Long walk to sobriety

Mabila Mathebula

Mabila Mathebula

Published Feb 18, 2024


Mabila Mathebula

I once came a across an anonymous quotation that education is what remains long after you have forgotten all what you have learnt at school.

How could education be a tabula rasa or a blank slate? When I met learners buying flowers, smoking and consuming alcohol a day before Valentine’s Day, I thought about my school days and my English schoolteacher, Dr Edna Rooth who introduced me to the concept of a valentine when we read Thomas Hardy’s novel “Far from the Madding Crowd”.

Bathsheba Everdene rides a pony like a man to deliver a valentine with a seal “Marry Me”. The valentine is like a cruel joke and frivolous and hardly a true declaration of her feelings. I mused: how many people felt into this trap on Valentine’s Day?

I met my friend Anil Sewpersad and asked him how he planned to celebrate the day. He unhesitatingly told me that he was not celebrating valentine but he was celebrating 30 years of sobriety. During my school days, society was not in a celebratory mode but in a commemorative mode.

We hardly celebrated events; we only commemorated events such as Sharpeville and June 1976. These days, learners are in a celebratory mode where they are indulge in drugs and alcohol. Once they are entangled in a substance abuse web, is it difficult to disentangle them. If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal of substance abuse and illicit or extracurricular sex.

Anil had been an inveterate drugs addict who was unfathomably prodigal. During his father’s funeral, he walked out with an injured look upon his countenance. After his father died, common sense dictated to him a run to a sobriety shelter where he had a balmy summer weather and nights that were finer than before.

He is now tranquil and blissfully happy. Anil does not want his dolorous story to be a sealed book. In 2005, he wrote a book, “Shaken and Stirred: A Journey of Self-Discovery”. Sobriety is not akin to bank robbery or a game for naughty boys, it takes discipline, persistence and dogged determination.

Someone once told me that you cannot do much about the length of your life, but you can do a whole lot about the width and depth of your life. Bruce Barton, noted philosopher, once commented, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” Anil believes that people resort to drug abuse because they lack meaning and value of life and/or feel lonely and unloved.

Substance abuse is not only confined to young people. There are senior citizens in old age homes who abuse drugs because of loneliness and a feeling of being unloved. It is notable that research in this area is still curiously backwards. Mogale City is a cradle of human kind but the city also cradles drug addicts across racial lines.

Anil’s salvation came through a strong work ethic, a supportive family structure, self-belief, faith, the amazing grace of God as well as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It was at the AA where he learnt a new script, society has socialise us to listen in order to learn but at AA, one is taught to learn in order to listen. That paradox was his game changer.

There is a Sesotho novel by IM Moephuli, “Peo Ena E Jetswe Ke Wena”. This simply means that you reap what you sow. As parents, we spoil our children by giving them a lot of money and giving them fewer responsibilities, we are partly to share the blame for substance abuse in our society. The government is also partly to share the blame for allowing alcohol advertisements to be pervasive.

Anil believes that God created two tabernacles the following on earth to assist addicts: Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous. AA is a global fellowship that was founded 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr Robert Smith. It was a collaborative effort between a stockbroker and a medical doctor who took a principle decision to defeat the the demon of alcohol.

Medical science could not solve the challenge of alcohol; it took an organisation like AA to deal with the challenge. Political parties are moulded to deal with drugs; we need visionaries such as Bill W and Dr Bob to lead us to a journey to sobriety.

Author and life coach Mathebula has a PhD in construction management.

The Star