I was born on the 9th February 1980, brought up in a privileged and loving home. ‘No’ wasn’t a word that I often heard, and I generally got what I wanted, when I wanted it. This played a major role in my life later on. My parents got divorced when I was two, and as I got older, I enjoyed having two homes as that meant that I got double the amount of attention and material items. As the years passed on, my dad met my stepmom who has played a huge part of my new life today. My mom is still around, and our relationship gets stronger as the days go by. Then there is my dad, my hero, I can hope one day to be half the man that he is today.
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Fast forward a couple of years. I hated school, I just didn’t fit in. I failed Grade two and seven. Those were big blows to me, but I showed no emotion or sense of disappointment. This is how I lived my life. If I was upset I kept it to myself, I tried to figure things out alone and kept people at a distance. My parents thought that I was a well-behaved child as I knew how to play the “game”. It was all about fitting in for me and changing my personality to suit my surroundings.
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I was in Grade eight the first time I got drunk. The Matrics got hold of us one night and made us down a six-pack and six shots of warm tequila. I remember having this feeling of overwhelming confidence. I felt like I belonged and this was the start of a slippery, painful slope for me. A few months later I took my first ecstasy tablet – I can’t even explain the feeling, the love the acceptance and endless confidence that I had so desperately needed. I loved the person I became, and so began my love affair with drugs. The problem with me was there was no ‘off switch’. It was all about going bigger, bolder and harder.
I learnt from a young age that I could manipulate and get anything I wanted from my dad. I knew he couldn’t say no to me and I took advantage of that. This became a huge problem in my life, I lost respect and appreciation for money. I started to ‘worship’ money. Money and status became my higher power.
The drugs helped me numb the few emotions I had, and gave me the persona I so craved. I spent my life shoving everything and anything up my nose, I took whatever I could so that I couldn’t feel. I had this warped thinking that if it went up my nose then I wasn’t an addict. Only people with needles in their arms were addicts. I still had a car, I still had a house, I still had food in my fridge, and I still paid my daughter’s school fees so therefore my lifestyle was acceptable, right? Yes, I did put my love for drugs ahead of the love for my daughters, something I still struggle with on a daily basis. I could see the pain and hurt on the faces, I could hear it in the voices but I couldn’t face what I was doing to them.
I finally started to get my life in order when I was put into rehab, recovery was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure in my life.
When I was getting my life back on track, I struggled and despised being alone. And so I was challenged by people in the facility to walk around the property – alone – to face my fears. I had to start with one lap (1.3km) so in true-addict style, I decided to run to get it over with as quickly as possible. After doing that for a few days, I surprisingly started to enjoy it. I felt relaxed even though it felt like my lungs were going to explode. My dad used to be big into his running and fitness. He has done a few Comrades Marathons, triathlons and Dusi canoe races. My dream is for us to be able to run a Comrades Marathon together to signify my new life.
After a year, I came out of a long-term treatment facility, where we did intensive therapy all-day every day. Something was missing. Now that the drug life was a closed chapter, I needed to find my next healthy ‘addiction’. And so my love with running officially began. When I’m alone and need to get my mind back on track, running gives me that realignment that I so desperately crave.
There is nothing more satisfying and rewarding than getting up before the sun rises to go for a run, hearing the birds chirping, seeing fellow runners happy to be outside with smiles on their faces. It is different, much healthier life compared to driving around the streets looking for drugs in the early hours of the morning.
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I now run for a club in Johannesburg called Jeppe. I have done a few road races, my first one out of treatment was a 25km race on the South Coast. In true addict-style, I signed up for the longer distance and finished in 02:25. When I finished the race, I had this huge sense of achievement. Just eight months prior, I was in hospital on many drips going through a rough detox. How my life has changed for the better! I love doing the Parkruns every Saturday morning and I set myself a goal each week, next up – to run under 19 minutes. Bring it on!
I recently took part in the Tim Man Triathlon, I did the sprint race. It was an amazing feeling to finish the race. I have been putting in lots of time into the water, on the bike and on the road. My commitment to training has paid off, I feel fresh and strong for the first time in my life. My oldest daughter sent me a message after the race saying “well done daddy”. Those words made all hard work I’ve put into my recovery worthwhile!
I am fortunate to have the family that I do. Despite everything I have put them through, they have supported me through some of my darkest days. I have treated them like dirt and they still show me so much love. They have put me through rehab and have bent over backwards for me. My relationship with my daughters improves on a daily basis. They have taken an interest in my new life and they want to run and get active with me.
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Running has given me my life back! I am one of the lucky few that managed to overcome addiction, and have come out fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been before.
It is a cliché perhaps… but I’m high on life now.
This article was originally published on www.runnersworld.co.za
Image credtis: Supplied