Addict puts his life together, piece by piece

ONE night, one friend, one moment of weakness and one line was all it took for Paul’s life to take a turn for the worse.

This life-altering moment was five years ago but Paul* recalls the evening with pristine clarity. He was sitting on his friend’s couch, chucking back a few beers while playing PlayStation when a bag of CAT (Methcathinone) was pulled out. He remembers being furious as he was completely against drugs in every way. There was no peer pressure involved but his curiosity was piqued and he silently asked himself, ‘what is the harm of just one line?’ before asking for a hit.

He inhaled a full gram of it and sobered up instantly while a sense of euphoria spread throughout his body. A terrible aftertaste was the only reminder of the steep and slippery slope he was fast approaching. Liking the feeling the drug gave him, he swore it would only be taken when he drank alcohol.

Former drug addict starts an NPO

Paul worked for a telecommunications company in Johannesburg at the time. “It helped me cope and you don’t need sleep when you are taking it. I could go for days at a time without sleeping. I once went six days without sleeping. You lose your sense of time. You start to forget where you are and what it is you’re doing. You then get flashbacks of what happened later on,” said Paul.

After a month of on-and-off use, Paul started taking it every day. A year later he stopped drinking alcohol completely, relying solely on the drugs to pick him up. His usage of the drug increased dramatically, ranging from between four to five bags a day. Aside from his body aching from sleep deprivation, there were no other physical side effects he could identify.

CAT, in Johannesburg, was sold at R100 per gram; he was spending between R300 to R1 000 per day. To supplement the cost, he would mix crystal meth and CAT together. Then his addiction to gambling began. He would head directly to one of the casinos dotted around Joburg. This would be his haunt for the evening and he would only pack it in as the sun began to rise. He would head home, freshen up and do it all again.

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After eight years of working at the communications company, he resigned. “It was near the end of my time at the company that I started gambling. I could see that I was making more money gambling so I left my job in 2014.”

Finding his next fix was all he cared about. His mind narrowed to a single-track, he became the greyhound chasing the ever-elusive hare around and around, a never ending cycle. His life became a constant state of repetition. “I enjoyed getting the bonus features and completely zoned out in the casino. You look at the screen and you don’t take your eyes off of it.”

Ironically, it was Paul’s dealer that alerted him to his problem, threatening to cut him off. “Who was he to tell me what to do? I was paying him.” This was in June 2016. His dealer was also his next door neighbour.

He would tell his parents he needed money for data so he could look for a job. He would use this money to purchase CAT. “I used to pull proper moves. I sold metal from around the house and asked for money for airtime. My parents started buying me vouchers instead. I would just exchange these. Eventually my parents would send airtime directly to my phone. But I would then just transfer it to my dealer. This was done on a daily basis,” said the 30 year old.

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He found another job at a telecommunications company and blew his entire R6 000 salary at a casino in less than two hours. He also sold his own vehicle for gambling money. His loving parents would step in and help him pay his bills. “They told me I needed to get help. I wasn’t interested. What made up my mind was when they gave me their bank card to get my licence renewed. I didn’t even get near the licencing department. I went straight to a casino and drew R2 000, their daily limit, from their card.”

This flicked a switch in his mind and he opted to open up to his parents about his addiction and said he needed help. “They were both crying. They knew that I needed to come to this conclusion on my own,” said Paul. “I had my doubts as I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I knew my life was going to change.”


Journey of self-discovery
Through word of mouth he found Waynol Anti-Narcotics Christian Manor in Kloof. His journey to recovery from addiction started on 25 October, a date that will be ever-entrenched in his memory. “They welcomed me here with open arms and told me that I was in good hands. I didn’t need to know anything else. I knew what I wanted. I felt at peace. I was happy. I came in here on Tuesday and on the Wednesday they had home cell and we worshipped God. I didn’t think of drugs. I’ve never wanted drugs. I felt right at home.”

He was an in-house patient for six months. In April this year he joined the rehab centre’s aftercare programme, to integrate him back into society with the safety net of the manor to ensure he stays clean.

Falconer flies high in the fight against social ills

“I haven’t had a single urge to use or gamble. I would fly back once a month and not once, even with my neighbour being a dealer, did I ever feel the need for it. I have sat down and had a conversation with him. Even he is pleased that I got the help that I needed,” said a smiling Paul.

Through his journey at the Manor he has found his calling; helping others. “I have found myself here. People walk through the door, they have a troubled past and it just feels good and right to help them and remind them they are not alone. When they leave here and thank you for you help, it makes it all worth it.”

*Not patient’s real name. It has been changed to protect his identity.


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Lloyd Mackenzie

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