Anne Lapedus Brest

Success Story Of a Mother to a Recovering CAT Addict

In her book, Catastrophe, Oi Vey my child is gay (and an addict), Anne Lapedus Brest tells the story of how she discovers that her beautiful daughter is addicted to CAT, a highly addictive synthetic amphetamine.

These extracts from Catastrophe provide a glimpse into the devastation, triumph and healing Anne has faced in her journey as the mother of an addict.

They took her away in an unmarked police car and drove her away. She was calling wildly out of the window as they sped off.

‘Hurry, Mommy! Hurry!”


I stood frozen. Why this? What now? But then, what had I expected? Surely I know all along that this is where it would all end up? What other ending could there possibly be?

I knew they were taking her to the Morningside Police Station. It’s called ‘consequences’. My little girl was on her way to prison – except she wasn’t so little anymore. She was 36.

Why hadn’t I listened to those who had told me to ‘do something’? Why had I not believed it when I was told that I was an ‘enabler’ and ‘co-dependent’? Instead I’d got defensive, angry and raged about why I should carry the blame.

So was all this now my fault? Could I have prevented it? I wasn’t even clear about what the charges were. I hadn’t been able to follow a thing when she’d been arrested in the driveway earlier.

They told me she was going to the holding cells and would stay there for the weekend because it was now too late to apply for bail. They told me she had resisted arrest in Douglasdale, and had threatened to set the dogs on the police officers. They told me she was in a lot of trouble, that she had been accused of stealing a ring worth R40 000 from a friend she had been staying with. They said she had no respect for the law, and no respect for herself. I could have slapped her right there. She didn’t even flinch; they might as well have been talking about someone else. She was not contrite, she showed no remorse, she looked bored – and let everyone know it.

When did it begin? And why? When did I begin to notice? And why hadn’t I before? And why me? What had I done wrong? They say I wasn’t the cause, that it wasn’t my fault, and that I couldn’t fix it. Then why did I feel so damn guilty?

I suppose, now that I think back, money had been disappearing for a good while. But then again, maybe not: I was careless always losing things – that was just me.

One day, just as a little exercise, I decided to count the money in my wallet… So I did. R170. And because I was starting to distrust my own memory, I wrote it down on a piece of paper. Angela was coming over that evening and when she left, I hurried off to count the money. There was just R70. There was R100 missing. Immediately, of course, I doubted myself and thought that I must have just counted it incorrectly, that it was never R170 to start off with, that it was just R70.

It was driving me crazy. I thought I was losing my mind. But no matter how careful I was. I was still missing money. In the back of my mind I knew that something was very, very wrong…

I never thought I would do this – or could do this, but I started opening Angela’s mail. There were bills, huge bills – she seemed to be in so much debt. I couldn’t understand it because she had a fabulous job, and yet all her accounts were in arrears…

My maternal instinct asked how I could even think that she would take money from us. But how could Daphne and Carol and Robert and Sharon all be wrong? I knew I had to face the obvious. I can’t believe how long it took me to finally accept that Angela was the one taking our money, the one who had taken Lionel’s cheque and cashed it.

But instead of dealing with it there and then, the months slipped away and I did nothing…

Then in June 2009, she rocked up at the house to tell me she has just left her wonderful job – suddenly, out of the blue, explaining that she simply needed to ‘move on’…

One day I was in the studio when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to a man at the front gate asking if I was ‘A Brest’. I said I was. He said he had a Writ of Execution to attach my property. I immediately dialed her number on my cell phone. While not laughing it off exactly, Angela dismissed the entire incident as a ‘mistake with admin’ and proceeded to reassure me that she didn’t owe anyone a cent. And, as unbelievable as it may seem now, I decided to believe her. But that was to be the first of many similar interactions with people looking for Angela, people she owed money.

As Angela’s endless money stories became an almost daily occurrence, I decided that to hell with everything, I was going to phone Angel’s ex-boss.

