Not long ago Abner’s life hung in the balance. Once a successful businessman, charismatic speaker, church elder, community worker and dedicated family man, he had lost it all to drug and alcohol addiction.
The life he had worked so many years to build had been destroyed in a few short years of substance abuse. His health had deteriorated, his family estranged, his business failing and he was sinking in debt. The only thing left to do was to end it all, and that’s what he planned to do. Here is his story.
I was born in the township of Kwa-Thema, east of Johannesburg in 1963, the firstborn of seven siblings. At the age of 20 I realized a lifelong dream when I raised enough money to fly to the USA to study. It was very tough at first and I found myself flipping burgers, washing dishes, taking on small acting roles and doing whatever work I could find just to get by. After a few years of struggling I was granted a bursary from the UN and went on to graduate from UCLA with a BSc in Political Science.
When South Africa became a democracy in 1994 I decided to return home and over the years built up a successful business as a motivational speaker and consultant. I married Nthabiseng and had four beautiful children. Life was good. But on the 9th June 2007 I received a call that would change my life forever. My 17-year old adopted son Sibusiso had been involved in a car accident. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of seeing my precious boy, battered and broken, lying in hospital on life support. After days of fighting for his life we were told that nothing more could be done for him and we would have to switch the machines off. It took my son almost the whole day to pass on. And when he did, part of me died with him.
Too proud for counselling
The only thing that mattered was the next hit.
Living in denial
I had become a slave to drugs. But like most addicts I refused to accept the truth. I rationalised my behavior and minimised my situation. I was arrogant, full of myself and utterly selfish. I put myself and my family in danger. I became emaciated, paranoid and suicidal. I was high all the time and twice was in a near fatal accident.
Having been brought up as a Christian I knew what was right and wrong but I was in denial and leading a double life. As a leader in my church I would slip into the toilets during the service and hit that crack pipe, then come back and sit in the front pew. I was a hypocrite and master pretender and could have been given a best performance award.
I was a hypocrite and master pretender.
Failed attempts at rehab
One morning two friends, Hugh Masekela and Lebo M, came to my house and confronted me. They told me about a rehab center in Randburg and persuaded me to book in to try and recover what was left of my life. After two weeks in the programme I was feeling strong and ready to conquer the world. But the awful craving returned and I relapsed before even leaving the clinic.
Seven months later I went into my second recovery facility in Kempton Park for a 21-day recovery programme. Again I relapsed, this time one day after I left. The demon of drugs had me firmly in its clutches. I started binging on drugs, using crack, cocaine, ecstasy, alcohol and weed. My body was taking serious strain and I was slowly losing my mind. I was paranoid all the time. I thought cars were following me and stars became thousands of cameras documenting evidence to use against me later in the courts.
On one occasion I had been up for two days and was sitting in my car in my garage smoking crack when paranoia set in. I heard some sounds, walked into the kitchen and found my son Khutso looking for his asthma pump. All I cared about was getting him out of my sight so that I could continue smoking. I chased him back into his room and he had such a bad asthma attack that he was admitted to hospital and placed in ICU. When I went to visit him the next day I decided to have a puff in the parking lot before going in. Well, as they say in rehab, “one is too many and a thousand never enough”, and I never made it in to see him. Thank God my boy survived.
My third attempt at rehab was at the South Coast Recovery Centre. On the six-hour journey to the Centre I used about R4 000 worth of drugs and arrived as high as a kite. I slept for the first week, getting up only to eat and to see a doctor. It took seven months of deep, painful therapy to get free. There was no way out but through all the hurt, damage and destruction I had caused myself and the ones I loved.
There was no way out but through all the hurt, damage and destruction I had caused myself and the ones I loved.
I had to acknowledge that I had no one to blame but myself. The devil did not make me do it; I had made a conscious choice. I was not bewitched as many would have me believe. I had hurt, deceived and lied to my wife, children, friends and family. I had broken my mother’s heart and grieved many others.
But by the grace of God redemption was possible and in this strong, loving community I found my way back to wholeness and sanity. I have been clean for six years and three months now. I am eternally grateful to my wife, children, family and friends who never gave up on me and to God who gave me the strength to find my way back. I could never have done it alone.
Abner is the acting CEO of Rock Fibre (Pty) Ltd, a Director of Empowa Investments and a sought-after motivational speaker. He has written a manual called “Choose Life” and through his newly formed NGO “Joint Power” helps people avoid and escape addiction. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.