Purpose in Pain: The Power of Storytelling in Recovery

November 19th, 2020 by

An article from Psychology Today states that telling your story “may be the most powerful medicine on earth.”

How is this so, especially for us shy types who cringe at the idea of sharing anything to a group of others?

Research and anecdotal experience show the power of storytelling in recovery can teach, entertain, comfort, and heal both the storyteller and the audience.

Why Tell Your Story?

A notable study from researchers Linda Lederman and Lisa Menegatos in 2011 found that storytelling was an important part of the addiction recovery process.

Lederman and Menegatos surveyed 178 members of Alcoholic Anonymous and asked them if sharing their stories with other alcoholics helped them stay sober. Their results reveal that storytelling not only helps the recipients, but it impacts the storyteller in five ways:

1. Serves as a Reminder of a Painful Past

At first glance, this may seem like a negative: Why would you want to remind yourself of your painful past? The keyword here is a “reminder.” While there is no need to dwell on the painful parts of your past addiction, it is important to be reminded of them from time to time to reinforce your recovery.

Many in recovery remember their past life to fortify that they don’t want to return there. Your goal is to get to the point where you can share the parts of your past addictions with others while not letting these memories define you or get you down.

Remembering how you got to where you are today is a necessary step in recovery, and sharing these parts of your story with others strengthens your own sobriety.

2. Reinforces One’s Recovery

When you share your story, you affirm its importance. No longer is your recovery something you are hoping for. It’s real and alive, and you are living it every day. Finding the strength to tell your story reinforces the impact of your recovery for you and others.

In addition, storytelling also yields encouragement and affirmation from others. When someone lets you know how your story impacted their sobriety, you will see that sharing helps your own recovery too. In the same way, sharing provides you with accountability from others.

3. Loses the Sense of Terminal Uniqueness

As defined by many addiction recovery centres, terminal uniqueness, is the “belief that the situation the individual is facing is unlike anything faced by other people.” This belief, also called personal exceptionalism, is common in recovery circles but serves as dangerous thinking that establishes a “me versus them” mentality and can lead to relapse.

Sharing your story with others allows this harmful thinking pattern to vanish because it shows that while your story is unique, others can certainly relate to it.

There’s a common saying in AA groups, “Listen to the similarities and not the differences,” which is a great tip to help the sense of terminal uniqueness.

4. Develops One’s Relationship with One’s Self

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published an article about how storytelling supports one’s recovery while reinforcing the relationship with one’s self. The authors discuss how communication is a crucial step towards building self-confidence and improving problem-solving ability.

By sharing from your heart, you are developing your sense of self; something often lost during active addiction. Sharing builds self-esteem and self-love, both attributes that are the fruits of sobriety. You will realise you have a voice and purpose, two things you may not have realised before recovery.

5. Helps Others

Think about how others’ stories may have helped you in your own recovery. Surely, you have heard inspiration and support from people that you may have never received if it weren’t for you listening. In the same way, others will hear the hope they need from your story. And recovery is all about just that, hope.

In addition to helping others, telling your story can open up opportunities for connections with others in recovery. If you are authentic, you are likely to be met with authenticity, which is the basis of a strong connection.

Getting Over the Fear: “What Will People Think of Me if I Share?”

road to recovery Whiteriver manor

The fear of sharing can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be when you realise this simple truth:

It’s not really about you, anyway.

Yikes. That’s harsh. But think about it: if you have a recovery story to tell, you have seen a miracle in your life, and while your story is unique, the miracle of recovery should be shared with others.

Why would you not want to share this miracle if it would help someone else? Is your story really about you, or is it about the hope you have to share?

Yes, storytelling helps the storyteller, but it also helps those listening. Get over the fear of “what will people think of me if I share?” Honestly, they will be glad you had the strength and courage to get over that fear and share your powerful story of hope.

Stories have the opportunity to teach, comfort, and heal, especially in recovery.

All of this can be summed up in these words: You are not alone. And by sharing your stories of hope, you will let others know they are not alone either.

We’re here to help.

Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.

Drugs and style through the decades

October 27th, 2020 by

Since the beginning of humankind, it seems that people have been using drugs to change the way they feel. Perhaps it was to keep away tiredness on hunting expeditions or as part of spiritual or coming of age rituals.

For instance, traces of the use of opium poppies from Stone Age settlements in Switzerland, Germany and Spain have been discovered. Then there’s evidence that people living in Peruvian caves used cacti with the psychedelic substance mescaline sometime between 8600BC and 5600BC.

We also know that the fly agaric mushroom has been at the centre of spiritual ceremonies in Asia for at least 4,000 years. In fact, opium, magic mushrooms and other psychoactive drugs have been used by people for thousands of years.

Much more recently stars from the Hollywood Golden age of the early to mid-20th Century have told how they made some of the world’s classic films on what was described to them as “vitamin pills”. These were actually amphetamine stimulants.

In World War Two the strong stimulant drug methamphetamine drove the ruthless Blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) of the Nazis. War historians cite it as a major reason they managed to invade swathes of Europe so swiftly.

But it is since World War Two that modern drug use has taken on a pattern that has seen a drug connected to a particular fashion and musical genre.

Within this there have been many crossovers in the decades and between the styles, but here are the many fashions, music and drugs for the decades.

The 1950s: Greasers & Teds; rock ‘n roll; beer

1950s and drug abuse

People had a bit more money and time in the decade following the Second World War. This included those in their teens and twenties. The “greasers” started in America listening to a diet of rock ‘n’ roll music such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Billy Haley and Elvis Presley.

They dressed in black leather biker jackets, T-shirts, turned-up jeans and motorbike boots with their hair brushed back using products that gave it a greasy look. They went out together in large groups and danced long into the night to a new style of music known as rock ‘n’ roll.

Beer was their drug – albeit a liquid and legal one. It fuelled this fashion.

Their British counterparts were known as Teddy Boys or Teds for short. This was after their penchant for wearing Edwardian-style long jackets and frilled shirts.

It all seems gently nostalgic now. But back then it was seen as outrageous with even the wearing of T-shirts that had previously been only worn as underwear causing controversy. There was also copious amounts of smoking that went with the beer drinking.

These similar styles across the Atlantic from each other that were connected with a music style and alcohol was just the beginning of a phenomenon that grew and lasted for the next few decades…

The 1960s: Mods; rhythm and blues; amphetamines

1960s and drug abuse

Mod was a largely British subculture that started in the early 1960s. But it was one that spread to America and around the world. 

The term mod comes from “modernist”. It was a word used since the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and those who listened to this music.

The mods were young people who wanted to show they had some disposable income. So they dressed the part.

This was in such as tailor-made suits with narrow lapels, button-down collar shirts, thin ties and desert boots. Their hairstyles imitated the look of French nouvelle vague film actors – think early Beatles.

Originally listening to some styles of jazz and the original rhythm and blues (R&B) music that was from 1940s America, soon there were mod bands such as The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Mods went to dances at clubs to listen to their sounds, a growing number arriving on Italian scooters.

These dances lasted all night and so to stay awake a great many mods took amphetamines. A very popular type was nicknamed “purple hearts” that was a combination of amphetamine and barbiturate called Drinamyl.

The 1970s: Hippies; psychedelia; LSD

1970s hippies and drug abuse

Although punk may have later challenged it the hippies were probably the major international subculture of the 1970s. Beginning in the late 1960s in America it swiftly spread totally around the world. 

With the hippies came psychedelic music (also called psychedelia) such as that of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Grateful Dead. There was also a style of folk music such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan that tied in with the hippie political ideals of overhauling the system.

Marijuana was a popular drug with the hippies, but it was LSD that really defined them. They grew their hair long and dressed in loose-fitting Indian or Moroccan-style clothes as a result of many travelling in search of themselves and a greater meaning to life.

This culture was so widespread and grew with such momentum that it greatly concerned the authorities. Eventually, though it just started to fade away.

What it has most definitely left us with though is today’s green movement as well as an awareness in yoga, meditation, inner searching and natural healing.

The 1980s: Punks; punk rock; speed

1980s disco and drug abuse

Although it started “officially” in 1976 with bands in the US and UK such as The Ramones, Richard Hell And The Voidoids, Sex Pistols and The Damned shouting their way to infamy it wasn’t really until the early 1980s that it became the international movement that we will always know.

It was a sound and a look that could not be ignored. That look developed from the late 1970s into one of brightly dyed spiky hair, leather studded biker jackets, sleeveless band T-shirts, ragged jeans and scuffed-up boots.

It was all so brash and fast. The punk “dance” was the pogo (jumping straight up and down) or moshing – which involved deliberately colliding with others moshing.

All this release of youthful merrymaking and tension took huge amounts of energy. As it was so fast it was the drug “speed” (slang for amphetamine) that created lots of the music and it was speed that helped the punks to keep up with it when at a gig.

In a separate world, another style of music that had started in the 1970s was booming. That was disco. The drug to keep going to this music that was made for dancing in clubs was cocaine.

In fact, cocaine addiction was rife in the 1980s. This was also connected with the “get rich at all costs” yuppie culture.

The 1990s: Ravers; house music; ecstasy

1990s rave music and drug abuse

At the end of the 1980s, a great number of yuppies had made themselves a fortune. But they were burned out and at the very least on the verge of having an emotional breakdown. Many already had.

They felt empty. Money had not bought them the meaning or happiness they’d been promised by the governments of the day.

In the previous decade, a style of music had emerged from Chicago and Detroit called house music. It featured repetitive beats that were perfect to dance to and anyone could dance to this development of disco.

In the Spanish island of Ibiza, there had for many decades existed a culture of decadence, with such as all-night clubs. They were playing a lot of house music.

A few young British people that had visited took it back to London and started playing the same in a small sweaty club called Shoom. From here it took off and is still with us today in a massive way.

Many of these original ravers took LSD but also ecstasy (known as E or MDMA among other things). It was this drug and house music that took things to a new level.

By the 1990s all around the world, thousands of people were taking ecstasy and dancing at all-night raves. In Britain alone, it was estimated that by the mid-1990s more than a million ecstasy tablets were being taken every weekend.

Ravers wore similar styles to the hippies. These were baggy clothes that made it easy to dance and stopped overheating from dancing wildly into the early hours. 

It gave birth to DJs as mega-celebrities. The raves around the world just got bigger.

But also inevitably there was lawlessness and there were some deaths too. So the authorities clamped down – to the point where in Britain it was made illegal to hold a lot of these events.

With the new millennium came an unprecedented change in technology. Consequently, the internet has altered forever the way we listen to music.

It also altered the way we shop, connect and socialise. It means that perhaps the link between a fashion style, a musical genre and a particular drug will not be seen again in the way it used to be.

With music for instance rather than be into one style so much, people tend to listen to several styles. Many new bands even mix up genres on their albums.

One of the forces behind a subculture was gaining an identification, which is why many young people were drawn to one or another. But now social media does this to a large extent.

There has been a boom in legal highs. In fact, drug use overall is higher than it ever has been, including legal and illegal drugs.

This has led to increased addiction to such as tramadol and Xanax. It also means that for every high there is a low – and many people who use lots of drugs will at some point realise that the lows are bigger and last much longer than any of the highs.

There are of course still some pockets of music and fashion “tribes”. For many these subcultures are brief and perhaps just a part of being young, having fun and growing up looking for a place in the world.

For others though the drugs connection leads to serious mental health problems. Tragically thousands of people each year still die as a result of drug abuse.

Contact us today to discover how White River Manor can help you or someone you care about with a drug problem.

The Five Stages of Addiction Treatment

October 20th, 2020 by

Substance abuse is a problem that kills millions of people every year. Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that an average of 3.3 million people die every year of alcohol abuse and 31 million people have drug use disorders. 

Addiction is a disease that incapacitates its victims. Leaving them physically and mentally destroyed: incapable of maintaining healthy family relationships, struggling to stay on top of work and more than likely reaching financial ruin.

And yet with all this, an addict will still struggle to accept they have a problem, choosing to stick with the addiction, rather than seek professional help. They fear the unknown and what a life without their chosen substance will be like. 

Acceptance is the first step to recovery, and it’s the hardest one you’ll ever make in your life. The ‘Five Stages to Addiction Treatment’ is a process that will take you from addiction to sobriety. It’s a time of diverse experiences and emotions, of pain, elation and vulnerability, but those who persevere can start to rebuild a life on their own terms. 

The five stages take you from pre-contemplation – the ‘non-acceptance’ stage, to admitting there is a problem, taking action and finally maintaining sobriety. 


In this early stage, many patients have still not come to terms with their addiction problem. They may have pressure from family, friends or work colleagues to face up to the situation, but on a personal level, they may not be fully aware or want to admit to the seriousness of their addiction. 

During the pre-contemplation stage, an addict will try to avoid any conversation about their problem or about addiction in general. They will go to any lengths to avoid getting drawn into a topical conversation, in which they have to admit there is an issue. 

At this stage, it’s unlikely that they will accept that treatment is needed. This could be referred to as the denial stage, and it’s often a fruitless time to try to get them into a rehabilitation program. 

Rather than accepting the problem, they will put blame on external factors for their addiction, such as stress at work, family issues, financial problems, even genetic factors, such as it’s hereditary, “my parents were alcoholics”.

Many recovered addicts see this stage as the worst period of their life. This is when they hit rock bottom. They can’t admit they have a problem, but deep down they understand their life has spiralled out of control. 

The positive side is that this is the first step on the road to recovery. When an addict recognises there is a problem, it frees them up to move onto the next stage. 


