Since the beginning of my teenage years I’ve developed an awful longing for something or someone- someone to whom I can look up for advice and guidance. Someone with whom I could discuss my problems.
Because I had this need in my life at the age of fourteen, I started smoking as I was following the example of an older friend, Juan Smith. I told him about my depression- the deep dark jungle in which I found myself, with all its crazy pathways, and no way out. He told me he had a similar problem, and so we connected well. I had at last found someone who understood.
To me it felt necessary to gain favor in his eyes. I wanted to prove myself in some way. The two of us started following the example of some other friends by wearing earrings and drinking with the group who drank. It was as if in a strange way I felt secure to be moving in a defined circle rather than standing alone like an orphan who couldn’t share in anything. Someone once said to me that a certain person had fallen so low, that he spent all his time in nightclubs.
I would have wanted to discuss it with my family, but I felt I could not burden them with my problems. I didn’t have the courage or confidence to talk to my mom. When my friend persuaded me to go to nightclubs, I felt as if they cared about and accepted me, or so I thought.
I began finding refuge in friends, parties and drugs. Once day Juan said to me,” Hell you are the best! This is why I look up to you.” These words made me feel so good- I could see admiration for me in their eyes. They didn’t realize I was smoking pot, and definitely didn’t know about my depression. It was with great effort that I achieved at school, but only I knew how strenuous it was, and I took pride in having control over my body, and so I wasn’t afraid to start experimenting with drugs.
I thought I had a strong will and would be able to leave it at any time. It was not a logical step for someone who had started out on this gruesome road, to go over to stronger drugs.
The depression became worse- it felt like something inside was eating me up. “Of course I can walk away when I want to! I am the Man!” was my foolish reasoning. To be “high” was an indescribably great sensation- my refuge from the depression- or so I thought.
However, one day, when I had fallen so deeply into the pit of drugs that I was getting withdrawal symptoms when I did not get it, I came to the shocking realization- “I do not have the strength to leave the drugs” It was now no longer a matter of being “the best” or to experience the enjoyment of an emotional high.
I was shocked to realize that I had become a drug addict because I wanted to be set free from depression, loneliness and wanting to fill that void inside of me.
Both Juan and I. The drugs and my medication did not work together, and there were desperate moments when I felt close to death. Obviously my schoolwork suffered. So it happened that after school I quickly had to roll myself a pot-filled cigarette to smoke on my way home. There was a consuming pain within me when I realized that my parents did not even notice anything- even though we lived in the same house, ate at the same table, we were like strangers to each other. I often wondered whether they didn’t notice my red eyes, as by this time, I was a full-blown drug addict.
Why did I not find my refuge in the Lord? By this stage I had lost all my friends who cared about me, except Juan- maybe because he was going through the same as I was. I often thought, “They don’t have to care about me , they are just a bunch of nerds anyway” I knew that inherently I was a good person; the consequences of my deeds I could shake off like dust from a piece of clothing”. The shaking of my legs was just the result of tension and stress I would get over it, I believed. As soon as I came to a conclusion, I would be calm again, but then I realized this was just wishful thinking. I was a broken person who had no pride or willpower left. The pain in my stomach was due to the cheap drugs(which the dealer mixed with cement and rat poison.)
Through all this, this Bible verse stayed with me, and I held onto it. Psalm 9:10 “And so the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed. A stronghold in times of trouble”
I knew I was living from moment to moment. I had no self-respect. It didn’t matter anymore whether I used stolen money to buy my stock from a dealer.
With everything in me I wanted to turn around from this intertwining road of depression and satan’s claws “ But I can’t!”, I called out . That evening I dodged my parents and from sheer helplessness banged my head against the wall. “I will commit suicide!” I hissed. But I knew I didn’t even have the courage to commit suicide. Juan depended on me; he believed I was the stronger one who would lift us out of the cesspool of depression and drugs. I however, saw myself as a weakling. “ Who and what am I now?. An empty shell?A hopeless creature who steals his parent’s money for drugs”. It was my lifeline. Juan said we should try crack, coke, ecstasy and acid( LSD), but that didn’t help. I had got to the stage that I despised myself, especially when became I mixed up with a bunch of satanists! They suggested I use heroin, but inside me there was still a small bit of willpower, and I refused. What Juan did I did not know.
The next year I was using more drugs than ever before. It was a force outside of me. Juan was like a blood-brother to me. My schoolwork had gone down drastically and it was with the greatest effort that I scraped through Grade 11.
During the school holidays I got this sudden urge to run away. I was sick and tired of everything, including myself. I decided to go. I decided to go on a recce of the Hillbrow streets. I had heard that the Nigerians were in control of the drug dealing. I suddenly remembered that I had read somewhere that this was the place where you could get anything from drugs to sex to stolen goods with a mere nod of the head and the necessary money! A feeling of guilt took hold of me when I packed my rucksack for my trip to Hillbrow.“ My mom?How would she handle my absence? I” wondered. We lived in almost completely separate worlds, but she was still my mother.
Guilelessly I left home for the unknown still using drugs. I had to get away from this depression, this guilt and the darkness.
But my mom’s face stayed with me and I didn’t want to think about anyone else. It felt like it had been people who had chased me into this wilderness. When I was in the company of people, I felt as if they were cold towards me, but when I was alone with Jesus, I was my old self.
