I’m a mother, daughter and sister I am also an addict.
I recently celebrated my two-year milestone in recovery let me first say that the last two years have brought with it more emotions, connections, laughter and smiles more tears, acceptance and forgiveness of myself and others than I’ve ever experienced in my life. I hope that my story touches someone the way so many of the stories that I have heard have touched me.
I am blessed enough to be the mother of the most wonderful little nine-year-old boy who is my strength my heart my soul and even though he doesn’t know it has stood by me through thick and thin and is 1000% the light at the end of my tunnel.
I was born in 1985 to a very well respected and fairly well to do Jewish family I’ve lived in Johannesburg my entire life. I specifically mention my religion and my families standing is because I want to make it very clear that the disease of addiction has no specific look or type of religion or race or gender or sexual orientation.
My parents divorced when I was about two and a half both remarried my mum to an attorney from Johannesburg and my dad to a lady from New Zealand who was in South Africa. My mum and stepdad had my first sister in 1989 and then my second sister from them in 1991, we lived in the most beautiful home in Melrose and to anyone from the outside looking in, it looked like we had it all.
Strangely though I never quite felt like I had a place there – which seems to be one of the general themes throughout my life.
My dad has travelled a similar road to the one I’ve travelled.
He too had a dependency on substances (obviously unbeknown to me as a child) He didn’t live like my Mom and Stepdad, my dad had a small apartment in Yeoville and stayed on a farm in Lanseria it wasn’t as luxurious as my mom’s home, however, I remember from a young age being aware of the difference in my happiness when I was with Mom and when I was with Dad. I realised that all the toys, dolls and colouring books at moms couldn’t make me feel the way I felt at my dads – in hindsight I realise that feeling was a sense of belonging. I spent most weekends with my dad and his friends. I remember being about 5 when a boy who was a little older than me and “belonged” to one of my dad’s friends girlfriends began touching me in very inappropriate ways and he would always play games I wanted during the days and come bedtime when we were put to sleep, he would tell me it was time to play his games, he also said that I couldn’t tell my dad about the game, because he would be upset angry that I wasn’t sleeping and that he would not see me again, so naturally, I kept this secret, I suppose at that age you aren’t equipped to question that type of thing, although I remember feeling quite uncomfortable with what was going on yet just believed what this boy said so I just kept this to myself.
Just before starting grade 1, my Dad told me that he and his wife and his new baby daughter were going to live in New Zealand, he said that he was going to start a new life for us all. That was my first real heartbreak along with losing my dad in the physical sense, I also lost my escape and sense of belonging I remember feeling very alone at my Moms.
Soon my dad was, gone, at that point I must say I know now that my Mom did the best she could with the knowledge that she had and under the circumstances, she was in although I don’t think a six-year-old I could quite understand that – to me, it felt like both parents had started a new life and I wasn’t really sure where I was supposed to fit it in
I started primary school and I always remember being very well-liked by my peers and my teachers I was an excellent swimmer and a good student and always had a lot of friends I also had a very close relationship with both sets of grandparents and was well supported emotionally I suppose, but still something was missing the Void was something I carried with me until I started my journey to recovery. I think I saw my dad two or three times after he immigrated and then again when I was 14 he came to SA to visit and he explained to me why he left the country and also a little about his own demons.
My dad’s story made it easy for me to decide that I wouldn’t ever go near substances. I had my first taste of alcohol when I was about 15 I remember hating the taste but loving the fact that it made me not worry about what other people thought of me, I always had quite a low self-confidence and saw something different than others. I only started drinking regularly when I was about 16. My Mom and stepdad were going through a divorce, I had become obsessed with my weight, living on green apples, popcorn and water and had started to really get noticed by boys, when my Mom was notified by the school that they had noticed a significant weight loss after telling me she thought I looked ” much better” she told me that we need to get it under control because otherwise, I’d have to go to a hospital to “sort things out” I managed to get it under control and carried on with life.
