Dorothy’s story (not her real name)

My eldest son was a quiet, humble and gentle young man who had a good job and really did well for himself. He started being very aggressive toward us at home and all the signs was there of drug abuse. Myself working in the community and assisting families who are affected by drug abuse and knowing all the signs I was completely blinded even though all the signs were there. I confronted him and he assured me that he would never do drugs and somehow that put my mind at ease. It got worse, so much worse that he got very violent, very abusive and in no time no one could control him.

All attempts to have pastors, and family speak to him did absolutely nothing. I watched how his life spiralled out of control and although he was working it got worse. He was known as a functional addict if you can call it that. It seemed that he could cope at times for weeks without drugs and I had a glimpse of my ‘real son’ but pretty soon it was downward from there. I, like most parents knew that he smoked dagga, and believed it to be ‘not as bad as drugs’. How wrong I was! Dagga is as bad, if not worse than most drugs, as it is laced with all sorts of chemicals which bring about hallucinations, paranoia, violence, and mood swings, depression and all sorts of unacceptable behaviour.

He did not care what he looked like or who he associated with. He had brushes with the law. Every time he had an ‘incident’, I would be there to bail him out, fix his car after accidents, and pay his bills when he could not pay. Basically I was his rescuer. I became the ‘fixer’ in his life. His behaviour got worse, he got bolder with his drug use, even though the cops were roaming our streets, and he was ‘untouchable’. It got to a point where he almost attacked me and that is the day I realised how bad our situation was and if I did not do something he would die, worse he would kill someone.

I heard about ToughLove, and attended my first meeting. When I got there I saw all these ‘white people’ and my first thought was – ‘Oh my gosh’ what can these whities do for me? What do they know about drug abuse, what do they know about ‘our communities’ and how bad the drugs was… What I found was a group of parents like myself, who raised their kids well, who knew exactly what I was going through and there was no judgement, who offered help, advise and support. It was the best thing I did. I implemented conditions in my home, started taking control of my situation and implemented practical things in my home. I eventually had to evict him and he was on the streets.

A few weeks later things spiralled out of controlled, my son was arrested for drug possession, he was locked up, and he appeared in court very brazen and unapologetic, he was given bail, he looked at me as if saying ‘come on you know what to do’, I got up walked out of court and I did not pay his bail. He was sent to Diepkloof Prison known as ‘Sun City’. My heart broke in many pieces but I knew that day that if I did not walk away and step back and allow my son to suffer the consequences of his addiction and behaviour I would soon bury him. He appeared again in court and was sent to SANCA for rehabilitation and that was the start of the road to recovery for him. I stepped back completely, this was his journey. He had to face the consequences of his drug use and I loved him and supported him from a distance. On the ToughLove program I changed, so much of my own arrogant behaviours I had to confront and deal with and firmly but gently my support group helped me over my hurdles. Today , my son is 7 months clean from drugs, he is better than the young man he was before, not only do I have my son back, I have a better version of him back. My son is in control of his own life, makes his own decisions, good or bad…I have stopped being the ‘fixer’ and he does not need a ‘fixer’ anymore.

This journey has taught me so much that I wanted to help every parent who faces this monster, (drugs) in their homes. We rolled ToughLove out into our community in Eldorado Park to help other parents and offer assistance. I have seen how parents who came in as victims, like me, emerge as victors on this program. They are stronger, taking control of their homes, and by doing that are assisting their problem persons to acknowledge their addictions and seek help.

My message today to all parents having a child on drugs, no matter their age, seek help, speak out, join your nearest ToughLove…it works, it worked for me and my situation was a lost one. ToughLove does not replace your religion; it is an added, much needed platform that addresses the problem with a real solution to your situation.