Reformed drug addicts share their stories about the horrors of addiction and the long, painful journey back to normalcy as they learned to let go of their drug dependence. These stories reveal how a life that is full of promise can go off the rails under the influence of drugs and what it takes to fight back. These stories of reform and commitment to one’s betterment are as inspiring as they are also lessons in how easy it is to court self-destruction.
I started taking drugs when I was 17. I started with the painkiller medication Tramadol. Within a month, I was hooked on to it. There were many reasons why I went down this road: I had friends outside school who influenced me negatively. Also, there was this girl, a neighbour, with whom I fell in love. But she got married and that broke my heart. I was weak-minded and these factors hit me hard. I could not control myself and I veered towards drugs to numb the feelings of pain. I would also say that when a family unit is not strong, it has a role to play [in how an individual goes off the right path.
I remember in the beginning, I would sometimes come home full of aggression, in a bad mood. My parents would put that down to me having been in a fight with friends. Nobody made the effort to sit me down and ask me what was happening to me and why I was so full of aggression always. The worst thing about that phase of addiction was that one day, I turned around and attacked my father. That incident made me realise just how far down the road of destruction I had travelled - I realised that I needed to make the big decision of my life. I could continue down this [destructive] path or I could change direction and return to myself.
I knew that if I changed for the better, I would be able to stay with my family and have a better life — so I chose to go the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) to get the needed help. It’s been over one year since my treatment began and I feel much better now. I still feel guilty about some of the things I did in the past. At the time, I only felt temporary happiness, but now I know it was not a good life. Thankfully, now I am taking charge of my life, and changing things around for the better.
My initiation into the world of narcotics began out of a sense of curiosity. I wanted to experience what it was like [to take drugs]. It didn’t help that I had peers who pressured me to go down this path. They would tell me that [taking drugs] would make me happy and that I would enjoy the experience. However you soon discover that this is a lie. It doesn’t lead to happiness. When I entered the life of drugs, I never expected that it would lead me down a road filled with problems. My addiction destroyed my relationships with the people around, like my wife and children. I eventually ended up in jail and my family gave me two choices, stay in jail or go to the NRC and change my life. I decided to go with the latter to change my life around. When I first became addicted, my personality underwent a change - I was both aggressive and nervous. I would often lose grip on daily situations when dealing with people and because of my behaviour, my wife and children became scared of me.
My behaviour got increasingly worse over time and it led me to episodes wherein I would beat my wife and children. The lowest point came when I had thoughts of killing my children – one time, I caught one of my children and tried to throw him out from the window, and it was the intervention of my wife which prevented that from happening. Whenever I think back on that incident, I cannot believe I was ready to commit such a crime. I am appalled at how bad and low I was. I used to see fear and sadness in the eyes of my children. It was when I was in prison that I decided to turn my life around. So I started from ground zero with the NRC. First they conducted my full medical check-up, and after which, began the process of detoxification of my body to cleanse me of the drugs and treat me of the habit of addiction. It was not an easy period. I felt tired, nervous, and my whole body was in pain. I could not sleep, but slowly, over time, my body started to adjust to the treatment.
As part of my rehabilitation process, I was also taken to lectures and gatherings with other people who had similar experiences, and we would be able to talk to one another to share our stories. I would like to thank the NRC for the help they provided me; they helped me from both a medical and social perspective. Before I went into their programme and care, my life was totally damaged, but thanks to their programme, I have been able to start rebuilding my life. I have now made a vow to protect my family and to never return to addiction. Today, I am proud to say that it’s been two years and six months since my treatment and I feel happy in general, and take pride in my family and the people who helped and encouraged me.
I started getting into narcotic addiction when I was 16 and at school. There were many contributing factors that led to this – I had bad friends, and I was also having problems at home. I had lost my father when I was young, and this had a very big impact on me because when I lost him, I felt like I had nobody around me. I took all kinds of narcotics – painkiller pills, hashish, and cocaine. I will never forget the day when, completely under the influence of drugs, I tried to kill my brother. I tried to kill him by running him over with my car. I also lost a friend to narcotic use – I brought some drugs for him and he overdosed and died. I can’t forget his face. This was basically my life during the addiction period. I am now getting treatment at the NRC and hope to change things for the better, and to never return to narcotics addiction ever.
What is drug addiction?
Scientific research shows that drug addiction is a disease. It is a chronic, often relapsing, brain disease that causes compulsive drug-seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the drug addict and those around them. The abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Some forms of addiction have their roots deep in the cells of people who use drugs ... which causes such intense stress that using drugs seems like a reasonable route. There are both biological and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. Scientists are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities. In most cases, environmental factors, including beliefs and attitudes of people around the victim and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use, also play a role in initial drug use.