Secrets Make You Sick – Recovery from Severe Crack Cocaine Addiction
by: Trevor Kleinhans
11 Years ago exactly I was in the height of my addiction with crack cocaine. It was around this time that I opened my bedroom door and looked across at my 3 year old Jack Russell’s face and ran over to her and just sobbed until I fell asleep. I woke up with her little brother licking my face and Jessie still lying next to me as if she was standing guard over me.
I had finally come to terms that I was an out of control crack cocaine addict and there was no way I was going to climb out of this hellhole alone. I was in debt to the tune of R1, 2 million and this debt was incurred over a 10-month period, that’s how out of control I was. I was 42 years old, Managing Director and shareholder of a large Imperial company, so I had the funds available. However, like everything in life, abuse it and you will lose it. I lost it, every single cent I owned, along with very nearly losing my life.
I was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Entebeni Hospital for a week, as I was using so much crack cocaine at the time that I had to be medically treated or else I was at risk of having a heart attack from the withdrawals. While I was lying there sedated, my colleagues and family were shocked as to how I got myself into this situation, and more shocked that I had managed to conceal it from them. I managed to do this very skillfully, as I only used my first recreational drug (Ecstasy) at the late age of 40, and it took me just 2 years to walk through the doors of Houghton House in October 2004, as a crack cocaine addict.
I was shocked to reality when the councilors at the time told me that I needed to decide how serious I was about recovering as only a small percentage of crack cocaine addicts survive. There and then I had to make the choice of living or dying. The easy path was to carry on using and give up, end up on the streets eventually, then jail and then die. The difficult path was choosing to be one of those that survive, and that is what I chose there and then. I knew it was not going to be easy and it hasn’t been an easy journey.
Whilst in rehab as you know you are asked to write your life story on 10 foolscap pages. At the time I battled to fill those 10 pages, but I ended up writing what I could down. I also omitted a very crucial part from my story and that was, whilst in addiction as most addicts are, I was sexually negligent so I had contracted HIV around 2003. Only my GP new this, I hadn’t told anyone and certainly wasn’t ready to share this with a whole bunch of strangers. However my sister happened to come across my ARV’s in my cupboard (which I had not been taking), and contacted the rehab and wanted to know if they were mine or if they were my boyfriend’s at the time who was addicted as well? For the first time I told someone else (councilor) that I was HIV positive. I wrote about my childhood sexual abuse and my sexuality and everything else, but left out that I was HIV positive. I was petrified of being ostracized.
While in rehab I remember one of the councilors saying, ‘secrets make you sick’ and I connected with that and thought if ever I get to write a book one day that will be the title. Four weeks into my rehab, my councilor gave me a verbal, which was something along these lines, “just for today I will admit that I am a manipulative junkie who needs to be 100% real in order to save my life”. I was horrified, I stormed into her office and spewed out all the reasons under the sun as to how co-operative I had been, that I admitted to being an addict, how dare she give me that verbal. I might be wrong but I think her name was Judy? I will refer to her as Judy anyway. So Judy looked at me and said, “what are you doing right now, you trying to manipulate me?” She then went on to say that, the verbal was to coax me into facing my denial of my HIV status and that I should really try and share it with the fellow addicts and alcoholics. It was there and then that I came face to face with my HIV status and once again broke down and sobbed. Judy asked me to consider calling a special group session where I would reveal my status and the guilt I carried of possibly infecting other guys whilst I was in addiction and knew I was HIV positive and just assumed anyone I had unprotected sex with was HIV+ as well. It was this guilt that was killing me and as long as I kept this all to myself, my chances of relapsing when I left rehab were considerably great.
I agreed and a special group session was held and I stood up and told everyone I was HIV+ and had left that out of my life story and I did not want sympathy for myself but was battling with dealing with the thought of infecting others who were equally negligent as I was. To my surprise, there were tears and everyone stood in a line and hugged me and from there on I knew I would start healing, I had just 2 weeks of rehab left to make the most of it.
I left Houghton House around the 16th December 2004. I could not wait to get back to my two Jack Russell’s; a friend of mine had very kindly taken care of them for the period I was in rehab. In March 2005 my best friend was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident and the addict in me took that opportunity of grabbing hold of me again, I went into full addiction for 2 months spending another R200, 000, money I never had, but dealers knew me so well they would allow me credit until I got my dividend payments. My business partners insisted at this time that I seek professional help through a psychologist, if I was to keep my position. So in June 2005 I started seeing Claire Moore. I would see Claire weekly; she was my replacement for NA. She also encouraged me to write as she said this was very therapeutic. I remember doing sessions with her, afterwards I would be totally broken, I would go home and collapse in a heap and cry myself to sleep, wondering how I had managed to get myself into this mess.
Slowly I started understanding why I had become a crack cocaine addict at the late age of 42. I had kept secrets my entire life, I had kept my sexuality a secret for 29 years, I had kept my childhood sexual abuse a secret for 35 years, I kept my HIV status a secret for 3 years, all these secrets had filled my ‘Emotional Tank’. I no longer had anyway of facing challenges thrown at me in life, as my tank was full, so I resorted to drugs to escape reality.
I did 5 years of intense therapy with Claire and it was during this period that I wrote my book, ‘Secrets Make You Sick’, it was not intended for publishing as I wrote it for myself. I wrote it when I was an emotional wreck, it was not meant for anyone else’s eyes other than my own, so there are stories in there and reveals in there, that I certainly was not bragging about, but merely purging for my own recovery.
I would end up telling some of my life stories to friends and eventually they convinced me to print it out on normal A4 paper and I allowed three of my closest friends to read it. They all read it within a couple of days and insisted I publish it as they knew as raw and graphic and shocking as it was, it could help many other people. Eventually I made the decision and published the book in November 2011, 7 years after completing rehab at Houghton House.
I am proud to say I kept my position as Managing Director for another 9 years after coming out of rehab. I left on my own accord in July 2013, to pursue my dream and passion of sharing my story and helping others, educating the youth on substance abuse, the dangers of keeping secrets and I am an activist for LGBTI rights and I also fight for the de- stigmatization of HIV. I was fortunate enough to have Judge Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court read my 1st edition and he kindly wrote a beautiful review for the back cover of the 2nd edition of ‘Secrets Make You Sick’, which I launched both here and in the United Kingdom in February 2014.
I completed the Robert Simic Life Coaching course in September 2014 and am passionate about helping others heal from this dreaded disease of addiction.
You can visit my website and watch a short 2 minute trailer on my book at www.secretsmakeyousick.com
Twitter – @secretsmakeusic
Facebook Page – Secrets Make You Sick
YouTube Channel – Trevor Kleinhans
Email – email@example.com