Thingahangwi Mamedzi is a 23-year-old man who was a drug addict and has now given up on drugs and alcohol. He told OurHealth his story:

“I arranged this gathering so that I can tell you my side of the story as an addict, and give a piece of advice to all the young people out there who are involved in drugs and alcohol.

“I was a very troubled kid since I started using drugs at the age of 14 when I was doing my grade 8. I used to smoke more than ten cigarettes a day and, on top of that, I would add dagga (mbanzhe).

“I believed that if one smoked more dagga, you would do better at school but that was all lies. The dagga only damages your brain and you end up doing badly at school.

“My parents ended up losing hope in me. They tried to talk me out of drugs but it was a waste of time because I never listened to them. I got arrested while I was in grade 11 for using drugs.

“I even got expelled from school and I missed my exams causing me to fail. I was admitted to hospital. I was told the smoking would damage my lungs, which could cause me to have tuberculosis, but that never made me stop taking drugs.

“I am now very pleased to tell every one that I’ve quit drugs and I will not be going back. I am grateful that finally I (underwent) something that made me quit – getting stabbed. I was drunk and got in a fight with one of my friends I used to smoke with. I woke up in the hospital.

“It is very sad that I am only seeing the light after my parents have both passed away. I found out that my mother died of a heart attack after a sad parent came to confront her about the bad things I had done to her son at school.”

Mukondeleli Davhana, a villager at Folovhodwe, has known Mamedzi since he was at school.

“Thingahangwi was a very stubborn boy. It was so easy for him to insult everyone he came across while he was drunk,” Davhana said.

“He was a big problem at school for our children,” he added. “He would take our children’s money to buy dagga and we were very scared of him here at our village.”

Mamedzi said that while he is hopeful about his future, he knows he will have to live with the consequences of his addiction for many years:

“Now that I have given up on drugs, I see many possibilities in my life. I regret the time I wasted while I was at school. I didn’t pass matric and that will make my life very difficult.

“I would like to advise young people out there who are not doing drugs to keep that up. To those who are doing drugs: it is possible for you to quit only if you are determined to. Drugs help you with nothing, but they destroy the real you and you might end up losing your real self. Keep away from drugs.”