Meth Drug Addict, Road To Recovery
I was the middle of three brothers growing up in a very protected upstanding Greek family. Our values were about family, love and protection. My dad was chairman of the Greek community and our family placed a lot of value on what the Greek community would say and think of us.
I had a good upbringing and a happy childhood but as I got older I found I wanted more. I felt a bit different but that suited me – I wanted to be different. My older brother was the clever, smart, high-achieving one, so I decided to do just the opposite in order to get attention.
My grandmother was a strong figure in my life and looking back I realize she wasn’t a very healthy influence. She enabled me and gave me the attention I craved but also taught me to be very materialistic and brand conscious. Through her I learned to find comfort and security in brands and materialism.
My younger brother was born with encephalitis requiring extensive treatment. Once again I felt like the attention had been diverted from me. In order to get the acceptance I searching for I learnt to mask my feelings. I became a people-pleaser and a high achiever.
At the age of 16 I poured out my heart in a letter to a girl I had been in love with for a many years. Her boyfriend got hold of the letter and read it out in front of her family, while I looked on. That year my dad also had an affair. My trust and security had been completely eroded and I began to resent women.
When I completed school I got involved in fashion and beauty industry which I absolutely loved. Only later, would I come to see it for the fake plastic industry of smoke and mirrors that it is. Working in this world I could still appreciate and be around beautiful women but I was in control of them. I became very conscious about body and appearance.
I started looking at older male figures with good physiques. In hindsight I think I was still looking for the approval that I yearned for from my dad. At the age of 20 I realized that I was gay. I was devastated and suppressed these feeling for 15 years. I couldn’t let down my father, family and the community so I kept my mask on.
When I was 35 my grandmother passed away and I went onto a gay website for the first time. That was where I met Wassim, a Lebanese airline steward, whose flight passed through Johannesburg from Dubai every three weeks. When I met him at his hotel that day he was smoking something from a bottle. He offered it to me and I politely declined. “You said you liked to party,” he accused. I didn’t use that night but over the next three weeks we stayed in touch. There was some sort of connection. Someone had made me feel good and accepted, not so alone.
The second time I saw him he was still smoking the stuff in the bottle. I thought I how bad could a few puffs be. It was crystal meth and I loved it.
Over the next four months I smoked meth with him whenever he was in town. One day he messaged me asking me to pick up from the dealer, because the hotel were getting suspicious. Being a people-pleaser I readily agreed. Now I had a dealer’s cell phone number.
By this time I was working with my dad in the events industry and I discovered that the drug was making me lose weight, kept me wide-awake and on top of my game. I began to use every week, especially to get me through hectic weekends. Sometimes I would fake a week long business trip but instead of going to the airport I would catch the Gautrain to a hotel in Sandton and binge on my own for a week. Once I even smuggled six grams of meth into Dubai.
After two years I felt like I was losing control. I went to an assessment at Houghton House and Dan Wolf convinced me that I needed to be admitted as an inpatient treatment. I told my family I was going on a business trip and went into Houghton House’s intensive residential treatment programme. My brother was the only one who I told where I was really going. I walked out after 10 days convinced that there was nothing wrong with my – I didn’t steal, I didn’t hurt people and I certainly wasn’t a drug addict. It was also Wassim’s birthday and if I didn’t leave the House I wouldn’t be able to talk to him. I called him immediately. He put the phone down on me and we have not spoken since, not that I didn’t try. What I had thought had been a mutually loving relationship had obviously not been the case.
In spite of my emotional pain I managed to stay clean for four months. Then I ended up in hospital for six weeks with a bleeding ulcer. I lost a lot of weight and began obsessing about using again because it would help keep my weight down. The day I was discharged I relapsed. I now began injecting one or two grams every day, instead of just smoking it. No one understood me but my drug.
Before long I had landed up in another very dangerous situation. After a night of using, I woke up in a hotel room tied to the bed. All my belongings had been stolen. I was forced to phone my brother to come and get me. Two days later I started receiving the blackmail photographs. I had been raped and there were more people in the room than I had thought. Now I had to tell my brother the truth.