The contemplation stage is a time when the person will accept they have a problem, but they are still not sure what solutions lie ahead and they struggle to understand the root of their problem.

Many addicts stay within the contemplation stage for a prolonged period, which may last months – even years. They understand they need help, but they don’t know what is the next step or where to seek advice. 

This is a mammoth and stressful hurdle and many addicts will continue to use drugs or alcohol during this stage. However, they will probably not get the same satisfaction as they used to, with the underlying knowledge that this is a problem they need and want to resolve. 

It’s also a time when the person will experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Uplifted in one moment at the thought of a possible addiction-free future, and hopelessness the next, because they recognise their addiction and the huge task they have ahead. They question whether they are strong enough to get through, or will they just cave in and go back to substance abuse, because it’s what they know best?

The most important part of the contemplation stage is that the patient can shift their focus from the past to an addiction-free future. Once they can do this, the end of the contemplation stage is normally a time for excitement and positivity at the thought of this major positive shift in their life. 


The beginning of the third preparation stage is normally a positive time for an addict on the path to recovery. They have made the decision to seek help or have chosen abstinence over addiction. They may be researching their options, or have already booked into a rehabilitation program such as the one we offer at White River Manor

Just having a focus to work towards brings a sense of achievement and motivates the person to get to the next step. It may be something they are planning today or in a month or a year, but they have a goal to work towards.

Although this a positive stage in addiction treatment, it’s also the moment when many addicts report feelings of fear and uncertainty, which must be overcome before they can move on. At this stage, it’s good to talk to a professional who can explain the process of addiction treatment and help you make a plan of action and commit to it. 


addiction treatment and recovery

As the name suggests, this stage is when the patient will actively start their addiction treatment. Whether they enter into a rehabilitation centre or personally change their behaviour pattern and stop abusing without the support of a professional. 

Professional treatment is highly recommended. Choosing a residential program where you are taken out of your habitual comfort zone and put into a supportive and caring environment, where the chance of success is high and the chances of relapse much lower.

This is an extremely difficult time in the addiction process. The patient will feel vulnerable and this may be the first time that they have let someone into their struggle and may not feel comfortable with someone from the outside looking into their life. 

They have to work very hard to maintain the effort of abstinence and get through the therapy treatment, however, it’s also the stage in which the patient starts to build up their confidence. 

The Action Stage is fundamental if a patient wants to achieve long-term sobriety. And whilst it’s a very difficult period of a person’s life, it can also be very uplifting, as we can feel satisfied that we are changing our lives for the better. 

Maintenance & Recovery

The Maintenance and Recovery Stage is a critical part of addiction treatment, yet is often sadly overlooked. The recovery process has taken a great amount of dedication and inner strength and when treatment finishes, often there comes a huge feeling of elation that the treatment has been successful, and many recovered addicts want to jump back into their lives with gusto, forgetting that this is the very environment that may have triggered their addiction in the first place. 

It’s imperative that patient’s move directly into the maintenance stage at the end of their treatment. The five stages make up a process and even after treatment has finished, the patient should stay closely connected with the sober community. 

Two communities that provide an enormous amount of support during the Maintenance and Recovery Stage are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Drug Addicts Anonymous (DAA). If you have undergone addiction treatment in a recovery centre such as White River Manor, you will benefit from an aftercare plan which will help you maintain the coping skills you have developed during your rehabilitation treatment. Depending on your circumstances we can refer you to a local professional who will be on hand to help you maintain sobriety. 

Making the decision to change your life and enter into addiction treatment isn’t an easy one. It takes a great deal of commitment and strength and it’s essential you have the love and support of family, friends and a professional team who can guide you through treatment and prepare a tailored plan centred around your individual needs. 

At White River Manor out team have decades of experience in addiction therapy, helping clients through the different stages, making the transition from addict to sober, happy and successful.

Increasing rates of alcoholism and addiction throughout COVID-19

September 30th, 2020 by

COVID-19 and the ongoing global pandemic has been an unprecedented moment in modern history. So far, it has led to nearly one-million deaths globally, with over forty-thousand of them being in the U.K.

The pandemic changed every aspect of our lives.

The indirect effects of COVID-19 are widespread, not only creating a historically volatile stock market and leading to unprecedented unemployment rates, but also an overwhelming reduction of addiction and adult service programs worldwide (only five NHS inpatient units are currently open in England).

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the number of high-risk drinkers has nearly doubled to 8.4 million since the start of the lockdown.

Contributing factors and the roots of a growing problem

Drug and alcohol usage has skyrocketed across the world, with Australia (49%), America (46%), and Britain (44%) experiencing substantial rises in cannabis usage.

In addition to cannabis, other psychoanalytic substances have been used at a higher rate, as well as addictive legal vices like alcohol.

drug use during the Pandemic

According to a Special Edition report by the Global Drug Survey (GDS), over 30% of respondents stated that they’ve started drinking earlier in the day since lockdown. 5% of those asked said that they’re drinking at least 10 standard-sized drinks per day.

Additionally, these usage rates tend to vary among different demographic groups. Cisgender women, for example, tend to drink 1-2 drinks per day at a higher rate than anyone else ( 61% of fell within that range).

An alarming amount of people in countries that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic have cited depression as the main reason why they’ve used drugs and alcohol at an increased rate during the lockdown.

Pre-existing mental health conditions

Pre-existing mental health conditions have also played a major role.

Among people who upper their taking, 41% cited stress and 38% cited depression (cannabis users’ figures were 20% and 15% respectively).

Unsurprisingly, respondents in countries hit particularly hard by the pandemic (such as America) were much more likely to use drugs at a more frequent rate due to depression.

One important thing to note, however, is that frequently used “party drugs” have seen a global fall in usage. Drugs such as ecstasy (41%), cocaine (38%), and ketamine (34%) have all gone down because many nightclubs and other “party drug” hotspots have been forced to close down due to the pandemic.

And while it doesn’t seem like many people are missing them right (many formerly frequent users saying their mental health has significantly improved since they’ve stopped using) the concern remains that once everything opens back up people will slip into their old habits.

Global unemployment

According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 2.7 billion workers will be affected by COVID-19, nearly four out of every five workers. Those in the retail and wholesale sector have been hit the worse (~482 million).

These staggeringly high numbers have put us in an unprecedented global state, with future employment forecasts and recovery predictions looking less and less hopeful with each passing day.

This loss of hope and growing sentiment that things aren’t going to get better anytime soon has led to a sense of widespread desperation, and for an alarmingly high amount of people this has led to them suppressing these feelings through drugs, alcohol, and other detrimental addictions.

Isolation and loneliness

Even those that have been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunity to work from home aren’t excluded from the recent rise in addiction.

Spending large amounts of times alone, inside, and isolated is atypical for humans, and after a while, it begins to wear down even the most resolved of us.

Many people turn to alcohol or other harmful vices during these times of intense loneliness for a multitude of reasons, but the one throughline that connects them all is that it’s long-term effects could cripple their lives forever.

Another major contributor to this massive rise is the death of the weekend in the traditional workweek. People across the world like to go out and unwind after a long, hard work week, and, now that that’s no longer an option, they justify “day drinking” or other atypical behaviours because of it.

Solutions and what can be done

With the emergence of a soon-to-be widespread addiction crisis, governmental systems worldwide will be forced into action to find solutions to help get their populations back on their feet. Simply returning to life as normal won’t be possible.

Life in many countries will be fundamentally changed, and, if something isn’t done about it, this change could become their new harrowing reality.

Seeking help and governmental investment

One of the most important things a person who’s currently struggling with addiction can do is take the first step: reach out and start seeking help. While seeking help is the most obvious piece of advice you’ll ever receive, it’s also the most important.

But the individual choice to seek help for oneself is just one part of a complex solution. Unless serious investment is made by governments into counteracting these rising addiction rates, then there will inevitably be deaths and an everlasting effect on the families of those struggling with addiction.

We’re here to help.

Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.

The benefits of sunlight on recovery

August 26th, 2020 by

There are many aspects of South Africa that are undoubtedly outstanding. One of the first that always comes to mind is its abundant year-round sunshine.

That warmth on the skin just seems to ease any physical aches away. As well, it’s known to be beneficial to any emotional healing.

It’s not just the warmth of it either, it’s the beautiful light it gives. We know there are plenty of countries not quite as blessed – where house and streetlights are on from the mid-afternoon or sometimes all day long on particularly miserable days.

Even waking up to such a dull grayness can be reflected in our emotional state. On the other hand seeing blue skies and sunshine instantly brightens our mood.

Then that it is pretty much dependable is wonderful. It means that plans for an excursion, playing sport or relaxing by the swimming pool become reality rather than something that has to be abandoned.

As well as losing the physical benefits, this also leads to a further dampening of the spirits. This all makes recovery even harder.

However, if the spirit is lifted at the sight of the sun rising into blue skies without a cloud in sight it is only beneficial.

At the other end of the day, even though the sun is setting, these are frequently such an unforgettable blaze of yellows, reds and oranges in the sky that they are uplifting too.

Recovery from dawn until dusk

cape town south africa

As well, beautiful sunrises and sunsets are inspirational for reflection and invoking a sense of calm. Our guests are always telling us how stimulating they are to their recovery.

Nestled on the outskirts of the town of White River, we feel so fortunate that we can share our 14 hectares with guests. This includes our peaceful 100-year-old garden.

White River Manor offers an extensive treatment programme especially created for each individual guest. This is to ensure the best and most enduring recovery possible.

Positioned close to the amazing Kruger National Park, we believe there really is no better place for clients seeking peace and quiet in one of the world’s most beautiful spots.

Regarded as one of the best addiction treatment centres in South Africa, we offer first-class treatment in a tranquil setting that gives clients an absolutely life-transforming experience.

south Africa - White River Manor

Experiences include a day’s safari tour of the Kruger National Park where you can see such as elephants, lions and zebras.

There’s also the opportunity of mountain-biking or hiking through mountain and forest scenery, canoeing on the Sabie River or relaxing by the stunning Komati River.

Safari South Africa

Due to the wonderful climate South Africa is abundant with flora and fauna. Beautiful tall trees around the manor offer cooling shade for those warm afternoons.

Why vitamin D is vital to good health

Our guests say the temperature here is ideal. We frequently hear that they agree with us in our view that South Africa is the perfect rehab destination.

With a temperate climate consisting of plentiful sunny days, we are blessed to have this sub-tropical weather. It means mild winters and idyllic summers.

entrance to white river manor

Every day there are hours of natural light that encourages everyone to spend as much time as possible outdoors. This is valuable as our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin.

Vitamin D plays a part in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

These are essential to keep teeth, muscles and bones in a healthy condition.

As well, something to consider during winter months in a cold-climate country is that people spend much more time indoors. There is much less daylight, even if there are sunny days.

During this period of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on getting out and about, it’s something to think about too. Some experts think that vitamin D reduces the risk of coronavirus, although research is still ongoing.

But studies have already shown that natural light has instant positive effects on our immune system, stress levels and blood pressure. A strong immune system of course means less chance of any illness and means the body is stronger if sickness does arise.

People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression thought to be caused by a lack of light, also benefit greatly from South Africa’s sunshine days. This could be that  – as with everyone – sunshine lifts our mood, which boosts the immune system in itself.

In fact it’s advantageous to any type of depression. People with anxiety also report immediate benefits. In fact there’s not one mental health condition that’s not helped by bright and warm days.

A lift in mood is believed to be, at least partly, due to sunlight increasing the body’s release of the feel-good chemical serotonin. The sun’s rays also cause lower blood pressure.

It’s thought this is because nitric oxide – a molecule produced naturally – is in the top layers of our skin. It reacts to sunlight and causes blood vessels to widen as it moves into the bloodstream. This lowers blood pressure.

Our experienced team would love to welcome you to our beautiful 5-star luxury recovery and wellness centre here. Contact us today to see how we can help you or someone you care about.

How shame and guilt affect people in recovery

August 24th, 2020 by

It happens to most of us at some point in our lives – we say or do something that we regret in the heat of the moment, and it’s not long before we begin to experience an overwhelming sense of guilt.

Perhaps we even go as far as assessing the situation over and over in our minds, antagonizing ourselves with a series of ‘what if’s’ and ‘if onlys’.

As unpleasant as it might feel at times – guilt isn’t a bad thing.

Guilt is associated with behaviours, and the ability to change certain behaviour is what allows people (including those in recovery from addiction), to be empowered.

Having the ability to change something is what puts us in control of our lives.

Guilt Versus Shame

Guilt and shame are two markedly different emotions.

Although some people might struggle to differentiate between the two.

However, people (particularly those in recovery) need to make the distinction. As mentioned above, guilt (if channelled constructively) can be a useful emotion.

Guilt is defined as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for an offence, crime or wrongdoing, whether real or imagined.

Shame is described as the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable, improper and/or ridiculous done by oneself or another.

As unpleasant as both these emotions are, feelings of guilt can lead to a recognition of bad/inappropriate behaviour and, subsequently, a change in that behaviour. Whereas shame is often associated with a lack of self-worth and a person constantly feeling bad about themselves.

Shame isn’t always associated with behaviour as such; rather, it’s a perception about oneself that might be deemed negative leading to feelings of shame.

Guilt says,” I did something bad” while shame says, “I am bad.”

If we were to compare shame to embarrassment, we would soon learn that both emotions can be quite intense.

However, shame is more sizable because it is connected to our moral character and not so much our social character or image.

