Derek M – Drug Addicts Success Story
I was born and bred in Boksburg and was always the ‘problem child’. I went to the local primary school and high schools followed by a remedial school – not because I was remedial… just lazy![/intro]
My dad was an accountant at a top mining house and he always put his work first. My mom is beautiful but has always been strict and religious. She is very against drinking, smoking and drugs. Growing up she never drank alcohol but my dad was at the pub every night, so drinking was very normal for me. In fact it is only in recovery that I have come to realise that my dad was probably an alcoholic.
Born in 1982 I am the middle of three children – I have a younger sister and an older brother. My brother and I look like twins, but that is as far as the similarity goes – he has only ever had one drink in his life.
By the time I was 16 I had smoked a bit of weed and regularly drank beer with my mates but at that stage there were no signs of my addiction in my life. I was just like my friends.
When I left school I started working in our family business, established by my grandfather over thirty years ago, and now owned by my mom. Around that time my parents divorced and I became involved in my first long term relationship. My girlfriend introduced me to ecstasy and I ended up taking pills for several years. I was often caught red-handed by my sister, who said my eyes were a dead giveaway. Nevertheless, I continued to use and experiment with new drugs.
I truly fell in love when I discovered coke, and shortly thereafter, CAT. It was a fun time in my life and I really enjoyed it. I don’t regret that it happened or feel bitterness towards my dealers. It’s a part of who I am today.
Eventually my mom found out I was using and in 2004 I went into treatment to get my family off my back. It was a Christian-based treatment centre but I don’t remember much about it. The programme was four weeks long and they never told me that I couldn’t drink, since I was classified as an addict, not an alcoholic. After I came out of rehab it wasn’t long before I started using again. A couple of years later I went back to the same centre but the outcome was the same.
When I need some extra cash I would gather up scrap steel for the yard at work and sell it so that I could go and score. My dad also gave me money and enabled me all the time. He would give me R 1000 to go and party. I think he knew it was the wrong thing to do but, as he used to wake up and drink a bottle of wine, he couldn’t really lecture me.
At first I didn’t use at work but my addiction progressed and in the end I would cut lines of coke on my desk before the other staff arrived. I used to make excuses about having to leave early so that I could go and coach hockey. Instead, I went home to sleep or drink some beers to ease the come down.
My dad passed away in hospital in Heidelberg at the end of 2009. I visited him every evening straight after work and stayed until visiting hours were over. On the way to visit him I would drink a six-pack in the car and on the way home I would go past my dealer. When my dad died I was so pumped up on calmatives that I didn’t really feel the pain.
Two weeks later my sister’s boyfriend was killed in a car accident. She was seven months pregnant with their second child. Since their dad died I have always been very dedicated and involved in the lives of my nephew and niece. I fetch them from school on Fridays, take them to sports practice and my sister knows that she can call on me anytime of day or night. Even when I was in active addiction I was still dedicated to them. I would buy my drugs on a Friday and spend Friday evenings babysitting. When I ran out I used to meet my dealer outside their home to restock while my nephew was playing x-box in the lounge. Nevertheless, I was always a ‘cool’ uncle who taught them to love music and gave them treats.
Eventually I got caught buying drugs by my brother at bachelor’s party one evening. By then, I think I had the gift of desperation. I was admitted to Houghton House that same day, 22 April 2012. My brother wasn’t talking to me, my mom had taken my flat away and I was staying with my sister. I kissed my niece and nephew goodbye and I was still drunk and high when my cousin dropped me off at Houghton House that evening. Apart from my sister, he was all I had left in my life. I was a complete right off.
I still thought that I would stay for a month to get my family off my back, then come out and continue using successfully. But after completing six weeks of primary care at Houghton House I decided to move in to Somerville, the Group’s tertiary programme. I would never have believed it in the beginning but Houghton House and Somerville made me feel safe. The discipline and routine made me realise how chaotic and unmanageable my life had become. I’ll do anything for Houghton House because they laid the foundation for my recovery.
That was two years ago. Since then I have found an amazing sponsor who with whom I can discuss anything. He has played a big role in my recovery, along with the fellowships of Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous. I still go to meetings regularly and stay in close contact with my sponsor. My sponsor has taught me that if I become to vocal and over-confident at meetings it is time to find a new meeting. I need to be humble, not arrogant. I believe that service is a way of giving back which is why I am currently sponsoring four addicts in recovery.
For me, being honest with myself and other people is one of the most important aspects of my recovery.
Sometimes it is hard to be honest people you care about. As a people-pleaser it has been difficult for me to learn to say no to people like my mom. But I’ve come to understand that I need to ensure that first and foremost I am taking care of myself. Sometimes this means putting myself first. I now understand that I have a choice and I can choose not to allow my mom or anyone else affect how I feel.
I continue to observe the simple routines and responsibilities instilled at Houghton House – like making my bed or getting up at the same time each morning, rather than expecting the maids to do it. These simple acts of responsibility have taught me not to take my staff for granted. I wouldn’t be able to buy my nephew and niece nice things if it wasn’t for the staff and our business.
I have reduced the number of evenings I spend playing hockey during the week so that I can spend time with my dogs, eat a cooked meal with my mom or spend time with my niece and nephew. These are the things that are important to me now. I would rather spend time with my family or go on special family holidays than get a bigger car I’m not rich and I’m not poor but I am spiritually fulfilled. I’ve learnt to control what I spend my money on. Before I couldn’t, but now I keep it simple.
I’ve stopped smoking. I can’t drink anymore and I can’t drug anymore. Actually, no! I can, but I choose not to. If I go to dangerous places often enough there is a good chance I’ll drink, so I only go to bars on special occasions. It’s not really who I am now. I’ve chosen for my life to be boring and I’m very happy to go to a meeting instead of going out.
I live simply. Just for today. I’m not worried about tomorrow or yesterday. I don’t obsess and I’ve realized that it is okay if it doesn’t happen right now.
I would recommend Houghton unreservedly, as my home away from home. I feel safe there. The kitchen staff, Miriam and Dudu, Shireen in admin and all of the counsellors – the people at Houghton House really care about you. I feel like I wasn’t just a number – even after two years they remember my name when I bump into them. They are the first to congratulate me on my clear time or just give me a hug.