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  • Writer's pictureAnne Brest

ADDICTION

for Chandrea Serebro Drug Addiction


by ANNE LAPEDUS BREST


Never, ever, ever think “this can’t happen to me”.. And never under-estimate the power of ‘denial’.


To this day, it absolutely never ceases to amaze me, how I could not have noticed anything really different about my lovely daughter, Angela, throughout the approximate seven years she was involved in the dance of addiction. . In her case, it was drug addiction. And how, when I did realise it, I couldn’t accept it…


Angela grew up in a loving family, adored in particular by my Mum, her special Gran; she was an all-rounder at King David Sandton and later Victory Park... Good at sports, popular with her friends, and family… After school she qualified as an Oral Hygienist and got an excellent job with a wonderful dental practise in Randburg.


I had no idea anything was wrong, that anything had changed, and the small behavioural changes, each one in itself perfectly innocent, did not alarm me to anything underlying... Of course in hindsight it was all staring me in the face that something was radically wrong, but I didn’t see it...


What changes am I talking about? She lost a lot of weight, (which is often a symptom of drug addiction) but to me, I was thrilled for her because she was looking so good, and wearing clothes she had not worn for some time... Many a Friday morning she would phone me to tell me she couldn’t make Shabbos dinner as she had the start of a headache, or a stomach ache, or felt fluey. I would be disappointed, but not alarmed... It’s perfectly normal for a young adult to lose weight, or not appear for Shabbos dinner because of a stomach ache, without a parent getting concerned... When I did see her, she was often either very giggly, or abrasive... I never knew what to expect, but I pussy-footed around her, and never made waves...


She had left her wonderful job and her profession and gone into clothing, and then I noticed that she was moving house frequently. She said the owner of the house or cottage or apartment was not nice to her and that also sounded normal to me... Except that it was every owner of every house, cottage and apartment...


But the stomach aches became more frequent, as did the headaches, and flu episodes, and then money was disappearing and not only my money but money from friends, family, colleagues.


Somewhere in the back of my mind alarm bells finally sounded, her entire behaviour pattern and her persona were changing. My Mum noticed it but we had no idea what the problem was... I asked her once if she was ill, or short of money, and she laughed it off saying she was feeling good, and money was good and so no problem...


I became a little detective... I hate to admit it, but I have to... Her mail had always been delivered to my box, and one day I held the envelopes over a steaming kettle and opened up each and every one. I saw bills and lawyer’s letters and final notices but I would re-seal the envelope, hand it over to her, and say absolutely nothing... I was afraid to rock any boats... She was then living with a friend in Kensington and our relationship was a little strained so I did pussy foot around her, but inside I was anxious, nauseous and at times frantic. The situation was bizarre, but I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific…


But I would like awake at night worrying myself sick, wanting to give her money to pay her bills, but when I did offer her money, she said she was ‘good’ and didn’t need it, thank you.

I finally started to uncover the truth, slowly and painfully, but I didn’t believe what I was uncovering. I couldn’t believe it. I refused to, and that is when the denial set in. I made excuses for her, covered for her to my Mum, who was also asking what was wrong with Angela, she seemed so different somehow, evasive, avoiding family gatherings and not coming around to her once weekly supper date as she had done for years... She and her Gran always had a very special relationship. . What was happening to that? - My Mum had wanted to know… But I couldn’t give her any answers. I felt powerless, confused, agitated, worried, and totally in the dark...


I knew I couldn’t ignore the situation any longer... too much had happened, too much bizarre behaviour, and like it or not, I had to face it. I wanted the problem to just ‘go away’. One of Angela’s older sisters told me that I was not doing Angela any favours by not confronting the situation head on, and in fact, my behaviour was making me an enabler. I finally had to realise that my daughter was in active addiction, she had been seen sniffing a white powder in the ladies room at one of her jobs... her boss told me...

Totally out of money and a job, Angela ended up at home... Moved back into her old room, and this was a nightmare year... I made her have a Drug test at Gaye Turiel’s office (then in Houghton House) showed up with a certain weight loss pill “ Thins”.. I argued with Gaye that “everyone takes diet pills”, why did this mean Angela was using drugs? I heard my question and how ridiculous I must have sounded...


She went into “First Step” in Gayre Road, Sandown to clean up. But throughout, she said was she not using and the only reason she went in, is to get me off her back! So I felt guilty that I had insisted on her doing the programme, because part of me still believed she was not using… It also never ceases to amaze me, on reflection, how strong the feeling of non-belief is, that I could have managed to believe that Angela was not using... This ‘denial’ that everyone talks about, is so real, so strong, so powerful... I’m not fool by any means, in fact I see myself as very astute, I should have been a lawyer or a psychologist, but yet I believed that I had put Angela into an outpatients programme for something she was innocent of … I still believed she was not using… There had to be some mistake.