Popular sayings such as “the walk of shame” tells us that shame is more of a state of consciousness and perhaps even embedded within particular cultures.

Many psychologists believe that shame manifests when a person discovers that their actions fall short of their moral standards and failure to notice these actions can lead to them feeling ‘ashamed’ or made to feel that way by others.

Do guilt and shame affect people in recovery from addiction?

toxic shame

Research also shows that mild to moderate shame can be a positive thing as it can encourage people to live more ethical lives.

In contrast, severe shame can lead to destructive behaviours like substance abuse.

Recovering from addiction often comes with a whole host of challenges, and guilt or shame can feel like another layer added on top of an already gigantic tier.

Aside from withdrawal and getting the body clean from a particular substance, another vital element to recovery is self-acceptance and forgiveness.

Guilt is not necessarily a bad emotion as it often leads to positive change and self-awareness. Although if guilt becomes overbearing, it can have a negative impact on a person’s recovery.

Shame can also have a negative impact on those recovering from addiction, as it’s known to be a destructive emotion that is largely associated with a lack of self-worth rather than a particular set of behaviours.

Feelings of shame include:

In recovery, people are often surprised by the feelings that can arise as they move through the different phases of treatment.

Guilt, shame and remorse are common emotions experienced by those in treatment. Guilt and shame can appear out of the blue and are very often the psychological symptoms that individuals end up experiencing the most while in treatment.

As mentioned earlier, guilt can often be a useful emotion and can even be a predictor into one’s mental health when examined in broader terms.

For example, conditions such as antisocial personality disorder are when a person is void of guilt and remorse regardless of their inappropriate and often dangerous behaviour.

Essentially, those suffering from guilt usually have a good moral compass.

Punishment of the self

When emotions such as shame and guilt are left unaddressed, it can lead to feelings of unworthiness and depression.

For those in recovery, this can sometimes lead to relapse as they seek to numb out these unpleasant feelings through drug and/or alcohol use.

Self-punishment over past mistakes rarely leads to positive change – rather, it continues to fuel the cycle of depression and substance abuse.

Therefore, it’s important for those in recovery to work through their feelings.

Overcoming the guilt/shame cycle in addiction

guilt and shame White River Manor

Like many successful treatment programs, the key to overcoming addiction is to identify the cause and thus learn healthier ways of coping.

Addiction guilt and shame are prevalent in most cases of substance abuse.
Once a person has gone through an initial detox and becomes clean, the reality of the damage they might have caused to themselves and their loved ones’ during the addiction begins to slowly dawn.

This can lead to a variety of negative feelings. It’s important to acknowledge that this is a very natural process in recovery and working through negative feelings is paramount to having successful treatment outcomes.

Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) is very effective in the treatment of addiction as it focuses on the premise that all behaviour is ‘learned’ and therefore, can be ‘unlearned’.

CBT also encourages people to adopt healthier coping mechanisms by identifying any self-destructive habits.

Holistic Wellness Treatment

Holistic wellness adopts a more individualistic approach to treatment and focuses on the individual as a whole rather than treating a single symptom or behaviour.

Holistic wellness seeks to treat and improve a person’s overall wellbeing, and this is particularly helpful when treating addiction as there are many facets to why a person might have become addicted in the first place.

Most rehabilitation centres offer 12 step programs designed to treat all aspects of addiction and recovery and treatment often includes detox management, relapse prevention and aftercare support.

Forgiveness is key

One way to release the painful feelings associated with shame is to focus on self-forgiveness.

By forgiving ourselves (and others), we ultimately liberate ourselves, and by doing this, we will no longer be held captive by unhelpful thoughts and limiting self-beliefs.

It’s not easy to let go and forgive those that have hurt us in the past, but holding onto past pain rarely leads to resolve.

For those in recovery, the process of self-forgiveness is key as their behaviour might have been very different when they were ‘using’.

Self- forgiveness involves:

We’re here to help.

Contact us today to see how we can help you or someone you care about to move forwards to a fulfilling and happy life.

What are the signs of porn addiction?

August 17th, 2020 by

Addiction takes many devastating forms.

It can be defined as any habitual behaviour that you cannot seem to stop doing even though it is detrimental to yourself and/or others.

While most people associate addiction with drugs or alcohol, it can also be what is known as a behavioural addiction. These are compulsive behaviour patterns when someone repeatedly indulges in an activity despite its obvious negative impacts.

One behavioral addiction that has been continually increasing for the past two decades is porn addiction. This is when someone becomes dependent on pornography 

Negative consequences are very similar to those of drug addiction or alcoholism. These include disruption to work, relationships and daily life.

Some people addicted to porn may not notice any significant negative external impact. But they can feel terrible anxiety and shame about their excessive pornography use.

What is known as “impulse control” can be part of the overall problem. This means experiencing strong cravings to engage in a certain damaging behaviour and using it to get a “high” and release pressure.

Porn addiction is an escalating problem

In American alone, around 200,000 people are believed to be porn addicts. In fact, 68 million searches per day and more than a third of all internet downloads are related to porn. A third of porn viewers are women.

Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction discovered that nearly 10 per cent of pornography users wanted to stop using porn – but admitted they couldn’t.

In the past 20 years, there has been a growing increase in the number of people addicted to technology. In those years the growth of the internet and the porn industry has made it all too easy for people to look at porn whenever they want.

Today it can be more discreet and cheaper than it ever was.

Many people are aware that someone they care about has this issue – and it could be that they are enabling their damaging addictive behavior

What are the most common signs of being a porn addict?

porn addiction white river manor

In a 2002 survey by the Kinsey Institute, 80 percent of people using porn said they felt “fine” about it. However, that still leaves 20 percent who do not feel fine about it.

There are several clear signs that porn addiction is a problem. These include:

What causes porn addiction?

Most addiction is an attempt to deal with bad feelings and trauma. There is a strong link between all addictive behaviors and childhood trauma.

Someone who’s suffered sexual abuse or been sexually assaulted may start viewing porn in an attempt to get some insight into certain sexual things. Or to mask feelings and memories that are too painful.

Watching porn can release one of the body’s feel-good chemical dopamine – that leads to a rush of adrenaline, especially during masturbation. Even the mere planning to watch porn can raise dopamine levels.

There are various possible other complex reasons. Our expert therapists are experienced in helping people deal with all major mental health problems including addictions to such as porn.

What is the treatment for porn addiction?

recovery from porn addiction

We always look at the overall physical, mental and emotional health of anyone who seeks help from us.

One of the first beneficial aspects we have here is that we are located in a beautiful tranquil setting in the great outdoors with plentiful fresh air and sunshine.

South Africa is renowned as an ideal country for aiding recovery. We enhance that with the ultimate comfort and luxury accommodation that we have here at White River Manor.

We offer a variety of first-class amenities during your stay with us, including our private gym, coffee shop and relaxing spa.

We have expansive 21-hectare gardens, a sparkling pool, and all around us there’s the chance for nature walks along many extensive trails.

Or take a ride on a mountain bike, play some golf, tennis or go horse-riding. We always aim to give our guests a full South African adventure too. Discover breathtaking views, have an elephant encounter and the unforgettable thrill of a Kruger Park safari.

Then there’s the delicious nutritional food – gourmet meals and the finest fresh ingredients – that we serve to all our guests. This is another important factor for mental wellbeing.

Research on behavioral addictions shows that nearly two-thirds of people with compulsive sexual behavior and more than a third of people with internet addiction have had or still have a co-occurring drug or alcohol disorder. People with porn addiction have a high risk of other disorders.

Our compassionate team will look carefully at all aspects of any problems. Then we have a range of proven effective treatments that we will prepare specifically for each guest.

We fully understand it can seem uncomfortable to talk honestly about certain behaviours and thoughts. But we know the need for confidentiality – and our superb team has helped many people achieve lasting recovery from porn addiction.

Contact us today to see how we can help you or someone you care about.

What is toxic shame?

July 15th, 2020 by

Toxic shame is a deep emotion that causes an intense feeling of inadequacy.

If not healed, it can lead to addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and uncontrollable anger. 

Someone suffering from toxic shame will have such low self-esteem that it will negatively impact on every area of their life. That includes their relationships and professional life.

It is essentially where someone carries shame that doesn’t belong to them. Usually, it has been passed to them by parents or a caregiver – normally as that person attempts to transfer their own shame through what they say and do.

For many people, toxic shame overwhelms their personality. With others, it is always there at their core waiting to be triggered – as it can be very easily.

Toxic shame frequently happens from growing up in a house full of conflict. This is always accompanied by huge amounts of criticism.

That means familiar phrases to people carrying toxic shame are such as: “Look what you made me do”; “It’s always your fault”; or “If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be like this.”

It is an adult blaming others, usually their children, for their own shame, faults and failures.

As well as a parent, it could come from someone else significant in a child’s life. This could be such as a teacher or sports coach.

The person on the receiving end will constantly feel flawed as a human being. They will think that there has to be something wrong with them.

It comes from abuse in all its forms of emotional, physical and sexual. It creates a primal fear of being “cast out” from a group such as a family or even society itself.

The basic belief with anyone suffering from toxic shame is: “I’m unlovable. I’m unworthy of any connection with other people.” They blame themselves for this.

It leaves people feeling alone. This often leads to isolation.

Someone such as a partner or a boss can also cause toxic shame to someone when they have reached adulthood. Or this can happen for instance following military action or as with a drunk-driver who causes a crash that disables someone.

Toxic shame seems to invade every cell of a person suffering from it.

World-renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said:

“Shame is the swampland of the soul.”

What are the signs of toxic shame?

“Toxic shame” was a phrase originally coined by psychologist Silvan Tomkins in the early 1960s.

It was a perfect choice of words as “toxic” means “very harmful in an insidious way” deriving from Latin toxicum meaning “poison”.

But it was counsellor, speaker and author John Bradshaw who really brought it into public awareness in his 1988 self-help classic Healing The Shame That Binds You.

Bradshaw wrote how toxic shame is behind many problems including compulsion, co-dependency, addiction, perfectionism and the constant drive to overachieve that leads to burnout.

He described how there was such an emotion as “healthy shame” that keeps us grounded. It reminds us that we will make mistakes and that we sometimes need help.

So it can be positive in moving us toward healthy thinking and behaviour. But toxic shame does not perform that role.

Then Bradshaw made a clear distinction between guilt and shame: “Guilt says I’ve made a mistake; shame says I am a mistake. Guilt says what I did was not good; shame says I am no good.”

Because of this flawed perception it often blocks off someone with toxic shame from accepting love or kindness.

That’s not only from other people but also from themselves.

Professor and author of Daring Greatly Brené Brown also speaks about this when she says:

“Shame is not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behaviour.”

Brown spent several years studying shame and described it as the “gremlin who says: ‘You’re not good enough… I know those things that happened to you growing up, I know that you don’t think you’re pretty, smart, talented or powerful enough…’

“Shame drives two big tapes – ‘never good enough’. And if you can talk it out of that one – ‘who do you think you are?'”

How do you overcome toxic shame?

Letting go of toxic shame requires a great deal of work. It’s been discovered that talking with a therapist is vital for most people.

It involves such as becoming aware of thinking and taking steps to avoid what might trigger negative thoughts. Also, a therapist can help someone learn how to replace these with positive self-compassionate thoughts.

Under professional guidance, some people suffering from toxic shame have found it useful to talk to themselves as children as the adult they are now. They can offer the love that was perhaps missing and say such as: “You didn’t deserve what happened to you.” 

To deal with toxic shame people often have to learn to love themselves for the first time. They can do this by such as focussing on their good points and qualities they have.

We have considerable experience in helping people with toxic shame issues.

Contact us today to see how we can help you or someone you care about to move forwards to a fulfilling and happy life.

The benefits of group therapy

July 14th, 2020 by

Group therapy is a popular form of treatment. It involves at least one therapist engaging with a number of people in therapy at the same time.

It has been seen that this type of therapy helps a person to talk about issues with the support of other people who are going through similar problems. It helps with connection to others.

This therapy has been shown to be particularly beneficial for people needing help with anxiety, depression, relationship issues, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, addictions and borderline personality disorder.

Those in a group can find out how others see them and how they relate to other people. 

This is especially helpful for those who have feelings of being isolated or who feel alone with their problems.

Group therapy also lets the therapist get the measure of progress of each group member by seeing how they interact. This includes listening to the advice they offer another person in the group.

In a therapeutic sense group therapy started in the first decades of the 20th Century. This was initially in America, and then during the Second World War, both the US and Britain developed it more to help with the war effort such as to deal with combat fatigue.

Around the same time, the 12 Steps group meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) started. Although not professional group therapy, many of the principles are strikingly similar.

From its beginnings, with two American alcoholics helping each other to stay sober, there are currently more than 115,000 AA groups. These are in 180 different countries with more than two million members.

Many other 12 Steps groups have also started to help with other addictions and behavioural problems. This includes for food disorders, drug addiction, gambling problems, workaholism and sex addiction.

The groups are often much bigger than group therapy in such as an addiction recovery centre. Some AA meetings in cities can have more than 100 people.

What happens in group therapy?

group therapy and coffee whiteriver manor

Frequently a group will be made up of three or more people in therapy, up to 12, although it is up to the therapist. Some therapists think six is the maximum number.

People in the group will often sit in a circle to face each other. The room they are in will offer good confidentiality.

A group therapy meeting often starts with everyone taking turns to introduce themselves and briefly say why they are there. They may share experiences and progress since the last meeting.

