that i don’t
i tell myself
as i reach
that i don’t
i tell myself
as i reach
I have a son who is an addict.
My beautiful blue eyed child who has so much within him to offer this world through his love and compassion and wacky sense of humour. Probably the hardest thing about addiction for family members is being open and honest with those around you. People are so quick to judge, point fingers and give advice. You are judged on so many levels as a parent as to not being strict enough, helping too much, giving excuses for bad behaviour, treating one child different to another etc, so when something as hectic as this comes along, you want to hide away from what you expect will only be accusing fingers.
Surprisingly, I can’t think of condemnation from those I have shared with, but pity, yes. So it becomes easier to share the more you talk about it and there’s healing in sharing too, and suddenly you find yourself hearing stories from others who have either travelled the road themselves, or have a family member or friend who has been there/is there. Now that was very unexpected. I have come to realize that addiction is a huge issue that touches many lives and families. I have a passion to speak to young people and share our story and implore them to not go down that road. It’s one thing sharing with those you know, it’s another thing going as public as this. I have learnt so much through this road that I feel it is beneficial to share the journey with others, while at the same time withholding some parts of the story that I feel only my son should share when he is ready one day. So this is more of what it has been like as a mom and what I have learnt along the way.
We were a place of safety to our son at 15 months, then foster care and eventually adoption at 5 years old. Yes, there is addiction in his biological family, and no, we would not have done anything differently. We love and accept him completely and are commited to him for life. Addiction is the great leveler – it does not matter what age, race, religion, financial bracket, area you live in, male or female, whether you are part of your biological family or an adoptive one, it can touch your life if you choose to go down that road.
He excelled in Primary School, gaining merit awards for academics, but struggled to stay a part of things consistently, so sport never really featured. We had assessments done that revealed we were dealing with a genius IQ, but the signs of ADD were strongly visible, so we went the Ritalin route for a few years. Not one specialist could ever give an accurate diagnosis as to all that he was struggling with, and we had varying ideas presented to us. I knew there was something not right and so was very protective of him and often shielding him from trouble and making excuses for bad behaviour. At the onset of adolescence, trouble started big time and we struggled for years with a defiant, rebellious teen. In the 2nd week of Grade 9 he announced he was not going back to school. You cannot believe how we tried and then eventually gave up the morning battle of trying to pull this huge kid out of bed. We came under heavy criticism at this stage from people. How I wish I knew then what I know now. I don’t know if we could have stopped the drugs, but we would have had understanding as to what we were dealing with, and we would have coped better as a family. He eventually finished Grade 9 at a Home School. He is such an amiable person and very well liked in all circles, so people often did not believe us as to what life was like at home. We moved Provinces when he was 16, and that’s when we believe the drugs started. He basically did nothing for 2 years and then somehow managed to get his Grade 10 at a Home School while doing drugs at the same time.
Addiction is a behavioural disorder and the drugs may follow only years later. The first part is called dry addiction where you see the behaviour, but there are no drugs. That’s why we never saw the change-over to when drugs were added in the mix until 6 years later!
You know what an idiot you feel like when you have made the comment ‘he displays so many symptoms of someone taking drugs and yet he’s not taking them!’ We just didn’t see it until I found a small empty ‘bankie’ (small plastic bag that dagga is sold in) on our toilet floor – I knew straightaway what it was, but your mind doesn’t want to accept it. Within the week I confronted him and he confessed to it. Just writing about that time brings tears to my eyes – I so did not want this to be true. I even went as far as giving him activated charcoal that day I found out because he said he had just tried LSD for the first time the night before – I was just desperate to give him something to get this poison out! I could not understand why you would want to put acid in your body and that this stuff was in my son’s body! Little did I know that there are always lies when it comes to addiction and LSD had actually become his drug of choice.
My son’s counselor said to me last year that moms were not made to parent an addict. It should never have been this way. Moms love and care and nurture and protect – all of that gets ripped away, other than the love, when you land up with your son in addiction! You have to think addiction first and son second. It is all very hectic to deal with. So many emotions – anger, hurt, betrayal and yet a love so deep that just wants him to get better.
