Nine years clean

I never thought I’d get here. But here I am. Actually I’ve jumped the gun, as usual. I measure my clean time from September 1st 2013, so I will be nine years clean, and into my tenth year (At last!) as of next week Thursday. Close enough though, fuck it.

Normally I have nothing to say these days, but for a change there are a couple of things I’d like to share. Firstly, I think maybe I’ve given some people the wrong impression of my life as an addict – or they got it somewhere else, I don’t know where. People say things like, “Well, you lived your life” when they hear about my past… No. No, I didn’t.

People seem to have these strange ideas about what addicts get up to. Sure, there’s some crazy shit, but for the most part, your impression is totally wrong. Most of the time, meth-heads sit around doing nothing but smoking meth. That’s it. Days pass, then weeks, then months, then years. Suddenly you’re vaguely aware that it’s Christmas… again. The Earth has circled the sun a few times since you last paid attention, and in that time, you were sitting around smoking meth. There is no living of life. There is only sitting and smoking meth. The other stuff that happens, happens by accident, because getting off your ass to get more meth when you’ve been awake for a week will by definition involve some madness. But that’s the exception. The norm is just to sit and smoke.

Please don’t get the impression that life on meth is good, or fun, or romantic, or glamourous, or even interesting. Meth addicts might do some things at the beginning, but that’s before full blown addiction sets in. When it does, meth addicts don’t use meth as a part of their lives. They don’t use meth to enhance sex, or whatever the case may be. They use meth because the meth high is the only thing they care about. The meth high becomes everything, while everything else diminishes in importance. It might take a while to get there, but that’s where it goes. As a meth addict you don’t live your life. You merely exist. You’re a zombie, an emaciated, stinking, pale, broken shit-talking reflection of the person you used to be, and if you’re lucky, you might be smart enough to know that life is passing you by. If you’re luckier, you might be inclined to do something about it, and get clean. But you probably won’t.

The other thing I was thinking about… I remember when I found out that my girlfriend was sleeping with someone else. Our son, Josh, was around a year old. And it wasn’t that she was sleeping with Fabrice, the drug dealer, it was that everyone we knew, knew her as his girlfriend. I was working in the day, and all the time I was at work, she was with him. I met someone who didn’t know us as a couple, who casually referred to her as Fabrice’s girlfriend. Fabrice used to endearingly refer to my son as “Small boy!”. I hated that. I took my son away, with the help of some family and Child Welfare, and then I went to rehab. Fabrice is dead now. He died in prison. Too bad he didn’t live long enough for me to tell him that she aborted his child when she ran away from him, but all in all, I’m glad he’s dead. I hope he died slowly. I hope he suffered. I’d like to think that he died from a stab wound and slowly bled out, with no one around who gave a shit.

Edit: Reading this back, it might seem like I’m being a bit hard on Fabrice. I’m not. He robbed me, more than once. He also sold my fridge, which was in storage after losing the house, which I lost because him and my ex stole my rent money while I was at work. He got what was coming.

Even though I relapsed and used meth for another three years after that, all it gave me was pain. Less than 30 seconds of a pleasureful high, and hours of pain. Hours of dwelling on the past. That’s why I generally don’t write about the past any more. The years of pleasure were good, but they were followed by even more years of pain. And that’s all I remember now about using those last three years: dwelling on the pain of the previous years.

I do sometimes wonder about the people I knew back then. People like the girl who told me when my ex was cheating… she was one of a young couple I was friends with – they stayed somewhere in Wherry Road, Muizenberg, but I don’t remember their names. They were only in their twenties and still not in that “final” phase of addiction where all they would do is sit around and use. I wonder if they got there? These were decent people. Others too… Laska, Leon, Graham… I wonder if they are still alive… I wonder if they got out. A part of me doesn’t want to know because they probably didn’t.

Trust me. There’s nothing good about my old days. I didn’t start living life until after I quit the drugs.

Seven years clean, baby!

I don’t really have anything to say right now… been really busy at work and it even went into the weekend so I didn’t even have time for the programming course for my son. But I had to write something.

I’ve had so much on my mind… so much I wanted to say, but it will have to wait. Seven is a good number. Just one more year and I will have been clean for longer than I used. But it is always good to reach my yearly milestone. (Actual milestone is one of the last few days of August, by the way, but I didn’t take note of the date after all those false starts. But Spring Day is as good as any to celebrate it.)

Update… Since I’m not writing much, here’s a screenshot of my Facebook share. (Hey, the post hasn’t been up that long – wish you readers would give me the kind of validation I get on Facebook. But I can’t have everything I want, eh?)


And it’s comments like this that make this blog worth writing…


Six years clean

It’s been a messed up year.