The meetings will most likely be regular sessions – sometimes even every day or more than once a day. Each person takes a turn to speak for several minutes.

Group therapy can last from just several minutes up to 90 minutes. Around 45 minutes is considered an average period.

A particular topic may be chosen to lead the meeting. This could be such as thoughts on a video the group has watched or on a passage from a self-help book that’s been read out.

It’s essential that a trained professional therapist supervises the group. A therapist can guide the group, if it’s needed, to find their own solutions.

Meetings can take different formats depending on the therapist and the group’s aims. Some meetings might be where everyone comes in to speak when they wish. Or it might be that the therapist has everyone try some new coping skills they have learned.

Groups are an excellent outlet for emotions.

There are usually guidelines in place to ensure everyone is respected. This is such as always asking another person in the group if they would welcome feedback on what they have just shared.

Increasingly, especially with lockdowns in place, group therapy meetings around the world have taken place on such as apps or videophones. These are without doubt useful, but the evidence is that face to face group meetings are most beneficial for the majority of people.

What are the benefits of group therapy?

Is group therapy for everyone?

one to one therapy on the patio at White River Manor

Group therapy offers definite advantages and disadvantages. But it is not for someone who is uncomfortable with other people or who is suffering badly from anxiety. 

For someone with trust issues, it can be a difficult form of therapy. Or someone with lots of pent-up shame that needs to be resolved.

Also, for someone with little awareness of their condition. One-to-one therapy will usually be more helpful in these instances.

Generally, though group therapy is popular and has proven success rates. That’s why at White River Manor we offer group therapy in several formats.

This is as part of a guest’s treatment plan that is tailored to you or your loved one’s specific needs and therapeutic requirements. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

How to know if you’re enabling addiction

July 6th, 2020 by

An “enabler” is a person who encourages or allows self-destructive behaviour in another. That means any habit that’s detrimental to the person and usually those around them too.

It’s most often used around someone addicted to alcohol or drugs. By enabling the addict it means the addiction is more likely to continue.

For instance, it’s when an alcoholic’s partner does things for the alcoholic they could do for themselves if they were not drinking so much. That is such as repairing something they damaged in a drunken state.

Many people would see this as just being helpful. But there’s a big difference.

What does enabling someone mean?

Helping is doing something the addict could not do for themselves. Enabling means you do something they could do themselves if their addiction wasn’t in the way.

Common traits of enablers are:

It’s very hard not to do everything you can for someone who’s clearly struggling. But an addict needs to realize that their behaviour has consequences.

They never will if someone else is always mopping up their mess. That means they will be much less likely to seek the help they desperately need.

Stopping being an enabler can be extremely difficult. An alcoholic’s partner may, for instance, fear the family income will be lost if the alcoholic loses their job. Or that the alcoholic will have a terrible accident or end up taking their life.

It’s such a recognized problem that in 1951 Al-Anon was formed. It’s an organization that helps anyone who is worried about someone with a drinking problem.

One of its strongest suggestions is not to cover for a problematic situation that an alcoholic’s behaviour causes. That’s described as “putting pillows under them”. This means the heavy drinker will never feel any of the pain caused by their actions.

How to stop enabling an addict

While we cannot change other people, we can always change our attitude, behaviour and reactions towards them. We need to learn the difference between enabling and helping.

It’s important to remember you can choose not to accept or tolerate certain behaviour. You can “detach with love”.

This means you are letting go of solving the addicted person’s addiction and all its difficulties. But you still love that person.

Make sure not to:

Make sure to:

Everything needs to be assessed as it arises. You cannot say such as that you will never give the addicted person a lift anywhere. For instance, if they ask for a lift to a 12 Steps meeting you would be helping if you took them. But giving them a lift to somewhere they could visit a bar would make you an enabler.

Many addicts become skilled manipulators and regularly deceive to keep their addiction going. This could be such as saying they need money for food when it’s really for a drink.

Many people in a relationship with an addict discover they are a co-dependent person.

A co-dependent is someone characterized by excessive psychological or emotional reliance on a partner, usually one who requires support for an illness or addiction. Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a group that helps co-dependent people.

Many times when an addict’s enabling system is removed, it causes them to seek help. But it’s not guaranteed. This is often very difficult to accept.

We are experienced in all aspects of addiction. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you or someone you care about.

Am I a drug addict?

June 22nd, 2020 by

Not everyone who takes drugs is an addict. Many users are able to control their substance intake and live a fairly normal life. Although in the long long-term, any level of substance abuse does affect our lives.

If you are frequently using drugs, and are worried about the level of intake, how do you know if your drug or alcohol use has crossed the line to substance abuse or addiction?

Drug abuse can cause a variety of physical disorders and have a negative impact on your mental, behavioural, social and emotional wellbeing. 

Definition of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is an illness. A brain disorder which presents itself through the uncontrollable consumption of a drug, even though the user knows that to do so is damaging their health.

Even though the user knows the abuse will not end well, the impulse to continue is too great to stop. They find substance abuse both rewarding (in the desire for the drug and the short-term high it delivers), and the need strengthens as the abuse becomes more frequent.

A user may become physically or psychologically addicted, or both; depending on the drug they are using. 

The effects of drug abuse on the body

When mind-altering drugs enter our system, there are a number of ways our body will react and be affected. Firstly, changes will occur within the brain and its chemical composition.

Specifically within the brain’s chemical messengers – or neurotransmitters, which control how we feel and therefore impact on our behavioural pattern.

When we ingest drugs, our neurotransmitter levels – dopamine and serotonin – increase and we feel a ‘high’. Our positive and happy senses are heightened, as these drugs focus on the ‘pleasure and reward’ areas of our brain. 

Other characteristics are a loss of inhibition, and therefore our social ability increases. Many drug users who find it hard to socialise under normal circumstances, will feel less inhibited and socialise more after taking drugs.

The negative side is that our decision-making capabilities are impaired, and we don’t consider the consequences of dangerous situations, such as driving while under the influence of drugs, and we become less inhibited by sexual encounters. 

Different drugs have different effects on the brain and therefore, will affect us in different ways:

Stimulants: cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), amphetamines (speed and ice) and caffeine, speed up or stimulate our central nervous system.

They make us feel more aware and confident, but at the same time, they have a negative side, with symptoms including increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature; loss of appetite, stomach cramps, sleeplessness, anxiety and paranoia.

Hallucinogens: LSD, ‘magic mushrooms’ ketamine, cannabis, and PCP. These drugs warp your sense of reality, causing you to see or hear things which do not exist or see real things in a distorted way.

They will also bring on moments of emotional euphoria. The negative side of hallucinogens brings symptoms, such as paranoia, panic attacks, jaw clenching, nausea and gastric problems.

Depressants: alcohol, cannabis, opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine), GHB and benzodiazepines (mild tranquilisers). These drugs slow or decrease the function of our central nervous system. In small amounts, they can help us feel more relaxed and less inhibited.

They slow the messages being sent to our brain, which affects our coordination. When taking in higher quantities, they can cause vomiting, dehydration, and unconsciousness. 

What causes drug addiction?

genetics and addiction

There are many reasons why a person may become dependent or addicted to a substance. Most start taking drugs as a recreational diversion to ‘real’ life. We may start taking drugs due to peer pressure, career or financial concerns, or simply because we want to have a go and see what it’s all about. 

When recreational drug-taking goes further, research shows that often environmental or genetic factors may be to blame.

Genetics: it’s thought that some people are generally more inclined to develop a drug addiction because they have been exposed to a drug environment during childhood.

Either their parents or siblings were substance abusers, or they suffered childhood trauma. This is not to say that all users with a family history of abuse or trauma become substance abusers, but there is a strong possibility that it can become hereditary, increasing the likelihood of our own abuse later in life.

Environment: scientific research shows that certain environmental factors can make us more likely to become dependent or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

These include poverty, witnessing a traumatic event, dysfunctional family environment and abuse amongst our peers.

Am I drug dependent or a drug addict?

The difference between drug dependence and drug addiction can be complicated to decode, but a simplistic way of looking at it is if you are physically dependent on a substance you will be affected by tolerance and withdrawal.

Although some users can be dependent on a substance without being an addict, there is a high possibility that the dependence will become an addiction.

Drug addiction is characterised by behavioural changes which occur when biochemical changes happen in the brain. They come after prolonged substance abuse.

The addiction takes over the life of the user; the next hit becomes ‘the’ most important thing in that person’s life.

The user will act irrationally to get more of their drug of choice regardless of the damage it will do to them and to others.

What are the signs of drug addiction?

How do you know when recreational drug use becomes a dependence or an addiction? There are certain signs and symptoms to watch out for, whether you are concerned for yourself or a loved one:

Physical symptoms to watch out for include: weight fluctuation, mood swings, increased heart rate, panic and anxiety, fatigue and insomnia.

When you decide enough is enough

Thankfully, drug dependence and drug addiction are both treatable. However, to maximise treatment and minimise relapse, it’s important to choose a drug treatment centre – ideally away from your comfort zone – which offers a good range of care and treatment options which will nurture the recovery period.

It’s essential to choose a specialised centre for substance abuse where the staff understand addiction and the problematic patterns of abuse. 

Why choose White River Manor?

Here at White River Manor Luxury Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, we are proud to have a world-class team of therapists and addiction recovery specialists with decades of experience, on hand to provide bespoke treatment through holistic and collaborative therapy. 

Our dedicated team includes addiction specialists, clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, a professor of psychiatry, a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) expert and a behavioural specialist. 

A dietician and personal trainer look after your health and fitness requirements, and a dedicated team of nurses are on-site 24-hours a day. What is essential is that clients feel safe, supported and connected during their stay.

Our treatment centre is set on a sprawling 100-year-old estate with beautiful tranquil gardens in the heart of Mpumalanga and just 30 minutes drive from the Kruger National Park. 

garden white river manor

Originally an old English farm, the property has lots of space and fresh air, it’s a wonderfully therapeutic setting. The accommodation has been designed for maximum comfort and privacy, with a choice of luxury shared suites and private individual villas with pretty verandas. The estate also provides a fully secure environment.

Our specialised environment and addiction treatment program will help you to manage and reduce your drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

We provide supportive care for the user and their family, helping to get you back on track and enjoying a substance-free life. 

If you believe you are dependent on drugs or a drug addict, please get in touch with us today for a confidential chat. It’s never too late to seek help.

Tech addiction: do you have a problem?

June 16th, 2020 by

If this headline has piqued your interest, it’s probably because you’re questioning whether you do indeed have an addiction to technology. 

Are you dependent on your devices? Do you feel the need to be in constant contact with others? Do you find yourself obsessively checking for emails, messages, missed calls? Are you continually engaged on social media – mindlessly scrolling for satisfaction? 

Like millions of us, we are attached to our devices most of the time, with some of us even “wearing” smartphones as a brand accessory.

A study carried out by software company RescueTime showed that an average user spends around 3 hours and 15 minutes per day on their phone and a top smartphone user will spend 4 hours and 30 minutes per day on devices.

As many of us struggle to go a day without technology, the threat of tech addiction is a growing problem.

What is tech addiction? 

Technology addiction is often described as the inability to control the use of technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and gaming systems. And in particular as a result of the use of various types of technology involving the internet, video gaming, shopping and numerous social media sites.  

Although technology is inevitable in our everyday lives, it’s important to differentiate from the regular use and the problematic, addictive use.

The effects of over-dependence can manifest itself in both physical and emotional symptoms. 

What are the symptoms of tech addiction?

social media overuse

Common symptoms include mood imbalance, insomnia, agitation, poor diet, denial, lack of control, loss of interest in important daily activities and neglect in relationships, work or school life.

Some individuals become so obsessed with online activities and social media that they have difficulties engaging with the present world.

Excessive use of technology, especially social media may have a negative impact on mental health and development, particularly among children and young adults.

Research suggests that young people who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to report poor mental health and internalising behaviours – including anxiety and depression.  

Fighting for our undivided attention

While we are manipulated by the most powerful digital marketing channels that have a vested interest in keeping our eyeballs glued to their screens, we are also driven by the top tech forces the world has ever seen.

Tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon who have a far-reaching influence on millions of consumers worldwide. 

As these multi-billion companies fight for first place, a record-breaking number of active users are influenced by compelling technology. These sophisticated technologies rely on persuasive and motivational techniques to lure us in and keep us hooked.

Techniques which encourage specific human behaviour, for example, video gamers are driven by a developmental desire to gain skills and accomplishments.

The latest generation of video games are designed with triggers to increase the time spent playing on them – the more time spent, the more rewards you get or add-ons you’ll purchase. 

A craving for social media

Similarly, with social media companies, the motivation is the craving for social connection and popularity. A breeding ground for comparison, young adults, in particular, spend hours perfecting profile images and making comparisons with one another. 

Social media influencers, notorious for creating that perfect “Insta” pic, have a direct impact on the behaviour of followers – leading to the development of a self-absorbed culture of young people with potentially harmful outcomes. 

As advancements in technology continue to develop, the problem with addiction to smartphones becomes great. Dependency leads to feelings of distress and anxiety if we are out of mobile contact or without our phones. Often fuelled by the overuse of internet addiction, these feelings of fear and separation anxiety are known as “nomophobia” aka no-mobile-phone-phobia, a term coined by researchers 12 years ago and added to the online Cambridge dictionary in 2018. 

Even the most influential tech figures in the world: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, are known to have limited their kid’s tech time at home.

So how do tech companies respond?