Dreams for the future are dashed. Facebook posts about his peers graduating from High School, university etc, getting their driver’s licence just break your heart in 2. While I want to celebrate with my friends, and I do, at the same time, I mourn the loss of what could have been. Recalibrating is the order of the day.
Co-dependency becomes a common household word and you have to realize that you played a part in making it easier for him to stay in addiction by always rescuing him. What you thought was good, was not! It’s a whole mindset change, a whole new way of loving and parenting. The three C’s help a bit in that I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it.
Healthy changes in your thinking are vital. I am so thankful for the training my husband does as, alongside the support group, it has been invaluable in helping us get stronger and able to deal with all the challenges and changes in a life with an addict. The training he does has got to do with how our minds work and how we set goals etc. One specific help has been the statement ‘think and say what you want, not what you don’t want.’ Another help has been the acronym CHIVE which stands for having the courage to live lives of humility, interdependence and vulnerability in order to live a life of excellence. Number one thing for any addict or supporter to learn is humility – to see your fault and start to deal with it without defending, justifying, denying, blaming or rationalizing. It is no easy road, but the journey makes you stronger and it’s so worth it in the end.
My son went from Primary care (1 month) to Secondary care (1 month) to long term rehab for a year. He is now volunteering at the rehab at 23 years of age and at the same time doing his Grade 11, with the plan to do matric next year. So many people have said the length of time in rehab is a waste of time. I strongly disagree – the way he was living before rehab was a waste of time. Now he has his life back on track with a feeling of hope and purpose for his future. If he had stayed as he was, the only other 2 options were jail or death. It has been a tough 1st year of rehab with a relapse in the middle that had us all reeling, but it was that very rock bottom that he needed, and from then on he started to climb towards health in body, mind, soul and spirit. He found God again and it has been amazing watching his spiritual relationship with God blossom and grow over the last year. One of the steps (in a 12 step programme that the rehab runs) is about realizing that you are powerless in your addiction and need God to help you through.
Biggest help to us as a whole family has been attending the HEAL addiction support group on a weekly basis, where we learn about addiction, hear other families stories and get to chat to recovering addicts and ask them questions we might have. Our daughters attend from time to time. It’s a family disease as each family member is affected and needs recovery. My husband and I have held onto each other for support through this, and I am thankful that it drew us closer together and we worked towards being on the same page with regards to our son. That’s why long term rehab is important as it gives time to all involved to process and heal.
Addicts are told not to go back to old places, faces and things – we need to learn and change so that we are not the same when he visits – we cannot afford to be a part of the group of ‘old faces’ that could trigger a relapse. You learn that co-dependency is basically doing for others what they can do for themselves, living their lives for them with more passion than your own. Before you realize what it is, you would do all that, thinking you are doing the right thing. It’s only through talking to others and understanding how destructive it is and how powerless it makes the person you are being co-dependent to, that you start working towards change.
The thing to realize is that we all do it to certain extents, and often moms battle the most as we honestly see it as caring and loving our children. But we land up with our children not learning how to stand on their own two feet and feeling entitled. It has benefitted us in further parenting of our girls and in general life living. All parents would benefit from reading the books ‘Boundaries’ in its various forms for different ages and settings by Cloud and Townsend and ‘Co-dependent no more’ by Melody Beattie. You learn how very vital chores are in the household, how consequences have to take place, threats with no back-up are no good to anyone and consistency in what you say and do is so very important and how giving your children everything they desire is so dangerous. They need to learn delayed gratification from an early age.
The concept of tough love suddenly makes sense. I think this is the part that people on the outside of your family battle to understand the most. Believe me, I battle too with the thought of my son relapsing and saying, that’s it, you are not welcome in this house anymore or to be a part of our lives. When you understand, that by saying ‘shame’ and maybe allowing him to stay with one more chance, you are taking his power away and making the chances of death or prison even stronger. Addiction is a one way ticket to death unless the person realizes their problem and starts to do something about it. They don’t even like taking someone into rehab who is not there by choice, because until the denial stops they are wasting their time and your money! It’s called the disease of denial and the way the road often starts is with the phrase ‘it will never happen to me!’
