Drugs don’t just kill addicts - hope dies for their mothers
Heartbreaking stories of how loving parents are driven to the brink of suicide by their drug-addicted kids
Too tired even to pray any more, the last R30 in her purse was going to buy Martha Sauls desperate release. So she walked the almost 2km to the petrol station to buy petrol, calculating that two litres would be enough to set her tik-addict son and herself alight.
That day she had reached the end of her tether. Her plan was simple: end the pain. But her plan was foiled when a petrol attendant refused to sell her the petrol.
Living with two of her five children, both drug addicts, Sauls, 64, has often considered committing suicide – especially after her nervous breakdown last year.
“I’ve given up hope; my youngest son has almost killed me. Once he strangled me with my dress, I can’t live with these children and drugs anymore. Sometimes I’m too tired to pray, I can’t take it anymore,” Sauls said as tears rolled down her face.
Her sons, aged 45 and 30, have been addicts for over five years. But it’s her youngest son who has Sauls fearing for her life and that of her grandson.
“He’s a very lovely child; he’s usually clean and tidy when he’s not on drugs. But on drugs he doesn’t bath for weeks, his room is filthy. I’m not rich but I like a clean house. When he walks past, he stinks. I can’t take that smell,” Sauls said.Her “lovely” son turns into a zombie or an enraged beast, depending on which drugs he’s taken, Sauls said, and often she and his 10-year-old son are the outlet for his rage.
“I’ve walked to the petrol station with a two-litre bottle; my plan was to buy petrol because I felt I wanted to burn him and burn myself – that’s what was going through my head because I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Sauls said.
Her two-bedroom house in Eldorado Park has become her prison. “They even steal my clothes; I told them the other day, just take my panties. The sugar and tea I buy I can’t keep in my kitchen cupboard; I have to hide it in my bedroom, with my bath soap,” Sauls said.
Her situation is far gone, but one mother whose teenage son was just released from his two-month stint in rehab still has hope. The mother can’t be named to protect the identity of her 17-year old son.He first experimented with dagga when he was 15. Speaking to Times Select, the boy (who was visibly high on some substance) said he felt like he “wasn’t good enough”.
His mother, who works part time at a hair salon, said she first noticed something was wrong when her son would disappear on weekends.
“He’d come home from school on a Friday, then he’d leave the house and I’d only see him on a Sunday night. I started noticing that his behaviour also changed – he was like a zombie or he’d get aggressive for no reason,” the young mom said.
The boy’s father died when the boy was in Grade 7. His mother remarried but her second husband was a drug addict who used to steal her son’s clothes. The boy eventually went to live with his grandfather and his aunt. Three years ago, he son returned home.
Last year the mother was raped by someone known to her. Her son, seeing her injuries, grabbed a knife and threatened to find and kill the man. The mom believes this may have been a trigger for her son’s addiction.
“As a parent seeing him like this breaks my heart but I’ll never give up on him. I’ve asked him to tell me where I went wrong and if I hurt him, if he hates me, then he can tell me and we can talk about it,” she said.The teen describes his weekend drug benders with his friends in an almost nonchalant way. “We would just sit and talk. We talk about girls, cars, houses and money, about how we can steal cars and sell drugs to make money. I just listen but I’ve told my friends that people mustn’t know it’s us and we shouldn’t get caught. But if we do, we must have money for bail and to buy the docket,” he said.
For now, the adolescent’s drugs of choice are kat or Mandrax. While tik (crystal meth) is the popular drug in the area, he claims to not have tried it.
But Quintin van Kerken, who works with addicts in Johannesburg, says for addicts like this it’s only a matter of time before they graduate to tik.
“There’s more access to money in Joburg so addicts don’t go directly to tik, they start off with kat or Mandrax and then only some will progress to tik. “
Like Sauls, many parents live with children who are addicts.
In September 2007, Ellen Pakkies strangled her abusive tik-addict son Adam, putting an end to her six-year ordeal with the 20-year-old. The movie based on her story is due for release in September.
Sedick Abrahams, 62, from Michell’s Plain on the Cape Flats is currently on trial for allegedly stabbing his son Clinton, 28, in the chest after after the umpteenth violent outburst.
Realising a great need, the City of Johannesburg has over the past year opened at least four rehab centres, with more on the way.But for community workers and anti-drug activists like Dereleen James and Van Kerken, it’s going to take more than just rehabilitation centres to curb the drug epidemic.
James said that unlike other communities the “entry level” drug in Eldorado Park was tik, which she said was highly addictive because it was a “mental drug”.
“It’s become normal in our communities. It’s normal for kids to smoke dagga.”
James runs The Yellow Ribbon Foundation in Eldorado Park, which has over 180 teens in its programme. The youngest is a 14-year-old girl who was expelled from school after selling “dagga cookies”.
“One of the biggest problems is that there are absent fathers. It’s a very deep societal issue. We need to stop vilifying drug addicts. Don’t get me wrong – they are manipulative and lie, but as soon as we understand why, we’ll begin to fix the problem a lot quicker,” Van Kerken said.Organisations that can offer support
The Yellow Ribbon Foundation, Milnerton Street, Ext 4, Eldorado Park. Contact Dereleen James 087-077-0058
The Clear Option: head office 081-577-7715; Gauteng 079-424-7865; Western Cape 072-400-8239
City of Johannesburg: Tladi Centre 011-930-0149
Eldorado Park: Tebogo Ramodiko 082-572-4290
Golden Harvest Inpatient Centre: 010-593-7533