Homeless person Danny Oosthuizen will be writing a daily column for the duration of #TheDignityProject.

The Cape Argus has launched a new collaborative editorial initiative called #TheDignityProject – a 15-part daily series about the homeless people of Cape Town. Homeless person Danny Oosthuizen will be writing a daily column for the duration of the project. Read the 12th entry in Danny’s Diary below ...

Cape Town - A letter from a parent – his son is a heroin addict:

“Hi there Danny.

“Hope you are well. Thank you for all the insights you have given us via your column in (the Cape) Argus. I thought I (was) a bad parent, until I read your story. My son Vernon, 24, is on heroin. He injects himself.

“He never rests. He skarrels seven days of the week for his habit. He does so by selling stuff to commuters at the Bellville taxi rank.

“I visited the rank last week and could not believe the state he was in. I felt like killing myself upon seeing his condition.

“You will know what I am talking about.

“I so wish for him to be clean and free of drugs, but he says he is too weak against it.

“My wife and I are shattered.

“He still lives with us, but in the past couple of weeks he is barely at home. Today is Wednesday and I last saw him on Sunday morning when he returned to Bellville. We live in Mitchells Plain. He is our only son.

“I had wanted to ask you if you are not aware of something we as parents could do to get him to refrain from taking drugs altogether. We do not know anymore. Maybe you can share your thoughts with us.

“Thank you and please keep up the good work. We will continue praying for all of you.”

My reply:

Good morning. Thank you for your mail. You will never be a bad parent. You just find yourself in a bad situation, sir.

When you look at your son, there are two sides: Your boy, and then your boy, the drug user. You need to understand this.

Now, you taught your son values and so many other things about life. And believe me, they are all there with him. But the drug corrupts his humanity. Completely.

You see, with heroin we really have to understand this.

It becomes his god, his wife, his everything. To have a son who is on drugs is the worst thing that can happen to any parent. Never blame yourself for his addiction.

There is nothing you did or should have done better. At some stage in his life he was exposed to it, used it and got hooked.

I salute you for not kicking him out of your home. That would have been his end.

Many parents in this situation, due to frustration or fear, kick the child out and cut all ties. Having nowhere safe to turn can lead them to places even the devil would not go.

Your son is so aware that you love and care for him, that you only want the best for him. And in his worst moment, he only has that to hold onto.

The only bit of hope in his dark world.

Also, he feels shame, disappointment and guilt. And then he can’t bear coming home.

To me, the family, friends and loved ones of an addict suffer more than the addict.

I cannot imagine the pain and sadness you must be going through.

My dad was an alcoholic, drank himself to death, and by doing so messed up my entire life. But he was my dad, and he was sick and I loved him.

There was nothing I could do for him, and by accepting this, it set me free.

I am not a guru on how to tackle this addiction. I will, however, get in contact with people who do, and get back to you.

* To engage with Danny, e-mail him at [email protected]