Addiction is a costly journey to all involved. It costs you emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally, socially and financially. Rehab costs can run into the millions if you allow it. Long term rehab is the only way in my opinion and from our experience and also through listening to the advice of others. It often takes a long time to get into full blown addiction – there is just no way that a person will sort it out in a month or three. At least a year is needed for a good recovery. The other thing is that addiction is a lifelong journey. Relapse can happen with one glass of wine (the most common form of relapse comes through a drink), and so they are told no more drinking, ever! Sometimes I think that we should all live with that kind of vigilance in our lives and with the motto that is used in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) ‘just for today!’
For me, as a mom, it has been the toughest thing I have ever had to deal with, but I am on the road to recovery and so thankful that my son is doing so well. I have to learn to live without going on the ups and downs with him as that is not helpful in my recovery. This is one of those experiences that at this stage I can say that God really does work for the good in all things to them that love Him.
It is early 2012. The phone rings and my brother George answers. Silence. Eventually I whisper: “I need to get out of here. I need help.”
But the story starts in 1995, at a party, where a friend was having so much more fun than everyone else. “What’s he on? Is he drunk?” Our innocent questions were answered with “Ecstasy” and a journey into 18 years of intense addiction began.
That first pill was exactly that: ecstasy – an incredible rush of sensations on the skin and in my mind. Dazzling lights and music pounded my body as if they were a living, breathing thing. And soon every Friday night I journeyed into sound and touch and love and fun. It seemed so innocent.
In 1996 my boyfriend and a friend of his raped me. At the time I didn’t believe it was rape. I just thought it was a very adult situation I needed to ‘man up’ to: I’d caught him cheating and he responded by forcing me in on the act.
I should have left his home that night, but I chose to stay, and all through the year that I lived there, his infidelity ate away at me, making me feel worthless, unloved – spare. It was in the weekly ecstasy that I found fun and a reason to smile.
My once-weekly ‘feel-good’ session soon became two and then three and then, four nights out of every week I escaped into the warmth and love and beauty in those little pills and the music that went with every party.
Ecstasy wasn’t enough, though. I tried LSD and then cocaine. I loved cocaine. A lot. In 1999, I tried heroin and loved that even more. It was – yummy. Yes. Yummy. That was how we described it then, and it’s really the best way to describe it now.
I liked heroin, but it killed me. I overdosed after snorting too much at party and I woke up in Joburg Gen after my heart stopped three times. I never chased that dragon again. Instead my cocaine use grew, and by 2004 I was snorting three grams a day. I moved to London and for a while I used very little. But only for a little while. When I came home in 2007, my body couldn’t handle it anymore, so I switched to speed.
In 2009 I tried crystal meth and it became my new best friend and worst enemy. I couldn’t get enough of those endless white clouds of crystalline chaos. I stopped caring about how I looked – my skin became a grey, purple, disfigured war zone of meth bugs.
I lost weight. And my mind. You don’t sleep on meth. I went for days, sometimes more than a week without sleep. Your brain isn’t wired to go for long without sleep, so I lost the plot, and my job.
It wasn’t enough to stop me, though. I sold everything I had to pay for more. I cashed in my pension. I pawned my furniture. I didn’t care if I had to sleep on the floor in an empty room –so long as I could get another hit.
It didn’t make me feel better, though. I sank so low and felt so alone that all I could think about was ending it all. I took 120 sleeping pills. It didn’t work – all that happened was I slept for several days, waking in a confused mess.
My family tried interventions. So did my friends. I cut them out of my life. All I wanted was more meth, and to be left alone. One by one, they all did. I was alone, in an empty house, and I couldn’t go on.
Some people go even further before they hit rock bottom or die. They become homeless. They steal. They become sex workers. The pull of meth is that strong. We just don’t care anymore and we will give anything for another hit.
