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Former Durban addict shares journey to sobriety

File photo. Picture taken August 18, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

File photo. Picture taken August 18, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Published May 12, 2022


Durban - Whoonga, heroin, crack cocaine and tobacco were some of the drugs Chacko Shabalala from iNanda, north of Durban was addicted to.

Now a year clean, Shabalala shares his journey to recovery this Anti-tobacco Month, pointing out how even quitting cigarettes (tobacco) was vital to staying clean.

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Shabalala who was living on the streets of Durban for four years, said he decided to change his life last year and approached the Denis Hurley Centre for assistance.

“The Denis Hurley Centre has the Qalakabusha programme that assists people struggling with addiction, I was then admitted to a rehab centre in Newlands for 2 months,” he said.

Shabalala said that he knew that two months was not enough for him to reach full sobriety, and he moved to a half way house called Napier Centre for Healing for further recovery, which works closely with the Denis Hurley Centre.

“While there, I still continued to smoke cigarette, as an addict in recovery it is hard to quit all substances at once and cigarettes acted as a substitute.

“I knew that I had to quit cigarette too as it’s also harmful and addictive but mostly because it was taking from me financially,” he said.

Shabalala said that he would spend R300 in 10 days on cigarettes.

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“I knew there was more I could have done with those funds to pick the pieces and put my life in order, I then asked social workers from the centre to keep me in check,” he said.

He said reading novels contributed greatly to putting an end to his tobacco addiction.

“You can’t substitute any drug with another, I wanted to be completely clean,” he said.

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Napier centre social worker, Mandla Cele said they don’t force any of their residents to quit smoking but do encourage it.

“We always bring back recoveries like Shabalala to the centre to encourage those who are still in transition and may be struggling to quit,” he said.

Cele said that most of their recovering residents started with smoking cigarettes and progressed to other drugs.

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According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), although 1 billion people worldwide already smoke and more will start, individuals who stop smoking reduce their smoking-related cancer risks effectively.

“Tobacco use is considered the single most important man-made cause of cancer that can be avoided.”

“Both tobacco smoke and tobacco products for oral use contain a number of carcinogenic substances, such as polycyclic hydrocarbons and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines, which undoubtedly contribute to tobacco-related cancer,” said Cansa’s Lorraine Govender.

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