Almost 20% of South Africans – 1 in every 5 adults – abuse mind-altering substances with alcohol, pain-killers (codeine) and dagga as the worst offenders. You are not alone.

Addiction isn’t just about neuro-chemical dependency, or intoxicating substances, or thrill seeking behaviours. Addiction is connected to control, security and self-worth – all of which took a massive beating during the pandemic. Covid-19 not only changed how you receive help, but the effects of uncertainty and stress could also trigger a relapse for those already in recovery.

Remember, the toughest step towards recovery is the very first one: recognizing that you have a problem and deciding to make a change. No matter how hopeless your situation seems or how many times you’ve tried and failed before, change is always possible.

Truth is, addiction is a daily struggle and the tools on which you normally rely on have changed. The good news is that there is help out there and continuing the effort you’ve already put into recovering is crucial. Finding support during this difficult time is essential for both your mental and physical health. So, talk to your doctor or mental health specialist on going forward.

In addition to medication and therapy, successful recovery involves building a meaningful life.  

Here are a few strategies for reducing the risk of a relapse:

  • Embrace physical distance, not emotional distance. Avoid isolation. Talk to your sponsor, counsellor or therapist, and reach out to family and friends for encouragement and support. Also, be accountable to someone by building a sober social network.
  • Stick to a daily routine. Without structure, you will struggle. Anxiety, depression and fear can lead to unhealthy habits such as alcohol and drugs that offer immediate relief. You don’t have to plan every minute of your day of course, but try to develop a consistent schedule. Find time to take a walk, cook your meals, and pursue something that keeps you engaged.
  • Try to eat balanced, nutritious meals to boost happy hormones, fuel your brain, and boost your immune system.That being said, if you’re finding it difficult to eat, there’s no shame in eating what makes you happy … at least for now.
  • Listen to recovery podcasts, read blogs, or talk to others in recovery. Be the expert. Help a person in greater pain than yourself and offer a helping hand. You’ll feel inspired to stay strong.
  • Be kind to yourself. If you’re not up for exercising, take a hike or follow a workout video. Engage in healthy hobbies; YouTube offers plenty of “how-to videos”. Catching up on a few shows on Netflix is totally acceptable too.
  • Hold on to hope. Self-compassion is a key aspect of recovery. Don’t allow shame, guilt or anger to hold you back. Addiction is a disease and recovery is a process. List your goals and keep them where you can see them. And, if you do experience a relapse, offer yourself forgiveness instead of judgement. Honour the progress you’ve made instead of viewing yourself as a failure.

No matter how challenging things might feel right now, you’ve come a long way. Remember, the only way to reach the finish line - apart from starting - is consistency.

You are not weak for struggling, you are strong for continuing to fight.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.