But I had run out of options. I couldn’t get high; I couldn’t kill myself, so I surrendered. All I could do now was to live.
I picked up the phone, and dialled George. It was 22 January.
On 28 January I started writing a blog about my addiction. Two weeks later, I got a call from Alan Knott-Craig, the CEO at Mxit. He’d read it, and he offered me a job. He had three rules. I forget the first two, but the third was, “Honesty. Come and tell everyone your story. Because people think that drugs happen elsewhere – they don’t realise that they’re everywhere.” And so, on 28 February, I moved to Stellenbosch and started my life again.
It hasn’t been easy. On 15 April 2012 I fell off the wagon and got high on cocaine. But I had learnt, and I confessed to my family and friends and publicly, on my blog. And I started counting my clean time from scratch. Day 1: April 16, 2012.
Each day now is a journey back to life, of being kind to myself with meditation and motivational readings. I work with my sponsors and a therapist and my higher power to help me rebuild my life and identity. Some days are tough, some are great, but all of them are worth it.
And as I write this on 7 January 2015, I’m on 997 clean days, and counting.
Dave Luis. 7 January 2015.
“If you think it’s time to take control, reach out in absolute confidentiality to Narcotics Anonymous and start a safe, nurturing conversation about how to take back your life. Go to http://www.na.org.za/ or call 083 900 69 62 to speak to someone just like you who can help”
My addiction blog: healing.me https://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/category/healing-me/page/16/
My clean day count blog: https://bloggsymalone.wordpress.com/category/cleandaze/page/44/
When i started sharing stories on rarely spoken off issues in the form of Taboo Topics, one of the main reasons was to put a name and a face on a topic that is not often dealt with. There is a lot of power in this as it helps make an issue someone else might be struggling with seem a lot more real. There has been much positive feedback in this regard.
However, as i start to share some stories on the theme of Addiction, i have decided that for some this will be a place where they can safely share their stories anonymously, especially when it is in the form of a parent, sibling, friend talking about someone else as they will not necessarily have permission to share on behalf of another person.
Where the stories are from people who once struggled but have now overcome addiction, i will be expecting more people to add their picture and name to continue that helpful tradition.
Addictions can be devastating as they affect so much more than just the person involved and can seem unending to those caught in them. But there is an end to that tunnel, and many have walked through it. I hope that these stories will bring encouragement and strength to those currently facing them or knowing people you love who are caught up in them:
Meet David Luis – long time struggle with drugs
You do not have to be a big zombie fan to appreciate the delightful Popcap ‘Plants vs Zombies’ tower defence game which is one of the most fun and addictive games i have ever played.
To be absolutely honest it was one of the activities both the beautiful Val [tbV] and myself spent a huge amount of time on our honeymoon doing together and gave us immense times of laughter and appreciation and moment of mutual challenge.
The basic premise is that zombies are attacking your house [to eat your brains, of course] and you have to stop them armed with a bunch of garden plants. As much as that premise sounds like the most useless and unfun of activities to ever find yourself doing, by using humour and great sounds and easy playability, this quickly became something that we [and since then a HUGE amount of our friends] got caught up in and thoroughly enjoyed. [Ask tbV about her greenhouse of plants though, which is a side activity within the game and which you will no doubt get a response like “Urgh. They just wanted me to feed them the whole time. They were so demanding. Stupid plants” from, but she will sound just that little bit too ‘taking-this-thing-seriously’ on.]
Loved the game. Finished the game. [Almost four years ago] And then nothing. No sequel. No add ons. No talk of a sequel. Just the fading memory of a really fun game and some good joint times playing it.
If you want to see what I am talking about you can download a free trial of an hour’s play of the game which will likely inspire you to buy the rest of it and quickly finish it, but be warned – don’t do this with any immediate deadlines for anything in your future.
