Pubdate: Tue, 24 May 2005
Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)
Copyright: 2005 Cape Argus.
Author: Di Caelers
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


City Mom Tells How Drug Left Family Facing Ruin

When her 15-year-old tik addict son stole her wedding ring, it was the
last straw for Table View mother Liz Ackerman.

In debt to the tune of more than R60 000 in rehabilitation costs, she
turned to the controversial Noupoort rehab centre as a last-ditch
hope, grieving as she signed away guardianship of her "baby", Leonard
Philips, for the next year.

"The pastor from the centre came to pick him up and while we were
waiting for him Leon asked me to walk with him on the beach."

"He asked me to promise him that I wasn't sending him to Noupoort,"
Liz says, sobbing as she recalls the scene of two weeks ago.

She had told her son he was going to a rehab centre, but not that it
was Noupoort, and as she watched his face as they drove away, she knew
how angry he was going to be with her.

"That's what I'm dealing with now, the guilt of sending him away like
that, and giving control of my son to someone else for the next year."

"But I hope that when we can next see each other (she is allowed no
contact with Leonard for the next two months, and after that
privileges will be based on his performance), I will have dealt with
that guilt and that he would have dealt with his anger," she says sadly.

In the peaceful Table View house in which Liz will now live alone with
her second husband of two years, Charl Ackerman, there is no sign of
the "war zone" it has been since they found out last November that
Leonard is a drug addict.

"My husband picked it up long before I did, but I didn't want to
believe him. This is my baby, who I've always taken such good and
careful care of."

"But that was my first mistake - and that's the real thing that I want
to say to other parents. Don't think that it won't be your child who
gets hooked on drugs, because it can easily be," she says.

The ugly truth emerged when Leonard went into therapy at Kenilworth
Clinic - he had been taking drugs since he was 11, and had tried
everything except heroin.

But his drug of choice was tik, along with dagga and

For years the family had been noticing small things disappearing from
their home, and the couple had argued many times over money vanishing
from Charl's wallet.

"You start to question yourself, you think you're losing your mind,
because when you confront him he just says it wasn't him."

"But he has stolen alcohol, money, you name it," Charl

Previously, it had always been Charl's things that disappeared, but
Liz says she cracked when her wedding ring disappeared.

"He had been clean for 90 days previously, but I knew then that he was
in trouble again."

"We found the boy at his school who was selling him drugs and with the
help of the principal managed to recover the ring."

"But that was nothing compared with the reality that your own child
could stoop to that level, could look you in the eyes and say that you
are lying because you don't believe him," Liz says.

It was when Leonard emphatically told Liz and Charl that he wasn't
interested in rehabilitation, and didn't want to give up drugs, that
they turned to Noupoort "as a last resort".

Leonard has a learning disability and Liz believes that has
contributed enormously to his low self-esteem, setting him up as a
prime target for drug merchants.

She warns other parents to watch children's personalities very
carefully for the first signs of addictions: "I knew he wasn't himself
but I just didn't want to believe that drugs were even a

"I had moved him and his brother to Cape Town from Gauteng four years
ago because I thought Cape Town would be a better place to bring them
up. But I found out the hard way that that is far from the truth."

Liz says that looking back now, she realises Leonard's personality
changed "from chalk to cheese".

He was always her "special, slow child" and she worked hard to ensure
he had the best education possible and was always assured of her love.

"My sweet little boy changed into someone who pulled a knife on his
father, who smashed things, who wouldn't eat, either slept too much or
not at all."

"He also spent huge amounts of time in the bathroom even though he
stopped caring at all about his personal appearance or personal
hygiene," she says.

"Once I found myself with my hands around my son's neck when he sat
there smugly in a chair telling me that we weren't doing anything to
help him. My husband had to pull me off," Liz recalls.

Three times during their ordeal Charl was close to leaving because he
couldn't deal with the stress, and the toll Leonard's drug addiction
was taking on his new wife.

Financially, they face ruin.

Two people have responded with donations for which Liz says she can
never find the words to thank them adequately.

Friends have bought tickets to a "Friendship Dance" she has organised
for May 28, the proceeds of which will go towards rehab costs.

Her appeal now is to the state, to help create inexpensive drug
rehabilitation facilities for people who cannot afford private help. -
Health Writer. 
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