He was in complete shock but agreed not to tell my parents. Two days later I tried to commit suicide. I just wanted to die. The paranoia and insanity were haunting me. My body was full of sores from gouging my arms and legs with tweezers and screwdrivers because it felt like there were insects crawling on me. I peeled off my bedroom wallpaper, set fire to my wardrobe and dismantled my car because I thought there were people inside. I kept asking the cops to follow me home but when I saw them I would throw my phone out the window because I thought they were spying on me. I told my family that I was just stressed and overworked.
My brother and a friend sat me down and said that I must go to Houghton House. I said I would go anywhere but Houghton House. I didn’t know that my Houghton House counsellor, Nikki, had been in contact with my brother three times since I had walked out of the programme.
In the end my brother agreed to send me to a Durban medical rehab centre. I used 4 grams the night before being admitted. When I got there I was sedated for three days to flush the toxins from my body. Then I was pumped full of vitamins. When I came around and saw where I was I lost my temper. I looked for any excuse to leave but the staff simply played into my manipulation, providing me with a private room, special food and new linen. I refused to take calls from my friend and brother for the ten-day duration of the programme.
At night the nurses allowed me to go onto the Internet. Two nights before I was due to return to Johannesburg I came across a video clip on YouTube called a ‘Love letter from God’. After watching the clip I completely broke down. The following day I asked the doctor if I could call my brother. I told my brother that I wanted to go in to treatment at Houghton House on condition that Nikki would be my counsellor.
When I landed in Johannesburg that Sunday I went home to collect some clean clothes. My mom was standing at the front door with tears rolling down her face. I had always said I would protect her and now I was the one hurting her.
Initially I wasn’t completely committed to the programme at Houghton House, but I knew I needed to get serious. So during the first group session I exposed my sexuality in public for the first time in my life. In my second group I spoke about how I had smuggled drugs into Dubai. I discovered that it so easy to open up during those sessions – I wasn’t judged, I was accepted. It was a really humbling feeling.
I still held onto things in the beginning but the more I got into the programme and started doing step work I started to believe that there was hope for me. When my four weeks at primary ended I decided to go into secondary care at the GAP. I started to see that drugs weren’t my problem. I was the problem. Suddenly things started to make sense. I found peace and sanity. I realised that my family had done the best they could. I was the one who isolated myself.
At the GAP I felt safe and comfortable. That’s where my change really started happening. I went to my grandmother’s grave on my first weekend out. I cried and cried, I understood our relationship and I let it all go. All my security blankets and masks began falling away.
One day Nikki told me to stop fighting, to simply surrender and follow suggestions. I had never trusted anyone before, but I started to trust her and follow her suggestions. The best thing about the GAP was learning to own become comfortable with my sexuality. This only happened through the constant group therapy and learning to be vulnerable and ask for help. I finally understood that I don’t always have to put on the tough guy mask.
After three months at the GAP I decided to go to on to do the tertiary programme. Sommerville has helped me to reintegrate back into society. It isn’t easy to go back into the world after four months of inpatient treatment. But Sommerville has made it possible to do this gradually. After a day at work you can come back to a safe place and go to a group where you can express what you are going through.
I decided to follow all the suggestions and have committed to a year of treatment. I am now one month short of my one-year sober anniversary. Treatment isn’t cheap but fortunately I have been able to afford it. I have also been lucky enough to be able to take the time I need to focus on my recovery. I’m now 38 and I don’t think I have another recovery in me. I have worked hard and as I grow I am starting to like the new calmer relaxed me.
During my 11 months of treatment I’ve seen two people commit suicide and 10 people relapse. I have seen consequences come back and cause devastation in someone’s life after five years of sobriety. This disease can come back and bite you when you least expect it. Not when you are strong but when you are weak. I know that I will have good days and bad days. And I know that sometimes I will simply need to trust in my higher power and those around me.
The biggest gift of recovery has been developing honest true friendships. In the beginning Nikki encouraged me to make friends. I told her I had 5 million friends. Now I understand what she means. My friends in recovery know everything about me yet they still love and accept me.
‘I alone can do this but I cannot do this alone.’
For now I know I have to stay in the rooms. I call this programme magical. There is magic every day, when you just listen and surrender.