Thousands of South Africans are affected daily by drug and alcohol abuse, but no matter how dismal the situation appears, it is never too late to get help.
Brian Lukhanyiso Mxinwa was only 20 years old when he first got addicted to Crystal Methamphetamine. He lived alone in Mchubakazi Village in Butterworth, where his friends would host parties. To keep the party going they would experiment with meth.
His family persuaded him to stop and moved him to Caledon in the Western Cape, however a visit to Cape Town soon unraveled their efforts. “I noticed that narcotics are enticing and addictive,” he says.
From addiction to recovery
Mxinwa worked as an Uber driver in Stellenbosch and lived in Khayamandi. He recalls feeling weary while driving and remembering that something used to keep him awake all night. Meth. He relapsed, but this time the opioid took control of his life.
“I was so addicted to drugs that I sold all I owned, leaving me with only a certificate file,” he says.
“I sought assistance from a friend in Strand who was also a drug addict, but things worsened instead. We sold his shack and slept at a friend’s place, which we were also using. We were a group of junkies who used to steal people’s belongings, and I know what it’s like to be beaten by a mob.”
His saving grace, his girlfriend, Ongeziwe Nomasana. “No therapy has ever been able to heal me; I had to give up limitless temptations and choose my friends carefully,” he says.
Mxinwa has been sober since 2020 and has even enrolled to the Boland College in Worcester where he is currently in his second year of his engineering studies.
‘I felt lost and untidy’
Loyiso Mgoli Basso (32) frome Mkhaya, Khayelitsha, began using drugs at the age of 14 after dropping out of school in grade 8.
He used to buy mandrax or candy as it is known on the streets from an older man who would send him to buy drugs.
“Being addicted is incredibly challenging, because having tranquility and a good mood implies that I am reliant on drugs,” he says.
“I was too preoccupied with skarel and being energetic to see how screwed up and untidy I looked. And using drugs creates a negative image, as I was occasionally accused of something I did not commit, just because others in my neighborhood were aware of my drug usage.”
In 2008 an encounter with a friend fresh out of jail led him to recovery. “He invited me to church, I was blown away by how welcoming they were and how they demonstrated that they could trust me,” he says. “I relapsed several times, but the treatment I received from them changed my mindset.”
Eventually he reevaluated the company he kept. “Changing who I hung out with helped a lot.”
Today Basso is the proud owner of Kota King a food business in Makhaya.
The impact of drugs on a mother
Tantaswa Ndlelan (50) from Cape Town still blames her late brother for her sons addiction.
“After my son (23) completed grade 9, he moved from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town in 2017 and began making friends with drug users,” she says.
She tells Health For Mzansi that she repeatedly warned him about the company he kept.
He started to demand money for a fix. “We supported him for a long period until we noticed that he was changing and that he had been clean for months before resuming his use.”
“Since March 2021, when we observed he stopped using it, until now. We also hope he doesn’t revert to drug use. He began attending Sonke Gender Justice programs, and we can see that he is improving day by day.”
Community action on drug abuse prevention
Ndithini Tyhido, is the chairperson of the Khayelitsha Development Forum, and believes that there are many reason kids today turn to drugs including peer pressure and trauma.
With triggers visible in kasi communities like the lack of social amenities and parents working hours on end to feed large families, children are often left without supervision.
Although Khayelitsha has a population of over two million people, it has never had a rehabilitation center.
According to Tyhido, this is the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed. “The community must band together to demand facilities that would improve their lives. It is an outrage that such facilities have been lacking for the past 35 years.”