DRUG addiction: A Family Dis-ease

Having a family member who has an ongoing DRUG addiction problem often has a far more severe psychological impact on the family of the addicted person. They are directly exposed to traumatic events that inevitably occur during the many ugly phases of their loved one’s addiction. I can’t imagine anything more painful than to helplessly witness a family member physically and mentally deteriorate. Nothing is more traumatising than to have a parent, a child, a relative or a sibling accidentally take their own life as a result of a DRUG overdose. Or, to be victimised by their verbal abuse, physical violence and powerlessly witness them being beaten by a mob for crimes they committed while under the influence of their preferred substance. It must be devastating and difficult for the addict’s family to mentally and emotionally cope with all these disturbing events. Most people who have been directly exposed to such suffer gravely from post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders.


The four-member family pictured looks like a typical, black middle-class family. By simply looking at the photo, it would not be visibly apparent that any one of them is struggling with substance abuse problems. This clearly proves that addiction is non-discriminatory regardless of socio-economic status and race. The gentleman who is carrying a baby is Teboho Sethabela, a 28-year-old recovering DRUG addict who just got recently rehabilitated. Tebza, as I affectionately call him, is not new to DRUG addiction treatment. In 2017, we were admitted simultaneously at Empilweni Treatment Centre in Soweto. We would spend long hours having thought-provoking and insightful conversations, ranging from DRUG addiction recovery and career goals to keenly discussing past experiences and future possibilities.


We were so driven and eager to completely stay away from DRUGS and remain sober for the rest of our lives, but sadly Tebza relapsed four months into his recovery post-rehabilitation and it would take another three long and dark years before he could honestly admit to himself that his life had once again become unmanageable and seek professional help. I was terribly disappointed when I discovered that he had relapsed and was back at the rehab facility, but a huge part of me was pleasantly proud of him for taking that bold step and not letting his pride get in a way of taking another shot at recovering from this horribly merciless disease.

On the Saturday of the 11th Of September, 2021, I had the privilege to spend the afternoon with Tebza and his family at their beautiful home in Ridgeway, south of Johannesburg. During my recent visit to the rehab centre where he was recently admitted, Tebza had graciously asked me to be his sponsor and to those of you who have no idea what a sponsor is in the context of DRUG addiction recovery, allow me to enlighten you. A sponsor is a person who plays a supportive role in the life of a rehabilitated and recovering addict, in terms of being their pillar of strength, confidant and constantly provides them with guidance and direction towards a path that is strengthening and reinforcing to their recovery. So I humbly agreed to Sponsor Tebza’s recovery, but on the condition that once he completes his treatment program, my mother and I are to meet with his family to provide them with knowledge and equip them with tools that each family member would need to deal with this epidemic problem.


It was of critical importance to have my mother present at our meeting so that she could share information from a parental point of view, in which she did a stunning job at enlightening Tebza’s mother about some of the do’s and dont’s that have to be taken into serious consideration when as a parent you have a child who is struggling with an addiction. So in a graceful and poised manner, she softly and yet firmly engaged Tebza, his mother and fiancè on her experience of dealing with my own personal struggles with substance abuse. She selflessly imparted her knowledge of how things like money, social media, friends that Tebza’s used to use with and places he’d frequent, could be potential triggers and how they may possibly lead him to relapsing again. I further expanded and elaborated on her heartfelt engagement by wholeheartedly sharing with the family precise and detailed information about how I have managed to permanently abstain and maintain my recovery for such an unbelievably long time. As I was divulging step by step recovery principles and actions, I suddenly found myself educating Tebza on all the lessons that I myself needed to re-learn and that startling realisation gave me such a thrill.

I could tell by the pleasant gaze from Nancy, Tebza’s down to earth and calmly spirited fiancè and his courteously kind and sweet Mother, that they were deeply appreciative of the precious keys I was candidly providing to Tebza to help unlock his mind and expose him to amazing possibilities of DRUG addiction recovery, he previously thought to be impossible. What the family was not probably aware of during those significant moments, as I am continuously reminding Tebza of who he really is, is that I was also astoundedly remembering who I really am.


I absolutely have no doubt that going forward, especially now that I will be playing an active sponsorship role in Tebza’s recovery, that he will swiftly succeed and fulfil his heart’s true desires. I feel abundantly blessed and privileged to be the person whom Tebza chose to be mentored and coached by. I, myself don’t take it for granted how fortunate I am to have eventually overcome addiction after an incredibly long struggle that stole 7 years of my life. The time wasted, career opportunity losses and broken relationships are one of the reasons I approach my recovery with absolute diligence and relentless discipline. For as long as recovering addicts like Tebza and myself continue to studiously do the work required for long-term recovery, we will remain sober and clean for the remainder of our existence here on earth..and beyond.

Gugulethu ‘GK’ Khoza is recovering addict who has turned his life around and will regularly share his experiences to inspire and help young men recover from addiction. More of his stories to follow.