Shameela T – An Addicts Journey Into Recovery from the Depths of her Addiction
God, grant us knowledge that we may write according to your divine
precepts. Instill in us servants of your will and grant us a bond of
selflessness that this may truly be your work, not ours, in order that
no addict, anywhere, need die from the horrors of addiction. . . . .
Hi, my name is Shameela and I am an addict. I am a 37 year old woman from
Pretoria, with a loving husband and two wonderful kids. I am the youngest of
Like most of us, I come from a dysfunctional family. I was a pre-teen when my
parents got divorced, so I was always moving between my mum’s and my dad’s
homes. After a while, both my parents remarried. At that time, I felt displaced,
like I didn’t know where home really was.
I come from a long line of alcoholics from my paternal side of the family, so I
suppose that’s where my addictive personality came from. I had a lot of friends in
school, but I can’t actually say that I had a best friend. I never really fitted in
anywhere. From my younger years, I had a naughty streak in me, which I suppose
just progressed from immature acts of puncturing the neighbours’ tyres, to
becoming an unruly teenager and eventually reaching a point where my life
spiraled out of control.
I was 16 years old and in standard nine when I decided to leave school and
register at a College, to study hairdressing. By this time, I was already smoking
cigarettes. Across the road from college, there was a little café where we’d get
lunch and that is where I had my first alcoholic drink. Most of my colleagues were
18 and over. After my first drink, I felt different. . . . . I felt confident, I was funny,
everyone was my friend and I was definitely fun to be around.
Whilst studying, we had to do an apprenticeship at a training salon, and I
managed to get one at an upmarket salon in Brooklyn Pretoria. At this salon, they
would offer clients tea, coffee or a glass of wine. There was also a full bar where I
learnt how to make all sorts of cocktails. When no one was looking, I’d often pour
myself a vodka dashed with fruit cocktail juice. This was 1995 – 1996 when the
clubbing scene was big in Pretoria and Jo’burg. I had made a friend in college and
she happened to get a job at the same salon as me, so I was in my element. We
discovered slimming tablets called Slimz and Eetless, so we would take one a day
and it gave us a world of energy, which we needed to cope with being an
apprentice. One night we were out at a club called DNA and we decided to take 3
capsules each. Boy, oh boy, what a rush it gave me. I was invincible and I could
mimic anyone’s dance moves (or so I thought. . . . . God only knows how stupid I
I was getting more and more involved in the club scene and had to be at all the
raves, come hell or high water. I then discovered a club in the center of Jo’burg.
ESP was open from Sunday mornings, so I could lie to my mum and tell her I was
going to the gym, or spending the day at a friend. This is where I started
experimenting with Ecstasy and LSD. I was overwhelmed with this feeling, which
made me forget all the family problems I was experiencing. Everything was great.
When I was at work, I’d pop a Slimz and when I went clubbing, I’d pop a Gemini or
some Doves. During the clubbing years, my sister moved to a place close to
Melville and at that time Melville was where all the cool cats hung out. That is
where I tried cocaine for the first time, but I didn’t particular enjoy it. The time
just moved really fast. I had a very close guy friend with whom I tried dagga and
hash with. These drugs were also ok, as all it did for me was make the street look
like Christmas every night. That lasted for a while.
Whilst completing my apprenticeship and graduating as a hairstylist, I met my
now husband. My mum and I moved into a block of flats, and he was my neighbor
at the time. She worked very hard to get me through college and even managed
to get me my first car, which I partied hard in. At that time, my now husband was
a salon client of mine, who asked me out on occasion. It was nothing serious as I
was seeing this other guy (let’s call him Mr X) romantically. Mr X and I would over
indulge in alcohol, and we would always go back to his place. I didn’t mind, or at
least I thought I didn’t mind because he bought me whatever I wanted. Years
later, it was only after intense counselling did I realize and remember some of the
most horrific things he did to me, which probably occurred when I would blackout
after binge drinking. This played a significant role in me being unable to conceive,
and this I found out later (you’ll read more about my fertility treatments).
One day my now husband, Zeyn, asked me why I was even with Mr X, but I
couldn’t really give an answer. I then decided to leave him, and he went totally
berserk. Mr X started stalking me and doing some other hectic things. To my
relief, he then moved to America.
It was then that Zeyn and I took our relationship a step further and in 2001, we
eventually got married. We were both ready to start a family and in the Indian
community, people expect you to start popping out babies soon after marriage.
Although Zeyn and I decided we wanted to start immediately, we tried but after
many failed attempts, we went to an infertility institute. We tried fertility
treatment for 4 years, but it always failed. This made me depressed and I
eventually got myself hooked on opiates. My life became unmanageable, and of
course I never thought I had an actual problem. I thought I was handling things
quite well and that I’d continue using until I eventually die.
We later adopted my eldest daughter, who is now 12 years old. She is a gorgeous
young girl. Tall and beautiful, with the softest little heart. Two and a half years
later, we adopted my baby boy, who is now 9. He is a handsome, intelligent boy.
My addiction to opiates resulted in me missing out on a lot of the upbringing and
raising of my kids. Even though I was physically present and did everything for
them, I wasn’t actually present (if you know what I mean?).
I used to beat myself up about it, but I’ve made amends and peace with that. At
least I was fortunate enough to have been given a second chance in life, to be
present now, in mind and spirit. A second chance to make up for all the harm and
damage I had caused to my kids and most of all to my loving husband, who never
gave up on me. I call him my fellow stepper for he has been through this
rollercoaster life of chaos and unmanageability with me step by step, meeting
after meeting and my home councilor (not to mention my own private venting
machine, when things go slightly amiss).