After years ensuring dependency is at the core of their designs – how have tech companies responded to consumer criticism on the overuse of technology? 

Tech giants Google and Apple offer screen time features that monitor and restrict phone use. Apple has also implemented a communications limit so that parents can set limitations on kids Contacts lists for incoming and outgoing phone calls, messages and FaceTime – whether during the permitted screen time or otherwise.  

Limiting screen time

With family time often compromised by continuous screen time, adults should also set a good example. Yet many parents find it challenging to limit screen time and are often just as guilty of digital distraction. To ensure children develop healthy habits parents need to first be aware of their own habits and introduce real boundaries and balance. Curbing screen time by banning phones or iPads at mealtimes and spending quality time together as a family doing fun activities is a good start.

Is technology really the problem?

Technologies like social media can offer a range of global benefits and opportunities. One of the most powerful benefits is the ability to raise global awareness of an important issue. Every day, more people, such as mental health and body-positive advocates, promote change and make positive interactions to a mass audience.

Social media is also a great platform for like-minded people with similar interests to share their views. It provides them with the opportunity to stay in touch and nurture relationships around the world. 

Like it or not, technology has also become essential in today’s schools. It is an integral part of modern-day learning with students and teachers constantly engaging inside and outside of the classroom.

Technology in the classroom can help students learn useful life skills needed to be successful in the education and careers of the future. 

While technology can add a wealth of value to our lives it’s important to use it mindfully and find a healthy balance with other aspects of “real” daily life. 

If you’d like to discuss your tech use with one of our clinicians, contact us today for a free and no obligations chat.

How Pet Therapy Can Help Addiction Treatment

June 9th, 2020 by

There are so many stresses in life between work, personal relationships and social commitments. Sometimes we forget that contact with another being can seriously affect our stress levels – in a positive way!

Believe it or not, science research has established that daily cuddles with your pet are good for both of you. Just 30 minutes with a puppy positively affects your brain chemistry and changes the bodies stress response. 

Pet cuddles can also play an important role in improving your physical health and helping relieve anxiety and depression. They can help to reduce our blood pressure in stressful situations, lower cholesterol and increase physical activity.

What are the other benefits of spending times with pets or animals? 

When you are battling with substance addiction, the support you receive from your loved ones is vital. Having people around to love and care for us goes a long way to aid our rehabilitation. But what about love and cuddles from a pet? Can that also help?

The answer is yes, pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy can have far-reaching benefits in addiction therapy and rehabilitation.

What is animal-assisted therapy (AAT)?

Animal-assisted therapy uses animals to support clients with mental health disorders or addiction problems. Research shows that it improves our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. 

A study carried out in 2015 with 231 people taking part demonstrated that mental health rehabilitation which involved animal-assisted therapy strengthened the therapeutic alliance between patient and therapist.

In fact, animal-assisted intervention is widely recognised as being beneficial to addiction therapy and has been used in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, prisons, and nursing homes.

Undertaken alone, pet therapy isn’t the answer. To be effective, it should be included as a goal assisted intervention, directly linked to the client’s overall treatment plan. 

If you are seeking an addiction rehabilitation program which includes animal-assisted therapy, make sure you choose a centre that has practitioners with experience working with animals in a mental health environment.  

Pet therapy and addiction - dog

In most countries, there are no specific qualifications or occupational standards for practitioners working in the AAT field. The therapy is generally carried out in a controlled environment with a multi-disciplinary team of certified therapists, where some have taken AAT as an extended module to their overall qualification or taken part in a stand-alone certification course for animal professionals. 

What animals can be used?

Dogs (canine-assisted therapy) are the most commonly used animals in pet therapy. But what animal you work with, will depend on your specific needs and the chosen centre. Horses (equine therapy) are also commonly used in the treatment of substance abuse.

A centre that uses animal-assisted therapy will carefully select and train the animals, which are typically mature dogs or horses. When trained and used correctly, they can become your loving and supportive companions during your rehabilitation time. 

Other animals that are used in animal-assisted therapy include:

No research has been done on whether some animals are more successful than others in addiction and mental health disorder treatment. 

How can animal-assisted therapy help in addiction treatment?

eat horse therapy

There are many benefits to using animals as part of a holistic program for addiction treatment. The most important recognised benefit is the strengthened alliance between client and therapist.

Animal-assisted therapy creates a better bond between the two, and when there is a strong relationship, it supports the success of the treatment.  

In turn, this decreases the problem of the client pulling out of rehabilitation treatment before they have recovered, which can often happen. The stronger the bond between client and therapist, the more likely the client is to continue treatment and improve their chances of success.

The other important benefit to animal-assisted intervention during addiction treatment is in improving the client’s range of emotional responses.

Client’s suffering from substance abuse or trauma disorder often experience a reduced range of emotional responses and have difficulty experiencing and processing their emotions. When their treatment incorporates animal-assisted therapy, it can help to regulate their emotional responses to situations.

In these cases, pet therapy acts as a model for mindfulness. Teaching clients how to experience emotions in real-time and how to navigate the world of emotions.

Other ways that AAT can help in addiction treatment

A holistic approach to addiction treatment

Animal-assisted therapy isn’t a stand-alone therapy for substance abuse disorders. The intervention should be used to complement traditional and holistic therapy methods where it can improve the bond between patient and therapist, help to strengthen our emotional processes and motivate patients to stay in treatment.

At White River Manor in South Africa, we take a whole-person approach to addiction therapy, using a range of treatments and activities. Our professional team has decades of experience in addiction treatment. 

Our holistic programs are individually tailored to the client and incorporate the required level of intensive therapy, medical management, psychiatric evaluation, invigorating exercise options, healthy eating, and incredible experiences exploring this beautiful part of the world.

I Can’t Get No Sleep: Sleeping Pill Addiction

May 29th, 2020 by

We have all experienced a bad night’s sleep. Lying there counting sheep in the hope it will send us back to sleep. Or waking up in the middle of the night with a thousand thoughts running through our mind.

The alarm goes off at 6 am, and we’re back up and heading for work feeling like we had less than a minutes’ sleep. 

A bad night’s sleep every now and then is fine. But when a bad night, turns into a bad week, turns into a bad month. Sleep deprivation starts to take over our lives. We feel tired all day, our work performance drops and we’re grouchy with our family. 

At this point, it’s normal to turn to medication in the hope of improving your zzz’s. Yes, sleeping pills can be beneficial – even life-changing. Waking up after a good few hours sleep, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day is the best feeling in the world. Why shouldn’t we help that along if needed?

You’re not alone

Statistics show that in the UK alone, insomnia affects around a third of the population at any one time. And thousands of people suffer from the effects of sleeping pill addiction.

In fact, a 2012 study carried out for the Economic and Social Research Centre revealed that 1 in 10 British adults regularly take sleep medication.

There is a myriad of reasons why sleep may evade us.

At the start of the Coronavirus situation, the world was so worried about their future that insomnia levels that #cantsleep and #overthinking were trending globally on Twitter.

Which troubles keep you awake at night?

What are sleeping pills?

Sleeping pills

Many different substances have been used to treat insomnia throughout the centuries. And as science progressed, different types of medication were found to successfully aid a better night’s sleep. 

In recent years, many different drugs have hit the market, both traditional and natural alternatives.

The pharma industry is continually researching new sleep aids, and it’s no surprise when you look at the global figures of sleep deprivation, it seems we are living in an age of insomnia, and the market for sleep aids is huge.

The choice of sleeping pills available to us – both over the counter and via prescription is turning many of us into sleeping pill slaves. 

We call them sleeping ‘pills’ because those that we purchase as consumers generally come in a ‘tablet’ format. However, the correct terms for sleep medication are ‘hypnotic’ or ‘soporific’ drugs. Both types of drug are used to encourage sleep where a sleep disorder exists and also in anaesthesia used in surgery. 

Makes them sound a little bit more dangerous, doesn’t it?

We might think the sleeping aids we buy over the counter are harmless, but the most common non-prescription sleeping pills are addictive and should be taken with caution, as they can have seriously damaging consequences and lead to addiction.

Prescription sleeping pills

Drugs that are prescribed for sleeping problems and severe anxiety are termed as both sleeping pills and minor tranquillisers.

Both are sedatives, which means they have the effect of slowing down your body and brain’s functions and processes, such as our heartbeat, thought pattern and breathing.

In the UK, the are various drugs which are registered to treat sleep disorders or anxiety. Doctors are very cautious about prescribing sleeping pills or minor tranquilisers because of the harm they can cause. 

Simply broken down, they include:

These drugs can be recognised under different guises, depending on the reason you are being prescribed them, they will fall under the categories: sleeping pills, minor tranquillisers, sedatives or anxiety-busters. Doctors may also call them hypnotics, sedatives or anxiolytics.

Sedatives are prescribed to calm our nerves and reduce stress and anxiety. Hypnotics are used to improve sleep and anxiolytics are used to inhibit anxiety.

When used in any combination, they can be lethal. 

Not all types of sleep medication are habit-forming, but many are. And when taken without caution they can cause serious physical and mental health problems; and lead to an overdose. 

What are the signs of sleeping pill addiction?

sleepless nights woman

A tolerance to sleeping pills can develop very quickly. Whether you have been prescribed a sleep medication or have bought an over-the-counter option, it’s generally recommended that you should take them for 2-4 weeks and a maximum of three months, depending on the type of medication and severity of your sleep or anxiety disorder.

After continued use, the effects can reverse:

When you take them for a longer period, you become reliant on the medication and can become addicted.

If you think you or a loved one may have an addiction to sleeping pills, these are some of the signs and symptoms:

How sleeping pill addiction develops

sleeping pills and insonia

Many people who become addicted to sleeping pills start with a real need to aid a better night’s sleep. They head to the chemist and choose an over-the-counter sleep aid, or their doctor may prescribe a prescription drug for a short period to get the sleep rhythm back on track.

However, sleep is addictive, and once we experience a wonderful night’s sleep, we want more. We worry that when we stop taking these wonder pills, our sleep pattern will once again become irregular. It becomes a craving that we need to keep feeding.

When we take any substance because we ‘enjoy’ rather than ‘need’ them, we call this abuse. And of course, it’s a vicious circle; the longer we take the sleeping pills, the higher dosage we need to maintain the effect. Before we know it, the abuse becomes an addiction.

And, when sleeping pill addiction sets in, we can suffer from extreme mental and physical health problems:

There is another side to sleeping pill and minor tranquiliser addiction. A worryingly high number of people take them for a purely recreational purpose. This poses a very dangerous scenario, as most don’t take heed of the side effects or dosage limits. In which case, they could be taking them in excessive quantities. 

When and how to get help for sleep addiction

one to one therapy on the patio at White River Manor

If you are regularly taking a sleeping aid, then you need to wise up to the dangers of long-term use. Read through the signs and symptoms in this article.

If you are experiencing a combination of symptoms, it’s probable your sleeping pill consumption has got out of hand, and it’s time decide on a course of action. 

At the least, you will need to ween yourself off them and look at natural ways to improve your sleep pattern. If you think that you are past this and maybe suffering from sleeping pill abuse or addiction, for example, if the problem is affecting your work performance, energy levels and personal relationships, then we highly recommend you get professional help. 

As many sleep issues come from anxiety and worries, an addiction specialist will want to tackle the root of the problem that is causing you insomnia, together with the addiction itself.

In the last few years, therapists have been trialling Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help chronic insomnia.

We already use CBT to help with substance addiction, but research shows that it can also be effective in helping insomniacs change the way they think and approach sleep itself.

At White River Manor, we offer a five-star inpatient rehabilitation centre for addiction. This is an ideal scenario if you have a serious addiction to sleeping pills.

The tailor-made program will take you out of your normal environment, where drugs are readily accessible, and put you into a supportive environment, where our addiction specialists will take you through to recovery using different therapies, wellness activities, self-care and relaxation techniques. 

Getting treatment for sleeping pill addiction will not only help you restore healthy sleeping habits, but it will also lead to more energy, better concentration, higher performance levels and a happier home life. 

The link between childhood trauma and addiction

May 22nd, 2020 by

Through exhaustive research, psychologists are slowly discovering the reasons and triggers which cause substance abuse and addiction.

Research tells us that biological and experiential factors trigger addiction. 

Categorised as a chronic psychiatric disease, addiction forces the person to seek recompense in substance abuse.

However, although there is no research to prove it, evidence leads us to reason that addiction can also be caused by relationships: by an individual’s ‘past’ experience.

A study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) found that almost two-thirds of addicts have at some point experienced a form of childhood trauma, whether physical, mental or sexual.

This evidence clearly shows that there is a connection between substance addiction and childhood trauma. That trauma increases an individual’s vulnerability to addiction. Evidence shows us that the higher the level of trauma, the higher the risk factor of addiction in later life.

The link between ACE and addiction

If we wish to understand the link between addiction and childhood trauma, we first need to look at how ‘experiences’ influence brain development.

Essentially, the human brain reacts to biology and genetics; however, it’s also highly adaptable to environmental stimulants; this is known as ‘plasticity’.

The brain can be moulded or shaped by our experiences.

During childhood, our brain grows and matures: creating, strengthening and discarding neural associations. So, although some experts argue that trauma can’t shape the brain, experiences do affect brain development.

Living in fear and dread

If a child lives in fear and dread that experience can eventually lead to a higher risk of addiction in adulthood, and cause problems, such as substance and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, depression and anxiety.