On arrival in Hillbrow, I wandered around and watched the drug addicts- the fact that I was one too, I moved to the background of my thoughts. I was stripped of all emotion. A living corpse. I should have brought Juan along. I was missing him and living alone while fighting depression and drug addiction and having to survive the streets of Hillbrow, without food or a place to sleep - to be begging for a piece of bread, was sheer hell. I was missing home and thought about Juan a lot. At home there was plenty of food and there was always a tin with money from which the servant usually bought bread or milk or vegetables, and from which I could steal what I needed. The money wasn’t enough, as drugs were expensive. There was an occasion when I sold my new school blazer to get money for drugs. I told my mom that the blazer had been stolen at school and that the new one cost more. And just like that, she gave me the money without being aware of the fact that half of it would go for drugs. I knew she never dreamed that her son would be involved with drugs. Parents suspect other kids, but never their own.
After I had sold almost all my clothes for money, I decided after three days to go home. I still felt there was no one at home who loved me, but at least there would be food and a bed to sleep in. When I got home, I phoned Juan, but there was no reply. My mom just lifted an eyebrow when she got home that evening and saw me. I had cleaned up myself and looked respectable. “ I’m back Mom! Gee it was a bad survival camp! The teachers were strict. Sorry Mom, I borrowed money from a friend. A few of us went to buy food late at night. It was junk food, and not as nice as your food!” She accepted my flattery and without a word gave me the money. “Go and give it back at once.” she instructed.’ I am grateful that you are back. Your eyes are red, the sun must have got to you” My Mom was worried about me. Would that mean she loved me?
It was a good feeling. “Go on now,” she said. I went and bought drugs with the money, depending on what was available. There were new ones on the market, every now and again- with complete instructions. The next morning my mom looked in at my room, before leaving for work. “ You okay?” she wanted to know.I just smiled and lifted my thumb. This little gesture touched me deeply. I decided to get help for my problem. I also had to show Juan that I was strong enough. Juan trusted me.
I realized with a shock that my old saying of that I was in complete control of my body and mind had flown away. I was so trapped by the merciless claws of the depression and the drug thief, that I had no resistance. The drugs were my lifeline, it carried me through the depth of darkness, or rather that is what I thought. It had come into my life and instead of resisting it, I wanted to be important in the eyes of people. I wanted to be popular. It was my Mom’s little words” You okay?” that haunted me.
That night I confessed all. I told my Mom everything. I cried aloud and was broken-hearted. I feared that she would push me away. Instead, she put her arms around me and said” We must get help for you – today!” A taxi took me to the clinic for treatment the following day. I had to be back at school when it re-opened, even though I wasn’t completely dry. The people at the clinic were wonderful and did their best to make me feel special. Deep inside, however,I did not feel like that. It was a great torment to live without my breathing- the withdrawal symptoms were hell, it was a fierce struggle to rebuild my life.. The road to recovery was endless, but I desperately wanted to leave the drugs, not just for me but for Juan. I was a hero in his eyes, even though I had looked up to him in the beginning. One of the workers of the clinic came to call me for the taxi- it was time to go home!I said goodbye and as I walked down the passage I heard the bloodcurdling screams of a newcomer…. Had I also screamed like that? I couldn’t judge the person because at such a time it felt as if one was dying. No words can really describe the suffering and the helplessness. I was now off the drugs, but I still had the depression.
It was the same taxi that was waiting for me, but I was amazed to see my mom was in the taxi. My heart was so full of joy that I wondered if she could hear it beating!She got out to meet me and kissed me. We both sat in the back and started talking “ Mom, you didn’t perhaps hear anything from Juan?” I asked. “ I miss him” I couldn’t help adding. For a moment I saw confusion in her eyes and she took my hand. “ My boy” she said. I was inwardly thankful for her calling me her boy. “ I have bad news for you. Juan’s mom phoned yesterday;he died as a result of an overdose. He committed suicide. His funeral is tomorrow at eleven’o clock and she asked that you should come, you must be one of the pall bearers”
This hit me very hard. “ How could the Lord do this to me now? Especially now that I needed Him. In the clinic I had learnt to trust in God and now He has let me down . Juan was my only friend. Come on Mom, answer me?!!”I said with a sob in my voice. She held my hand tightly and with a small handkerchief she wiped my tears away. I felt like jumping from the car and running blindly into the veld. I wanted to use “something” to escape this dreadful pain ! My Mom ‘s voice was soft: “You are going through deep waters today, but just trust in the Lord. He will carry you through” It became still in me. With such compassion my Mom and I had not spoken for years. I thought she had forgotten about the Lord.
A deathly quiet reigned in the church where the funeral goers were seated – the mortal remains lay in a silver steel casket. There was a cold silence in the church. The lid of the silver-coloured coffin had been removed and to one side stood Juan’s mother in a black dress. “ I am grateful that you have come, Juan always spoke about you- if you only knew how much” his mom told me with a broken heart. “ It was my fault that we lived separate lives. I thought the large sums of money I gave him each month would compensate for his Dad and my absence and our crazy quest for pleasure It is my fault that my son is lying there today” Like an automaton I moved forward to put my hand on her shoulder. “ Don’t ever say that again- it’s nobody’s fault” A wisp of a smile in her deep grief trembled on her lips. “ I hope all his friends are here today , so that they can see what drugs can do to a person” Only then did my eyes move to the body in the coffin; shock vibrated through me. So repugnant was this to me, that my legs wanted to give way from underneath me. His deathly pale face, blue around the lips, told of a gruesome suffering. His face was distorted; even the calm of death could not change that. One by one his friends filed past the open coffin and the shock registered on each one’s face. This caused a self- reproach in me followed by an indescribable sadness. When my mom and I eventually left for home, the atmosphere was completely different to the previous day.
Thank you for reading my story- this is an excerpt from my book: Overcoming (Victory) This book is about how I walked the road of depression and overcame it.
The book is currently being revised and added to for a more intense in-depth book.
I invite you to comment on this story; it would be of great value to me. I look forward to hearing from you…..