As undercover as addiction is, it directly and indirectly affects us all. Addiction affects our economy, society, friends, families and colleges and what so few people recognize is that addiction is “progressive and potentially fatal problem if left untreated”.


Pushing addiction topics under the rug and behind closed doors conversations is never going to address the greater problem. So much shame, guilt and lack of knowledge tend cloud open and much needed dialog and has become a remarkably apparent that more open conversations are a key component to dealing with a problem that affects as many as 1 in 10 people in South Africa. 


As we see more and more mentions of addiction bubble to the surface in Facebook streams as brave individuals in our friend groups identify themselves and starting speaking out and opening up about their experiences and in overcoming their addiction problems.


Nearly 10 years ago Cape Town hit the global main stage in terms of exclusive addition treatment centres and since then the private care addiction treatment industry in Cape Town seems to have expanded into being the unspoken mecca for the most intensive and extensive addiction treatment centres in the world. 


These exclusive treatment centres cater to people from all walks of life seeking addiction treatment solutions. It’s not just Capetonians that seek local help, patient admissions include contingents of upcountry regions like  Joburg, Durbs, PE, Bloem and a wide range foreign nationals seemingly from European countries. The local film also industry contributes it’s fair share of by admitting silver screen stars working both on set and  through their recovery by checking into Cape Town’s exclusive private care addiction treatment facilities (as opposed to the range of local luxury hotels).


Addiction treatment options So why Cape Town?  What is in the mother city that attracts such keen interest to addiction patients?


After a small internet investigation and a few consultations with local experts we knew that Vaughan Pankhurst was the right person to ask. 


We managed to corner Vaughan for a meeting in Constantia and were stunned at what we had discovered about exclusive addiction recovery in such a short space of time. Over the last 8 years Vaughan has been on the business end of addiction in Cape Town and operates one of the most sought after “havens of anonymity and shelters for healing” in Cape Town. A quiet individual by nature Vaughan remains a devout evangelist within the addiction recovery community and provides some keen insights to people in recovery both locally and abroad.


Vaughan has no trouble speaking openly about his own addiction and or the modernised non-twelve step, complex trauma and evidence led addiction recovery process operated within his centres. Vaughn’s own near terminal struggle with alcohol means that he does not subside into a theoretical philosophical or psychological addiction debates, he has actively lived through and lives with the in recovery process today. 


Here are some excerpts from the hour long chat that we thought would share with our readers.


VP: “Treating and beating life threatening addiction related disorders is a complex process that requires specific inputs and a lot of specialised support.”


Vaughan: “Cape Town has some of the most experienced addiction treatment professionals in the world, so we have the support, which is why Cape Town attracts so many international recovery patients.”


CTI: “Why is Recovery Direct in such high demand? I believe you sometimes have two month waiting list. It took us a month to get an hour meeting gap with you?


VP: “Humble apologies, we are working on our capacity issues, in exclusive addiction treatment the space and availability is always at premium. We have to prioritize the patients that are in the centre above all.” 


“The demand is spurred by the way we work.”


VP: “Recovery Direct does not treat addiction, we treat people that have problems where addiction has become the most visible symptom.” Vaughan went on to say “Once the driving problem is on the path to recovery the patients begin to find hope. That hope is a very personal and powerful force and it grows in treatment until each individual begins to heal, then think positively and move away from their self-defeating thoughts and self-destructive behavior’s.” 


VP:”It is a distinct privilege and honor to help people find a path to the rest of their lives.”


VP:”The process of recovery only starts in a treatment centre. Our job is to prepare patients with the tools to nurture their own success, when they step out of Recovery Direct and back onto the battlefield.”


CTI: “The battlefield?”


VP: “Yes, perhaps dramatic but my point is that nobody inherently chooses a path to addition. There is always a catalyst of some sort that drives each individuals addiction cycle and that catalyst will probably still be there when they exit our centres, it may never go away. Our patients learn to confront and progressively deal with these issues and step toward their personal journey of healing.”


VP:”It’s easy to keep a person sober for 28 days, just take away their substances. That’s not what we are here to do. Our job is to ensure that patients walk away not needing substances to self sooth with anymore and are prepared for life outside of the centre.”


