Substance abuse issues can impact people of all ages, races, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds, for various reasons. If drugs are significantly affecting your daily life, it is likely that you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction.
Drug addiction nearly ruined Khwezi Hoga’s life. It was through sheer will and a desire to escape that she managed to take her life back from the devastation drugs caused.
As far back as she can remember from her childhood, she experienced sexual abuse and molestation. She found herself caught in the middle of her parents’ conflicts, as well. Hoga explains that the situation at home was causing her to experience behavioural issues, which in turn led to her being disruptive at school.
“I had a traumatic childhood filled with abuse and molestation. So much of my childhood was filled with intense therapy and a long road to finding the right combination of psychiatric medication. I started when I was 13 and still haven’t found the right combination now,” she tells Health For Mzansi.
Following her parent’s separation, she says her life has been all over the place, from squatter camps to the kasi, then the suburbs. She split her time between Soweto, Kensington in Gauteng, and Cape Town.
‘The instability was the worst’
“It was the instability that came with it that I hated,” she says.
Hoga enrolled at the University of Cape Town in 2013, where she began seeing smoking as a normal activity. She had started smoking weed as early as grade 9, and at university she found that there was a designated area for marijuana smokers on campus. This made her feel liberated, but eventually, she began to feel uncomfortable being sober.
“I could not be sober, so I used to smoke lots of weed. Once it was out of my system I wanted to smoke again. I was always high and to be honest, at ease, and all I wanted was to be high and calm.”
A game-changing first try
Hoga saw her life unravelling and fled to Varsity College in Sandton, Gauteng, in 2018. She lost her brother while there, which caused her to return to where she left. However, she wasn’t only using weed this time; she was also hooked on crystal meth and cocaine.
Part of her issues arose from the fact that her physique had gone from being skinny to being overweight, she explains. “When you’re smoking tik, that’s like signing a contract with the devil. That’s you ending your life.”
She’d come home at strange hours, and she was always losing her belongings on the streets, like shoes and phones.
“Not having a phone would make me not have access to my normal friends. So, I was stuck with these crystal meth friends.”
Life on the streets
During the lockdown in 2020, her situation worsened. She was living with her father, who is over 60 years old. He expressed his concern that her presence would have a negative impact on the family during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While on the streets, she encountered an abusive drug user who expressed interest in being her boyfriend. Hoga says he threatened to go to her home and break the windows if she refused. He eventually did, and as a result, she lost her accommodation.
To survive, she adds, there were times when she felt compelled to exchange her body for drugs or a plate of food.
In 2021, she was sexually assaulted by a person who had visible sores on his penis. At the time of the incident, she had access to medical care. A gynaecologist diagnosed her with fibroids, cysts, and a disruptive STI.
After the rape, she felt the need for protection and ended up dating some of the most dangerous people in the drug corridors.
Picking up the pieces
The hard life caught up with her and she started to realise she had to change.
“At a certain point, I came to the realisation that I am taking risks with my life. I experienced a sense of emptiness regarding my family. I don’t want to regret not having spent enough time with my loved ones during my lifetime,” Hoga admits.
In 2022, she took a step to reach out to her mother.
“I called my mom to fly to Johannesburg to pick me up because I knew I needed someone to hold my hand and pull me out of the dungeons, literally. I asked her to book me into a hotel and she’d find me there.”
Before heading to Cape Town, her mother took her shopping. After visiting a physician, they were informed that she was pregnant.
She says it has been painful to regain the family’s trust.
“Even little kids don’t respect me.”
Following her time on the streets, Hoga has had a healthy child and recently completed her examinations with the International Software Testing Qualifications Board.
She is taking her recovery one day at a time and hopes that her future will be brighter.
Do you or someone you know struggle with drug addiction and need help?
The South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) offer services to help alcolohol and drug addicts.
Narcotics Anonymous makes a promise to its members to help them get free from active addiction. Narcotics Anonymous is a free, non-profit fellowship of people for whom drugs have become a major problem.
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