Two women share their struggles with the habit

I did drugs with my parents – recovering addict

On Women’s Day at Arena Holdings’ building in Park Town, Johannesburg, some women related how drug addiction turned their lives upside down until they got help.
On Women’s Day at Arena Holdings’ building in Park Town, Johannesburg, some women related how drug addiction turned their lives upside down until they got help.
Image: Gallo Images/Corrie Hansen

*Noleen was only 16 years old when she came across a crystal meth rock at her home and tried to swallow it in an attempt to end her troubled life. 

Her father, a drug addict, advised her to rather smoke the central nervous system stimulant with him than to eat it. They continued to smoke together a number of times and the habit became a little secret between the father and his daughter while her mother was in the dark.

Noleen, from Durban, shared how she and her family lived a toxic life of drugs and abuse. She was speaking at a Women's Day event held at Arena Holdings' Hill on Empire building in Park Town, Johannesburg, on Wednesday. Arena Holdings is the owner of Sowetan. The event, hosted by the Tshedo Impact Foundation, was aimed at celebrating women who are battling different addictions.

“I would then smoke with him [my dad] and his friends and when my mother caught us, she joined us... and that’s how we started to smoke together,” she said.

“My dad would buy R300 bag [of drugs]. We'd smoke together [as a family]. Sometimes his friends would also join us. My addiction got worse when I started to smoke with my parents because I would mix Mandrax with dagga. The mixture made me feel down so I'd up [my energy] with crystal meth."

She said while it was initially awkward for her to do drugs with her parents, it gave her a sense of belonging and made her feel at home. Despite the habit making her ill, she continued with it and even developed other dangerous self-harm habits.

She started cutting her wrists – a pain she sadly enjoyed. As months went by, she began developing another habit which she could not control.

“When my father’s friends came by [our house] to smoke, I started finding them sexually appealing. I then started to have sex with them. When I was 17 years old I fell in love with a 32-year-old man who was one of my father’s friends. We kept it a secret. But I still kept multiple sexual partners,” said Noleen.

She said the relationship with the man went on for months until he got physically abusive with her. “I fell out of love with him and I fell in love with the violence, if I could put it that way. I fell in love with the way he would treat me because that’s what I thought I was worth,” she added.

“He would beat me just for refusing to accompany him to their drug supplier,” explained Noleen.

“One night he was walking in the rain and he told me to come walk with him because he wanted to go and get his next fix and I told him that he can’t expect me to walk in the rain and thunderstorm to get a bag. He slapped me so hard in the face that I hit the ground and I dislocated my jaws. He dragged me and hit me black and blue and he bit my nose. I managed to escape, however, I went back and he held me hostage,” she added.

To earn money to feed her habit, the then 17-year-old would sell explicit content online. Hers was always a life of trials. Not only were her parents addicts, she had to endure multiple sexual assaults.

“I was sexually abused and sexually assaulted by my uncle when I was seven years old and when I told my parents, they didn’t believe me because my sister had come up with the same thing and they thought I was looking for attention,” she explained. “He did it again when I was 15 and no one believed me."

Noleen has been clean for just over two months with the help of the Institute of Grace – a church that runs rehab centres in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

*Maria, 28, from Eldorado Park, Soweto, started by selling her body at the age of 16 to help her single mother financially. While working the streets one night, she was introduced to drugs by a Nigerian man whom she met at one of the clubs in Johannesburg. Little did she know that the man would later reveal himself as a “pimp” who was part of prostitution syndicate.

“The guy one day invited me to come and chill at his place. I didn’t know he was selling me to other two men. We got to the place, did some drugs and drank alcohol and everything was okay but when that was all over and I told him that I wanted to go home, he was very angry and he told me to repay him,” said Maria.

She said she was taken from Gauteng to Cape Town where she was turned into a sex slave and made to sleep with different men who would pay the pimp, who was the leader of the syndicate. In return they would give her drugs and clothes.

Maria was later arrested in Cape Town for being in possession of drugs and served a month at the Pollsmoor prison. She has been clean for seven months now.

As they try to get back their lives, the two women gave a stern warning to young people to stay away from drugs and focus on getting education.

Pastor Odette Sibinda, one of the leaders of the Institute of Grace, said they have various programmes for addicts. "We interview people who want to join the institution. We then book them in for a three-day detox programme," said Odette.

During detox they make sure the resident stays away from drugs before they join the rest of the group.

"During the day we do counselling with them and they participate in arts activities. After 90 days we release them to their families. We also monitor them after rejoining their families," she added.

* Not their real names

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