It has been four months since the death of veteran actor Patrick Shai. He was found dead by his wife in the garage of his home in Dobsonville, Soweto.
His death shocked the country and gave many a reason to look into their mental wellness.
Patricks’s son Sechaba Shai (37) who battled with drug addiction for 17 years, has now been clean for a year.
He opens up about how his father’s death has motivated him to stay clean. Sechaba says his father wanted nothing but the best for him and to live his life to the best of his ability without any substances.
“His greatest wish was for me to be a proper man, a family man, irrespective of whatever field I got into,” he says.
“I also want to live a purposeful life, leave a contribution on this planet and be able to help people who find themselves in the position I was once in. It’s a simple case of helping one person and I’d be content.”
When Patrick Shai died, Sechaba was not once tempted to use drugs again.
“I was too shocked to even think about drugs. My dad was a huge support and he helped me to quit. I would be tainting his memory if I ever went back when he believed in me. I just thought his death was some nightmare or joke where he would get up or I would wake up.”
Since Patrick's death, life has not been easy.
“The days are not the same. Sometimes you wake up happy and other days sad. We take it one day at a time and as they come,” he says.
Sechaba was very close to his father and he misses him every day.
“I miss him a lot. Every day I wake up and wish he was still around. Sometimes I call his number to hear his voice. It’s not easy but it’s getting better. I have allowed myself to cry when I need.”
He was 14 years old when he first experimented with drugs.
“The first time I experimented was me trying and find comfort and an escape from my reality and the issues I was facing as a young man at the time,” he says. But from there it was downhill for him.
“My family knew about my addiction, but they were not sure. They found out when I was in my late teens and going into my early 20s. I had changed; I was stealing in the house and getting up to nonsense. My health started to deteriorate, my skin had changed, and I was no longer the same person I was before. They saw signs,” he says.
To help his son, Patrick and his wife Mmasechaba Shai put their resources together and took Sechaba to various rehabilitation centres.
“They took me to about four rehabilitation centres. Even with the last rehab centre, they joined resources and got the help I needed, and I will forever be grateful to them, even with the number of times I failed to stay clean,“ he says.
The father of three who is engaged to Sihle Sibisi says his past drug use has broken a lot of trust among his family and he is in the process of fixing it.
“It really broke the trust between myself and my family. Everything was messed up and right now it’s about fixing the broken relationships and establishing what we had or what we can have for the future,” he says.
“The fact that I lost 17 years of my life has encouraged me to try and stay clean. I realized if I carried on, I would lose more in the future.”
Sechaba stayed on the streets for almost 15 years while using substances.
“I left home because I had messed up so much. The sense of embarrassment hit me hard, and I didn’t know how to fix it and make things right. So, I ended up leaving home and staying in the streets,” he adds.
This year, Sechaba pens his life story in an autobiography all about his journey to being drug-free.
“I do not have a title for the book as yet as it is still in the writing stages. But it will be about my life’s journey and beating addiction,” he says.
Sechaba has been clean for one year on 25 May 2022 and his book will help to educate families dealing with drug addiction.
“The book is for everyone willing to educate themselves and what goes on in the world of substance abuse,” he says.
“It will encourage people on what to do and what not to do, especially for parents on how to handle children who have been addicts. It will go deep into detail but also be educational. People tend to think that kids born by pastors or celebrities don’t face afflictions and this is just me sharing my reality,” he adds.
“It will be raw and tell all of my story.”
Sechaba is also in the process of putting together a documentary based on the book.
“We are in the process of negotiating a documentary where we will be going to all the places I lived in the streets. We hope to bring rehabilitation to those who are still on the streets and help them to find healing.”