What I heard, never in my wildest late-night sleepless, dreamless moments, had I imagined. It was a very long story, one of underhandedness, lies, deceit, of lie detector tests, and large sums of money that had gone missing. A story of her fellow colleagues’ credit cards being used fraudulently, large sums of money – including R60 000 in cash – having disappeared, of office cupboards being broken into, and stories of Angela in the bathroom with little packets of white powder that her colleagues described as cocaine…

In the greater scheme of things, at least the veil had been lifted; at least we knew now without a shadow of a doubt that something was terribly wrong…

Angela’s Rock Bottom presented itself out of the blue on Friday, 10 February 2012. I was editing photos when I heard the doorbell ring. Something was wrong. I ran downstairs, and there was Angela walking away from the gate with a strange man. And then I saw them. Handcuffs. She was handcuffed, and was being ushered towards an unmarked car…

I waited with the lawyer at the Randburg court on Monday morning, 13 February 2012. The plan was that our lawyer was going to ask the magistrate to release Angela on condition that she went into rehab at Houghton House.

A home, I again went through all the items from the pawn shop. I felt sick to my stomach that Angela had pawned that watch. It was worth nothing, maybe R100, if that, but it was one of the few possessions Lionel had of his beloved child. Angela herself could identify with that – she had lost a (half) sister some years before, and she knew how death left the family bereft. Yet she chose instead to get her fix, to shove CAT up her nostrils. To get high.

I always found myself wondering about a drug called CAT that stole my Angela’s dignity, her pride, her value system, her morals, her self-worth. Up until the time of CAT, Angela had never as much as touched my purse, let alone taken from it. To be reduced to what she had become, CAT must have such a strong hold over its victims that they think nothing of overstepping the boundaries of honesty. Of course, we all have choices, and Angela’s choice could just as easily have been to not use CAT, or any drug. But she chose it, and it had trashed her…

I visited Angela at Houghton House once a week and brought her cigarettes, chocolates, biscuits, fruit and coldrinks, shampoo and other toiletries, whatever she needed.

Angela was thriving and flourishing in rehab. But it wasn’t a picnic. It was hard work for the recovering addicts. Their lives were a series of meetings and lectures, they had chores, they cooked, and through it all they struggled to control their longings and desires for their drug of choice.

After four weeks Angela was able to move out of her primary care in Ferndale and entered secondary care at The Gap next door.

What was most clear was that Angela was getting better. For one thing, she began to look entirely different, no longer dirty or unkempt, but clean, almost shiny-clean. Her skin was glowing, she was glowing, her hair shone – she wasn’t wearing that filthy suede hat any more. She was no longer so aggressive – she was kind, caring, loving and smiling. We were thrilled to see her like that, so happy to have our daughter back.

After five months at The Gap, Angela moved to a halfway house in Northcliff. Time went by. Angela collected her clean time, marked by little coloured keyrings from NA meetings. They were like badges of honor in the personal war against drugs.

Then, on 3 January 2013, Angela was one year clean – for real this time. She celebrated her clean birthday by sharing her story of hope and strength at one of the rehab centres, as well as at an NA meeting in Rosebank.

Angela has come along way. As I write this she has been clean for over two years.  She is happily living with her girlfriend Stephanie and their little kittens, Oliver and Miss Lola, and their little grey rabbit, Kayla.

Here’s to you Angela, you have endured a long, hard and very painful struggle, but you have finally – with the help of the Twelve-Step programme, Houghton House and The Gap, your counsellor Alex Hamlyn and the people in the Fellowship, and through your own determination and courage managed to stay clean. The greatest gift you could have given us, Angela, is that just for today you are ‘clean and serene’.

Anne is currently completing a 4-week counselling course with Alex Hamlyn and Eli Garb entitled ‘An introduction to Addiction Counselling’.

She receives daily phone calls at all hours from readers who just finished reading Catastrophe: Oy Vey my Child is Gay (and an Addict) to tell her how the book has changed their lives and the way they see addicted adult child.

For Anne Catastrophe has been the start of a journey towards gaining knowledge about addiction so that she can relate to Angela on a new and totally different level:

“I now discuss addiction with her, not as a probing mother, but as a person who is beginning to understand addiction.Writing Catastrophe has bonded Angela and I together. Instead of my asking questions, I am now working with her and discussing with her. We are Team Anne and Angela now. Catastrophe has not only helped us but many others.”

Catastrophe is published by MFBooks, an imprint of Jacana Media.

For more information on how to get help for yourself or a loved one to start a new life, call Houghton House now:

office hours:  011 787 9142

24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532

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