Matthew +27(0)714 977 291
I am a Recovery Assistant at Twin Rivers Rehabilitation Centre.
I have been involved in the recovery treatment sector since February 2019 after proudly initiating and completing my own recovery program in 2018.
Every day I am surrounded by a recovery ethos and by people desperately seeking (occasionally desperately avoiding) it. My immersion into the atmosphere on a daily basis makes my job one of constant relatedness. A relatedness to the darkness and self-blindness of denial, the painfulness of accountability and acceptance, and the light shed and shared by self-realization.
As our clients go through these and other stages of recovery, they are provided constant support from the team. This support is also offered by the team to one another. We are extremely supportive of one another which is crucial to the work that we do. I find that the anchor in my own recovery has been humility and a good support base is one where each individual is not forced but allowed to engage in humility when they need to. I am privileged to be a part of a team that does this and affirms progress to one another frequently as well.
As COVID-19 slowly evolved from a faraway issue into one that seemed to be knocking at the front door, we did what we needed to do in order to ensure our clients were taken care of. We did this until it became clear that the most responsible thing we could do would be to close our doors. By the time our national lockdown was implemented and flights for foreign clients closed, our clients were back in their homes.
In recovery circles we say that we never lose the “addict” part of ourselves and that we choose to engage in recovery rather than engage with it. We do “the next right thing” as it is said in Anonymous rooms. As I prepared for the longest stint away from other people in recovery I have ever had since I walked into rehab, my “addict” was definitely smiling.
I don’t want to paint a picture of a man with a knife waiting in a dark room because my feelings about my recovery during the lockdown are not so clear-cut. It is rather described as something within me that yearns for the chaos that exists in the crisis. Chaos was a very comfortable place for me to dance the dangerous dance with my addict for many years.
Due to my tendency for chaos, I live a very structured life and am fortunate enough to have recovery be what makes up the bulk of that structure because of what I do for a living. As I entered the lockdown, I realized that I would be the only force that brings recovery into my life now, a challenge that many people face when leaving treatment. A challenge that I realize I have been naïve towards because I have not had to bear the full weight of it.
I have been fortunate to not be alone during this time. To quote a poem that I love, “many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” I have been accountable to other people for the basics of what I call living acceptably (keeping tidy, practicing good hygiene, eating regularly and healthily, going to sleep at an acceptable hour and not wasting away in front of a TV or computer). I cannot stress how important these things are to me and to my recovery. These actions define the tone I set for each day and they are admittedly small but real-life, tangible examples of me overcoming my addict and doing “the next right thing.” The disappearances of these things are also the first red flags for me that indicate my mental health is on its way out the window.
Self-discipline was as much a foreign language to me as Mandarin. Like learning any new language, one must begin with the basics. The lockdown has brought everything back-to-basics. I have been doing my best to have some kind of basic structure for myself. I must eat, I must sleep, I must ensure that I am comfortable. I have allocated time each day for meals, for cleaning myself and my environment and I have allocated time for bed.
After these there are still many hours left in a day. I give myself an hour each day to engage in my recovery. The international recovery community has been inexhaustible in creating ways for recovering addicts to do exactly this during this time. There is so much online. I like to listen to shares on YouTube. Reading is a favorite pastime, and this includes recovery-based literature.
I have had many calls to and from loved ones and this has been a wonderful good to come from this dark time. My colleagues and I are all on a support group on WhatsApp during this time and although I am not very outspoken on it, I still read everything they send and feel supported constantly. I am also on numerous other WhatsApp groups that are all recovery-focused. There isn’t a moment where I pick up my phone and there aren’t messages of support for people and their recovery.
The most important and difficult thing that I have had to do during this time is to talk honestly about how I feel. This is a scary time for humanity. The fragility of life as we know it has been exposed to the world as a whole. How much we all depend on one another to support each other’s lives and provide one another with the goods and services that this support entails has come to the forefront by it being threatened. This is a humble time for people everywhere. I am not exempt from the fear we all feel, and I am not exempt from trying to act as if I am not scared either. We all need support and most of us cannot get through this alone. Those that may be able to trudge through and do it alone should not have to as it is unnecessarily harder. I do not have to be alone during this time as there is support if I look for it. It can only help.
Matthew McDevitt (RA Twin Rivers Rehab).
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process