Drug Addiction does not discriminate – a mother’s story

drug addiction

I am writing this article through the reflection of my own tears as I am urged to share my last few weeks of absolute chaos and turmoil. Through this article I want to make parents aware of the drug war which is in our midst, attacking our children, the next generation, those we love so dearly.  Only a mother of an addict can understand the real grief I am currently experiencing….

On 26 July 2011 I did the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life, I had my beautiful son admitted to a drug recovery centre.  I have aged a million years, cried a million tears, &still they have not stopped. I’m tired to the core of my being, yet for the first time in weeks there is a flicker of peace. I know I have done the right thing…

The process of realising there is a serious problem took only a short while, as I know my children very well.  I noticed a change in his behaviour towards the middle of term 1 (yes he was in matric this year).  A sudden change in increasing frustration, fights with his siblings and moodiness.  At first I put it down to the fact that his teenage hormones has kicked in.  The only mistake I made was to think that this will not happen to my son.  He was my perfect child from the day he was born, and close to a straight A student at the end of Grade 11.  He never disrespected anyone and was so well mannered.

The wheels came off during the June holidays; he never came home when he was meant to, crashed my car, and started disrespecting me with

the most horrid language and insults.  This was not my son! It was then that I knew we are dealing with unwanted substances because my child, the one I was closest to, became a stranger overnight.  When I started with a Tough Love regime in my home, he ran away and went missing for four days. I went through the valley of the deepest darkness in those four days, and all I could do was pray for his safe return.  He returned, broken to the core, sobbing and asking me to please help him…. I flew him down to the recovery centre the very next morning, and he is now on the road to recovery with our full support.  His younger siblings have been affected hugely by this trauma, and we are all on the road to recovery.

I recently wrote an article on male role models in a single mother family, and I feel that I have somehow failed my boys in this regard, as I traced the use of drugs back to a huge fall out my son had with his father in December 2010, when he refused to see his father again.  My son has never been a rebel, and I see his addiction to be directly linked to finding refuge for the hurt and inner conflict he is experiencing in stepping into adult male hood and not trusting men…

This mom however will allow NO MORE COMPROMISE: Not only do you have a right, but it is your duty as a parent to question your child’s change in behaviour, to check their phones and pc’s regularly when you have concerns, to check with other parents when your child is going out, and to go through their rooms when things don’t make sense … Do not be manipulated by your child, it will enable the behaviour and ultimately lead to their destruction!

Read up on the various forms of drugs, and have a good all round understanding and knowledge on the use, the effects, and the availability.  A couple of years ago I read an article that statistics show that at least 85% of all teenagers will try a drug at least once.  Where these statistics are right now, I would not dare to give my opinion.  Some of these kids cannot control the use after the first taste… Take Real Action and Do It Fast! We must save the next generation. Addiction does not discriminate against gender, race, culture, religion, location, class…

I am no longer afraid to take a stand.  If you thought I was a mover, groover and shaker until now, you ain’t seen nothing yet… This warrior woman is only just emerging from her shell!  In our darkest moments come our richest blessings, if you open your eyes and really see!

I will continue to write and speak on my journey to healing with ongoing information on substance abuse and addiction.  Please feel free to contact me in this regard.

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Karen Oliver

Karen Oliver

Karen Oliver, a single mom of 3 with a great sense of humour , takes her role as mother to heart and makes every day in her chaotic tribe purposeful.

21 Responses

  1. Hi Karen, have been in recovery for 3 years now myself and am terrified with what kids endure in terms of social pressures and the the potency / availability of drugs in South Africa. God belss I hope you and your son get through this time.


  2. Hi Karen, my brother has been battling his addiction for the past 20 years (he is now 33 years old). Addiction has a debilitating effect on the family, never mind the drug addict – if there is one thing i wish we could change – it would have been to become involved as a family in the rehabilitation process, instead of just my mom. All the best – your son is lucky to have a mom like you.

  3. Hello everyone, I thought I will just mention, that my heart is singing with joy today. I had a very inexpected phone call from my son last night – a whole week earlier than expected. Because he is progressing so well with the programme, they allowed him phone call rights last night. He sounds so well, we laughed and joked on the phone …

    And when I asked him if recovery is scary and hard, he said: No Mom, I am learning so much here, and the people are really very good to me! He is so positive!

    There is hope if you keep the faith! I do believe that he will return even stronger than he was before drugs took his light!

  4. My brother has been an addict for most of his adult life he is now 33.
    My parents and I have tried to help him in every way possible and my parents have funded him being in rehab centres four times over the years.
    We have all tried the Tough love approach and they told him to leave, not sure what was worse for my parents his drug habit or the 5 days that they had absolutely no idea where he was or if he was alive. They let him come home.
    My parents are truly at their wits end as finacially they have exhausted funds trying to save him from himself.
    Does anyone here know where they can go from here

    1. I am so sorry Beverly, the fact however is that someone must want to really save themselves before any change will take place. They cannot do it because someone else expects this from them… and sometimes a person really needs to hit rockbottom first before the lightbulb moment happens. What the rockbottom experience is … well no-one will know until it happens. It must be very hard on your parents, I will keep you all in my prayers!

  5. Thank you to all of you for your comments, I really appreciate it.

    Clara, you are correct, we need our communities to get involved in this pandemic our youth is facing. We also need policy change in government… I am working on all of this, one day and one person at a time. This is my life calling: to become a voice, as a mother, on addiction (in all of its forms) and it has just begun. I will continue to fight this war! One way to get involved is on World Addiction Day on the 21st of September 2011, by wearing your orange ribbon, to create awareness. No fundraising is done, only the creation of awareness in all communities across the world. Events will also be held countrywide, a drive to as many schools as possible, and massive media involvement. Pray for a clear message to reach as many of our next generation as possible on this day. Join our facebook page for more information: R.A.E.L. World Addiction Day 2011. We need to bring addiction out of the darkness and shame due to the stigma attached hereto and into the light… Only then can we truly start healing!

