THE FAMILY BEHIND HOUSE OF HOPE
Jacobus' Story (The Man Behind House of Hope)
"I don’t even know where to start, my life over the last thirty years has been absolute madness. I started drinking at the age of seventeen, at first it was just occasionally and nothing to worry about. As time went by, there were more parties and the drinking became more frequent. By the time I joined the army, I would spend my weekends drinking like there was no tomorrow. I finished my two years of national service and was a free man to do whatever I wanted, no one was going to tell me what to do.
At this point I was not living with my parents, my father and I did not get along, he was an alcoholic himself. I had to move out as I could not handle the way he treated my Mum; I was living with my Mum’s sister. I had a low-income job, all the people I worked with were in the same boat as me; Poor education, very low self-esteem, coming from broken homes. We were all very unhappy in life.
One year after leaving the army, I met a beautiful young woman and we fell in love straight away. I left my job and found something better. We were both young and partying was very high on the priority list. Looking back now, I realise that this was the stage where I went wrong. Every party I went to I would push myself to drink more and more, I reached a point where I had to be carried to the car and would wake up the next morning not knowing how I had made it home.
I don’t know what this woman saw in me, but we got married and had two beautiful children together.
My drinking continued to worsen; I would disappear for weekends, no one would know where I had gone or when I would be home. This continued to develop to a point where I was drinking every day of my life. I surrounded myself with a group of friends who lived the same lifestyle as I did and as far as I was concerned, life was good. I honestly thought I was doing well in all aspects of my life, I had bought a house, I had a job, I financially supported my family, there was always food on the table and clothes on their backs, we had a nice car, I was under the illusion that I was providing them with the best life possible.
Over the years, drinking became my top priority. My drinking started in the morning, it would last all day and into the night. I would wake up just to drink more. My family did not matter anymore, the bottle was the most important thing in my life. It never crossed my mind the damage I was doing to my family. As far as I was concerned, I had given them everything that they needed, in fact, I thought that I was spoiling them. In my mind I was a great husband and a great father, I was doing everything I was supposed to do.
In hind sight I realise that I broke my family to pieces time and time again, I just didn’t want to know about it because mending those relationships would mean putting them before my drinking, and that was not an option.
One Thursday night, I was drinking. I blacked out at about 5.30pm. I woke up at about 11pm and could not get back to sleep. I had run out of alcohol and I did not sleep for the rest of that night. I sat on the edge of my bed that whole night. I don’t know what happened that night, I have no recollection of it. What I do remember is at 6am my wife woke up beside me and asked me if I was ok. I burst into tears and told her I wasn’t ok, I needed help, “I can’t stop drinking”. Looking back on that day, I don’t think it was my ‘rock bottom’, but I could see the bottom for sure.
By my own free will, my family booked me into a recovery centre. My journey to recovery and a sober life started, and what an amazing journey it has been so far. This journey will continue for the rest of my life because this is what I want for myself. I want to give back to my family everything that I took away from them during all the years of alcoholism.
This is only my journey as an alcoholic, but the same applies to any addiction in life. Having reached this point in my life. I want to give back to others, I want to give any person suffering the way I did the same opportunity to have what I have today, sobriety, a happy family and a healthy life."
Riaan's Story (Jacobus' Son)
"Living a life of uncertainty. Waking up every morning, not sure of what was to come. That’s how it was for me, every day. I have blocked out some of my childhood memories as they are too painful to think about. Saying I had a horrible childhood would be a lie, it wasn’t always bad, but growing up with an alcoholic father came with its challenges.
The bad days
Some of the bad days involved me, my Mum and my sister having to look for a place to stay, we didn’t want to be around Dad while he was binging. Being away from home and away from Dad was always the hardest part for me. I would worry about how much he was drinking, if he had eaten anything, I worried about the damage he was doing to his body, mostly I would wonder if he was safe.
Having to experience these episodes had a huge effect on my mental health as well as on my attitude towards other people. I knew that when each binge was over, I would have to go home and help pick up the pieces, Dad wasn’t the only one who went through the withdrawals, we all had to face the symptoms to get him back to being sober. This happened so often there is no way to keep track of how many times we experienced this same situation.
Each time, I held on to hope that he would remember what it felt like, how hard the withdrawals were, how bad the after math was, I hoped that he would think about these things and that would be enough to stop him from continuing in the same cycle again. But it would only take three or four days and the drinking would start all over again.
