The system fails addicts

Arthur Pillay, Westridge

After watching the Ellen Pakkies movie last week, it formed part of our discussion within our 4-Steps support group, which focuses on the parent of the addict.

There seems to be a mixed reaction between the group, as to whether Ellen Pakkies was guilty of murder and should have been sentenced to life imprisonment or did the system really fail her.

In my honest opinion, if you do not have a family member who is a substance abuser (addict) you cannot relate to the sequence of events which happened in her (Ellen’s) life.

Did the system fail her? Most certainly it did.

I personally have tested and challenged the system.

I have approached the courts, spoken to a credible, reputable prosecutor, who correctly advised me that the courts are there to ensure justice has been served to the community, where perpetrators would either be found guilty, and sentenced accordingly – or found not guilty and dismissed.

That is where their responsibilities end.

I was referred to the Department of Social Development (DSD); I was not even given an opportunity to speak confidentially to a social worker.

The receptionist said I was not allowed to go upstairs unless he knows why I am there, to direct me to the appropriate person. He phoned upstairs and spoke to somebody and handed the phone over to me. Right behind me were about 30 people listening to my conversation, as there was nowhere else to look or listen.

The woman who spoke to me said I could bring my son’s curriculum vitae in and they would pass it on to their clients.

The minute I told her my son had a criminal record and had been blacklisted, and unemployed for more than four years and is an addict living on the streets, her immediate response was a quick: “No! we can’t help him”. You could actually hear the gasps and “shames” coming from the people seated there.

My son must have been admitted to six, if not more rehabilitation centres, with little or no success.

I am not blaming the rehabilitation centres or their programmes but the Individual.

I have spoken to friends, family, businesses, and the list goes on.

I have come to the end of my rope, like many other parents but I have not given up yet.

I keep asking myself, have I done enough to help my son. How more can I help him?

Circumstances now force them to be part of the vicious circle, joining gangs, shoplifting, housebreaking and theft, just to survive and to feed their fix or back in Pollsmoor Prison, against their wishes.

It is not that the government is unaware of this problem. It is just that they have shoved it on the back burner until some bright spark comes up with an amicable solution.

Parents seek help at their local general practitioners (GP). Why are they not taught about addiction at medical school. There are no books on substance abuse or addiction. How can your local GP help you?

The government is employing more policemen to help bring the crime rate down. This is like treating the symptoms and not the problem.

I would like to say a good percentage of crime committed is due to gangsterism, unemployment, substance abuse and perhaps some other factors like absent fathers that trigger the zest to commit crime.

I have noticed that all of these government departments, including the municipality, fail to include members of the community to their workshops – to try and resolve their and our problems.

The man in the street knows best.

We can start helping each other just by listening to each other.