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These are my confessions

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These are my confessions

by Laverne de Vries
30 Jun 2006
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

My nineteen-year-old brother is a heroin addict. He has been chasing the dragon for the past two years. This isn't something I normally tell people but I feel the need to let you into a small part of my life, just as you have let me into yours.


My colleague Tanya says she hates writing these columns because she doesn't want to talk too much about herself. I on the other hand, think they are important because it's the only way readers get to know us and hopefully, trust us enough to tell their stories.

So although this isn't necessarily my story to tell, it is a part of me, just as he is part of me.

When we first discovered he was using drugs, his choice of poison was "tik". Having always been a meticulous child, I honestly had no suspicions when he sat up till 3am cleaning his room.

However, when he started seeing people in our yard, convinced they were trying to kill him, we knew something was seriously wrong, but like so many families, we were in total denial.

Having come from a working class family with good morals and a very strong grandmother ruling the family with an iron fist, we never thought something like this would happen to us.

So you can understand our ignorance when we chose not to put him into rehab, thinking instead he could fight the drug on his own. I've since realised that rehabs don't always work (he's been in three). More often than not it's up to the person to decide not to drug. But having a support base with trained people who know how to deal with substance abuse is quite essential to an addict's recovery.

So because we were ill-equipped, we watched him spiral into cesspool of hallucinations, weight loss, ill-health and paranoia until he eventually had what doctors termed a "drug induced psychosis" - in layman's terms, a nervous breakdown, all caused by inhaling the fumes of a powdery white substance burnt on a piece of foil.

Watching my baby brother tied down to a bed, just in case he hurt himself, while thrashing around in withdrawal agony, was probably one of the most terrifying and helpless moments of my life. Having survived that, his first action after being discharged from hospital was a trip to the local merchant.

Since then his young life has been peppered with trips to rehab, trips to the doctor when he's trying to be clean and trips to the merchant when he falls off the wagon. Three years later he's in a care centre. We recently spent the weekend together, despite another relapse.

When I look at him I wonder what went wrong in his life. Why, when we both came from the same environment, did he choose to fall by the wayside? I also wonder whether he knows what he's missing. At his tender age he has his whole life ahead of him.

He still needs to feel all the joys of what life has to offer - spending his first salary on clothes, buying his first jalopy, falling head over heels in love, dancing till the sun comes up, travelling the world...And many nights I wonder whether he'll even see the light of the next day.

Substance abuse is the biggest social ill in many of the communities People's Post serve. So when I interview people who tell me their tragic tales of drug use or how their lives were affected by an addict, I understand all too well.

After all, I may not live in the area, or know everything about it, but in the greater scheme of things, I am part of the community.

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