Alcoholic at 11, drug addict at 14 and prostitute at 23

TEAMWORK: Roberto Ferreira from The Recovery Foundation NPC with Jessica Grant-Smith from the Trust in Hope Recovery House.

ROBERTO Ferreira is no stranger to the South. This Glenvista resident previously managed the Phoenix House Addiction Rehabilitation Centre in Sophiatown and is now the director of a non-profit company called The Recovery Foundation NPC, in Oakdene.

He works hand in hand with Jessica Grant-Smith (28) who is the proud owner of the Trust in Hope Recovery House in Pretoria. It is the first halfway house in Pretoria and one of a handful of houses that have opened in Johannesburg.

A troubled road

Jessica was born and raised in Pretoria and only attended school up to grade eight. After that she was in and out of schools. Although she grew up in a good family that was well-off, Jessica fell into trouble with alcohol, boys, drugs and theft. Jessica’s parents worked hard but alcohol was big in their family.

“While I was at school I always felt a void or an emptiness inside me and tried to search for things to fill this,” said Jessica.

She spoke of how she became a thief at the age of seven and how she always wanted more than what she already had or what others had, even if she had the same things already and didn’t need anything. She cites sweets as an example. Jessica began breaking into houses and stole sweets and money from her parents just to get more sweets. She said this ‘filled’ the void she felt at that time.

She began clubbing and going out with boys at a young age – when she was about 11. This escalated and caused her to end up in a 24-hour coma caused by alcohol poisoning. This did not deter her from continuing to fill her ‘void’. At age 14 she got involved with drugs and started smoking weed. She used ecstasy, cocaine and CAT and she loved it.

On the run

“From the first time I took drugs I knew I loved them and I knew I was going to keep taking them. I started off slowly by doing it once a month and then when I was 19 I took a two to three-year gap – I did not touch anything. When I was 15, I got into a relationship that ended after four years. During that time I was not involved with anything,” Jessica explained.

When she turned 21, however, she went back to her old ways. Although she was in another relationship, she chose to keep doing drugs and hiding the fact from her partner.

Jessica fell ill as a result of personal issues caused by the drugs but shortly afterwards, she recovered. Thereafter, she fled the country by going to Australia where her mom lived and thought that this was her escape. She ran away from her problem in South Africa and ended up only staying in Australia (with no access to drugs) for three months after she realised that she was actually her own problem.

Rock bottom

When she returned to South Africa Jessica hit rock bottom and began to use a huge amount of drugs. She started working at her family restaurant during the day and at night she worked as the event organiser for a club. All this time she was still in denial. Jessica needed her drugs to be happy and had easy access to them at her place of employment. This all lasted for about a year and then she was fired. She hopped around to about three other restaurants for work.

“Everyone suspected what I was doing but no one knew the extent of the problem. I had three groups of friends: friends I used drugs with, friends I could act normally with and knew what I did and school friends with whom I pretended things. They knew nothing,” explained Jessica.

Jessica recalls, “I was 23 years old when I was approached by one of my father’s friends who said that I could make a lot of money.”

She began working at an upper class gentleman’s lounge with big clients and even bigger money. This was in addition to the private clients she was getting from advertising on the internet.

“At first when you start working in such an industry you set up personal boundaries, but as money starts flowing in, all those boundaries fall away. Before you know it you are earning tons of money and doing everything to get more. At this time I was using five to eight bags of drugs a day. I became addicted not only to drugs but to the secrets and lies and the fantasy world I was in,” she said.

Get her life back

Jessica left prostitution after eight months and tried to get her life back by working in the motor trade industry but she could not get rid of the drugs and still saw her private clients. After three months she returned to prostitution for another eight months.

One of her private clients (who was also in recovery) dropped a hint and told her that there is life after drugs but she was in denial.

She began reaching out for help and attended narcotics anonymous meetings for a month. She didn’t follow the program and relapsed. At age 24, Jessica was fortunate to have someone pay for her 12-step rehab program in Pretoria. She wanted to be on the road to recovery.

“I must emphasise the importance of maintenance. It is part of the program I deal with at Trust in Hope Recovery House. Rehab stops drugs but the program helps people not to relapse and this too, kept me safe. During my programme I lived in a house with three other recovering addicts and I felt I was going to be okay.”

Jessica has a soft spot for women and decided to open the halfway house in Pretoria. Trust in Hope Recovery House helps people deal with addiction and helps them go back into society. It is open to anyone over 18 years old.

How can you help

The Recovery Foundation NPC in Oakdene is working with the Trust in Hope Recovery House to help a 28-year-old (anonymous) recovering heroin and prostitution addict get treatment by raising funds for her. They do so for many who cannot afford it on their own. The lady in question has been put into rehab because Roberto and Jessica could not wait for funds to help her. Here she will be detoxed which costs R5 000 and thereafter she needs to go to the halfway house (Trust in Hope Recovery House) for a minimum of three months. There she will need clothes, food, toiletries etc. which will cost R15 000.

“The Recovery Foundation NPC always needs donations to help girls and boys. We challenge companies and individuals to donate. We can send companies forms for tax purposes,” said Roberto.

To donate or for more information contact Jessica on 071 269 9999 or Roberto on 074 185 6474.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/therecoveryfoundation/ to see what The Recovery Foundation NPC does.

Find Trust in Hope Recovery House on Facebook or visit their website: https://www.facebook.com/trustinhope/ or http://www.trustinhope.co.za/

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  AUTHOR
Shernovia Reddy
Journalist

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