I feel that I missed out on a lot due to my dad’s drinking. I missed out on time with friends and family. I tried to remove myself from this ‘world’ where my dad was always drinking, I didn’t want to be a part of that, I didn’t want to watch it happen time and time again. I isolated myself, I would hide under my rock, waiting for it to get better, waiting for it to go back to ‘normal’, but before I knew it, the drinking would start all over again.
When I turned 18, I started joining him in his drinking, this felt like the only time I could get along with my dad and we could really understand each other. This phase of my life didn’t last long, I started to realise that his drinking was different to mine. When he was drunk, he thought about things that didn’t make any sense to me, it was so hard to be around this, trying to make sense of what he was saying and the way he was thinking, it was not easy. There were times where I would sit and beg him to stop. He would make that promise to me, he would tell me that ‘this is his last drink’ but it never was. I never realised how big his drinking problem was, it wasn’t possible for him to ‘just stop’, even if he wanted to. He had a problem that he couldn’t control.
The good days
I have looked up to my Dad since I was a little boy. I took onboard every word he said, I believed the things he told me with my whole heart and soul, Dad always knew best. I could go to him with any problem that I was faced with and he would make sure that he would help to get me through it, no matter what it was. From a young age, I spent a lot of time in the garage helping Dad fix cars and ride bikes, we spent a lot of time together and I cherish those memories, they mean a lot to me.
When my Dad called me one day telling me he had an addiction to alcohol and it was a problem, I knew it was time to find him help. He had finally realised that he wouldn’t get better on his own and he needed professionals to get himself out of the situation he was in. As a family we started looking into different rehab centres. For the first time ever, Dad wanted to do this for himself. Not because we wanted him to, not because someone told him he should, he realised that it was something he needed, he was ready to take this next step. I knew that he really meant it this time, he was serious about getting the help he needed.
Dad went into rehab for 35 days. The hardest part for me was that I couldn’t be there to help him through the withdrawals the way I always had. I couldn’t go and check that he was ok or take him what he needed, I had to trust others to do this for him. I have never been prouder of my Dad, completing those 35 days, he surprised me, he stepped up and embraced everything that the program had to offer him.
Since rehab, there have still been difficult times, as expected with any life changing program, it’s not always going to be rainbows and sunshine, there will still be rainy days. There is a difference now though, bad days don’t lead to old habits, Dad refers back to what he learnt during his time in rehab and he puts that to action. He picks himself up and continues to move forward in a positive way. Not only is he the strongest, most positive version of himself now, our whole family is stronger and closer than ever before. No doubt there will still be some dark days, but now the light outshines the darkness and he has all the tools of the 12 step program to help him through. I would highly recommend anyone with any addiction problem to seek professional help, it has been life changing for me and my family."
Michelle's Story (Jacobus' Daughter)
"My Dad has a lifelong disease.
I always knew that my Dad was a little different to other dads, sure he loved us, encouraged us, supported us, cared for us and made sure we had everything we needed in life BUT he loved drinking and I believe he loved drinking more than he loved us.
Over the years, I started withdrawing from him. I felt like I had no connection with him, I felt like I had an absent father. Over time, as the disease took control of his life little-by-little, he cared less for us, he cared less about our lives, our needs and the pain he was causing us. I think that a lot of the time he knew what he was doing, but he had no control of it, he no longer had control over his actions. I felt sorry for him, I felt pain for him, I was so deeply hurt by him choosing alcohol over us, because I knew he was at a point in life where if he died from drinking alcohol it wouldn’t have mattered.
I have struggled a lot with my father’s alcoholism, I thought he was selfish and that he took his family for granted. We were always there to pick up the broken pieces, we were always there to love him and support him, why could he not just stop drinking, if not for himself why was I not enough, why was my brother or my Mum not enough?
I realised with time that the alcohol took control of every aspect of his life. His morals, integrity, values, respect for himself and others, his goals and ambitions were all taken away from him because he had a disease, a disease where there is no cure, there is no magic pill you can take to make it go away.
My Father has now stopped drinking and the strength it takes every single day for him to not drink makes me so incredibly proud of him. He is slowly picking up his own broken pieces. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a Dad. We are all in recovery in some way, his alcoholism has affected myself and my family more than I can explain, but we are all healing and we could not be any prouder of him."