From the archives | 'Tik was my hiding place' – Former addict on why she's helping others beat addiction

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She started smoking cigarettes at 16 in high school but did not realise she would one day end up addicted to Crystal Meth.
She started smoking cigarettes at 16 in high school but did not realise she would one day end up addicted to Crystal Meth.

If there was a drug that could make her high, she was up for it. 

It didn't matter what it was, or how it was cooked, she just wanted the high. And for a lot of years, she got it. Until one day she realised that she was a shadow of herself and was often panicked, shaking and having blackouts. 

After years of struggling with drug addiction, she reached out for help and got it from the people around her. So she's now doing the same for others and being their beacon of hope. 

Mthatha born Mihle Zethu Dini (25) started the Mustard Seed Foundation where she assists homeless people in Mthatha with soup kitchens, donating clothes, and looking after children. A year ago, Mihle and her younger sisters opened Power House, which focuses more on young people who suffer from drug addiction. 

Because she knows all too well how damaging it can be. She was addicted to Tik for too many years to count. 

Crystal Meth, Tsoof better known as Tik, is a drug that is usually smoked using a straw in a light bulb. It is cheap and provides a fast powerful high, but it carries terrible consequences and health risks. 

Mihle's first-hand experience as a recovering drug addict motivated her to start helping the youth.

“I was heavily into drugs and this is my contribution,” she tells Drum.

She started smoking cigarettes while in high school.

“I don’t know why I was smoking, peer pressure I supposed. Then I moved on to smoke weed. After Grade 12, in 2015 I went to do a short Aviation course in Johannesburg for three months where I had a hectic social life. I drank a lot of alcohol, partied with friends and that is when I was introduced to Kat,” she says. 

According to Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, Kat is an amphetamine and has similar effects to Cocaine and Tik. 

“I didn’t have a reason for taking it, but I just enjoyed the confidence it gave me. I used to just smoke whatever was being smoked at a party,” she says. After her course ended, in 2016 she went back home to Mthatha.

“I continued smoking weed and taking whatever drug was available to me. I didn’t do much Kat as it was hard to find in Mthatha. But we took a lot of ecstasy, which is a party drug,” she says. 

The first time she tried Tik was in 2016.

“I didn’t know how to smoke it because there were too many technicalities to making it. But I eventually learned,” she says.

"I arrived at a friend’s place, and he was smoking Tik. I wanted some,” she says. 

“So, he taught me how to use it, how to light it, and how to cook it. I smoked and it was great, out of this world. I decided on that day that I am giving myself to this thing. I would blow R5000 on it. The gas light is R10, the drug R6 and I would need to get cigarettes,” she says.

“You know those dirty nyaope boys that everyone judges who never wash? I smoked with them in the street. I was still scared to smoke at home because there is a lot of admin involved in cooking Tik, so I would smoke with a group of people at a house owned by a 60-year-old man who was a teacher but also an addict,” she says. “We would chill and smoke.”

Mihle had medical aid at the time, and when she ran out of money for Tik, she would mix over-the-counter medicine to get high.

“I knew which pills to buy to get high and how many I should take to get a kick,” she says. “I didn’t care what I took as long as I could get an escape and get me out of my state of thinking. I just wanted to be high,” she says.

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In 2017 she got into a learnership to work at a bank in Port Elizabeth. “If you know PE central, you know how dodgy and shady it is. A lot happened to me while I was living there and mostly due to my drug addiction” she says.

“I was molested in the street by two guys while walking home from work.” 

This led her to take more drugs. She says every month, she received R3 500 for her learnership programme and used R1 700 to pay for her rental.

“The rest of the money went to drugs. I would buy smokes, weed, and drugs and sometimes get food. But the food was never a priority,” she says.

“First thing in the morning before going to work, I would smoke a joint and a cigarette and when my money got finished, I would walk to work,” she says. “I worked for drugs,” she says. After her internship ended, Mihla went back to Mthatha.

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While working at the bank, she was unhappy. “I was working at a cash centre, but I was not okay mentally. I was taking drugs and pills every day.

