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Silence of the Lambs

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Silence of the Lambs

by Laverne de Vries
27 Sep 2006
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

About a week ago I received one of those phone calls that everyone fears: the one saying that something has happened to someone you love.

My aunt had called to say that my brother had been hospitalised following a psychotic incident. This is his second in his 20 year life.

The first one happened about two years ago after he binged on a mixture of tik, heroin and pills. This attempted suicide left him with severe hallucinations resulting in him being hospitalised and tied up so that he couldn't injure himself.

When we first saw him drowsy eyed and discoloured from the heroin consumption, writhing on the hospital bed in pain from the withdrawal, we burst out in tears.

Like most things in life, the second time around was easier and although I didn't cry, the mixture of feelings were the same: pain that someone you love is hurting, sympathy for their pain, anger that this awful situation is playing out again, guilt and doubt that makes you wonder whether you could have prevented the situation, hope that things get better and love for the person you know is inside that emaciated, drugged out, almost lifeless body.

Before this second incident he was clean for about three months - no mean feat for a heroin addict and something we were all proud of. He had gained weight, looked dashingly handsome, was his old fun-filled self and was making plans for his future.

I'm not exactly sure why he succumbed to a hit that his uncle had offered him. It doesn't make much sense considering that he had stayed clean for so long.

In retrospect I don't think I'll ever understand the mind of an addict. Nor will I understand the minds of some people.

One of my colleagues, who writes for our False Bay edition, recently asked me how I managed to make people speak to me about how drugs affect their lives and communities. Apparently she's having difficulty with members of the Ocean View community.

Although there is a high occurrence of drug abuse, the parents and religious leaders are in a state of denial and opt not to discuss the issue.

This ostrich attitude really infuriates me. Ignorance is not bliss and choosing not to discuss a problem will not make it go away. Just ask the millions of HIV/Aids sufferers who are dying like flies every day.

Our government's inability to discuss the mere possibility that HIV does cause Aids and that anti-retrovirals may extend a patient's life, sees millions of our countrymen fall ill to this deathly disease. And similarly, not talking about our current drug pandemic will only result in the complete elimination of our youth.

Since writing these columns, many people have asked me why I am so open about such personal things. I normally joke and say I have nothing better to write about but truth be told, I believe that writing about it not only eases my pain, but that my story might help someone.

Silence about our social ills will only result in our lambs being slaughtered while we, in our chosen ignorance, are deaf to their anguished cries.

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