A look into the mindset of a drug addict

SHOCKINGLY DESTRUCTIVE: Former addict and now mentor and anti-drugs activist, Deon Kok, shows tthe size of a bowl - which when its full, is the quantity of mandrax an addict could finish a day. Photograph:y Lucky Thusi

EXPRESS visited the Big Brother House in Forest Hill recently on a quest to speak with graduates of the REC Wellness Centre in Robertsham to gather insight that could help people understand what exactly happens in the mind of a drug addict.

This is the story told by a brotherhood made up of people including former government executives, businessmen, ex small-time criminals, husbands, fathers and children – people who lost it all, broke many hearts and wasted their loved ones’ money on rehabs.

Addiction madness

“Addiction makes a person do some of the craziest things ever!” said a former director at a government office.

“I took home R52 000 a month but got so hooked on drugs that I didn’t want to be around my family because they stood in the way of my getting high. I figured if I gave them R15 000 a month, they would be off my back. I went from not being home for a week, to two weeks, to a month and eventually a whole two years.

“I would lock myself in the office, respond to people and the secretary via emails and just take drugs the whole day. Some of these drugs don’t make you sleep.

“I once went for nearly a month without sleeping; the entire time you are awake at night, all you do is clean and fix things that aren’t even broken. During that time, you eat just to meet the basic nutritional requirement, otherwise you’ll collapse and miss time to get high.

“You get to a restaurant, place an order and ask for the bathroom in order to snort something up your nose quickly. You choose to forget that in all that time, the substance is eating the flesh layer between your nostrils.

“The sad part is that the dealers of these drugs are right here in the South – and all kinds of drugs are available for our youth to experiment with. How did I get away with the habit at work?

“I was the director – the person who had to authorise drug tests; I never subjected myself or my colleagues to that,” said the changed man.

“The thing about drugs is that most addicts are sort of trying to numb something. I was a police officer and we kept taking the drugs, saying we were dealing with the stress of the job. You don’t see that you’re getting addicted,” said an ex-policeman.

Down and out

Going into the interview, EXPRESS needed to understand what was that one thing, or that one moment, that actually makes an addict finally realise it’s time to change.

In a shocking consensus, the brothers responded:

“It’s that moment when you’re down and out. That moment when the very next thing to happen is death. That moment when everyone who once cared about you, has finally shut you out.”

They believe it’s not the time when an addict is dragged to the nearest, or best, or most expensive rehabilitation facility. In fact, the brothers have been in and out of rehab centres; they went because someone convinced them that they needed to be clean.

“It is during the moment, that you realise – for the first time – that you’re alone. And don’t get me wrong, you’ve been alone many times, high on drugs – but you didn’t even feel that you were alone, because your mind was fixed on just getting high.

“It’s the time when it hits you that you have absolutely no one – that you’re down and out. At that point in your life, you realise that you need to get your stuff together or you’re just going to die,” said a former director of a government office.

“At that point, a drug addict has already thought of suicide many times. In fact, every one of my brothers in this room had suicidal thoughts during that time.

“I have in fact poured alcohol on my body and sustained burns … and had to go through expensive plastic surgery procedures as a result. But before that, I’d failed to quit even after I had been taken to some of the most expensive rehab centres – as expensive as R30 000 for just one day.

“And if there’s anything I learned, it was that most of the patients were just like me: repeat offenders who would often fail again,” said a businessman who learned that a person could start using drugs even at the age of 45.

Sadly, over the last couple of months, six young people went out to die in the streets or returned so damaged they could only be sent to a mental institution.

One of them was a woman who exited the programmed before the minimum time of six months was up.

Behaviour is the biggest devil

The brothers want people to understand that the addiction of an addict is just a slice of the big problem; behaviour is the biggest devil that needs to be addressed and altered through spirituality.

Regardless of their religion, a person must believe in God because as long as a person believes that there is a God, that person can take on a moral compass which will install and maintain change within that person.

The brothers believe that the reason they were successful and are still successful in helping others, is because unlike most rehabs, they don’t address the addiction. They address the behaviour of an individual by changing that person’s mindset.

“If you change your behaviour, you’re on the best route because the addiction becomes a lifestyle. You’re then not getting high to be high but to feel like you’re being yourself.

“It’s hard to change a person from being who they are. It’s hard to change an addict because his or her addiction has become a lifestyle, not a choice.”

That’s why the REC Wellness Centre needs six months to work on the behaviour of that person – one can’t be around drug addicts or drug-using friends and think that one won’t end up using drugs,” said one of the brothers.

The brothers believe the reason why most rehab centres didn’t help them and often fail to help other people, is because they address the addiction medically rather than psychologically.

The line between confidence and arrogance is thin, the brothers warn.

Once you quit drugs, you need to maintain behavioural changes and be careful not to socialise with drug-using friends. A rehab can administer medical intervention to make an addict feel clean and good, but that’s done nothing to that person’s mind.


“Most of us still get cravings and it’s mostly because we have been addicts for most of our lives. Slowly but surely, the frequency of these cravings become less and less.”

The brothers say that cravings come and go and that they can also be triggered. While out walking the smell of fumes from a big truck driving past could trigger the addict’s craving for heroin. Sometimes an addict’s body can get weak or the mouth will get wet. Sometimes the taste of the drug will be on the tongue, presenting a challenge to resist.

“Cravings can also come in the form of euphoria after a dream – you jump out of bed thinking you have just used drugs again, but it was just a crazy dream since you tasted the drug in your sleep and felt its effect on you.

“Hunger can also be a trigger because when you used to get high, you didn’t eat unless you were very hungry.

“When you are hungry you start having cravings, because during the times when you waited for your fast food order, you would rush to the bathroom and take some drug; your body and mind now associate hunger with a fix,” said one of the brothers.

Addiction leads to most of SA problems

The brothers say they don’t remember a time when they were arrested, even for the smallest crimes – when drugs weren’t involved.

They believe that corporate companies and government should get involved but not just by providing funding, but by acknowledging that addiction leads to a lot of nationally important problems such as crime, poor health and low business investments.

They wish to see South Africa join countries such as Singapore and UAE in addressing drug addiction. They want countries to deal with problems related to drug abuse – problems that are a burden on any government’s resources and an obstacle in the business sector.

Honest talk

The brothers believe it’s important for them to talk to their siblings and children. Honesty is the one principle that helps them to stay on the right course – since they maintained their addiction through lies and deceptions. They want most companies and families to acknowledge addiction because they come from families and companies who were ashamed to talk openly about it.

Let the brothers come to you

To speak to the brothers, or to invite them to speak to your company or organisation, contact Deon Kok on 073 843 1375.

James Mahlokwane
Senior Journalist

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