A high number of reports directly correlate child trauma with child abuse, but there are many situations that can cause trauma, such as the death of a parent, neglect, bullying, having a parent or family member with depression, or domestic violence.

Children also need love, support and guidance during difficult periods of their life.

When they don’t receive it, or the parent is the cause of the trauma, these factors can also greatly affect them in later life, because they have lacked parental reference.

As children grow into teenagers and young adults, they may start to self-medicate to get through the pain of childhood trauma.

Equally, if a child has witnessed the substance abuse of a parent for many years, then the child is more susceptible to reproduce the addiction. 

How childhood trauma affects adulthood

childhood trauma and addiction

All of the above situations, which cause high levels of stress will impede normal brain growth, which can lead to mental health issues in later life. Children who have been affected by abuse or trauma – even lesser experiences, can’t cope in the same way we can as adults. 

A negative experience during childhood can shape our psychological and physical development and many adults who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experience turn to substance abuse as a pain killer. 

Survivors of childhood abuse and trauma view themselves in a negative way, believing they are unworthy and more often than not, blaming themselves for the abuse they have suffered.

Yet, as appealing as it might seem, blocking out the past is not the solution. All that happens is that we harm our present and future. 

Obstacles to recovery

One of the biggest obstacles to addiction recovery is letting go of the fear that has eaten us up since childhood.

We don’t want to face up to the trauma we experienced. We fear the memories and facing up to the reality of our past. Instead, choosing to obliterate them through drug or alcohol abuse. 

The other obstacle is change.

Many of us find change stressful, choosing bad habits because they fit. When we behave in a certain way over a sustained period of years, we get used to living within that habitual behaviour. We are even fearful of the possibility of a sober future.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

One of the most widely recognised therapies to help addiction is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

CBT is a talking therapy which is used to support individuals who are suffering from addiction issues, compulsive behaviours, and also for those who have experienced childhood trauma.

The method behind cognitive behavioural therapy is focused on helping an individual change or adapt their negative behaviour and replace it with positive behaviour.

It works on thoughts, beliefs, and memories, which are thought to have contributed to a person’s addiction. 

Through CBT, a therapist can work through a client’s negative thoughts and beliefs and help them to think them through rationally. These thoughts and feelings finally being replaced by positive thoughts and behaviour.   

Getting Addiction Treatment

When deciding to tackle addiction, it’s vital to challenge your fears and face up to your past. And accept that change is for the better.

The best way to do this is with the support and guidance of professionals. 

When you make the decision to seek help for addiction, you must accept that successful recovery can only happen if you choose to live up to your past. Only then can you let go of the demons that are binding you to addictive behaviour.

Many addicts spend a lifetime avoiding these fears or detaching themselves from them. We understand that being forced to address these issues can be hard.

At White River Manor our specialist team have decades of experience treating addiction. We use a 360º whole-person approach, which Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, together with methods such as Adult-Child Therapy, Trauma Specific Therapy and Solution-Focused Therapy.

It is our objective to help you leave the future behind and live in the present. 

We tailor the program to individual experiences which helps to make addiction treatment more effective. 

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction linked to childhood trauma, please contact our team for a confidential and informal chat about how we can help you start living in the present and looking forward to the future. 

Why alcohol is never the solution

May 20th, 2020 by

There’s no denying it. Alcohol is an integral part of everyday life for many of us. We joke about our intake and the need for alcohol to get us through stressful situations. Mostly, we don’t even consider alcohol to be a drug, in the sense of marijuana, cocaine or heroin. 

Albeit in the back of our minds we might harbour some concern about our intake, more often than not, we sweep the thought aside, because why would we want to give up?

This scenario can be especially prevalent for people with high powered careers who turn to alcohol as a stimulate to push further, or as a relaxant to calm nerves and feel less anxious in highly stressful situations.

Is alcohol really the answer?

Alcohol is a sedative and as such can reduce stress.

When we drink on a casual basis, alcohol helps us to unwind and forget our problems. If you are shy or introverted in social or work circles, alcohol can help you to lose those inhibitions and relax in company. It acts similarly to anti-anxiety medication.

If we keep alcohol intake low, then yes it can be the answer to reduce stressful situations.

Unfortunately, alcohol is also a depressant and after long periods of heavy drinking, it will negatively affect our central nervous system, causing us to feel more anxious.

Why do we turn to drink?

A survey carried out by the UK’s Mental Health Organisation reported that 74% of us have felt completely overwhelmed with stress or unable to cope. And in a high percentage of cases, that stress is work-related.

When faced with difficult challenges, long hours and high levels of responsibility, we feel stressed, and after a prolonged period of time can lead to chronic stress.

In our article on coping with chronic stress and anxiety, we discussed how we often turn to self-medication at times of stress. 

Heavy alcohol use has a huge impact on our work and home life. It can hugely impair our focus and critical thinking skills and has the power to strip us of our goals and ambition. It also wreaks havoc with our emotional, mental and physical health.

We suffer from frequent hangovers and symptoms of withdrawal, and gradually our tolerance against stress and ability to withstand pressure is depleted. It’s hard to function at full capacity when every morning we wake up with these symptoms:

Stress coupled with alcohol dependence can lead to severe anxiety and depression, and potentially the loss of a job, business or personal relationship. 

If we want to stay top of our game, alcohol is not the answer.

When stress leads to alcohol dependence

Stress is one of the greatest triggers of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). In its most severe form, AUD can lead to alcoholism and other substance abuses. Unfortunately, stress is on the rise, especially in work-related scenarios. 

When we start to use alcohol as a support to get us through stressful periods at work or to make us feel comfortable in social situations this is alcohol dependence. There are several signs to watch out for:

Alcohol dependence or addiction?

The line between dependence and addiction can be confusing. We use the term ‘addiction’ to characterise excessive behaviour, even though addiction is a very serious mental health issue. 

So when do we cross the line? There is some interaction between the two, but it’s important to understand the differences. 

We define substance dependence when a person develops a physical tolerance – whether that be to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or any other substance.

The dependency can be broken by slowly reducing the amount taken. The user may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop completely.  

Addiction is diagnosed when extensive alcohol or drug use causes a person’s brain chemistry to change. An addiction manifests as an uncontrollable urge or craving to use the substance. The addict will continue using despite the fact they are harming themselves and those around them. 

The only way to overcome an addiction is through recovery treatment and rehabilitation.

Overcoming alcohol addiction

When a person gives in to an addiction such as alcohol, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to quit on their own. Seeking professional help is the only option. 

White River Manor is a 5 Star Addiction Treatment Centre in Mpumalanga, South Africa, just 17kms from the Kruger National Park.

This is the ultimate recovery destination combining the highest standards of addiction treatment with the latest therapeutic techniques.

We look at the individual case of each client and tailor the program and treatment plan around the specific needs. Identifying negative thought patterns and emotions that may trigger harmful behaviour. 

When deciding to undertake treatment for an addiction, it’s essential to step away from the routine of daily life and the environment where your addiction has manifested. South Africa is an excellent recovery destination. 

Here you can enjoy an exceptionally high-quality treatment at a fraction of the cost of European treatment centres. More importantly, the warm climate, stunning natural landscape and vibrant climate provide the best tonic for your recovery. 

During the stay, we encourage clients to partake in the myriad of outdoor activities on offer in this stunning region: Day safaris, horse trail riding, cycling, hiking, and trips to visit some of the iconic sites and cities of South Africa. 

Admitting you have an alcohol or drug problem is difficult, especially when it’s affecting your career. You might put off getting professional help, worried that taking time away from work and personal relationships is going to cost you your business, job or family. 

Actually it’s the opposite.

Admitting you have a problem and deciding to get professional help is the first step to a better and more successful life. A life where you’ll wake up feeling great, work more productively and enjoy better relationships. 

What’s stopping you?

Call us today for a confidential, no-obligation conversation with one of our professionals.

Whether you’re calling for yourself or someone you know, you needn’t suffer alone. 

What You Need to Know about Ecstasy

April 20th, 2020 by

They call ecstasy the ‘love drug’ because it ramps up your sensations and people using it feel things at a heightened level; colours, sound and touch. It’s great if you’re clubbing or at a manic music concert because you lose all your inhibitions and can dance and rave all night long. And sex on ecstasy is mind-blowing.

But what they don’t tell you is ecstasy also causes deep depression, confusion, severe anxiety, paranoia and other very scary psychotic episodes. It’s a synthetic drug and the short burst of exhilaration on ecstasy doesn’t last anywhere as long as the depressed slump you go into after your crazy night out.

What is ecstasy?

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) goes by a few names; ecstasy, Molly, Adam, beans, clarity, E, hug, love drug, roll, Scooby snacks or snowball. It’s a synthetic drug that acts as a powerful stimulant and a hallucinogen.

People mainly use it for parties, clubbing or music festivals because within an hour of taking Ecstasy your inhibitions or anxiety disappears and you experience an overload of mental and sensory stimulation. That’s if you’re lucky.

It’s a chemical street drug with hectic side effects, the worse being vivid and often frightening hallucination. You see and feel things that aren’t there and if they’re bad things, they’re amplified to a terrifying level.

The problem with ecstasy is it can cause severe emotional damage; either over the long term or even after one-time use. This ranges from chronic depression and confusion to severe anxiety, paranoia and psychotic behaviour.

“Did you know?
MDMA is highly addictive; not so much the chemical dependence but the psychological dependence. They say when you start liking ecstasy, it’s too late; you’re sunk!”

Where does ecstasy come from?

Merck, a German pharmaceutical company, first developed MDMA in 1912 as a pharmaceutical compound that could be used to develop other medications to control bleeding. They soon realised that it had hallucinogenic properties and patented it in 1914, although the drug wasn’t developed further for a few decades.

MDMA was used in the 1950s and 1960s during the Cold War for use in psychological warfare. In the 1960s and 1970s, a few psychiatrists prescribed MDMA to patients to lower their inhibitions during psychotherapy, despite the fact that the drug was not FDA-approved.“Did you know? 92% of those who begin using ecstasy when they’re underage move onto harder drugs including amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.”

By the 1980s, MDMA was on the street being used by the party people at music festivals, raves, concerts and clubs. It’s listed as a Schedule III drug meaning it has a high potential for abuse.

More recently, studies have been conducted to see if it’s effective for treating anxiety in people with a terminal illness as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How does ecstasy work?

Ecstasy works by boosting the activity of three ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain; dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals control a variety of functions including your mood, energy levels, appetite, trust, sexual desire, emotions and sleep.

Positive effects of ecstasy include:

Negative effects of ecstasy include:

The problem with ecstasy is the feeling of complete freedom and heightened sensations you get when you take Ecstasy is soon replaced by very unpleasant feelings. These range from feeling tired and irritable to having panic attacks and nightmares. These side-effects can last up to 3-4 days which is a lot longer than the amount of time you feel good on the drug.

People with an ecstasy addiction may lose weight and start feeling weak. They become moody and aggressive and in serious cases, develop long-lasting psychotic issues such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.

How harmful is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is not a harmless party drug. It’s a potentially fatal drug if you have a bad reaction on it and with regular use, can cause serious brain and heart problems. At the very least, you risk hyperthermia, a heart attack, impaired mental clarity, risky and dangerous behaviour and an overdose.

The big risk is that the majority of MDMA produced today is laced with extremely dangerous compounds found in bath salts, cocaine, LSD and PCP aswell as steroids and pain killers. In fact, what you take probably includes almost no MDMA. It may also be cut with soap or detergents.

This is dangerous because you don’t know what you’re ingesting and how your body will react. Whatever is in that ecstasy pill might also react with other substances in your system such as alcohol, caffeine and other medication.

How does ecstasy cause hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia is one of the most dangerous side-effects of taking ecstasy at clubs and raves. How it works is MDMA limits your body’s ability to regulate your temperature so you can overheat when your temperature becomes sky-high.

Hyperthermia needs to be treated immediately because it very quickly leads to muscle breakdown which causes kidney, liver or heart failure.

Other dangerous side-effects of ecstasy

Ecstasy is dangerous for people who suffer with irregular heartbeats, asthma, epilepsy, kidney disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue or any psychological disorders.

Heart problems

People who regularly use ecstasy are at risk of developing cardiovascular problems because the drug causes your heart to stop working efficiently. This is big problem if you participate in strenuous activity, which includes wild dancing at clubs and music concerts.

Poor memory and concentration

Within an hour of taking ecstasy, you can suffer from memory loss, impaired concentration and your capacity to judge motion. This is very dangerous if you’re driving but worse, you could make a bad decision because you’re not thinking clearly which could cost you your life.


It’s important to drink water and/or non-alcoholic liquid if you have taken ecstasy because of the risk of dehydration. MDMA raises your body temperature and if you’re dancing at a club or music concert, you need to keep hydrated and replace lost minerals from sweating.

Sexually-transmitted diseases

On ecstasy, you lose your inhibitions and your feelings of trust and emotional warmth increase. You’re likely to drop your guard and have unsafe sex with a stranger or someone you don’t know well. The result could be a sexually transmitted disease or worse, HIV.


Your body quickly absorbs MDMA but it battles to metabolise the chemical in your system. The risk is you take more ecstasy because you’re not feeling the desired effect. Coupled with alcohol and marijuana, this is a life-threatening scenario.

Symptoms of an overdose of ecstasy include:

Long-term side-effects of ecstasy

You may feel anxious, restless, irritable and depressed for up to a week after taking ecstasy. You may experience gaps in your memory and have problems concentrating and your interest in sex might disappear for a while.

