It’s a misty and slightly cool winter’s morning when I enter the grounds of the Toevlug Rehabilitation Centre, situated in Worcester, after an hour’s drive over the mountain. A feeling of tranquillity most aptly describes what I experience as I walk towards the office of Theresa Rossouw, the Manager.
The sun starts to light up the beautiful gardens and I spot free-range chickens roaming the grounds, scratching here and there, trying to catch the early morning worms; ponds filled with golden comets gliding through the water; the calm voice of someone providing training in a room nearby; and therapists walking past, smiling, making eye contact.
Nothing could however prepare me for what I experienced that morning after Theresa got up from her seat and called in four patients that are currently undergoing the programme. Four very different individuals who each told me their story and left me vulnerable – naked in the face of the truth, overcome with emotion – and at the same time thankful for never having been caught in the ugly claws of a substance. Here are their very divergent stories.