Her substance abuse had started with “dagga” or weed when she was in her early twenties. Most people her age had been experimenting with dagga, made them feel ‘chilled’ and relaxed, creative, and gave them a euphoric feeling which they felt they needed to really enjoy themselves at a party.

For every number of people who experiment with dagga, most of them are able to quit when they want to. When the novelty wears off, or when they don’t always like the out of control feeling they experience... Sadly there are those who cannot quit. . cannot stop, need more and more, and then that is not enough, and they search around for something stronger, more exciting, and end up using any number of substances.. Ecstasy, Cocaine, Cat (Khat/Qat), sleeping pills, tranquillizers, and whatever they can get their hands on, and whatever becomes their ‘drug of choice’. Her life had become an unmanageable state of utter chaos, until she eventually wasn’t really functioning... She had a few minor accidents whilst driving, and how she ever actually drove, beats me.. She would sit on the floor in my room, hair unwashed, looking a mess, and with no direction in life.


While I was in la-la land with happiness that Angela was cleaning up in “First Step” she had actually used throughout... had me fooled – again…


But it all came to a head eventually and in actual fact, strange as it may sound, I was happy – happy to be facing reality head on, happy that Angela was going to get the help she needed, happy that she was now wanting this help, and happy that she willing to go into rehab and work the programme.


Angela herself was happy, she had had enough of the lies and deceit, she was tired of being a slave to the drug, wanted to stop, but couldn’t do it alone... She was tired of it all, and knew she had to “clean up” - easier say than done.


Going into Houghton House was the best thing that ever happened for Angela and for me... It was the beginning of new beginnings. Angela was the model recovering addict. . She worked the programme, she followed the rules, and she wanted to get clean. She wanted to turn her life around. .

And she did...

Today she is seven years and one month clean, she is a sponsor, she attends meetings, she is highly thought of, and has an excellent reputation. It took determination and dedication, and following the 12-step programme to the letter of the law.. She did it… Today she is solid, reliable, responsible, accountable and dependable... she makes good choices.. She’s a class act..


What I had once thought to be a hopeless situation was not... Angela turned it all around... Beat the odds... She got clean. The followed the saying “it works if you work it, so work it, you’re worth it” She is worth it.


I would not describe myself as being an emotionally strong person. But during the entire journey, I surprised myself... I found an inner strength, and I manged to stop myself from falling apart at the seams. Yes, there were times I was desperate, during my denial, and often felt that I was at my wits end, but I found the strength and resilience to “hang in”... - be there for my daughter, not to judge her, not to admonish her, but to be supportive.


It’s what a Mother does... you find the strength, you find the courage, and you find comfort in talking to other mothers in the same boat…


My Mum played a huge role in that she was amazing throughout.. She didn’t question, no why’s, no ‘why us’ , she was accepting… She was into her nineties but each week I collected her, with her little goodie-bag of treats for Angela, every Wednesday without fail, to drive her to ‘The Gap’ (Secondary care/ Houghton House) and we sat with Angela and watched her grow stronger from one week to the next... The change was remarkable... She seemed to now have a driving force in her as she clawed her way out of the black hole of addiction.. She smiled more, her hair was always washed and shining, she was exercising, and totally serious about her recovery.. The need to stay clean, helped her to follow the programme. . The need to stop being a slave to “Cat” got her head clear thinking as she shrugged off the claws of the addiction... She was returning very slowly but very surely to normality..


“Cat” is a hideous toxic combination of battery acid, over the counter asthma medication sometimes mixed with household cleaners, and whatever else gets shoved into the mix, combined with a shrub grown in North West Africa and Arabia,


Everything we brought for Angela’s visit, chocolates, biscuits or cold-drinks, cigarettes, were all checked at the reception, and although it seemed strange to me at first, I got used to it… I went with the flow.. I embraced Angela getting clean with everything within me, it was all that mattered.


After the Gap - Angela went to a Half Way house and was able to work in that time – she chose to go back into her profession, a wise choice, and she has gone from strength to strength.. She works for a fabulous dental practie, and I am one of her many patients!

Putting down the drugs is only one part of recovery... Finding and understanding the reason for turning to drugs in the first place, and becoming addicted to them, is a huge part of the recovery process...


Recovering addicts, just like alcoholics, or gamblers, or any form of addiction, rely also on their “Bible’ - The 12 steps. . . The steps are tools to help them fight their addiction to stay clean...


When I was giving a few talks in the USA, I went to one or two meetings and met a woman who was 85 years of age. She was 40 years sober but she never missed a meeting, followed her 12- step programme, and told me that she needed to be with her kindred spirits, she needed to still follow her 12 steps programme to stay sober...


As they say, a Mother’s love knows no bounds...


Anne Lapedus Brest.


I would like to thank my Ex-husband, Hymie Brest, for making Angela’s stay in rehab, financially possible..


Also I am thanking Robert and Sharon Lapedus (my brother and sister in law) for being there for our family in every which way during this time..

Thank you to Alex Hamlyn of Houghton House .


Contact details.

Cel: 082 452 7166


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