saunderson says it’s possible

DRUG addiction cost John Saunderson four jobs, wreaked havoc in his family and destroyed his marriage before he resolved to break the cycle and bring his life back on track.

He says this has not been an easy process but one of the steps towards full rehabilitation is to talk about the problem in the hope that it would take the load off his shoulders and that his story would help others in the same predicament.

This is how we arranged to meet at a cafe in Windhoek recently. He was there when I arrived. We sat down and he poured his heart out after the barest of pleasantries.

“I regret using drugs, because they only helped me mess up my life. All the while, the solution was right there at my doorstep,” Saunderson said, his eyes watering.

During his addiction on crack cocaine, Saunderson said no one else was in the picture as drugs had replaced everyone and everything that mattered to him.

He started abusing drugs in 2010 aged 27 because of what he termed “a troubled marriage”. He initially battled addiction for a year, and just when he thought he had broken free, he slid back into the habit again . . . and this time he sank deeper.

“For money to support this indulgence, I would demand it from my wife,” Saunderson recalled.

He realised that one at a time, he lost his home in Rocky Crest, five cars, relationship with family members, social standing and self-esteem as well as his employers’ trust.

Saunderson said he was employed at City of Windhoek as head of passenger transport regulation, then Roads Authority as a transport economist, Ministry of Works and Transport as a policy analyst and lastly at Nampost as a courier manager, but had lost all these jobs because of his drug abuse problem.

His marriage to Shanine disintegrated right before his eyes but he was so deep into drugs that he did not care. The two had married in 2005, just six months after dating, he said. During their marriage, he said they constantly argued and fought.

“The relationship went sour and so many people started interfering. When my wife fell pregnant I did not believe it was my child. The drugs had hit me that bad,” he said.

Because he could not handle his problem, he turned to alcohol and drugs for solace.

“I believed drugs and alcohol were not my problem, but the reality that I was refusing to accept. I saw drugs and alcohol as the solution to my problem, but how wrong I was,” Saunderson said.

Fortunately, when he lost his last job, it hit him that he was messing up his life and that of his children. On 25 September 2013 he decided he was not going to take drugs anymore and there was no going back on that.

“I enrolled at a rehabilitation centre, My Wellness 247 (in Usakos). When I left the rehabilitation centre, I was a changed man, repented and had given my life to God,” explained Saunderson.

His determination was also fuelled by Shanine, his ex-wife who never lost faith in him. Although they had divorced, she kept in touch with him when all friends had deserted him and encouraged her ex-husband to approach life with a positive attitude.

Defying the odds, Saunderson has been clean of drugs for about nine months now and is working on getting a job, a house, his wife and family back.

He also wants to help other addicts beat the habit, saying sometimes all it takes is for a person to stand up and say “no more” for change to manifest.

Saunderson said the temptation to do drugs is never far away, but one has to maintain constant vigilance to avoid a relapse because addiction is not rational.

Now ready to be a family man again, Saunderson a father of four boys says he knows it will not be easy but he’s willing to fight. He knows actions have consequences and he is just paying for his past mistakes.

“I personally feel well, I just regret hurting my wife and children. Currently I am unemployed but I now do things differently. I had to get rid of the problem that destroyed not only me but also other people,” he says.

He said if one does not have the desire to live a positive life, they can be educated up to the moon but it would not work. “If you want to get rid of drugs, decide that you will get rid of them. It’s your decision.”

Since January, he said he has been talking to a lot of people and now volunteers to share his story with social workers.

“I appreciate life more. I was not too sure there is a support system for people like myself. My mother is taking care of my two children and the other two are with my ex-wife. The support given to me by both my family and friends is invaluable,” Saunderson said.

Shanine says she has no idea how her former husband ended up using drugs. “I really have no idea how he started. Maybe he mingled with the wrong friends,” she says.

She also said people often interfered in their marriage which also became a challenge because they would have different inputs of how to run it.

“Some would spread rumours about me cheating on him and John would get upset and confront me about it. He never believed me when I told him it was not true,” Shanine said.

As a result of the too many confrontations, she says he started drinking too much and he would come home and quarrel with her, causing an unhappy atmosphere for her and the children.

She then realised that he would sit in the bathroom for long periods and one day she sneaked up on him to find out what he was doing. The discovery that he was abusing drugs broke her heart.

“He would spend N$2 000 every night on drugs, I think he had too much money he did not know what to do with it.”

She says things got worse in 2012 when he would sniff drugs everyday.

“When he opened his eyes, he must sniff. Before he closed his eyes (for the night), he must sniff. We could no longer pay for the house and we lost it. When he lost his job he would beg me for money and beat me if I did not give it to him.”

Shanine said she would at times call her friends to ask for money so she could give him and have peace at home.

“It was hard for the children and they would run away from him every time. They would not want him to touch them. It also took a strain on me as I would have a blue eye every second day. I quit my job because I was embarrassed to show up looking like that,” she said.

She, however, thinks they got married too early and too young. She also blames herself for the break up for their marriage because she says she was not always honest and found it hard to be because she was afraid of him.

“I had too many issues of my past and he had too many. We both did not realise that these issues were destroying us. I was not 100% in my marriage,” Shanine said.

Shanine says her ex-husband’s behaviour still haunts her but she has found refuge in God.

The scars on her body are the worst reminders of the torture she went through, but she said, “God is helping me. He is healing my wounds.”

She aised other couples going through the same problem to support each other.

“The problem is that I did not support him enough because most of the time I was just angry with him. If you really love the person, go for counselling together.”

She said despite the ordeals Saunderson put her through, she is willing to give him a second chance. “I can see he is really trying and because I still love him, I am willing to give him another chance,” Shanine said.

She now lives with her nephew and his wife and is working on rebuilding her life.

Stefan Theron, a psychological counsellor, said at My Wellness 247 they help former addicts find peace with whatever would have led them to start abusing drugs or alcohol.

“We urge them to start attending meetings after care,” saying this way they can meet and share stories with others in the same predicament.

“It is a life time change. If they relapse, we aise them to come back to us,” Theron said, adding that in most cases addiction is caused by problems which people think they cannot deal with. “Instead of focusing on a way to deal with the problem, they turn to alcohol and drugs, but the problem does not go away.”

He also warned that reliance on alcohol and drugs affects the ability to make effective decisions. “Marijuana makes a person lazy and sometimes the memory doesn’t record the little details.”

Theron said their centre in Swakopmund, takes in 10 people every three weeks, and that they have a 12-step programme to guide addicts, one of the steps is psychological counselling to assist patients to cope with problems.

He, however, said they believe addiction is ultimately the responsibility of the addict.

“You can lead a horse to the river but you cannot make it drink. We try to help break the denial for those who are still in denial. Sometimes it helps, but sometimes it does not,” he explained.

He also said addicts should be made aware of the damage they cause, be it at work or in their personal lives.

Theron said they help addicts recognise the signs and symptoms of their disease, and give them a helping hand during the recovery process, but ultimately one would be in charge of the outcome.

Those suffering from drug addiction or those with a relative having the problem, can seek help from Etegameno Rehabilitation Centre on 269348 or alternatively contact Saunderson on 0814761413, as he is also willing to help addicts.

Source : The Namibian