  6. Hi Karen

    Thank you for sharing your experience and the courage you have shown as a parent and we are all affected with this predicament in South Africa. As communities we need to intervene and act based on the few resources we have to assist our youth . I am in an Out Patient Treatment Centre in Soweto and about 80% of our clients are under the age of 18 which realy indicates the seriousness of drug addiction in our communities. Families need to be involved by being the support system to the recovery of their child or family member who is drugging. What are we doing with the drug lords/dealers who are invading and polluting our communities with their illegal toxins? Self help groups and treatment , I trust can make a difference but we also need to assess and gather a profile our surrounding and the new friends our children are involved with and their change in lifestyle. People can start their own neighbourhood watch groups and support one another. I believe if our areas are no go area for drugs then the salesman won’t have a place to sell and also if families talk openly about the dangers of drugs and those with knowledge educate other then we will face war on drugs until at the end.

  7. Good Luck Kathrine.

    I understand what you are going through as my Brother-in-law called us a month before our wedding asking for help (he was to be our best man). He was scared and hiding under a table when my hubby fetched him. We had to break the news to his parents and try find him help.

    Being a typical Afrikaans family, communication was the hardest part for everyone in the family. Needless to say, we have all gotten through this and my Brother in law now has a beautiful family of his own.

    The light in that dark tunnel will come, just be patient and let him work it through. Good luck and keep us posted.

  8. Hi Karen,
    As a mother who lost her 23 year old son to drugs 7 years ago on the 20th of this month, I wish both you and your son the strength to fight this.
    My only advice would be to go with your gut instincts they are the most reliable in this fight.
    Each type of poison shows differently so you cannot always go on what you read. Each addict is also different.
    My thoughts & prayers will be with you both.

  9. Thank you to Karen and Katherine. I am an addictions consultant who offers a family support group on Wednesdays as a free service to the public from our Treatment facility. Please invite anybody who needs the support it is instrumental in the addict/alcoholic’s recovery.

    1. Hello Sheryl – please provide us with your contact details, e-mail or website along with the area your are in. I am building up a database and will be sharing this on a regular basis with my network, or when I have enquiries around support on this topic.

      Stay blessed!

    1. Hello Katherine

      Thank you for your information, will add these to my database. I am well aware of the 12 step NA programme and will be going to a workshop in September offered by, which covers the 12 step programme.

      My son’s recovery centre follows a complete holistic approach to recovery, the approach includes the NA 12 step programme in conjunction with a 12 step spiritual resotration programme along with numerous other skills workshops during his minimum 6 month residency, which include:
      7 P’s (Principles of Planning)
      Addiction and Recovery
      Addiction Disease Concept
      Addiction Neuroscience
      Anger Management
      Art of War – Unique to SCRC. The battlefield of addiction
      CHAPTERS – Outstanding Tool unique to his recovery centre, utilised for evaluation and planning
      Cravings & Craving Cycles
      Cross addiction
      Conflict management
      Decision making
      Ego states
      Financial Controls and Management
      Frozen Feelings
      Grief syndrome
      Key Performance Areas (KPA)
      Life Planning
      Negative self-talk
      Problem Solving
      Relapse Prevention
      Shame-based Identity
      SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
      Time management
      Toxic love

      Individual counselling takes the form of:
      Problem Solving
      Goal Setting
      Directional therapy
      Motivational Counselling
      Task Allocation
      Processing of Step Work
      Cognitive behaviour therapy

      Over and above these workshops and individual counseling he is included in extensive group therapy, and the centre focuses on physical well being, has a nutritionist providing low GI nutritional meals, a fully functional gym, and numerous other physical activities. I do believe he is in very good hands along with God’s hands. 🙂

      I have joined numerous support groups myself, and I am taking massive action as my life has turned completely. I will become a voice for other mother’s and my network and database of information sites and groups are growing. I attend the toughlove support group on a weekly basis too.

      Thank you again for your comment!
      Humbly in gratitude…

      1. Hello Leanne, I have missed your message somehow, and I apologise.

        My support group is with Tough Love … you can find a support group in your area by visiting their website Toughlove’s support has been a life saver, and enables me to adjust my approach in my home, not only towards my addict, but also towards my other children too, and the results in my home: much more love, understanding and a closer bond between us! They offer support to anyone realted to an addict of any kind, along with psychological/personality disorders – we have sisters, wives, mothers, father, uncles and the like in our support group, addressing issues around gambling, drug, alcoholism, and personality disorders.

        Mighty Wings offers courses and support to family based on the 12 steps approach – – the cost is really minimal and affordable.

        I am also seeing a councillor on the side, who specialises with drug councilling for family members, as do my younger children – we all see someone else, as I found each of us a person who will be able to connect with us individually as people… This has helped us all immensely

        I know that Narcotics anonymous and anon offers family support as well, Katherine listed their websites above in her comment to me.

        I will be sitting this weekend to compile a more up to date and complete list – and let you know more detail early next week!

        I hope you find the support you require fast!

  10. Good for you, you go girl! Facing up to your son’s problem will be a key reason that he will recover from this addiction that has got a hold of him. Stick with it even if he does relapse, studies show you are his best hope for recovery.

  11. To my son: ‘I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God meant you to be when He first thought of you…’

    Love you ALWAYS

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