A hole in your pocket
Having had a single mother make sacrifices to afford him an education at one of the most prestigious private schools in Johannesburg, Max*(29), as a young black man, found the responsibility to succeed daunting in an environment where he experienced bullying and rejection.
But he stuck it out. University would be the next step; at least there he could experience freedom and live his life on his own terms — little did he know what storm was brewing ahead.
“My addiction manifested in various ways as a teenager. I use the word ‘manifest’ because my addictive behaviour started long before my engagement with drugs.
As a teenager I was always wanting more of anything that would make me feel like I fitted in and was accepted by others.
When I started using drugs, I also used sex, food, shopping and gambling to fill the bottomless hole inside me. If it could give me a high or instant gratification, I would use it to make myself feel or not feel, depending on my mood,” he says.
Max described his cocktail of drugs: cocaine (coke), alcohol, marijuana and methcathinone (cat) as his “best friend” despite the fact that he was living a lie to hide his failures by coming up with multiple excuses as he kept changing courses at the university.
“I couldn’t stop and when I stopped for brief periods of time, I realised I could not stay stopped. My dependence matured cunningly over time, never halting, never receding and always progressing”.
“My plan was simple – I had to make sure I always had enough money.”
“My range of entrepreneurial pursuits ranged from charging fellow students to write their assignments, to transporting my dealer in a car handed down to me from my mom.”
He struck gold when he started a tutoring business which led him to hiring 15 of his fellow students to tutor children from wealthy homes.
From his business, he says he would rake in enough money to pay his friends weekly and take home roughly R10 000. The money would last him a week.
His business failed just as quickly as it gained success.
“I started losing my first group of clients because of my shoddy business ethics. To be honest, I was high during most of my interactions with them and their kids,” he explains.
“My staff started leaving. Parents started speaking negatively about me and just as quickly as my business boomed, it exploded into an ugly mess.”
“Fast forward to two years later, I landed up walking into a rehab, a university drop-out, with failed businesses, unemployable and fully dependent on my mother.”
Max admits, money was just a means to an end and the financial consequences never crossed his mind. For him, addiction masked the pain caused by his failures, and six years into sobriety he’s still dealing with guilt but his attitude towards money has changed.
“Today, I value people and my relationships more than money. If I had a choice between being rich and poor and isolated from the love of my family, I would choose to be poor. Money has given me access to great opportunities and now I use it to help others.”
Addiction can be linked to poverty
Kagiso* (20) from the township of Mamelodi, Pretoria, says Heartlines’ Values and Money team opened his eyes to the financial consequences of his addiction.
He’s been addicted to cat and coke for over five years, and coming from a poor home he never had the opportunity to further his studies.
His grandmother is the only person in his family that has an income which she receives from her pension grant.
“I spend about R3000 per month buying drugs. For a long time I lied to my grandmother about needing money for things like clothes and toiletries when I actually needed it to buy drugs,” he admits.
Realising that this was not enough to fund his habit, he found a job as a mechanic, where he says he steals car parts in exchange for cash.
Kagiso says for the first time he’s starting to think differently about money and wants to make better choices.
“I know that if I get caught I’ll lose my job and I have a child that I’m not supporting. My grandmother is struggling financially and I realised that my actions have been selfish.”
The truth about financial recovery
An unfit mother. Seriously, how did this happen?
Katy* is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that she’s been branded as incapable of looking after her 14-year-old daughter, at the mature age of 49.
But then again, maturity came late because she spent most of her adult life addicted to, marijuana, alcohol, LSD, ecstasy, coke, cat and having money.
She decided to clean up her act four years ago, when losing her daughter opened her eyes.
In her addiction, Katy managed to study, get a job in IT, date, fall pregnant, and give birth to a beautiful girl. But she also took out loans to live a life beyond her means.
“I had an addiction to credit, I kept taking more credit than I could afford,” she explains.
“I had a credit card, an overdraft and a loan which was about ten times my salary, I needed to have money, not because I wanted to buy anything special but because I wanted to spend.
Having gone into rehab, Katy’s managed to turn her life around.
She attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and just over two years into sobriety she was introduced to Debtors Anonymous (DA).
“It’s for people who are addicted to credit, those who under earn and those who over spend. Basically, people who are living off money they don’t actually have. It uses the same principals as AA but it deals with the issue of debt.
Unfortunately there are no DA meetings in South Africa, so she attends meetings via Skype to America and the UK.
“I’ve been paying off my debt for six months with great difficulty, but I’m no longer creating debt so I have a chance to restore my finances. There’s lots of repair work to do still on all levels, but at least I’ve started.”
She is also in the process of starting DA meetings in South Africa because she is aware that there are others who share a similar experience.
She’s living proof that any bad situation can be turned around and that there is grace for one to start over.
*The names in this article have been changed.
If you would like our Values & Money facilitators to speak in your community about adopting positive money values, email email@example.com or call us at 011 771 2540.
For financial addiction advice go to www.debtorsanonymous.org