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Alchemy Wellness...It's a Kinda Recovery Magic

I am a coach! That's what I do and what I think I was always meant to do. I have also been a restaurant owner, worked for an educational NGO, and been an English Teacher. I've also waited on hundreds of tables, cleaned hotels rooms, and washed dishes to earn my keep.

I didn't know this is what I would end up doing, and I am so grateful that I am here. Working in the recovery space is nothing short of a privilege. Bearing witness to people's growth and development, and watching them thrive is such an incredible personal and professional experience. Of course it's not all easy, and there are challenges and obstacles just like any other work, but the sense of wonder I have at people's resilience, resolve, and grace is something I am blessed to be able to experience on a daily basis.

For almost nine years I have sat in the same space almost every afternoon, especially for the past 3 or 4 years, and watched the magic happen. Sometimes it doesn't look like magic in the moment, disguised with defeat, tears, heartbreak, and disappointment. Sometimes it looks like pain, suffering, and trauma with wads of wet tissues clutched in sweaty palms. Working in these spaces is NOT like it looks in the movies. Well mostly not. It's not all unbearable decisions, and constant relapse. There is laughter, love, authenticity, and hope, success and achievement, happiness and triumph.

Meeting people where they are at in their recovery process and not dictating where they need to go means that everyone gets the opportunity to be autonomous in their choices. The biggest pf these being whether or not to use substances as a way to operate, survive, function and cope. Because the substances and behaviours do work in the beginning, otherwise why would we keep using them? Gabor Maté, Canadian physician and trauma expert, amongst a myriad of other things, is a powerful advocate of recognising that substances offer a solution to a problem in our lives, and that's why when we find a way to overcome the problem, challenge, obstacle, or trauma, we keep going back...until the dependence develops, and then solution isn't a solution anymore but a problem of its own.

Alchemy Wellness, Johannesburg, South Africa

Judging, shaming and belittling unwell people who are trying to get well doesn't work. No one can thrive in the face of contempt and confrontation. Almost every person I have worked with over the years is fully aware of the pain they have caused; they don't need to be publicly guilted and demeaned over and over again. Recovery treatment and support needs to be about kindness, compassion, accountability, and positive regard. It's not about blaming, it's about learning. Learning to take responsibility and ownership, changing personal narratives, shifting from a victim mentality to a place of personal empowerment, and moving from denial to the daily practice of spiritual principles.

I've had the freedom to work with different ideas and approaches over my years at The Foundation Clinic which adopts a biopsychosocial approach to the treatment of substance use and addiction. My ideas and understanding have changed as I've learned more, and as I've developed and matured. I truly believe that being well requires each of us to find our own internal recovery "why", so that we are clear on the reasons we choose to do the work required. Wanting to be clean, sober, abstinent, or well for others is a noble pursuit, but not one I have seen to work consistently in the long run. Wanting to be recover, because that's what others want for us, is difficult to sustain if it's not intrinsically connected to what we need, want, and value. Recovery is challenging and that campaign for wellness needs to be driven by self.

Finding our way and our why might take time; it's a process. Not everyone recovers and that's how it is sadly. Not everyone who uses substances is an addict. Not all people in recovery choose to be 100% abstinent. Some of us chose moderation or harm reduction. And as the science of recovery and psychiatry evolve, new discoveries in the use of plant medicine and psychedelics means that the treatment landscape is also changing. Also okay! It's just that a lot of the programmes and processes out there look to abstinence as the benchmark of success, and that's not always true.

Not everyone who is sober is well! And not everyone who uses substances is unwell. People who use drugs, even addictively, are still able to make decisions, choose different courses of action, determine healthy from unhealthy, and succeed in certain areas. I know plenty of people who have finished school, graduated university, got married, had kids, started successful careers, and built businesses during the "using years". Not every moment of our lives have been a complete shitshow!

And according to a recent studies about 75% of people with substance use disorders actually recover. Some people get treatment, some don't. Some use medications, and others attend recovery support services and self-help groups. There's really no single way to get well. What's important is that we create spaces and places where people can make choices about the best way forward so that they can feel fulfilled, empowered, and autonomous.

I'm a coach! I believe in my clients' abilities to make decisions and choices about their lives. I may be in recovery, but I don't know how it feels to be dependent on opioids or crack cocaine, never mind crystal meth or sleeping pills. I've never wrangled with a gambling or sex addiction. I am neither a parent nor a spouse, and I don't belong to the 12-step fellowship. So, I have to believe that every person I work with is their own expert and with the right type of support and accountability, they have the ability to decide what is going to work in terms of their life and recovery.

And that's where the dream goes next! To creating a space where there isn't a single solution for recovery, but rather an ethos of compassion, kindness, support, and best practice. A place where different modalities and brought together to give clients the opportunity to thrive in a way that is non-judgmental and empathetic, as well as structured and systematic.

The founding of Alchemy Wellness is about a dream to create a space where science and spirituality meet. It's a new kinda addiction recovery treatment centre for a new time in recovery and wellness. It's a space where connection is fundamental to the work of recovery, and where education is a cornerstone to wellness. Creating a place that brings together knowledge, experience, and multiple pathways to recovery is an exciting and challenging goal. A centre where mindfulness abounds in the design of the living and working spaces, and there is an openminded and holistic approach to the business of being well.

When I opened my eyes one morning in early 2023 and decided that it was time for me to stretch myself and get out of my professional comfort zone, I could not have imagined how this would unfold. It's like being in an alternative reality. Sometimes I just drive past the house just to remind myself that this really is happening. Other times I look at the recently received 3D renders of Alchemy Wellness to know that this is in fact a truth in my life, and that we are doing this!

It's a completely new type of experience for me to be part of something like this from the beginning. It's not just about building a wellness centre, it's about living the dream. And it's so freaking exciting, awe inspiring, terrifying, and about as far outside my comfort zone as I could wish to be right now!! We've still got a long way to go, and a few hoops to jump through, but it's all part of the amazing adventure of alchemy, "a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. Spiritual Alchemy is the act of inner transformation. It is healing and freeing the inner parts of ourselves that need to be changed. It is connected with freeing your spiritual self from your fears, limiting beliefs systems, and lack of self-acceptance. Alchemy is the art of transformation, inner liberation, and change.


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