The story of a South African drug addict

By admin
25 April 2016

My name is David and I am a drug addict.

I have been using drugs and alcohol for 35 years.

For 20 years they were my solution. When I used I felt better about myself. I was able to relax, have fun. I felt more connected to people. I was able to talk to people and make friends instead of feeling intimidated by them. I felt part of something.

But then the drugs stopped working, and I couldn’t stop. For the next 15 years I tried everything. I was in and out of rehabs, psych wards.

I tried Ibogaine, sleep therapy, methadone, suboxone, acupuncture, acutouch, psychotherapy, hypnosis, herbs, amino acid supplements. I even ended up in Diepkloof prison for three weeks.  You’d think that would be enough to scare some sense into a middle-class white boy.

I always managed to quit for a while, or get my using down to manageable levels where I believed I was in control. And for a while I would be.  But sooner or later the drugs would take over and I would end up in a complete mess, broke and alone .

Read more: ‘My husband was a drug addict – and I had no idea’

Somehow I would always end up back on the drugs and I could understand never understand why. I was baffled and mystified. I knew I wanted to, needed to quit , but I didn’t know how.

As a child I was miserable and unhappy. My parents fought all the time and my father had a terrible temper. He was also a minister, so aside from the chaos at home we had to present the picture of a perfect and happy family to the rest of the world.

I learnt from a young age to pretend and hide my true feelings.  This was reinforced when I later I discovered I was gay. In apartheid South Africa this was the greatest of sins. I internalised society’s  attitudes and thought there was something wrong with me. I carried this secret until I was in my late twenties and was never able to be myself or get close to people.

I had my first drink at the age of twelve and by the age of fifteen was drinking fairly regularly, but not excessively – it helped me make friends and gave me confidence, but I hated getting drunk and rarely did.

In the army I drank even more regularly. It was something everybody did. I always considered myself a moderate drinker though I was drinking almost every day.

Read more: Two dead, 32 hospitalised after taking ‘mystery’ drug at end-of-term party

At university I started smoking weed. I also started partying – hard. This was new to me given my conservative small town background. I discovered the underground punk scene where I fitted right in. I also got very involved in anti-apartheid politics.

Needless to say I dropped out after three years. Five years later I ended up in Johannesburg where I discovered there were lots of other freaks like me in the world. I opened  a comics and games bookshop in Hillbrow.

My life revolved around partying and clubs. I started taking club drugs. Even though I had discovered that it was okay to be gay I was still terrified of intimacy. I had lots of friends. And I had drugs. They were my consolation for lack of intimacy.

Although my life was chaotic, it was still manageable. I was still able to go to work every day and look after myself. I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with my lifestyle. It was still fun.

Then I discovered heroin. It was love at first taste. It started slowly, progressing from a weekend thing to everyday use over about a year. That’s when the fun stopped. Heroin became the most important thing in my life.

Nothing else mattered. I started stealing from work, selling my possessions, lying to my friends and family. This is when I first started wanting to quit and discovered I could not. It took another five years of hell including time in jail till I was ready to quit. I went back to my parents in East London and went into a psychiatric ward for treatment.

Read more: Lionel Richie on Nicole’s struggle with drugs

In East London I stayed clean for three years. I went back to studying at the age of 42. I was leading a quiet life revolving around my studies, but was still single and frustrated.  Then I rediscovered heroin.

It filled the gap in my life. This time it took another three years to get back into full blown addiction of everyday use – perhaps because I had some purpose to my life in my studies – but it wasn’t enough.

By the end of my third year of studies I was back in the cycle of lying cheating and stealing. I admitted to my parents I had a problem and went to rehab.

I managed to fit rehab into the summer holidays and was back at varsity for the new year. I scored a bag of heroin on my first day out. This went on for another five years. I was in the rehab cycle. For the next four years I spent my summer holidays in rehab. My last relapse was in December last year.

Instead of a slow progress as before I went straight back into active, everyday use. The stealing, lying and cheating started all over again. I wanted to quit, but couldn’t. I was so overcome with shame and fear I ended up lying in my room for three weeks, praying to die and leaving only to score. I had no friends and no material possessions left.

I had to be completely broken before I could realise the true nature of my problem. I always thought my problem was heroin. All my life I blamed society and other people for my problems. In the last three months, through intense work on the 12-step program I have realised my problem was me. I have never learned to deal with my emotions and used drugs to suppress them. I have now been given a new chance at life and a program to live by that enables me to deal with problems as they arise, instead of having to use drugs. I am truly grateful for this."

Where to get help

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group's Substance Abuseline is available 24 hours a day on  0800 12 13 14.

You can also call the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) on South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence 086 14 SANCA (086 14 72622) or visit their website here.

This story was submitted to YOU by one of our readers and has been minimally edited.

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