If you regularly take ecstasy, you might suffer from heart palpitations, insomnia, aggression and severe anxiety. MDMA can cause brain damage, which may only be noticeable several years after you first take ecstasy.

Studies show that ecstasy damages the neurotransmitters that secrete dopamine and serotonin. The neurotoxicity of MDMA is irreversible.

“Did you know?
Ecstasy comes in tablet form in all shapes and colours, with designs stamped on them such as hearts, stars, butterflies and cloverleaves. This creates the impression they’re innocent and pure, but that’s a big fat scam!”

Can you get addicted to ecstasy?

Yes, you can! Well actually, it’s not so much addiction but a high tolerance for ecstasy that develops rapidly with repeated use. It becomes almost impossible to experience the same stuff you felt when you first took it so you take more ecstasy and that puts you at risk of overdosing.

You’re more likely to develop a psychological dependence on ecstasy rather than a chemical dependency. Like alcohol, you feel more confident and festive on ecstasy and you come to depend on this feeling of euphoria when you’re out at clubs or raves.

Ecstasy is what is known as a ‘designer drug’. The making of ecstasy has gone underground and who knows what they’re putting into it these days; definitely other drugs that are highly addictive. So the chances are it may not be ecstasy that you become addicted to but the other nasty stuff they put in the tablets.

Do I need help for my ecstasy habit?

Your brain releases a flood of ‘feel good’ hormones when you use ecstasy. This depletes your body of these hormones which is why you might feel extremely anxious, sad or restless afterwards. You’ll experience this slump in ‘feel good’ hormones as unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

You might feel confused, dejected and extremely tired as well as battle to sleep, concentrate and think clearly. The temptation is to use more of the drug to deal with the negative symptoms or substitute it with other drugs such as marijuana or cocaine.

If you’ve got to this point, you need help to stop using ecstasy and treatment to restore your body’s natural physical and emotional well-being.

Where to get help for your ecstasy habit?

When the party or love pill starts destroying you or someone you love, it’s time to get help. You’re not on your own.

White River Manor works closely with medical practitioners such as psychologists and psychiatrists who have years of experience in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction as well as a team of highly experienced counsellors who understand the intervention process and are strong counsellors.

South Africa Luxury Rehab

April 20th, 2020 by

The go to luxury executive rehab facility for South Africa

Nestled in an ancient garden on the outskirts of the town of White River, the gateway to the Kruger National Park, White River Manor offers a comprehensive treatment programme tailored to meet the individual needs of clients seeking peace and quiet in one of the world’s most beautiful spots.

Regarded as one of the best addiction treatment centres in South Africa, it offers five-star accommodation and world-class treatment in a tranquil setting with the aim of offering clients a life-changing experience.ional use” was in fact regular use and he was likely dealing with a serious drug addiction.

White River Manor was founded by Jerry Hartless, Giles Fourie and Jeanine Fourie, who bought the 14-hectare property to create a facility that offered better care than Hartless had experienced in the United States. When it opened in 2015, the result was a top-class centre that offers luxury accommodation and faultless service at a fraction of the cost of international rehab facilities.

At its helm are the Fouries, who have more than 25 years’ experience between them working at a long-stay addiction treatment centre in South Africa. The centre also has a dynamic team of professionals consisting of clinical and counselling psychologists, psychiatrists, cognitive behavioural therapy specialists, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapists, music and art therapists, addiction and behavioural specialist as well as a pastor and spiritual counsellor.

Individual and group therapy sessions use an advanced addiction treatment approach along with holistic therapeutic activities to restore balance and help clients make a smooth transition to a new life; the whole team at White River Manor works together on a client’s recovery plan, with a highly personalised approach to individual and group therapy.

Why South Africa citizens choose this rehab centre although not in their own native country

Fitness and exercise are seen as essential components of the recovery process and clients are encouraged to participate in activities designed to rejuvenate mind, body and soul.

Those at the centre have the freedom and flexibility to stay connected to both their businesses and loved ones; mobile phones and laptops are allowed and there is a business hub on the property with free wi-fi and a video conferencing facility.

Advocates of destination rehab say that, along with being a more affordable option, it offers an opportunity to put some distance between the person and their business or home situation and embrace new places, new cultures and new experiences.

At White River Manor there is an emphasis on adventurous activities which can have a powerful impact on a client’s recovery by building a renewed sense of self-worth. Experiences include a full-day safari tour of the Kruger National Park and a morning spent interacting with the gentle giants at Elephant Whispers, or hiking or mountain biking through scenic mountain and forest areas, ziplining across the expansive Graskop Gorge, canoeing on the wild Sabie River or quietly contemplating life while fishing on the stunning Komati River.

The minimum stay at White River Manor is 28 days but clients may stay for as long as they need for their recovery journey. All-inclusive pricing starts at $USD7950 for 28 days ($USD283 per day).

Visit their website for more information or, for a more affordable option at sister facility the White River Recovery Centre, Click here.

Is Weed a Gateway Drug?

April 20th, 2020 by

In other words, will using weed lead to harder drugs?

That’s a question many people are asking now that dagga is legal for private use in South Africa. There were a lot of funny memes doing the rounds on social media when the news broke in September 2018 but the bigger debate is, “is South Africa courting the devil”?

Marijuana, weed, cannabis, dope, dagga… whatever you call it, tends to be used as a social drug and it’s seen as a ‘soft drug’. Supposedly, it’s harmless and not addictive, and certainly less harmful than hardtack alcohol and less addictive than cigarettes.

Is it?

Or is it a gateway drug that leads to harder and more destructive drug addiction?

What is the gateway drug theory?

The Gateway drug theory claims that so-called ‘soft drugs’ like weed set naïve users on a path to experimenting with other drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroin and opiates. Most people who develop an addiction to these drugs say they started off smoking weed.

Weed provides a safe ‘high’ experience which lures users into a false sense of security when it comes to trying other drugs. If they hadn’t started with a soft drug like weed, the thinking is they may not have progressed onto harder drugs.

This is based on the notion people who use illegal substances progress along a linear path from “socially acceptable and legal substances” like alcohol and nicotine; to soft drugs like weed; and then onto harder illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin.

What’s the reason for this?

Firstly, experimenting with weed increases the taste and perceived pleasure for other drugs. And secondly, there’s an increased likelihood you’ll be exposed to harder drugs if you hang out with people that have a free association with drugs in general.

Gateway drug or not?

The science people say that weed isn’t any more or less of a gateway drug than alcohol and nicotine is when it comes to kickstarting a drug-taking habit. If you have a genetic predisposition (the addiction gene) to drug use, the springboard could be booze, cigarettes or dope. In fact, regular cigarettes are far more addictive than weed.

It’s impossible to say that someone who experiments with weed is likely to go on and experiment with harder drugs, mainly because the vast majority don’t get addicted. The latest research stats show that between 10 to 30% of regular users will develop a dependency on weed, while only 9% develop a serious addiction.

A study by The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia found that children who used marijuana, alcohol and tobacco were 266 times more likely to use cocaine than children who used none of the gateway drugs.

The same was true for adults. Adults who used marijuana, alcohol and tobacco were 323 times more likely to use cocaine than adults who used none of the gateway drugs. Adults who used all three were 104 times more likely to use cocaine than adults who used only one gateway drug.

The problem with weed

The fact is marijuana has been around since ancient times. The earliest recorded use as a drug was 2 737 BC in China. It made its entry to the New World in 1545 when the Spanish brought it and produced it as a commercial crop to make hemp fibers.

Marijuana is not necessarily the problem; the habit is. In other words, smoking weed can lead to a drug-taking habit. This is where a person enjoys the experience, feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug and seeks out the drug to relieve the cravings; repeat!

It’s known as ‘marijuana use disorder’ and it becomes addiction if you cannot stop using weed even when it starts having a negative effect on your life. Marijuana dependence occurs when your brain adapts to large amounts of the drug.

Marijuana often makes you irritable and moody, affects your sleep pattern and decreases your appetite. About 1 in 10 frequent marijuana users experience anxiety, hostility, insomnia and depression after the intoxicating effects of weed wear off.

If and when you try to quit, you’ll battle with mild to strong cravings, restlessness and different forms of physical discomfort. This is proof weed is not completely harmless and is addictive in the same way people become addicted to the habit of smoking cigarettes as well as the actual nicotine.

The big problem with weed today is its potency. It’s been steadily increasing over the past few decades. In other words, the weed you smoke in 2019 is a lot stronger than the weed your folks smoked 20 years ago. And the scariest problem with smoking weed in South Africa is it’s not always pure and clean. In other words, there’s a good chance it’s laced with something like Tic or Mandrax.

The verdict

The verdict is still out whether weed is a gateway drug or not. One side says it’s a scare tactic and the other side says it is a gateway drug.

What we know for sure is; if you have a genetic predisposition to drug use, the springboard could be booze, cigarettes or dagga. If you develop an addiction, you can’t say for sure whether weed was the main culprit or whether there were other factors at play. If you have the addiction gene, something will ignite it.


If you or a family member need help with drug or alcohol addiction, all you need to do is call us. You’re not on your own.

White River Manor works closely with medical practitioners such as psychologists and psychiatrists who have years of experience in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction as well as a team of highly experienced counsellors who understand the intervention process and are strong counsellors.

Am I an Addict?

April 20th, 2020 by

This is a question only you can answer and it’s not the easiest thing to do.

Unless you’ve got to a really bad place in your life and risk losing everything; you can go a long time thinking, “I can handle this”. But in the end, the drugs you’re using will end up controlling you.

Here’s a list of questions that were drawn up by recovering addicts as part of their recovery programme. They’re blunt questions with no sugar coating. All you need to do is answer them honestly.

Addiction Questionnaire


Do you ever use drugs alone?


Have you ever substituted one drug for another because you think the other one is a problem?


Have you ever deceived or lied to a doctor to obtain prescription drugs?


Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to obtain drugs?


Are you hiding your drug use from family and friends because you feel ashamed?


Do you friends and family try to talk to you about your drug use and you avoid the conversations?


Do you regularly use a drug when you wake up or before you go to sleep?


Have you ever taken one drug to overcome the effects of another?


Have you stopped seeing friends and family and spend more time on your own using drugs?


Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?


Is your job or school performance suffering from the effects of your drug use?


Have you ever been arrested for using drugs?


Do you lie to the people close to you about how much you use?


Do you ever buy drugs before you pay your bills?


Have you stopped and started using drugs a few times?


Do you feel it’s impossible to live without drugs?


Do you feel you don’t want to live without drugs?


Do you sometimes feel you’re going crazy?


Is your drug use making life at home unhappy?


Do you battle to fit in or have a good time without using drugs?


Do you get defensive when someone talks about how much you’re using?


Do you think a lot about drugs?


Do you have irrational or obscure fears?


Does your drug use make you feel uncomfortable and guilty around others?


Are you spending less time with loved ones because of drugs?


Are you afraid to stop using drugs?


Has using affected your sexual relationship with your partner?


Do you ever take drugs that you would prefer not to use?


Have you ever overdosed on any drugs?


Do you continue to use despite how bad drugs make you feel and affect your family?


Do you think that you have a drug problem?

Are you a drug addict

The number of times you answered ‘YES’ doesn’t matter. It’s how you feel about yourself when answering these questions. Does talking about using drugs bring up feelings of guilt or self-loathing? Do these questions make you feel uncomfortable?

Addiction is a devious and sinister disease.

It sneaks up on you and takes over your whole life. You might think you’ve got a handle on your drug use; it’s just to get through a tough patch and you’ll be able to stop when you want to stop. But eventually drugs strip you of your pride, self-esteem and the love and support of your family and friends.

When you get to this point, you’ll realise 3 things:

Are you a drug addict

The number of times you answered ‘YES’ doesn’t matter. It’s how you feel about yourself when answering these questions. Does talking about using drugs bring up feelings of guilt or self-loathing? Do these questions make you feel uncomfortable?

Addiction is a devious and sinister disease.

It sneaks up on you and takes over your whole life. You might think you’ve got a handle on your drug use; it’s just to get through a tough patch and you’ll be able to stop when you want to stop. But eventually drugs strip you of your pride, self-esteem and the love and support of your family and friends.

When you get to this point, you’ll realise 3 things:

Need help?

The first step in your recovery is asking for help for addiction. Pick up the phone and speak to someone at White River Manor for professional advice and guidance.

White River Manor works closely with professionals with years of experience in dual diagnosis. Our multidisciplinary team includes a psychiatrists, cognitive behaviour specialist, counsellors, nursing sisters and a nutritionist. The aim is to ensure you receive a tailor-made recovery programme that’s holistic and comprehensive.

The 12 Step Program: How does it work and is it still relevant?

April 20th, 2020 by

Recovery is a long journey of self-discovery and you walk it by taking one step at a time. One approach is to follow the 12-step programme that has strong spiritual roots and offers guiding principles to uncover deep-seated behavioural issues that drive addiction.

There is much debate whether the world-acclaimed 12-steps programme is still relevant considering how neuroscience and addiction therapy have evolved in the 80 years since the programme was first introduced. It’s relevancy is constantly questioned, but at the end of the day if the programme resonates with you and you’ll benefit from it; then there’s no harm in including it in a holistic therapy plan.

Although the 12-step programme is not central to White River Manor’s therapy philosophy, it can always be incorporated into your individual therapy plan.

What is the 12 step recovery program?

