Suffering from extreme anxiety, alcohol was the only way John* could battle through and from the young age of 20 his life became dominated by it.
Throughout adulthood John was married, had children and owned a home but tragedy struck numerous times and his coping mechanism was always alcohol (and at one point even Listerine because it had a small amount of alcohol in it).
For John, who even turned up to his wedding drunk just to remain calm, life was easier with alcohol. He could hide his anxiety and socialize without feeling uncomfortable.
“I knew it was too much but I kept going because of my nerves. It’s the only thing that kept me going.”
For years John continued drinking heavily which eventually led to no car, no house, no partner and a heavy reliance on his weekly benefit, which he would blow at the bottle store anyway.
Then in 2003 John, now in his 60’s, suffered several alcohol-related seizures and an emotional breakdown prompting his family to intervene.
Worried about his health and the idea of loosing his family, John volunteered himself for a two-year programme, which he attended everyday. He was then discharged and referred to Nga Kete where he has been a client for the past 10 years.
John stopped drinking “cold-turkey” and suffered terrible withdrawals including shaking and headaches, depression, and he’d wake at 2am craving alcohol. He felt like he’d lost everything but knew he had to battle through, he said.
He consumed “lots of lemonade, coffee and tea,” talked to family and friends and began eating more because it would prevent him from wanting a drink. He also used medication in the first few alcohol-free days.
Although the cravings took years to subside, John has never relapsed. It has been 13 years since his last drink.
John says coming to Nga Kete was one of the best things he has ever done.
“It’s due to them (Nga Kete) that I’m still not drinking. I would have been hopeless without them. Things have really looked up since I started going there – it’s the best thing I ever did.”
He was part of a group every Wednesday and often visited one of the counsellors. Here, he learnt about the dangers of alcohol, the benefits of not drinking alcohol and what steps to take to refrain falling back on alcohol. And, for John especially, how to cope with stress, which had always been his trigger.
Nga Kete staff would check up on him often, which he says also helped him to refrain from alcohol.
Talking to other people in the group who had been through similar challenges also helped, he said.
“You can say things you wouldn’t normally say, because it’s a safe environment and they can understand. And, it’s all confidential.”
Nga Kete supplied John with the tools to prevent him relapsing (including talking to people and keeping busy) and helped him to get involved in community activities, he said.
“Every day I have something on now.”
John credits Nga Kete to his alcohol-free life and says his relationship with family has mended; he has more confidence, is able to drive on the open road without suffering an anxiety attack and is even helping another person overcome their alcohol demons.
John now has no desire to drink alcohol and feels better about himself and his health. He doesn’t want the hassles and problems that come with drinking, he said.
“My lifestyle now – I’ve never been happier. I feel so much better. I don’t need it.”
Recently John has started assisting another person battling alcohol issues and the pair speak daily. John helps the woman by explaining the challenges he faced.
It felt great to help “because of my own success. I’ve overcome the whole lot,” he says.
John doesn’t miss drinking alcohol at all and is looking forward to his alcohol-free future.