Rehab, Please….!

By Amara Magomola…

I was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1974, before moving to the United States in 1976. I went to several different schools during my primary to high school years. The majority of my schooling came from the American Education System. I did not do well in the South African education system due to Afrikaans, which affected all my other grades badly.

My first drinking experience happened when I was around twelve or thirteen. I went with my parents to a graduation party. It was during that evening that I found myself drinking an assortment of leftover drinks that were on the table. It is highly unlikely that I knew that any of them had alcohol in them. However, I did get violently ill from the drinking episode and a doctor had to come out to pump my stomach. He explained to my parents that I had suffered alcohol poisoning.

I did not drink for the next few years up until when I reached around fifteen, when I went to my first high school party. Everybody brought alcohol and not just beers either; there was a variety of small shooter bottles of all kinds of hard liquor, and I had my fair share and then some, regardless of taste. Many alcoholics say that they like to drink because it takes them out of their mind, making them more confident, lose their inhibitions, or simply create a different personality. I cannot say that it was like that for me. I just drank, in the beginning, because everyone else was drinking.

I got ravenously drunk that night, acting a fool, and apparently was pulled out of the pool by a group of high school boys. The following two days, I was welcomed with a horrible hangover. I vomited for the most part of the first day and the second day sat with headache and other body aches. This was supposed to be an eye-opening experience for me that meant that I should stop drinking. Sadly, I have never been a good listener.

Over the next three years, I did not wait for a party to drink. I did not really have to since my parents often had cocktails gatherings. I used to steal beers and glasses of wine. With my low tolerance to alcohol, it did not take me long to get drunk and start embarrassing myself and in turn my parents. I would be yelled at before, during, and after the drinking. But it did not deter me. I liked drinking. I loved it more than anything, even though I cannot exactly explain why. It is possible that I simply liked the idea that the world (or I) changed when I was intoxicated.

I was nineteen when I first got high from marijuana. I had been invited by a friend to attend a Halloween party at my old school. Afterwards, I was also told there would be an after-party at my old friend’s house in Pretoria. Once we got there, it was a teenage heaven. No parents, therefore no supervision, and alcohol for everybody. Eventually someone started rolling a joint. I had tried it before but had not gotten high. That evening, I did, and I can tell you that the only true definition for me of the experience was that it was a holy one.

I had never been able to leave my body and mind so gracefully before. Everything felt like a movie and I was a lead and supporting actress in this amazing epic. There was no doubt that I had found the perfect antidote for all the problems that made me feel less than ‘normal’. In later years, I noticed it numbed pain, my fears, anxieties, and often my anger and frustration. It made me feel invincible as well as rather important. And to be honest, the idea of feeling important was a wonderful feeling because I never really felt I mattered much — not at home or at school. This drug, marijuana, gave me all this as well as feelings of happiness and a sedated sense of peace that I had longed for all my life. There was no turning back from here.

The following year, I went to college and began drinking and smoking roughly all the time. It was easy, you see. We were walking distance from a café where they sold beers and wine coolers and I had a multitude of friends and acquaintances who smoked marijuana. I had a friend who lived off-campus and another buddy who lived in the male dorms and I would go to his house from Fridays to Mondays and smoke and drink all day and night.

This all ended abruptly when I was gang-raped and ultimately expelled from the school because I was found hanging out in the male dorms where women were specifically not allowed. On top of that, there was marijuana being smoked which gave the school further reason for my expulsion. I was left with no other choice but to return to South Africa. I was angry, frustrated, and depressed about the whole situation. As you can imagine, this only made me lean farther towards marijuana and alcohol — if and when I could get them.

I was quickly becoming a full-blown alcoholic and addict. Not that I cared anyway, since it felt like my life was over.

By the time I went to my first rehab, I was around twenty-two and was insufferable to everyone, particularly my family. It was not my choice to go but I was not in a place to argue. So, I went for my 28-day stay. The lectures were captivating, and I learnt a lot about psychology and the foundations of alcoholism, but nothing much about the 12 Step Program. I saw a psychologist twice a week and she was kind enough to give me more books on psychology, which has been a deep interest of mine since adolescence.