I got marginally excited when Facebook announced they were going to be introducing a Plants vs Zombies type game and so I downloaded it and signed up and it had moments, but was a little too much of a Farmville-type game to warrant much excitement and the gameplay was a little formulaic and predictable [altho it did introduce some cool new zombie types] and so I quickly uninstalled it…
But then one day I was randomly trawling the net and saw a link to a video which looked a whole lot like this:
And suddenly things got a WHOLE lot more exciting…
With ‘Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s about time’ which must be about the greatest play on words title for a movie or game ever [the theme of the game looks like time travel and we have all been waiting too long!] and so licking my lips and anticipating the launch of the much-awaited braaaaaaaains, i mean game…
[With the game I originally bought you could create your own Zombie avatar slash profile pic and have yourself attack your garden as a zombie… this really works a lot better in concept than explanation]
Have you played? What’s your favourite zombie or plant? How excited are you about the upcoming game on a scale from 1 to CRAAAAAZY DAVE?
Firstly, I want to thank Brett for giving me a podium and his trust. Secondly, I want to thank you for your courage to read anything about the struggles people face with porn and masturbation.
This is not a really short story, but perhaps it is a familiar one. I pray that it is as helpful to you to read it as it was for me to write it.
I was introduced to masturbation before I was introduced to porn. When I was in 7th grade, I played in the school band and one of the older kids- he sat next to me because we played the same odd instrument- brought it up. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but as we usually do in 7th grade, I acted like I did. That night, I went home and tried out what he was talking about. I was hooked. After awhile, I realized visual aids helped the experience along, and I descended into porn addiction.
This was back in the “pay per minutes used” AOL internet days, and I learned quickly where the best and fastest places were to look for porn. The family computer was in my dad’s study (he was a pastor), so I also had to be sly with my surfing- deleting my browsing history (that smile of yours is the smile of recognition, my friend), having multiple screens open, etc. I got really good at hiding my tracks. Too good.
Things continued along these lines for all of high school- I went to a couple of different Christian high schools, where the topic of porn and especially masturbation were never, never discussed in class. I don’t know why. So many of us were looking for direction, wondering what the Bible really had to say about it, who it was really hurting, whether the authority figures in our lives had ever had to deal with these urges in pre-internet times… we never got answers.
When I went to college, things changed. People accepted porn and masturbation as natural, good, normal, and all those other modifiers that made you feel like everything was okay. I went to a large public institution, and they had high-speed internet plugged into every dorm room. It was the worst possible situation for a guy who still didn’t understand the toll porn can take. I would watch tons of it, to the detriment of any social connections I could make. It led me to make the worst decision in my life- sleeping with my girlfriend- because of the enormous pressure and acceptance exerted in the setting I was in. I don’t exactly blame college; I blame my own weak walk with the Lord, my reliance on other structures instead of His will for me.
I left college after that first year, running from myself as much as running to God. I joined an international ministry where I thought I would be safe. I was wrong. While leaving a situation is a good idea in most cases, you can’t very well leave your body or mind behind somewhere. I brought my problems with me. I thought that maybe, if I just had a girlfriend, or if I just got married, this issue would go away. I was looking for the cure in every place I could except through confession, forgiveness, and repentance.
I’d like to say that I found the courage one day to confess my problem. Truth is, I ran from every opportunity to do so. Only slowly- through the working of God and His people present in my life- did I begin to let others know that I was in trouble. I couldn’t say it straight out, but I beat around the bush and dropped enough hints to find out something amazing: I was not alone. Some others in my same boat found the courage to open up to me about their problems, and that allowed me to feel safe enough to let mine out too. It turns out that it is like every other addiction- if you bring it to the light of day, get some outside help and support, and work actively against it, you CAN overcome it and find happiness without it. Porn addiction, sex addiction, these can only be overcome when you stop fighting them alone. God will help you; but He will use His own method to do so. We all want this sin burned out of our lives instantly, never to return. For a few- a small group of people- it happens that way. For the rest of us, the healing process is a journey fraught with fear, peril, vulnerability, and yes- consequences. Don’t tell me your porn addiction hasn’t cost you something. You know the price, mentally and spiritually, that you’ve been paying. You know the relationships you’ve affected, the lies you’ve had to tell others. You know the fear of exposure. I did, and I do.