I was always very close to my sisters growing up they meant everything to me and I always wanted to be the big sister that they could be proud of and look up to. Unfortunately in the years to follow that wasn’t going to be the case from the age of 16 partying, clubbing and drinking became a part of my weekly schedule sneaking into clubs with fake student cards or finding a way to make friends with Bouncers got me and my friends into the clubs. I should’ve known better than to lie however that became the norm. I know it’s something that most teenagers get up to but when I look back now that I see how selfish my behaviour was! I suppose when I look back I was resentful that I felt that I had to take care of my mom, she fell apart during her divorce. I had to lie for and covered for my mom for years. I almost felt like protecting her and my sisters was my duty it never occurred to me that no one was protecting me. I had to pretend like everything was ok at home when in fact everything had fallen apart. I was struggling too – but no one noticed.
So when I got the opportunity to let loose I did with very little conscience, forgetting that I was setting a really bad example for my sisters, on the final day of my last grade 12 exams I remember trying marijuana for the first time I absolutely hated it made me feel tired and lazy and I could not see the point. I received my grade 12 results on holiday with a friend of mine and remember both of us had gotten so drunk the night before, we were literally crawling to the computer in the office where we stayed to find out results. For someone who was as clever as I was and who had the potential, I had my results were disappointing, to say the least.
One piece of my mother’s advice I did take was to not be intimate with anyone until I was in a committed relationship, this is something I managed to hold on to till I was about 18 and a half it was important to me- one night I went out with friends of mine and one of my friend’s Brothers raped me I had been drinking of course and I can remember bits and pieces but the next morning when I woke up with bruises all over my arms and shoulders and in quite a lot of pain I asked my friend what had happened we both had our suspicions and she phoned her brother he confirmed that according to this guy we had slept together. I felt sick to my stomach, instead of dealing with it properly I did what I knew and I brushed it under the rug. I lied to mom to get some money for ” nausea tablets ” when I was actually getting the morning after pill I never really spoke about it again but it popped into my head so often.
I met my first boyfriend he was everything any mother from the Northern suburbs well-to-do family with hate but regardless of that I dated him for 4 years and that was when I really started using drugs and alcohol. I’d become accustomed to cocaine and Cat and drank a lot more than usual, I wanted to fit in with him and his mates so badly. I dropped out of varsity and was kicked out of home. He would get very drunk and became abusive threatening me if I ever tried to leave and strangling me or even trying to run me over in one of his drunken rages. We broke up soon after he tried to commit suicide because of a misunderstanding we had. After that, I managed to stay clean for a year alone, and then met the man who would land being my husband, unfortunately.
I found out early on he used a variety of substances too, but drinking, marijuana and cocaine were his go-to drugs. 10-months, into our relationship he proposed to me I accepted I realise now it wasn’t for the right reasons! How could It have been we were using together, often. Two years after he proposed to me I found out I was pregnant I will never forget the day and the test came back positive, I just burst into tears because I’d been on the pill (I’d also be on a long course of antibiotics for a constant throat infection) and obviously the antibiotics had cancelled out my contraception. I cried my eyes out of absolute fear because I didn’t think I was ready & I was terrified of what my family would say. My son’s father definitely wanted to go through with the pregnancy and I agreed, on the condition that my family supported my pregnancy which they did.
I’d always wanted to be a mom. But I was afraid as it wasn’t part of my plan. I didn’t want to be married before the baby was born but he had a meeting with my family and 7 months later we got married. My family gave me no option – he wanted it, and so did they my concerns weren’t important. My gran was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer two weeks after my wedding and my son was born about a month after. My gran passed away on the 8th of July from pancreatic cancer. It’s crazy how two weeks after the happiest moment of my life the hardest moment up to that point occurred. The day of my Grans funeral was when I picked drugs up again- I just remember not wanting to feel!
My husband had drugs on him and I wasn’t coping.
Six months later my grandfather passed away. A year after that my dad’s dad passed and about a year after that my dad’s mom passed away. So in 18 months Had become a mom, married a man, knew I wasn’t ready to have a beautiful little baby and lost 4 of the pillars in my life. I suppose although I didn’t use very much when my son a baby I still used!
One thing that always rattled me is when not using I felt like that lonely sad little girl The only time that I ever felt not so alone was when I was pregnant.
