Fresh start after addiction
Cape Town - Living in the drug world is not an easy life, and living on the streets is not as easy as people think. These were the words of a recovering drug addict who had been on drugs for over 20 years.
Mother of two, Bianca Rabbaney, 46, said she was only 16 when she first started experimenting with drugs.
"I started smoking dagga and abusing alcohol, but I quickly moved on to mandrax," she said.
It was only a matter of time before Rabbaney's parents found out and threw her out of their Athlone home. Rabbaney was one of six children.
"They kicked me out, and they completely disowned me. I lived everywhere until I met a man in Grassy Park. I got into a relationship with him, he was also on drugs, and it wasn't a good relationship, but we had two beautiful daughters. Because the relationship was so bad, I left, " she said.
Rabbaney said she turned to drugs to look for love and acceptance.
"I thought I had found it in the drug world. I was hooked on tik and mandrax for 16 of the 22 years that I was on drugs. You do whatever it takes to get drugs, living on the streets. Being a homeless drug addict is not easy, especially when you are a woman," she said.
During her drug abuse, Rabbaney's relationship with her daughters was strained. She was not allowed to visit the home where she once lived with her then-boyfriend and father of her children, but could only see her children at street corners.
"I was aggressive at the time, tik does that to you, but the girls didn't know I was on drugs, they knew I was homeless. I would wear the same clothes every time I went to see them. It was so sad because they sometimes stole food and clothes for me. I knew they loved me, but when you are on drugs, you blame everyone for all bad things in your life," she said.
She said living on the streets was a lonely, dangerous and expensive lifestyle.
“You either have to bring food, money or drugs, just to get a safe place to sleep at night. As a woman, nine times out of 10, you are safer on your own. Being on drugs makes it easy for you to be a target. I'm a survivor of gender-based violence, and a lot of horrible things that I do not wish to speak about happened to me out there. It really was hard.
Rabbaney has managed to turn her life around and is now a supervisor at U-turn's social enterprise on Long Street.
Rowen Ravera-Bauwer, U-turn's strategic partner, described Rabbaney as a dignified and soft-spoken person who has overcome enormous challenges, including addiction and homelessness. She is also a sobriety and recovery coach as well as a motivational speaker who is also learning to drive and how to be a good mother.
“Since graduating, she's qualified as a counsellor to help others coming out of addiction and similar circumstances, and she's become a mother and role model for many of the guys who are joining our programme and leaving the streets behind them."