The rich boy who got hooked

The rich boy who got hooked

…..It doesn’t matter who you are

MASERU – “WE need to talk,” Teboho said to his fiancé a few months ago. What he said in that ‘talk’ sent his fiancé on an emotional rollercoaster. He said he was struggling with a serious drug addiction that was now threatening not only their family but his health as well.
In the previous months Teboho, 29, had lost weight and withdrawn from his family.
“I was the last one to know. All along I thought it was just work-related stress that was eating him. I was shocked when he said it was drugs,” his fiancé recalls.

She says her immediate concern was how the addiction would affect their five-month-old baby.
“But in a way I was relieved that he was willing to admit to a problem and seek help.”
A few weeks later Teboho checked in to Blue Cross Rehabilitation Centre in Thaba-Bosiu to start what he describes as “a new chapter”.
“The three months I have spent here have saved my life. Had I not come here I would have been dead by now,” he says as he bids goodbye to staff at the centre and fellow patients.

According to the stereotype associated with drug junkies Teboho is the last person who should have been hooked on drugs.
There is a wide perception that drug addiction is a problem of poor people struggling to get to grips with the troubles of life. Poverty, family instability and disillusionment are the usual scapegoats.

Teboho doesn’t fit that storyline. He was raised in a stable and well-off home. He went to good schools in South Africa where he excelled in soccer, rugby, tennis, cricket and athletics. “My grades were brilliant,” he says.
At one time he was in the provincial athletics team.

“The future looked promising. I was a model student and a model child,” he says.
In a way his story shows that no one is immune to drug addiction. He is an example of how anyone, whether rich or poor, can be hooked on drugs.
Trouble started in 2006 when he went to study psychology at the University of Free State.
“In the first year I stopped sports and developed new habits. I was drinking.”

He recalls how in the beginning he would hear stories about his friends taking drugs.
“Most of my friends would hide their habit. Then one day they used drugs in my presence. I tasted and that is how it all started.”
“I was now part of the crew of junkies people were talking about.”
He was dabbling in cocaine, mandrax and dagga.

“In the beginning it was just a way of having fun with friends but with time my life came to be centred on beer, dagga and cocaine.”
“With time the body wants more of the substance that makes it feel in a certain way. So to maintain a certain state you keep pumping it with the substances.”

His return to Lesotho after graduating in 2010 was supposed to have helped him break free from the circle of friends with whom he was doing drugs.
“I thought this was my chance to change my life. I wanted to leave the bad habit in South Africa.”
But instead he soon found that drugs were also readily available in Lesotho. He made new friends who introduced him to local dealers.
“We drug users have a way of finding each other. Drugs are social substances so you can only really enjoy them with other people. Like drinking, it’s boring to drink alone.”

At that time Teboho was managing a family business and says he was “always awash with cash”.
“It was a business where people paid in cash. So money for drugs was always there.”
On a good day the small business could bring in around M1 500, some of which would feed his habit.

“You get detached from reality and start focusing on when you will get the next supply. When you are addicted nothing else matters apart from getting high again.” By the end of 2011 Teboho could barely function without drugs. In 2016 the business was struggling as he continued to ‘raid’ it for cash to buy drugs.

He recalls how he could use M600 in a day. “You start small but when you are addicted no amount of drugs are ever enough. As long as the money is there nothing can stop you from getting more drugs.”
Teboho tells a story of how he would do anything to get drugs. One day he was with a group of friends in Thaba-Tseka when he suggested that they get drugs. Each started making calls to drugs dealers in Thaba-Tseka.

“When we could not get any drugs in Thaba-Tseka we drove all the way to Maseru through the night. We picked our drugs and drove back to Thaba-Tseka. That is the power of drugs.” Thaba-Tseka is about 170km from Maseru.
When the business could no longer sustain his habit Teboho started borrowing from friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours.
“With a child in my life it was hard to strike a balance between providing for him and feeding my addiction,” he says.
For two years he was battling to hide the addiction from his fiancé.

“Physically I was finished and financially I was ruined but I kept hiding it from my fiancé.”
He says one day it suddenly dawned on him that he was living a lie. He had drifted from his family and friends. His business was about to collapse and the relationship with his fiancé was on the rocks.

That is when he told his fiancé that he wanted to talk.
The fiancé says she was shocked because she never thought “drugs were an issue in Lesotho”.
“I didn’t even know that these drugs truly existed. I only see people using them in movies; never did I ever think that someone close to me would be using them.”

She however says with hindsight she now realises that there were some obvious signs.
“It never crossed my mind that he was on drugs even when he would wake up around four in the morning vomiting, had weird sleeping pattern and didn’t eat well.”

“He was deceiving because he is a sweet person. I couldn’t even ask because I assumed it was work-related stress.”
Together they took the news to his parents who he says were already suspecting that he had a problem.
And weeks later he was at the centre for a three-month treatment programme that ended on December 1.
Now he sits at the reception upbeat about the future.

“I see a bigger picture and I have reunited with my family and friends. I mean real friends not drug friends.”
“I feel good about myself. I have made lots of friends here and I think I can do something productive with them.”
Teboho says now that he has recovered he understands how damaging drugs are to communities.

What worries him, he says, is how easy it is to get drugs in Maseru.
He knows six drug dealers in his village and none is bothered by the police.
People are wrong to think drugs are a South African problem, he adds.

“More people have gained interest and are hooked on cocaine. The demand has gone high and so will the supply. I can say, without doubt, that nearly 90 percent of the youths in Maseru have experimented with drugs at some point. Its a lucrative business,” he says.
Teboho says, unlike other people who move from one supplier to next, he stuck with one supplier “because of the quality of his goods”.
“I stuck with this supplier to maintain the relationship we already had but when he was out of supply then I would go to another supplier.”
Teboho says he understands that rehab is only the first step to his recovery.
“It is not going to be easy,” he says.

“Out there life is still as I left it and it is up to me to stand up and know what is best for me,” he says.
Teboho says he wishes everyone who is on drugs could understand that they are wasting their lives.
He believes that people who last saw him in August will not believe how well he looks now. He has gained 10kg and his face looks healthy and well nourished.

“My aim right now is to develop further physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually,” he says.
“I wish to be a living example from overcoming drug addiction and motivate other drug users to get themselves cleaned up,” Teboho says.
“If I had not come here I would have possibly stopped breathing and died.”
Teboho received an award of leadership at the rehabilitation graduation ceremony.

l Name changed
l The story is part of Lesotho’s Drug Scourge series thepost will publish for the next few months.

Shakeman Mugari &
Rose Moremoholo

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