I left my marriage after 2 and a half years because I knew that as long as we were living together there was no chance of me being clean and sober (amongst other things) I moved in with my Mom and wad clean for a year.
After that, I met the man who really took my breath away. he was everything that every one of my other partners weren’t or so I thought. I soon found out that he had substance abuse issues too I suppose a little part of me that was excited we began using together and he had also been married before and was divorced and had a little boy my son’s age so in my eyes this was all perfect! In the years that followed our relationship was filled with cheating and lies and fighting and eventually physical abuse. I was physically assaulted 20 times and each time I keep going back the final time it was so bad that he broke my fingers and nose and fractured 3 ribs he smashed my head against a wall just missing my temple.This time police were called, I could have lost my life and my son could have lost his mom.
I was reported to an organisation for being an irresponsible mother and they began an ongoing investigation into my parenting. My baby sister ( she was in her early 20s ) found out in 2016 that she had a brain tumour she was put onto treatment and had many operations and for short while she was ok and then fell ill again. She lost her battle with cancer in March 2019. During her illness. I began to drink excessively and take prescription tranquillizers- again trying to cope I suppose – I was able to be there for her when she first got ill, yet towards the end, my addiction took over and my dream of being this wonderful sister pretty much fell apart. I couldn’t watch my sister suffer and substances were once again my answer.
On the evening of the 9th of April 2019 Two weeks after my sister passed away after a very draining intervention I booked myself into Houghton House.
I didn’t know what to expect all on you was that I couldn’t keep torturing my son my family or myself anymore. I decided it was time to try and get better. Did I love my son more than anything? Absolutely but was I responsible and was I giving him the best that I could? The best of myself absolutely not! How could I? I spent most nights night holding a picture of my son and literally falling asleep with it in my arms. When I was alone I remember thinking to myself I wasn’t who I thought I was, if I didn’t know and love me, how could he. If I never felt secure with my self how could he feel secure with me or himself ever?
My son was deserving of the sense of belonging and unconditional love I always felt was missing and that using again and would be the most selfish thing I could do – I promised myself I would not do any more to hurt him or harm him and that when I didn’t care enough about myself or my own health and well-being. I would do it for him because that is what he deserves., A Mom who was present who he felt connected to I was and am determined that he knows much I love him. The fact that my sister had a whole life planned out before she got ill and wasn’t given a second chance like I was given has also motivated me to give this life my best. My late sister became my higher power. I was in primary at Houghton House for a month. I then went into The Gap for two months and I was in a halfway house for a month and then I did all the recommended aftercare and recovery maintenance programs. I still see my counsellor every 3 weeks. I know I’ve put my heart and soul into my recovery but so did all the staff at Houghton House. Today I’m really proud to say that I am now a person that I’m really proud of, I’m a mother that my son can be proud of and I think my sister must be really proud of me too.
Although some days are harder than others the desire to pick up has never ever been more important than the desire to live. Thanks to all the councillors Drs and nurses. At Houghton House I’ve learnt (in most instances )how to respond better to difficult situations.
I’ve learnt to respect myself and that life isn’t actually about pain and struggle I’ve got friends who love and respect me and I’m able to pass on everything I’ve learnt to my precious little boy. We don’t keep secrets and we count our blessings we take responsibility and we’re honest, we love ourselves and each other. We also forgive.
I’ve learnt that forgiveness isn’t always about condoning someone else’s poor behaviour it’s about freeing ourselves. I’m exactly where I want to be! There were so many times that I wanted to give up on myself, my life and so many times that I nearly did- I’ve learnt to be humble and I’ve learnt to really appreciate myself and the people around me. I’ve learnt that what I did yesterday doesn’t matter but what I do today at this moment, the choice that I make is what matters.
My past doesn’t determine my future. One thing I know for sure is that any addict holds the key to their recovery in their hand, I decided rather than keep my self imprisoned any longer. I was worthy of unlocking that jail cell ( active addiction ) I was locked up in for over 10 years because essentially all I was doing was holding myself hostage to my past.
My shame has become my story and I am so excited to see what the next chapter holds.