The Alcoholic Game

Working in the Northern Cape means that you will have to deal with people who are enslaved to alcohol.  The Afrikaans word for addiction “verslaaf” describes the experience better I think than the English because an alcoholic is truly enslaved to entoxicating liquor.

Its not actually the liquor that troubles me though. I get that we all need the glorious relaxant that a good glass of wine can provide.  After a hard sweaty day in the sun, nothing slakes a thirst like an ice cold beer.  I get that and I do that too.  So I’m not “anti-drink” or teetotal myself.

For me, its the game that alcoholics play that is truly destructive.  The game involves at least three players: The Drunk, The Agashame and The Joudonner!  The game can be scripted into a two act play that is recycled endlessly.

The script goes something like this: The Drunk gets drunk.  At some point The Drunk begins to sober up and The Joudonner! scolds The Drunk and The Drunk feels terrible.  The Drunk goes to The Agashame who commiserates while The Drunk gets drunk again.

Act two begins when The Drunk decides to change role and becomes The Joudonner, perhaps to The Agashame and The Agashame becomes The Drunk while The Joudonner plays The Agashame.

The whole game gets replayed from Act One again and again.  The other players in the Alcoholic Game are often referred top as “co-dependents”.

Putting this game into an employment relationship causes havoc and the alcoholic game is a cancer in families, especially where no-one seems to be able to speak-out about the issue without being “ganged-up” on by everyone suddenly playing “The Joudonner” on them.

If you are going to run a successful enterprise in the Northern Cape, or pretty much anywhere in South Africa, you had better understand the Alcoholic Game and find a way to avoid being a player in it.

Many people I listen to who run businesses in Prieska complain that their staff are “unreliable”.  That they work hard until the first payday and then they go on a drunken bender and only pitch-up for work a few days or weeks later.

This is a reality in the Northern Cape because of its history of indentured labour being paid by the “Dop System”; farmers paid their staff in wine.  Such practices have ensured generations of alcoholic workers to the point that we now have the highest incidents of fetal-alcohol syndrome on earth.

Its no use simply trying to avoid working with or employing acoholics.  We need to avoid playing the Alcoholic Game.  We need to understand the experience of people enslaved to alcohol.  We need empathy.  We also need to devise ways of relating with people struggling with addiction that avoids placing them or us as actors in the Alcoholic Game.

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