The conversation drifted onto some perceptions and insights into addiction, successful and unsuccessful addiction treatment models. I think our government endorsed facilities should take some notes and be a lot more proactive in public centres.


Addiction treatment options Vaughan Asked About 12 Step Programs


VP: “We live in a society that has been victimizing and alienating addicts and alcoholics for generations. This needs to stop. This is the polar opposite of what actual recovery requires and is testament to how broken the present system of treatment is.”


VP: “Recovery Direct is NOT a 12 Step program. 12 Step is a tool many people use after treatment but it’s not treatment in itself it is a philosophy and a mindset but it does not directly cater to the underlying problem that the individual has experienced or is experiencing. That problem can only be realized through a human empathy and one on one treatment.”


VP: “If a 12 Step meeting will help a person stop their self-defeating behaviors by all means they should go to 12 step meetings, it would be far cheaper than coming to Recovery Direct. We view 12 Step meetings as a component of recovery, a tool, if you like, but this program does not help everybody, the risks of relapse and failure are too high and there are many barriers and flaws that prevent 12 step from being considered an effective form of treatment. That said, there are many positive and progressive elements to 12 Step and recovery, one just needs to understand where and how Minnesota models fits into the bigger picture, we coach that here.”


VP:”Many rehab centres both locally and internationally doggedly follow 12 step ideology and write off their poor success rates to nonsense rhetoric and ideologies that attempt to cover grievously deep wounds with sticky plasters.”


Addiction treatment options Vaughan Speaking About Trauma Treatment and Addiction



VP: “Most people experience some form of traumatic experience at some juncture in their lives, sometimes long forgotten early childhood experiences result in perpetual self-defeating cycles into adulthood. These events permeate into poor behaviors that can lead to a wide range of addiction, anxiety, depression disorders. These things can be resolved, but we have to get to the root of the issue and then begin the healing process.”


VP: “Trauma plays out in so many formats it is impossible to build a dedicated blanket approach to helping those very personal issues. We all perceive the world differently, some people are more resilient to traumatic experiences than others, and this is what makes us such complex yet wonderful beings.” 


VP: “Most people are susceptible to addiction. Given the right circumstances and chains of life events it is very easy to fall into a cycle of abuse which is hard to break away from, that is what we help them do.” “Should they be victimised, ostracized, alienated and forced into the ideological streams simply because they are struggling to find appropriate channels to self sooth other hurts?”


Recovery Direct


The homely feel and progressive atmosphere of the centre enable patients to rapidly become comfortable with the environment which helps dismantle the roadblocks for treatment. The luxury setting was crafted by Vaughan and his team to break the perception of recovery clinics and coming into addiction treatment from being a cold and clinical process. 


This treatment format enables counsellors to realistically address the underlying problems from a standpoint of safety and comfort for the patient. The treatment continuum differs with each patient and thus the process starts from the initial meeting to the admission to constant adjustments finally a successful discharge from the centre.


Recovery Direct’s core competency is on dealing with the trauma that perpetuates self-defeating behaviours and coming up with practical solutions to help patients back in their real lives. You can read more about Recovery Direct here as well as their approach to treating patients



Relapse Prevention


Prior to the opening of the Recovery Direct Vaughan reached out to Mr D Kemp who was operating a nationwide online addiction recovery website called Relapse Prevention. The network included volunteers in varying stages of recovery and background that would join recovery meetings from over 3000 locations in South Africa. The service was and remains today part of one of the biggest professional referral networks that freely helps put people in touch with help. Relapse prevention is an aftercare geared website that provides a wealth of information in their blog and numerous helpful resources in downloadable guides.



Addiction treatment options


Getting help with addiction.


Finding addiction help is relatively simple process provided you speak to the right people. The consensus between the professionals in addiction treatment that quality private care centres which cater to evidence based psychological treatment approaches are better equipt to deal with the long term recovery prospects of addiction patients. More specifically centres that treat trauma and post trauma issues in patients have some of the highest industry success rates.


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