It started last year, December 7th when my mother died suddenly, and hasn’t really stopped. Before I could get over her death, I heard that my ex was in trouble and so I helped out, having her back here with her daughter Aishah, Josh’s half sister, since around the end of March. I love her as much as my son, and it’s been great having her back, but things are far from perfect. A case against Megan kept her going back and forth to Cape Town for court dates four or five times, all at my expense, and at one stage dragged on leaving her there for four weeks with me looking after both children; she talked me into taking out a loan (now spent) with the repayments so high I can barely afford to pay my bills, and in these months she still hasn’t found a job and helped out. But she is bored enough sitting around at home doing nothing… to go out and leave both children with me, and in fact she’s out as I write this. I don’t know where the money is supposed to come from for Aishah when she starts grade one in school next year, but it won’t be me. All this while I am under the most pressure I’ve ever been under at work. You don’t know how difficult it is to get a six year old girl up and dressed for school in the morning until you have to get her ready yourself… But I’m not complaining… I would love her to stay here for her whole childhood. If only I could get some help.

So, it’s fucked up. I still feels like I haven’t really mourned my mother. Actually Aishah makes that easier in a way… earlier tonight she was telling me how much “I miss granny and wish she was still alive”. Yet I am struggling financially more than ever before.

The one small consolation is this: In years gone by, in those weird times when all I cared about was being high on meth, all these difficulties would have been the perfect excuses to use meth. But the thought doesn’t even occur to me now. I’ve only realized it while trying to think what to write here on my sixth year clean “birthday”.

So… sorry about the doom and gloom of this post. I am really happy to have both children here with me, but just wish it wasn’t only me paying all the bills.

And it is nice to celebrate another year clean. No big deal though. It’s not something that takes effort.

Five years clean

Normally I’d wait until September 1st, tomorrow… to write this post. But tomorrow is Saturday and I’m going to be busy this weekend. I don’t see myself getting to writing anything at all this weekend, or even spending any time on Facebook. Life is more important to me that writing or recovery. So today it is then.

This seems fitting somehow, fitting to my (non) approach to recovery. The last time I attended an NA meeting was around March 2015. I still made a joke of my share, mentioning that I went there (the rehab where I did my outpatient program – which I did only to comply with a court order to get my son back) out of habit, and that all I wanted from them was my 18 month clean key tag, knowing very well that they didn’t keep tags going until that long because that place was mostly an inpatient rehab. This guy, Nick, asked why the tags were important to me if I didn’t care about meetings…

I figured he had a point. Not the point he intended, maybe, but a point nonetheless. His implication was that I “needed” those meetings just like he believed he did, even though he was seven years clean, living in Dubai, flying here to Johannesburg and attending meetings occasionally. But Nick did have a point… Why attend meetings and then diss them? (Especially if those meetings are important to the others there.) Why place any value in those key tags anyway? So I didn’t “keep coming back” and haven’t been back since. Can’t say I miss them.

Anyway, five years is good. It’s a milestone I’ve been looking forward to achieving. I’m glad to have reached it, and will continue to write a post tagged “milestones” every year around this time as long as I’m still alive to write it. Keep coming back…

Daddy Bear for nearly two years now

It’s just over two weeks to a significant date for me – 15th December 2017 – and I don’t mean the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I mean the two year anniversary of the court date when foster care ended and I got my son back.

Although I’ve had my share of problems this year, the relationship between myself and Josh couldn’t be better. We are closer than ever, and it has been a joy to have him back. And will continue to be so.

The post title refers to his name for me… When he first came back, after being in foster care from 18 months to 7 years old, although he saw me regularly and used to call me “Daddy” when I visited, over time that became “My daddy” and eventually just “you”. He’d gradually become accustomed to calling my brother Daddy, and his wife Mommy. Although he quickly got used to calling them aunt and uncle, he couldn’t get comfortable referring to me as Daddy. So he came up with his own work around…

The first book he read in grade one featured Goldilocks and the Three Bears, so Josh asked if he could call me Daddy Bear. At first it was just a name he used at home. Then it became his actual name for me, the name he uses to refer to me when talking to others, the name he uses when we go out – the name he uses for me all the time. I don’t mind as it’s endearing. Others seem to think it strange. His cousins and others have made fun of him for it, but he doesn’t care. When people don’t like what he does, he does it anyway, and declares that they are idiots. Definitely my boy and I love him more for it.

So, things are not perfect. Being a single father isn’t what I wanted, and I did try to make that relationship with his mother work out for years after everybody told me to give up. But we make the best of what we have, and having my son, as well as being a parent to him, being the best parent that I can be… is the best part of my life.

Four Years Clean

Wow. I can’t believe another year has passed. This time I don’t have much to say. I’m four years clean. Fuck you, crystal meth, I won!

Just two days ago, I received a copy of the letter from court indicating termination of foster care and that my son was returned to my care on 15 December 2015. And coincidentally, a new employee, a junior developer who sits beside me, started working with me recently – someone whose father was also an addict. It’s a reminder that these things don’t always have a happy ending.

He stopped seeing his father sometime in his childhood, and due to his father being violent and threatening there was a restraining order preventing further contact… and the man died while my new colleague was still a teenager. Now he’s struggling to decide whether or not to rekindle a relationship with his grandparents. It’s a grim reminder of what could have happened to me – I could have lost my son forever, and then lost my life, if I hadn’t cleaned up four years ago.

But of course I did clean up, and in the end it was easy. I’m not special, and if I can do this, so can you.

