My task to write about my life before drugs has proved to be more challenging than originally thought. Before drugs….before I realised I was an addict? Before my first drug? Before I showed the signs and symptoms of an addict? Before I felt the inner desire to rebel? To be different? To love? To hate? Not so simple. So with these questions in mind I turned to Google. Type in “Why do people become drug addicts?” and lo and behold…Nope still no 1 answer. Yet somehow after reviewing a whole library of information I might have found some help in identifying common reasons people like me have become who we are. There seems to be 4 main culprits, and without a doubt I can see exactly where each one played its part in creating the monster I once was, and still battle every day. At this point let me clarify, yes I believe addiction is a disease, yet it’s a disease I gave myself, to deal with it I need to treat it like a disease, but it’s also one that with hindsight I probably could have avoided, so I am not taking away the choice factor, I chose this life and I don’t blame anyone for it.
So I will tackle each and see how they have contributed.

GENETICS

Some sources say 50% of a person’s vulnerability to addiction comes from genetics. Others say a person is 4 times more likely to become an addict or alcoholic if you have it in your family. So with this in mind I look back into my past. My one grandfather died of alcoholism…yup, in my family. My mom, and I love her dearly, is in my opinion, an alcoholic. She would never admit it, but if you need to have a glass of wine every day before lunch, I’d say that’s a problem. My dad is someone who is able to walk into a bar and order a diet coke, he has never spoken to me much about his dad, and I guess having a heavy alcoholic as a father must have been an unpleasant experience for him and his 3 brothers and sister.
Also in other parts of my family addiction runs strong. So there might be something to this genetics thing after all. I remember a story my mother once told me about how as a baby I had a collection of 8 dummies that I never wanted to part ways with. I had a collection around my neck that I loved, and the only way that it was possible for me to get rid of them was to make a big bonfire and show me how wonderful it looked when each one was thrown in and allowed to melt away, only for me to burst into tears once the last dummy had melted away. Sounds like similar situations I faced later on in life!
So you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends, which brings me to….

PEER PRESSURE

I remember when I was a young boy, I had a great group of friends. We were all sports and academics, but yet somehow we parted ways. I was sent to an all-boys school and it was there that I felt the need to become accepted by the kind of guys I thought were living an exciting and adventurous lifestyle. Hiding in trees and under bridges to sneak a cigarette in before and after school was what they did, so I followed suit, and excelled at it. I remember when I was 14, my best friend at the time decided to give me what I remember to be the first intervention of my life. It was simple, I had a choice. I could either go smoke weed with my friends, under the bridge of course, or I could go practice my cricket swings with him in the nets…well, needless to say, didn’t practice my swing.

SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

1990 Apartheid ends, 1994 Nelson Mandela becomes President, 1995 South Africa wins rugby world cup…Great things happening for us as a nation and our people, Great reasons to celebrate! Also in 1995, the first raves and introduction of ecstasy, first trance parties, first 72 hr outdoor dance festivals. I was 15 then. Cape Town opened its first real 24 hr dance clubs, the gay party scene really took off, and we as young boys loved those clubs. We weren’t homosexual, not that that’s an issue, but we found our weekend getaway. Friday till Sunday became a blur of neon lights, loud music, free drinks and lots and lots of ecstasy. It was sport and I was a sportsman. I started working in a cocktail bar at the age of 16 and organised some of the first raves in Stellenbosch. Every weekend progressed to most of the week, and I loved it.

TRAUMA AND ABUSE

Ooooooh, the nasty ones. Who likes the bad guys? But every good story needs them. Everybody faces them, yet sometimes the scars never go away, sometimes the stories are simple and some are more intense. Some people see them as simple obstacles to overcome, challenges to be beaten. For others though, drugs and alcohol become the answer, the sweet salvation to the bitter pain. There is never any excuse for being an addict or justification for what the average addict does to get their fix, but when caught under the weight of intense trauma or abuse, the quickest and easiest solution to fix it seems obvious. It’s what the addict knows. I will share a lighter example of this. In 1998, I was in a severe motorbike accident, both legs broken in many places and my right leg needing bone and skin grafts and plastic surgery. I was in hospital for 3 months, 2 of which I was administered morphine daily. It relieved any and all pain. A few years later after suffering an episode of intense trauma I went in search of heroin. Up until this point I had never used it, but somehow almost on a subconscious level I craved for the fix that I knew only heavy opioid, of which heroin, morphine and most codeine based pharmaceuticals could provide. It worked, all my pain was gone. The first time I used was like saying hello to a long lost love, and goodbye to the last piece of me that was there- heroin had me, and she didn’t let go for a long time.
There is no one reason I became an addict, there is the possibility I was born this way, maybe I chose this life. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter, what does is how I got out, and that is for another day.

Watch out for the series of articles written by David Biggs, a recovering patient of Arca

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