Some of you know me and will be hearing about this for the first time. The journey is a part of me, of who I am, and it has given me a greater ability to love sinners and accept all kinds of people who I used to judge. I’m still afraid, of course; I’m afraid of what confessing this will do to my reputation. I’m afraid of saying something wrong and hurting someone’s walk and chances for freedom instead of helping them. I’m afraid you’ll not relate to this in some way, and that you’ll dismiss me as a freak. But more than my fear, I am hopeful. I hope that you hear my heart. I hope you know that I am not cured; I am rehabilitated, and it is a daily fight. I hope you see God’s love in my journey. And I hope, most of all, that you feel the courage to confess your sins and confront them with help from your peers and mentors in Christ. God bless you.
God is really good and just loves us too much to let these things pass under the radar! I was also exposed to pornography at a young age (Probably around 11/12) and the seed was planted. It was not so much the pornography I got addicted to, but masturbation. My mind was so contaminated with thoughts of masturbation, and my imagination was enough to keep me going! The odd e-tv movie or two every month kept me going, but I could not go one day without masturbating.
I just felt so condemned, but looked for every possible excuse to not actually deal with it and continue in my ways. I even found some very good excuses! I heard that my youth leader at my church at that time masturbated together with some of my friends! If it was fine with him it could have probably not have been that bad! But I was badly deceived!
This continued even after I gave my heart to the Lord and started playing in the church worship team etc.. And it got to the stage where I thought that this all must mean that I am gay, because I was so obsessed with it. I got into homosexual pornography and things got even more intense and the guilt and condemnation just became more and more.
Growing up in a Christian household and some good foundations, I decided from a young age that I will stay pure till marriage. I thank God that I can say I am a virgin still today and that my struggle never involved other people. But the inner battle was just so intense and I felt everything but pure! I never shared it with anyone and never had the guts to just confess and ask for some help.
I encountered God radically in my Gr.12 year and realized I had to make a lifestyle change! I went to do a gap year after school where God did so much in my life and brought healing in so many different areas in my life. I had confessed everything and was determined to let that stuff stay in the past. I never looked at any pornography again that year and was doing well with abstaining from masturbation. But about two months or so after everything was confessed I fell back in the habit! I was once again too afraid and too embarrassed to walk this out with anyone!
I tried dealing with it on my own and did well for periods at a time but just fell back into it. I knew God had a great plan for my life and decided to go back for a second year, but in the holidays after that first year, I started snooping around on the Internet again and got stuck into homosexual pornography again!!! This rocked me! But when I went back the next year I knew this had to stop and I was able to stop with the pornography, but the habit of masturbation I could not stop. I deleted everything I had on my computer at that time.
There were so many times I just wanted to come clean with everything and confess to someone, but I could not deal with the shame and I lived under that condemnation for another six months. But this is where God stepped in and I am so thankful for what happened, because it started my journey of healing!
I had some kind of virus on my laptop and had to send it in to get it sorted out. The guy that worked on my computer checked out my browsing history and saw what was going on. He knew my pastor and contacted him to let him know what is going on! GOD JUST WOULD NOT LET THIS THING GO!
I was exposed. I had nothing left to hide, and I started walking a road of accountability with my pastor. I could be open with what I was dealing with and it was so liberating putting things in the light. It is really in it’s secrecy that these sins have their power. God started healing my heart and it was only through walking an open road with a spiritual father that God could do the work in my heart. It is only when we confess our sins to one another that the healing can come.
And we sometimes think that when we confess these things to a pastor or youth leader, or whoever it might be, that they would think less of you. But through allowing someone to walk this road with you, they can trust you even more!!!! Because we all have our faults and challenges, no one is perfect, but we need to be open with our lives, willing to submit and change, in order to become more Christlike!!!!
I Trust my testimony will encourage others to not let masturbation or pornography dictate your life. Bring it out into the light so that the healing journey can begin!
Thanks for the opportunity to share!