Recovering addicts share experiences that almost left them at rock bottom

From left to right - Clinix Health Group Brand Sponsorship & Events Manager Thokozile Masondo, Graduates of the Clinix Solomon ‘Stix’ Morewa Wellness Programme, community member of Soweto and Campaign ambassador, Portia Modise. Picture: Supplied Clinix

From left to right - Clinix Health Group Brand Sponsorship & Events Manager Thokozile Masondo, Graduates of the Clinix Solomon ‘Stix’ Morewa Wellness Programme, community member of Soweto and Campaign ambassador, Portia Modise. Picture: Supplied Clinix

Published Jun 29, 2024


Substance abuse awareness was in the spotlight this week as statistics reveal that the scourge is costing South Africa about R20 billion.

Approximately 60% of crimes in South Africa are triggered by substance abuse.

This week saw a number of activities taking place across the country to raise awareness of substance abuse, hosted by government departments and various private organizations.

On Wednesday, the world observed International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This day is commonly referred to as World Drug Day.

It was established by the UN General Assembly in 1987 with the aim of strengthening action and co-operation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.

The South African National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca is commemorating Drug Awareness Week from last Monday until tomorrow.

Banyana Banyana legend and health group Clinix ambassador, Portia Modise, took part in an information-sharing activation blitz at Maponya Mall in Soweto on Wednesday.

The activation formed part of the health group’s newly launched awareness campaign about substance use disorders and addiction, which seeks to educate and inform young people who are most at risk of using drugs and also offer help to those struggling with addiction.

Modise was unveiled as one of the three ambassadors of the campaign, alongside former Kaizer Chiefs and current TS Galaxy star player Bernard Parker and long jump Olympic silver medallist Luvo Manyonga.

Since her retirement from football, the Banyana Banyana icon has devoted her time and channelled her energy to community youth development initiatives, especially for women’s football and education.

Though she was fortunate not to use any illicit drugs and substances during and post her illustrious career, she acknowledged that she was in a vulnerable and volatile environment that could’ve easily made her slip through the cracks.

Modise said: “This campaign is very close to my heart because not only is it educating the public about the negative effects of using drugs and substances, but it also touches on the issues of mental health.

“I believe that if I wasn’t strong-willed throughout my career, I could’ve easily been broken by the cruel and harsh realities of our football.

“Many athletes start using illegal substances for various reasons and some are not even aware of how it will impact them in the long run. Mental health is one of those reasons, because sometimes some of the athletes take these substances to make them feel relaxed and calm.”

Modise added: “I am committed to being an example to my community by adding my voice and using my life journey to encourage young people to seek help if they have already started using substances and are struggling with addiction.”

Modise said the health group was an institution that cared about communities, and they offered much needed resources to those who were vulnerable at two of their wellness centres located around Soweto - the Dr SK Matseke Memorial Hospital and Tshepo Themba Hospital.

“We decided to come to Maponya Mall to not only share our personal stories, but to also share and give out information about these resources for anyone who is struggling with substance use disorders and addiction, and, more importantly, to tell people that it’s never too late to ask for help,” she said.

Also in attendance was a group of graduates from the health group’s Solomon “Stix” Morewa Wellness Programme, who shared their stories of addiction and recovery.

Thuthuka Mavie is from Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal. His first encounter with illicit drugs was back in 2009.

“At first, it was all peer pressure. I joined a crowd that smoked ‘cat’ and it was all downhill from there.

“I was brought up by grandmother who adequately provided and cared for me after my mother passed away when I was 11 years old. Unfortunately, like many other young people, I never knew my father.

“Using drugs with my peers gave me a sense of belonging because I was still hurting from my mother’s passing and not knowing my father,” he said.

Mavie said before being admitted to the health group, he had already had a stint at two rehabilitation facilities and one church mission.

“I had to take a stern decision to change my life after hitting rock bottom or just face a grim reality for the rest of my life,” said Mavie.

Another graduate, Lebogang Seboko from Pimville, Soweto, was also raised by his grandmother. He said though his mother was still alive, she was not always there because she had to work and provide for him and his younger sibling.

“My grandmother was my pillar and she taught my brother and I about values and principles of life, as well as humility, respect and empathy.

“She also taught and showered us with unconditional love. In 2005, I started smoking weed with my friends at primary school. We then progressed to another substance called mandrax and quickly escalated to using heroin.

“This was all because of my longing for validation from older peers who we deemed to be cool people who were feared and respected. I desperately wanted to be part of that circle,” he said.

Seboko said before his admission to the health group’s Wellness Centre in 2023, he have been to three other rehabilitation centres. “My life had become so unbearable and unmanageable that it still shocks me that I made it out of 2023 alive.

“I was filled with guilt and shame because of my actions and all the pain I had inflicted to my family and community. I’m grateful that after all these attempts, I finally got assistance at the health group which has paved my road to recovery. I want to use my personal story to educate my struggling peers, especially the younger ones who are of school-going age,” said Seboko.

The health group said it would continue with the programme for the next three months, hosting various community engagement activations across Gauteng.

The next blitz will take place in Mamelodi, Pretoria, in early July. TS Galaxy star player Bernard Parker will lead the community engagement.

The Social Development Department said World Drug Day 2024 emphasised the importance of ending the stigma associated with addiction, and strengthening prevention efforts to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking.

The department said individuals could contribute to the commemoration by spreading awareness, supporting local prevention and rehabilitation programmes, participating in community events, and advocating for policies that addressed drug abuse and trafficking.

On June 18, the department engaged with community members from Scenery Park, East London, which is grappling with a high rate of substance abuse, especially among the youth.

The engagement coincided with the remembrance of the tragic deaths of 21 teenagers at the Enyobeni Tavern two years ago, highlighting the ongoing challenge of drug abuse and community efforts to address the scourge.

The high rates of alcohol abuse in the area led to the formation of Lion Trackers, a women’s football team aimed at diverting young people from alcohol and drug abuse.

Sombesiwe Vakela 17, a representative for young people and a striker for the Lion Trackers, emphasised that winning the fight against substance abuse required assistance from the community.

She highlighted how activities like sports could keep young people away from alcohol and drugs.

Parents were also urged to play an important role in ensuring that children were protected against the use, misuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

The department, in partnership with the Eastern Cape Liquor Board and the SAPS, engaged with liquor traders in the Ndavana Community with the aim of raising awareness about the harmful use, abuse, and misuse of alcohol and drugs and the importance of responsible trading.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board’s Bongi Bozo explained the detailed process involved when verifying applications for a liquor license and the powers of the board to not only fine but arrest irresponsible traders selling alcohol to children younger than 18 and serving alcohol to pregnant women.

Bozo appealed to liquor traders to comply with the trading guidelines.

Motshabi Nkoane, the Social Work Policy Manager at the Social Development Department, raised concerns about the high levels of alcohol abuse in South Africa, especially, among young people, which included binge drinking.

She echoed that substance abuse was not a Social Development Department issue alone, and therefore all relevant stakeholders including councillors, traditional leaders and communities should be involved to fight the scourge of substance abuse as stipulated in the National Drug Master Plan.

The plan is the blueprint for the country’s response to substance abuse.

Social Development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said: “The department is concerned that alcohol remains the drug of choice for young people and the policy of prevention and treatment of substance use disorders will be finalised for tabling to Cabinet for approval.”

Oliphant said the policy sought to empower the country to deal with the abuse of alcohol, especially by children, and replace policies with evidence-based policies.

Saturday Star

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