While I am enormously proud of my success, I am also humbled by the knowledge that it would have been so easy not to make it. There’s a fine line between the man I am and the man I could have been if I hadn’t stopped using meth. That’s why I don’t judge those who don’t manage to get it right. But the good news is, you can do it.

My fourth birthday since cleaning up

Yesterday was another milestone… not much of one but something towards the next important milestone… It was my 45th birthday, and also my third birthday after cleaning up.

To be honest, I’d regarded my age since cleaning up as a disappointment until recently, because the first (and only) time I went to rehab was in November 2009. I was 38 then, and I looked around at the other inpatients. I was above the average age, and although there were a few people older than me, most of them (except for one guy named Keith who was over 50 and an excellent marathon runner) were lifelong addicts. I didn’t want to be like them, so I figured it would be good if I could get clean and stay clean before age 40. But thanks to my relapse, I didn’t achieve that. In the end, I did clean up for good about a month before my forty third birthday.

Anyway, the only milestone I really care about is the 15th December. On that day last year, we had our date in court, and the magistrate’s decision was that there was no reason for Josh’s foster care to continue. So the 15th December 2016 will be a year since I got my son back. A year being a proper father again, with custody of my son, a chance to show everyone that I can raise him, and most importantly a chance to be there for him… to teach him the values that are important to me. I’ll write about that some more when the time comes, but it’s less than two months to go now, and all is well.

Update: Funny how easy it is to get these things wrong… I wrote this yesterday in a hurry while Josh played outside with some friends who live in the same complex. This was not my third birthday since cleaning up – it was my fourth. I cleaned up in September 2013, about a month before my 42nd birthday. Hence I had 3 birthdays since then. It’s confusing because of course the first was the same year I cleaned up, not a year later. Doubly confusing to anyone familiar with NA who reads this, is that they always ask about “birthdays” at the end of meetings. By “birthdays” they actually mean anniversary of cleaning up, not actual birthdays at all. I’ve always thoughts it’s stupid to refer to that as birthdays, since birthdays are, you know, when you’re born.

Three years clean

For the past six months, I’ve been sharing almost three years clean too often. This last six months has dragged on far too long, so I am glad it is finally over and I can stop saying “almost”. Fuck “almost”, I am three years clean, at last.

I’ve often mentioned how easy it was to stay clean, and it has been easy. At least, staying clean has been, after I made the decision to do so. The hard part was getting to the state of mind of not wanting to use anymore, and it is equally difficult to define exactly how and why that happened.

The reason three years clean is such an important milestone to me, is that my relapse, after an initial nine months clean, landed me back in active addiction for about two years and nine months, so three years is the smallest number of whole years that’s greater than the duration I last used.

Before that day, before the 4th September 2013, I had tried (to quit using meth) and failed a number of times, so many that I lost count. In the end, my motivation came from an unexpected and ironic source: Megan, my ex who had cheated on me so many times I lost count. Megan, who in 2009 at the end of my first round with meth, lay in bed with the man who had beat me to a pulp, asking him if he was OK because he vomited from the overpowering stench of my blood that was everywhere, as I shifted my face on the mattress I lied on, on the floor, so that most of the blood pouring from my mouth would end on the floor rather than soaking my pillow. Megan who then followed me into rehab and joined me at six months clean, only to talk me into using at 9 months clean. Megan who then, after we sorted things out again, would leave me for another man and abandon me to my addiction again, only to return when the other guy died and she had no way of caring for her then four month old baby.

When she returned that time, I took a good look at myself and my life, and I stopped using that day. I have never used again.

One of my issues since then has been guilt… Why couldn’t I stop for our son? But I could for her daughter? I brought her daughter up for nearly two years, only to have them leave again. And I have won our son back, who was in foster care because of our addiction. It’s been nine months since I got him back, and our lives are going great. But for a long time, I had to ask myself… Why couldn’t I get this right long ago?

The answer, it seems, is that I was trying to take on too much. My addiction was my fault. But what wasn’t my fault, was the way I was treated post-addiction. I was isolated, punished, and judged by those who had written me off. Not having my son with me was the worst possible punishment, and it removed any motivation I had to be clean and sober. Worse than that, my son’s foster care officially started at a time when I was clean. I didn’t get here because of the support from others; I got here despite it. I am not and never will be a “grateful recovering addict”, unless I am grateful to myself, and to Megan whose return and daughter came at exactly the right moment to give me the motivation I needed to clean up for good.

I’m happy and all is well now, but it is difficult dealing with some people who act so very fucking supportive now, but who not long ago, tried any tactics they could to prevent me from being reunited with my son. It’s difficult not to be bitter when dealing with insincere, fake people. And it is ironic that those people still think that Megan was the biggest mistake of my life. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for her and I daughter, I might never have cleaned up. She has her problems, and I didn’t ever get to mend our broken relationship, despite trying for years, but she was far from the worst person in my life.

This wasn’t supposed to be negative. I am happy, and this year has been the best one for a while. Things will only get better. But it’s hard to look back without being amazed that I got here, because there really was a lot stacked against me.

I will not be mentioning my clean time anymore, except for each year on September fourth.