Eventually, I had some kind of an awakening. I’m not sure if one can call it
spiritual, but you know that friend of mine I mentioned earlier, that I used to
smoke dagga with? Well, his nephew died of an accidental overdose, and that
made me afraid of what was happening to me. By then, I had hit rock bottom. I
weighed 45 kilograms, I could barely eat anything as my stomach and insides
were so messed up. Yogurt, ice cream, sorbet and noodles is all I could consume.
Nothing else would stay down. People (including my husband) though I had an
In 2013, I admitted I had a problem and that I needed help. It was Monday the 8th
July 2013 when I called my sister out of sheer desperation, not knowing what to do.
I checked into rehab on the 9th July 2013 and at first, I was very stubborn and
hesitant. I was placed in a room which I had to share with two other people and I
thought I was surely going to die as I wasn’t used to sharing a bedroom, or let
alone a bathroom with anyone (other than my family). We had to tolerate each
other’s character defects and flaws. We even had a cat named Socks, who used to
sleep on our beds. It was only later on, after admitting to myself and handing my
will over to the God of my understanding, that I was on my way to recovery.
Life became better after the first week of treatment. Thanks to the lovely kitchen
staff, ma Mariam, I learnt how to eat real wholesome food again. I remember my
first meeting in the house. I didn’t know what was going on, as people were
lighting candles and stuff. I thought it was like a cult. I later realized the concept
and idea of the candles: 1 – For the person in active use; 2 – For babies born into
addiction; and 3 – For the newcomers, which I happened to be one of.
I eventually got around quite well and started making friends. It was only after
about 3 weeks after I let my guard down and learnt that we all in here together,
seeking help for the same disease. We might all have been different, but no one
was more special than the next person. . . . . Not even me!
The staff and counsellors at Houghton House are truly amazing. Initially, I didn’t
understand the program and the meetings but with vigilance and commitment I
got through it. The staff knew when I was lying and called me out on it. Best of all,
they helped me through those tough times when I needed them the most. When
they weren’t around, the amazing friends (who became like family) I made in
treatment were always there, whether it be just to listen or to cry, to teach me
something or make me notice the leaves that I forgot to acknowledge for 7 years.
Charmaine was one nurse in particular that I troubled a lot, but she was so
special. God bless her.
I did my 6 weeks of primary care at Houghton house and got a sponsor, taking all
the knowledge I grasped from suggestions and followed them through. Being a
wife and mum, my priorities were at home, so I wasn’t fortunate enough to go to
the gap or to a halfway house. I had to build relationships from scratch, but
thanks to my sponsor Vicky and those 90 Meetings for 90 days, I built those
bridges. Along the way. I made friends in the various rooms of meetings. I took on
service positions and made the 12 Traditions and Promises a part of my life.
My counsellor moved on, but then I found another counsellor. She’s amazing and
I still visit her when I need to. I will never forget Marius and the humour he
brought to all of his sessions, nor will I forget the lessons learnt, which always
made my day. There’s one thing I will always remember and that is how humble
and enlightened Houghton House has made me. They’ve helped me learn to
appreciate life and the beauty around it, every day. The stars, the trees and how
fast they grow. In active use, I didn’t even notice a stupid fly. I was constantly
aggressive, letting the simple beauties of nature and life, pass me by.
When I went home after my 6 weeks treatment, some family members acted
differently around me, almost as if they were walking on egg shells around me. It
used to drive me crazy because I thought to myself: “I didn’t come out of a
psychiatric institute, I just went to rehab.” Thankfully, that has now all passed and
things are back to normal.
I’m definitely not perfect. I sometimes still go a bit crazy, and Dr Jackal and Mr
Hyde still have conversations in my head. But now I have a choice and I choose
not to listen to the voices as I know there’ll be major consequences to follow.
There are also tools I use, that I learnt from my time spent at Houghton House,
which helps me determine when to listen to the voices, or to just switch them off.
Most of the time, I’m lucky enough to tell them to go to hell and then I find
something to occupy myself and my thoughts.
I took up reading as a new hobby and when I feel like things are getting really bad,
I plug my earphones in and listen to Russel Brand experiences or online shares. “It
works, if you work it” is not just a slogan on the wall. It really means that “IF YOU
WORK IT, ITS WORTH IT and IT DOES WORK!”
In my first six months I took up sticking buttons on frames, which kept me going
for a while. I then started doing service at Houghton House. For about 2 years, I
was fetching and dropping patients off. Eventually, I found a home group in my
area. I celebrate 4 years today in 2017, and I’m dealing with service
positions at the Pretoria meetings. It is fun and I look forward to going to
meetings and being surrounded by people who are just like me. I learn something
new from them every day and it gives me a sense of belonging. I have a place
somewhere in this world and I’m not just a junkie or a druggie, but rather, I am
special in my own unique way. We all are. I love my life now and that’s something
I couldn’t say before. I’m loving being a mum. Things get a little crazy sometimes,
but it’s fun nonetheless. I am not the average Indian Muslim wife, but I believe
that we all have our flaws and no one can claim that they are perfect. As long as
our hearts are pure, we know what we are doing and where we going, that’s all
To date, I am still doing meetings, I still do service, I still listen to Russell Brand, I
still meditate, I still get my “just for today” daily on my phone, but most
importantly, I practice spirituality and the program daily. I am eternally grateful
for the fellowship of NA. I have my life back. I have my husband back, whom is my
pillar of strength and I have my kids back. Most of all, I have my sanity and my
self-will back. I’ve evolved into a strong, independent woman. I have opened up
my very own business and I can genuinely say I’ve evolved into a woman who I am
happy to be, who I am proud of. I am someone who is confident and comfortable
in my own skin. I’ve arrived to my ball game and I’m here to play my game of. . . . .