Since it was introduced in 1935, the renowned 12-step programme has dominated the primary approach to treating addiction. In fact, more than two-thirds of addiction treatment centres solely focus on the 12-step programme and they advocate recovering addicts attend AA-type meetings after they complete a stay at a rehabilitation centre.

The purpose of the 12-step model is to aid recovery from compulsive, out-of-control behaviours that are ultimately linked to substance abuse. It’s one of the tools often used to understand what the root cause is of a person’s addiction; where participants attend self-help group meetings which serve as a safe place to admit past mistakes, surrender to a higher power and learn to stay sober.

These AA-type meetings are readily available, easily accessible and most often free to join. Men and women from all walks of life attend who share experiences and gain strength and hope from one another.

Who started the 12 step program?

Alcohol Anonymous pioneered the 12-step programme which was established in the 1930s by Bill Wilson and Dr Robert Holbrook Smith, known to AA members as “Bill W” and “Dr Bob”. Together, they wrote about the positive effects people with alcoholism experienced when they shared their stories with one another and wrote down their own ideas for tackling addiction (to alcohol initially) in what came to be known as the Big Book.

Wilson and Smith’s guide to shared recovery was deeply rooted in the Christian faith and still is today, although non-religious people tend to swop a higher “God” with a higher “spiritual being”.

In addition to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) franchise, many other similar programmes sprung up as an offshoot of the original 12-step programme. This included Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Heroin Anonymous (HA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

For a long time, the 12-step programme dominated the world’s approach to treating substance abuse. However, over time, other therapy programmes have replaced the tradition 12-step programme and it’s no longer the preferred method for recovery.

This is largely because many people struggle with the strong religious element of the programme, where the basic premise is healing cannot come about unless you surrender to a higher power. This doesn’t sit comfortably in a multi-denominational and multi-cultural world, particularly as the 12-step programme has a strong Christian foundation.

How does the 12 step program work?

The 12-step programme offers a set of guiding principles to help you on your journey to sobriety. More importantly, it provides continuity in the form of self-help group meetings once a person has left an addiction treatment centre and returned to daily life.

The programme gives recovering addicts a simple process they can follow which allows them to understand and manage their addiction, find a supportive and non-judgemental group outside of the rehab centre and mend broken relationships and/or end destructive relationships with enablers.

The focus of the 12-step programme is to enable cognitive restricting around substance abuse and similar behaviour. This entails understanding the root cause on the addiction and changing behavioural patterns.

How do 12 step meetings work?

The 12-step meeting is well-known. We’ve seen it in movies and television series where a group gathers and someone stands up and says, “Hello, I’m Mary and I am an alcoholic.”

One member of the group leads the meeting; it opens with a prayer or meditation and people introduce themselves and at the same time, acknowledge their substance abuse.

The rest of the meeting is spent either listening to an outside speaker or going over addiction literature, working through the 12 guiding principles and speaking out about experiences and challenges. You can choose to share or keep quiet and listen. It’s entirely up to you.

The meeting ends off in prayer or another meditation.

What are the 12 steps of the 12 step program?

The 12-step approach to recovery from addiction follows a set of guidelines that act as steps in your journey of recovery. The idea is to visit these steps as often and whenever necessary.

The 12-steps in the 12-step program are:

1st principle: Surrender

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.

2nd principle: Hope

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3rd principle: Commitment

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4th principle: Honesty

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5th principle: Truth

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6th principle: Willingness

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7th principle: Humility

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8th principle: Reflection

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9th principle: Amendment

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10th principle: Vigilance

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11th principle: Atonement

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12th principle: Service

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (addicts) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Does the 12-step recovery program work?

As they say; “it works if it works for you”. Basically, the 12-step programme works if you are motivated to recover and maintain sobriety. It doesn’t work if you don’t buy into it, aren’t committed to getting “clean” or are forced into it by, for example, a court mandate or family intervention.

The 12-step programme is not for everyone and if it’s the only approach offered by a rehabilitation centre, that would be limiting. Included in a holistic approach to addiction treatment, the 12-step programme has real value if it resonates with you.

Non-religious addicts or addicts who practise a different religion are as likely to benefit from the programme; particularly, as part of an after-care programme where the 12-step programme can help to reinforce what they’ve discovered about themselves in rehab. Like them or hate them, AA-type meetings have been around for decades and have been life-saving for countless people.

Is the 12-step program still relevant?

One would think that after so many years, the 12-step programme or modified versions of it would have evolved. It hasn’t; in fact, the 12-steps haven’t been touched since 1939… in other words, since the beginning of World War II.

In that time, 80 years to be exact; there have been incredible advances in the field of neuroscience, genetics and psychotherapy. This has led to the development of highly effective treatment approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Mindful Meditation (MM) and Contingency Management.

These therapy approaches have added to the arsenal that therapists have on hand to understand and treat the underlying causes of addiction. Used in isolation, the 12-step programme is limited when you consider how much more can be done to help a person seeking treatment for addiction.

In short, many addiction specialists view the 12-step programme as being antiquated and no longer relevant. And there’s much debate in general over its credibility and just how successful it is. At the end of the day, it comes down to the person in recovery and how committed he or she is to the 12-step programme. If it doesn’t work, that may have more to do with the person than the programme.

Why the 12-step program should not replace modern therapy approaches

The AA-type meetings that form a big part of the 12-step programme are inclusive and provide comfort and support in a non-judgemental environment. However, critics of the spiritual-based model say that confession and prayer are not enough if addiction is to be treated as a medical condition. In many cases, substance abuse is linked to a mental disorder and simply handing something that serious over to a “higher power” can do more harm than good.

When dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, we’ve come to understand how complex the condition can be. Any recovering addict knows that the recovery process is like peeling an onion layer by layer. Just when you think you’ve uncovered a deep emotional issue, something deeper surfaces; and the next layer begins to peel off and so the process continues.

The modern approach to treating addiction involves a multi-disciplinary specialist team that designs a treatment plan for you that meets your individual needs, and always with your buy in. This may include the 12-step programme if the guiding principles resonate with you. An integrated, holistic approach that considers the whole being – mind, body and soul – is proving to be the most effective approach to treating addiction.


White River Manor has had years of experience in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction and works closely with a dynamic team of specialists, therapists, highly experienced counsellors, medical practitioners, psychologists, and psychiatrists to create a holistic nurturing environment for clients.

If you need expert advice and assistance, then White River Manor is the right place to go to make those changes in your life. You don’t need to struggle on your own.

Addiction & Mental Illness… which one comes first?

April 14th, 2020 by

Dual diagnosis is so common that most alcohol and drug recovery centres expect to find it in a patient. It’s where a patient is diagnosed with a mental illness and a co-occurring addiction. This ranges from alcohol and drug addiction to an addiction to sex, gaming and stealing.

Studies show that at least 50% of people living with a mental illness have a substance abuse problem. Similarly, more than half of the people battling with alcohol and drug addiction have a common mental health disorder.

The fact that there’s a link between addiction and mental illness is fairly obvious. If you’re feeling out of sorts emotionally, you’re likely to reach for alcohol and drugs to cope. Likewise, if you’re regularly abusing alcohol and drugs, you’ll likely develop symptoms of a mental disorder.

In the medical world, it’s called a co-occurring disorder or comorbidity when a person has more than one mental disorder.

Putting out a fire

A simple analogy to help you understand a dual diagnosis is comparing it to the science of fire. It takes more than one element to ignite a fire. Similarly, it takes more than one element to ignite an alcohol and drug addiction.

The fire triangle
For a fire to ignite, it needs fuel, heat and oxygen. They say that when all three elements are present and combine in the right mixture, a fire is actually an event rather than a thing.

You can prevent a fire or put it out by removing ANY ONE of the three elements in the fire triangle. For example, you can remove oxygen by throwing a wet blanket over the fire and remove heat by dousing it with water. And a fire will naturally die out when it runs out of fuel (wood, paper, grass etc.).


If you don’t COMPLETELY remove that element, the fire will reignite. You think you’ve put the fire out but the woodpile is silently smoldering (heat). All it takes is for the wind (oxygen) to pick up and the fire reignites.

The Addiction Triangle
Let’s call a dual diagnosis the Addiction Triangle.

The three sides of your Addiction Triangle are alcohol and drugs, negative thought patterns and a mental disorder.

When all three elements are present and combine in the right mixture, a fire of pain and destruction will ignite. You can remove any one of the three elements to extinguish the fire of destruction but it’s only temporary if you don’t COMPLETELY remove it.

You can stop using alcohol and drugs and you can learn self-help tools to deal with feelings and situations that trigger a relapse. However, if you don’t deal with your mental illness; you’re highly likely to relapse if you turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety and depression.

This is why an integrated treatment plan is critical for a patient with a dual diagnosis. All three elements of the Addiction Triangle must be treated for successful recovery from alcohol and drugs.

How to treat a dual diagnosis

Substance abuse and a mental health disorder needs to be treated simultaneously. If you’re staying at a recovery treatment centre that doesn’t offer an integrated approach, the chances of you relapsing are high.

Co-occurring mental disorders that go hand-in-hand with addictions include:

The integrated approach usually involves:

Detox is the first stage in the recovery process and the most grueling. The detox process purges your body of harmful chemicals and restores it to a clean slate.

During detox, a patient stops using what they’re addicted to immediately. You experience painful and very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms which include seizures, hallucinations and cravings.

Withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and a sudden drop in alcohol levels can lead to sudden death. It’s critical that you have proper medical supervision when you detox. This is very important for alcohol and opioid detoxification.

Your medical team will keep you safe and comfortable using the right medication and therapy to see you through the detox process.

Behaviour therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy)
Behaviour therapy helps people uncover and address the negative thoughts, false beliefs and insecurities that lead to substance abuse. In the process, patients are provided with self-help tools to deal with situations that trigger cravings and self-destructive behaviour.

When an addict understands why they feel or act in a certain way and understand how these feelings or situations trigger substance abuse, they’re more likely to succeed in their recovery.

Depending on the diagnosis, this could include:

Common mental health disorders linked to addiction

A person living with a mental illness is more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs mainly because they mask symptoms such as of depression, anxiety, self-loathing and low self-esteem. Using alcohol and drugs over a period of time will make a mental illness worse and the medical treatment less effective.

A bigger problem is alcohol and drug abuse can trigger a mental illness. If you have a predisposition to a psychotic illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia; alcohol and drugs may trigger your first episode which then becomes a lifelong illness.

The common mental health disorders linked to alcohol and drug addiction include:

Alcohol and drugs are a form of self-medication for people living with depression but it usually makes the problem worse. Feelings of self-loathing after alcohol and drug binges can drive a person deeper and deeper into depression.

People who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) may use alcohol and drugs to cope with their anxiety. They’re more likely to abuse benzodiazepines which are prescribed for anxiety and highly addictive.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
People living with OCD often suffer from high levels of anxiety and low self-esteem which leads to depression. They may use alcohol and drugs to cope with their feelings that arise from irrational obsessions and compulsions.

ADHD (Attention-deficit Hyperactive Disorder)
People, in particular school-going children, are prescribed a stimulant to treat their ADHD which can be habit-forming. When coupled with anxiety and low self-esteem, it can lead to destructive behaviour patterns and substance abuse.

Eating disorders
People struggling with anorexia or bulimia often use drugs to suppress their appetite. Cocaine is a common drug used by models forced to keep their weight down to the bare minimum as it takes your appetite away completely.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
The brain of a person struggling with PTSD produces less endorphins which often leads to depression. Someone who’s experienced a traumatic or violent event and has not dealt with it in therapy may turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with their anxiety and stress.

Bipolar disorder
Alcohol and drugs provide temporary relief from the emotional, manic rollercoaster that people with bipolar travel in life. The statistics are that about half of people with bipolar disorder struggle with addiction.

BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)
Research shows there’s a strong link between BPD and addiction. A person living with BPD is more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with their symptoms.

Schizophrenia is characterised by bouts of severe hallucinations and delusional thinking. A person with schizophrenia may use alcohol and drugs to cope with their symptoms and this can make things much worse.

Dual diagnosis warning signs

The most difficult thing about a dual diagnosis is separating the addiction from the disorder. This is because many of the symptoms overlap. It all depends on the type of substance abused and the severity of the mental health disorder.

Overlapping symptoms include:

Quick facts about dual diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is used to describe a person living with an addiction and a mental health disorder. More than half of people with a chronic mental illness will also have a substance use or abuse disorder.

Comorbidity is used when a person has two or more mental health disorders. They may occur at the same time or one comes after the other.

If an addiction and mental illness co-occurs in a patient, they need an integrated dual disorder treatment programme delivered by a multidisciplinary team.

The more severe the mental illness, the more likely the person will be to use and abuse alcohol and drugs. People living with a mental illness commonly use alcohol, marijuana and/or cocaine to cope with their symptoms.

Males aged 18 to 44 years old living with a mental illness are at greatest risk of developing an alcohol or drug addiction.

Teenagers and young adults with serious behavioural problems are 7 times more likely to eventually use and abuse substances.

Are you concerned

Dual diagnosis should ideally be made by a multi-disciplinary team at an alcohol and drug recovery centre and needs to be treated using an integrated dual disorder treatment programme.

White River Manor works closely with professionals with years of experience in dual diagnosis. Our multidisciplinary team includes a psychiatrists, cognitive behaviour specialist, counsellors, nursing sisters and a nutritionist. The aim is to ensure you or your loved one receive a tailor-made recovery programme that’s holistic and comprehensive.


Featured Articles