Big kick to a filthy habit

Big kick to a filthy habit

‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

THABA-BOSIU – After years of indulging in drugs and alcohol, Retšelisitsoe Mokhitli is finally a free man.
At first, Mokhitli would find happiness only if he was puffing away and taking a swig from his favourite bottle.
Then it turned into a habit – a destructive one that he is too happy to have finally kicked out.

For the first time in years, Mokhitli can afford a smile and he can finally heave a sigh of relief. He has just kicked out a habit that had dogged him since primary school. Thanks to Thaba-Bosiu Centre of Blue Cross, Mokhitli has managed to break the chains of alcohol and tobacco addiction.

Thaba-Bosiu Centre for Blue Cross is dedicated to rehabilitating people who have fallen into the trap of alcohol and tobacco addiction.
Last Thursday, Mokhitli joined 29 others who “graduated” from the centre after three months of rehabilitation.
Mokhitli started drinking when he was in primary school. It was fun then, but as time passed the habit became an albatross.

Incessant warnings by his parents and teachers failed to stop him from smoking and drinking heavily.
The unhealthy habit continued into secondary, high school and throughout his tertiary education years.
“At the time, I found nothing wrong with the tendency,” he says.

But it became a burden as he entered into employment. The addiction nearly cost him his government job.
“I found it difficult to wake up. I could not stop drinking and I always had a hangover. It clicked to me that I had become an addict,” he says.
Salvation came when he volunteered to go to Thaba-Bosiu Centre.

It was not easy though to cut off products that had become his daily bread.
At the centre, he had to get accustomed to a new regime.
He talks about enduring days of “being inside the yard for the whole day where you cannot see even a piece of cigarette box being blown away by wind”.

At times, he would see passers-by smoking from 200 metres away.
That was not all. About 300 metres from the centre, there is ’Melesi Lodge, known for hosting big and noisy parties that further fuelled his hankering for a swig and a puff.

To deal with the craving, the centre provides inmates with beads from which they make beautiful bangles and bracelets.
They are also kept busy with gym work and other forms of physical activity.
Another “freed” man, Thato (not his real name) says he too started drinking back in primary school because he could not deal with peer pressure.
He remembers that beer “tasted bad” when he first started out.

“However I could not stop because I wanted to please my friends,” he says.
Thato says little by little he got addicted to the extent that he would steal money from his parents to satisfy his craving for the bottle.
This behaviour ruined the good relations between him and his parents he says.

“I did not care,” he says.
Thato says because of the excessive drinking he could not even complete his high school.
“I deeply regret the day that I started drinking and wish that the time could go back so that I can fix my mistakes,” he says.
Both Thato and Mokhitli have pledged never to relapse into their old habits.

“It has destroyed my future,” he says. “But I will not let it do more harm,” Thato says.
Mokhitli says he is fully aware that his friends will start calling him names but he says “the times that I did what they wanted and not what is good for me are over”.
“I do not care even if they will call me a woman or a clergyman,” he says.
A former addict who now encourages those who are admitted at the centre to fight on, Ralebese Lekoro says he was admitted at the centre in April 2006 due to alcohol addiction.

Lekoro says he started drinking when he was in high school and he got so addicted that he would steal money from his house to buy alcohol.
He says quitting was not easy. The craving for alcohol would get strong on some days but he chose to soldier on.
A parent to one of those rehabilitated at the centre, ’Mateboho Kahlolo, says of her son: “I knew him as a sweet son until he started drinking”.
She says she was disappointed because no one in the family had a drinking problem.
Kahlolo says her son was slowly turning into a monster.

“He would knock roughly on the door at midnight and he would kick the door to force his way in if no one responded,” Kahlolo says.
“He was like a lion in the house,” she says. “I am relieved that my son finally went to the centre because we were starting to lose hope,” she says.
Head of Prevention of Diamonds and Drugs Smuggling at the police, Inspector Teboho Modia, says Lesotho has serious challenges with marijuana addiction.

Modia says marijuana is found mostly in Mapoteng in Berea district.
“The addicts bring trauma to the families,” Modia says.
“Some are even committing crimes because when they are high, their brain is not functioning well,” he says.
Modia says the issue of illicit drugs trafficking is high and contributes to other crimes.

The Centre’s director, Thabo Mokhutšoane, says he hopes those leaving the centre will not relapse.
“You are still going to face the challenges in the communities because nothing has changed. The bars are still there and everything that used to tempt you,” Mokhutšoane says. “You should be brave enough to overcome those temptations.”

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