At home, her family also noticed some changes in her. “They noticed me losing weight; I was a size 36 and I moved to be size 28. My sister asked me what was happening. I saw myself as the normal me, but they could see something changed.

“Even when I am high, I had a lot of energy. I wouldn’t sleep. I was walking up and down, searching for something I don’t know. Even at work, I acted funny. I wanted to quit work and smoke full time because work was keeping me away from my first love which was drugs.”

At the end of 2018, her contract ended, and she was due for a medical operation. 

“My doctor ran tests on me and one of them was an HIV test, which came back positive,” she says.

“I was in disbelief. I never thought it could happen to me. I would be reminded of my HIV status every time I saw the All-Life advert on TV. I was dying alone and not telling anyone. I smoked more and more. I went in harder and harder. By 2019, I told a few of my friends and this thing was stressing me out. Even though I smoked, I still loved the church and I was a leader to the young,” she says.

“They didn’t know what I did outside of the church. I didn’t want to disappoint them. Tik was a hiding place for me. I was singing in the choir, and I would do both and balanced. I thought I was better because I was the cleanest girl with the ma phara. I had to get home and be clean because the home was strict.”

Mihle took anything at her disposal. “I drank cough mixture once because I wanted to sober up, but it made me worse, and I went crazy. I was scared to sleep, I was shaking, panicking, I was seeing people.

"I then decided I needed to stop because I was losing my mind. Every time I smoked from then, I was having panic attacks and could not breathe. I would feel like I’m going to die. I felt a desperate desire to stop.”

She consciously reached out to people for help.

"Three days would go by without me eating. I was mixing with ARVs with the drugs, and I was a mess. I started realising that I needed to stay occupied,” she says.

Mihle had always loved the church, but her faith was restored when she realised her drug problem had gotten out of hand.

“I reached out to people. I told the youth group at church and asked for help. I didn’t want to have cash in my hand because I knew I would smoke. Sometimes I would have blackout and find myself there smoking with the guys. But I fought the urge and kept myself busy.”

Mihle didn’t go to rehab but was admitted into a depression clinic.

“I started joining movements, church groups and kept myself busy,” she says.

She started the Mustard Seed Foundation and collaborated with her younger sister and formed Powerhouse. 

“We help people who are homeless and living in shacks and caravans while waiting for their RDP houses. Some fonts even have IDs and struggle to get work and food. We have soup kitchens, buy they clothes, and entertain the children,” she says.

“We are now teaching the youth about the dangers of drug use. I exerted myself in that. One of my outlets was music, where I can openly sing about sexual abuse.”

In 2020, she relapsed once but has been fighting the urge to go back to doing drugs.

“I had stopped for almost a year. When I stopped that is when I was admitted into a psychiatrist home. That is when I realised, I had a mental illness. I thought it was the side effects of using drugs until I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety,” she says.

“I could not drive and fear that I would cause an accident, I was suicidal, and I used to cut myself. I have attempted suicide about five times by taking pills and cutting myself and I learned this after going to the psychiatric home for a month and being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I was given medication and mood stabilisers.”

This is where she learned about childhood traumas.

“There was a lot of domestic violence that happened while I was growing up. But it’s not something I talk about because it involves family and livelihoods. But because I am the eldest out of three girls, everything happen in front of me,” she says.

Mihle hopes to never go back to doing drugs again.

“I am now scared of drugs because of the things I used. I would even steal money from my mom. I would take R50 at a time from my mother’s account because it wouldn’t reflect.” When she cleaned up, she went back to what she loved when she was young.

“I remembered the person I wanted to be when I was a little girl. I went back to what I wanted to be when I was young before my innocence got tainted. I put my faith first and fully exerted myself in the church. I have been clean for almost two years now. Sometimes I am tempted but I fight. Last week, I was stressed about a personal issue but I have a strong support system that I speak to in times like these.”

Mihle is planning to start her YouTube channel where she will share her story while educating others and she has gone back to school to study Nursing at Candlelight Nursing Academy in Libode in the Eastern Cape.

“I want to use my story as a testimony that there is hope,” she says.

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