After leaving the rehab, it took me no more than a month before I started drinking again. I have no one to blame.

I returned to the United States when I was twenty-nine, when I had met a gentleman who I thought was going to become someone of more importance in my life. But my drinking once again got the best of me, and he asked me not to see him. I then went on to a family friend’s home in Tennessee, where I was enrolled in an African-American college.

Living in Memphis was hard for me in many ways. For one, I had never had the ability to make friends or establish relationships with anyone except for one or two people. For another, I drank more than ever.

For example, I would drink at least two or three 32-oz cans of beer in the evening and sometimes have something to drink earlier in the day. On weekends, I would go on an all-out blitz, especially if I went to Beale Street. Finding a marijuana supplier was difficult, but I did eventually find my ways of getting a dime (small bag of marijuana about half the size of matchbox) or two that would last two or three days. I was also isolating more and was not taking care of my health, particularly my eating. Sometimes, I simply did not have an appetite, so my fridge would be empty or full of almost rotten food.

I often did try and stop drinking, but after a few weeks, I would find myself back on the bottle. Eventually, I graduated to vodka, which left me intoxicated with no memories of the night before. One morning, I woke up with blood all over my bed and carpet. I was told by some guy that I had crashed into a car and he’d carried me back to my apartment.

As for the marijuana, I had no intention whatsoever of giving that up.

I went to my second rehab when I returned to South Africa. I was 28 and I was there for a full four months. The one great thing I can say about the place was that it gave me a deep understanding of what it meant to be an alcoholic. It enabled me to visit 12 Step Meetings and begin 12 Step Work — a brief introduction. I had enough of hitting rock bottom and was willing to try to start life sober. But I started using marijuana again after a few months.

Before long, I was smoking up to ten joints a day and sometimes during the nights. I was heavily isolating, and I remember never even knowing what time of day it was. Some days would go by that I do not remember at all, and I found myself fantasizing about a way of committing suicide. I think the sedative effect of the marijuana was causing a deep depression…and I wanted out. But I was too scared to hurt myself, so I never followed through.

My parents found me in my apartment with most of my furniture gone. I had sold it, and the place looked no different from a junkyard. At the time, I was at my lowest weight ever — 46 kilograms. For weeks I ate one meal a day, consisting of one egg and a bread roll. My addiction had entire control over my life, and I needed to be institutionalized.

I was taken to my third and final rehab. There I was able to admit that I was addicted to marijuana. Through the 12 Step Program, I was able to heal and work on myself both emotionally and physically. Afterwards, I continued to stay on in the Halfway House, where I was able to attend as an out-patient and continue my therapy with my counsellor. I also continued going to my 12 Step Meetings three times a week, which allowed me to work the Program and engage more with people. Finally, I found a great sponsor who showed me more about life. This helped facilitate healing with my family and other relationships.

When I was thirty-four, I began writing articles about addiction and recovery while working at the Halfway House. My boss suggested that I also play around with writing short stories. After creating three or four short stories, I wrote to various publishing houses to see if they would be interested in publishing any of my material. Tadros Publishing accepted one of my short stories, which they turned into a full-on novel called A Promise Made is a Promise Kept. That came out the following year and can be found on various outlets such as Amazon.

Following that year, I also returned to live with my parents in Sandton (a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa). My dad had a company where I still work today, doing general administration, while I continue to write my articles regarding addiction and recovery. I use social media as my platform, and my Facebook page is entitled Sober Living. It now has over 260 likes, which I am proud of, and I am always looking for new avenues to get my work read by other struggling and recovering addicts, their families, and loved ones.


2 thoughts on “Rehab, Please….!

  1. Nana June 7, 2020 at 11:11 am #


    Thank you for sharing your life battles.

    This is good story that says people do recover. First you must accept that you are an addict and that you cannot do it alone. With the right support and acknowledging the power above one, recovery is a possibility.

  2. Janet B Lay August 29, 2020 at 7:26 pm #

    Beautiful and strong.

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