‘I nearly killed my Tik sons’

2011-05-28 14:46

On Mother’s Day, Erica Sampson sat in her humble Mitchells Plain home haunted by memories of how, barely a year ago, she had contemplated killing her entire family.

This desperate act was brought on by the fact that, of her five sons, four were addicted to methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “tik”.

The 54-year-old single mother, every wrinkle on her face bearing testament to her having lived a life filled with one too many knocks, says: “It became so ­unbearable – the violence and the theft – that I was forced to have one of my sons sleep outside on nothing but a mattress in the middle of winter.

It broke my heart, but what could I do?

“I just couldn’t allow him ­inside. It got so bad that I once stabbed him because I simply couldn’t take it any more. I would’ve killed him if my grandson had not pleaded with me not to do it.

“One Sunday morning, I was on my way to church but, because I had reached such a low point, I decided to wait for the pharmacy to open instead so I could buy something with which to poison my family. I had had enough,” she says with a curious mixture of shame and defiance.

On her way to the pharmacy she bumped into her good friend and anti-drug campaigner Venetia Orgill, who fortunately talked her out of it.

“I just broke down and cried. I blamed myself because I have been a single mother for so long. I always asked why, why? I felt hopeless, completely ­hopeless.”

Then, with a slight smile, she says: “She offered me hope.”

Through Discover Your Power – the support group Orgill established in 2004 for mothers who have, or had, drug-addicted ­children – she has also offered other mothers in the area, who find themselves in similar positions, some semblance of hope.

Their weekly meetings, held in a tiny church, have become a haven of understanding and support for those mothers who, like Sampson, find themselves inadvertently caught on the front lines of the war substance abuse is waging against this ­community.

The fact that, according to Orgill, “every week more and more mothers are filtering in”, should come as no surprise given the fact that Mitchells Plain has recently been identified as South Africa’s teen drug capital.

The research, conducted by the University of Stellenbosch, found that dagga and tik were the drugs of choice for school children in the area.

Dagga intake in the area is three times higher than the ­national average, and at least 9% of the 400 pupils polled ­admitted to having used tik.

In addition, drug abuse – which results in dangerous ­sexual behaviour, depression and domestic abuse – also brings with it an increase in criminal activity.

During one of my visits to Sampson’s home, she informed me that she had to call in a ­Telkom technician to replace her telephone cables as one of her sons had stolen them to sell the hair-thin copper wires inside.

“I really don’t understand it,” she says, with genuine exasperation, “they have sold each other’s clothes, the motor inside the washing machine and even their own beds.”

Sampson’s eldest son, Marvin (36), who kicked his addiction two years ago, speaks openly about how he would steal ­everything he could lay his hands on to feed his decade-long addiction.

He says: “I worked as a ­security guard at a film studio and would steal everything from cellphones and digital cameras to alcohol, which I would then sell to anyone willing to buy it.”

Then, with slight hesitation, he adds: “I stole many times from my mother too.”

Although he says he was ­introduced to tik at his then workplace, it was made worse by the fact that it is so readily available in Mitchells Plain.

“I ended up smoking it regularly with our neighbour and that was when I really became hooked,” he says.

How his brothers became hooked he cannot say, though it is clear that the addiction is taking its toll on the family.

“It really breaks my heart ­because now that I am clean I can see what it does to my mother – the stress, the fear, the sleepless nights.

“I visit her often and, when I do, I always speak to my ­brothers and remind them that they have to take the first step if they really want to change their situation.”

The father of three also speaks openly to his children about the dangers of drug abuse.

“My kids are the main reason I stopped using drugs,” he says, “so I speak openly and honestly to them about it. I have to. I have no choice.”

Then, echoing the fears of thousands of Mitchells Plain parents, he says: “You see, I am very afraid they too will one day start using this drug...very, very afraid.”

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