We welcome contributions from people in all stages of addiction. This is a guest post from someone currently homeless in Cape Town that we are trying to help.
Addicted and Homeless in Cape Town
It has come to that point where I, in order to have any hope of ever becoming the Carlos Mesquita that I one day hope to be remembered as have to put my false pride in my back pocket and look you all square in the eye and say that I, Carlos Mesquita, the Head Boy, the A-class student, the Record Company owner , the past Administrator of Elim Night Shelter and the liaison officer for City of Cape Town’s Department of Social Development, well, that I too, am an ADDICT!
I have again silently and without much fight slid back into addiction. Except this time, (yes, I have been here before- well, yes, different substances, different city, different circumstances but addiction never the less.) And so what do I do differently this time, to ensure that I am not just trying to fool myself into believing everything’s going to be OK!
I am not going to hide it!
To hide it would be to deny myself the opportunity of reclaiming my life and I refuse to again be kept back due to fear- Oh, what will people think? What will people say? You know what? I don’t give a damn.They won’t be saying something I haven’t already told myself a thousand times over in any case.
This time round the drug of choice has become GHB, (or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate. GHB is abused by a huge and growing number of CapeTown’s more affluent gay and yuppie communities – at bars, parties, clubs and “raves” or at group sex parties, which I can guarantee you, with the rise in the use and popularity of crystal meth – or Tina, as it’s popularly known ,together with it’s now popular counterpart, GHB or “G” by the more affluent and suburban dweller, are being held in at least every second or third street in every suburb in Cape Town.
G is often placed in alcoholic beverages. Euphoria, increased sex drive, and tranquility are reported positive effects of GHB abuse. Negative effects may include sweating, loss of consciousness (reported by 69 percent of users), nausea, hallucinations, amnesia, and coma, among other adverse effects. I can testify to having landed up unconscious at Somerset Hospital last year a total of four times. All four times, in ICU in a coma. GHB looks just like plain water – except it tastes horrific – you can almost imagine your insides being eaten away by the nauseating smell of this fluid.
The devastating effects it has had on my own life, (especially last year March- October) made me come to the realization, that I am not only destroying myself and the memory of the good I have done, I am also hurting the few people that still care about me and pretty soon will in other ways probably be hurting others I don’t even know.
I have of course during my addiction, I had to scale down in terms of living arrangements : down from self-owned properties to hired apartments, to hotel rooms, to backpackers, to shelters and now the streets of Cape Town – a city which to me, 5 years ago, meant: Wynchester Mansions, Theo’s and Villa do Mar. By now, you will have guessed that my other drug of choice this time round is Crystal meth!
Addicted and Homeless in Cape Town
Of course for the criminally minded, especially those guys and girls in the sex trade, this combination has become somewhat of a handy little tool of the trade as they ensure their client takes a little too much “G”, passes out and these individuals can then proceed to steal at the heart’s desire for up to six hours without interruption.
After what was surely an embarrassing (from the little I can remember) episode on the streets of Greenpoint on a warm and busy November Friday night, ( I can only imagine the spectacle I made of myself in full view of the Friday night party pack), I realized something had to be done – by me and me alone!
I eventually came to and into consciousness on Saturday morning, just before 5am, not remembering my name or surname or where I stayed or anything prior to that moment-it was frightening to say the least-I had no shoes on my feet and I was dirty! I was locked up in the parking garage of the Game Centre in Cape Town’s Central Business District near the station. I walked round and round in circles for hours outside of the Game Centre as all my brain could process was the activity I had just performed and then I would repeat it: talk about going nowhere slowly!
It was only at around twelve that day that my long term memory returned to me and then my short term memory started playing up! Scary! Well, that and the humiliation of people starring at me and talking about me so obviously as I sauntered down Somerset Road into Main Road towards Sea Point – most assuming I was drunk!
That afternoon at 5pm, I walked into Somerset Hospital’s (very un-impressed TRAUMA unit -where by now, all the staff knew me well, and the doctors and nursing staff made no secret of their displeasure at my very self destructive tendencies. By that day, I had been brought into their ward on a stretcher on a number of occasions and although they initially showed great concern, by now they had no more compassion to waste on one so wasted!
This time, however, I wasn’t on a stretcher and all I wanted was their assistance to get me into a rehabilitation program as soon as possible. After all, all around me were bus shelters with mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille’s face and her message about the effects of drug abuse on the user and friends and family.
Surely, if I was honest and sincere and asked people to help me, me, Carlos, the man who spent most of his time and energy on the rehabilitation of others who were themselves struggling with addiction and the negative impact it had on their lives, I would be OK!
And at this point, I would like to publicly apologize to the staff of Somerset Hospital’s emergency and casualty ward for my often very difficult and rude behavior and I want to especially thank Dr Erasmus and all the other doctors, nurses and staff who have had no choice but to be privy to my often pathetic and self destructive behavior, thank you for helping me with that first step and your referral.
Although it took an immense amount of begging and pleading, I finally got to see the social worker on the Monday and by the grace of God still have people in my life, that I know I have hurt deeply (especially because of my in denial lies and deceit) that were at the time still willing to invest in me as an individual, be it in time, money or concern. I will never forget how excited and convinced I was that by that Thursday I would be in rehab and the future was again looking bright.
I am sure even THIS confidence forms part of what I can only refer to as a: “I am God syndrome”, which drug addicts tend to suffer from. Even at such a crucial point I refused to face the reality of my very dire situation,
I am JUST ANOTHER HOMELESS DRUG ADDICT ON THE STREETS OF CAPE TOWN whose nights – one–eye open nights – are now so much longer as I travel into day.
Addicted and Homeless in Cape Town Part 1 is over.
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