After a seven-year battle with drugs, theft, and himself, Sergio Adams managed to turn his life around and he hopes his story can help young people who are facing similar problems.
Today, June 16, is Youth Day, a moment when the country commemorates the 1976 Soweto uprising and the young people who gave their lives in the struggle against apartheid. But 45 years on, many South African youth find themselves grappling with a different type of struggle, one characterised by poverty and joblessness, where the pull of crime and substance abuse is ever-present.
Many of those who fall prey to this life end up in jail or an early grave, but Sergio is one of the lucky few who has faced his demons and lived to tell about it. This is his story.
Sergio was 17 when his father died of a heart attack. Unable to cope with his grief, he dropped out of school and soon found himself numbing his pain in nightclubs, doing drugs and mixing with the wrong kind of friends. By 21, he was doing dagga, tik, acid and cocaine.
He stole from his family and others to feed his habit. His life was spiralling out of control while around him his cousins and friends were working, buying cars and houses.
“I was hurt and angry that my father died. I showed my emotions through anger. I had a dream of becoming a chef and I threw all of that away,” he says.
Deciding that he needed to make a change, he enrolled in the First Community Resource Centre – a rehabilitation centre that runs a faith-based programme, in Hanover Park. He spent six weeks there as an inpatient trying to get clean and rehabilitate himself.
He learnt more about what he wanted to become and what he wanted out of life. He attended classes and made new friends and soon became a mentor to others.
He learnt how to cope with his father’s death and how to handle challenges in life without turning to drugs. After six weeks, he spent another six weeks as an outpatient under the guidance of Pastor Craven Engel, the founder of the First Community Resource Centre.
Sergio says his biggest regret was hurting his family. But that was also his biggest motivation to get clean – he could not bear the thought of disappointing them anymore.
He started working with his brother and he now owns his own building-supplies company on Klipfontein Road.
“Being a recovering drug addict is a lifelong battle. It is not easy; it never was easy. I relapsed a few times while in the programme, but I picked myself up and carried on. My family supported and loved me so much and gave me another chance. I have a really good family and wife who is my support structure.”
He set small goals for himself and worked towards them, focusing on his family and his job.
In 2017, he got married and moved to Milnerton. Now a father-to-be, Sergio says the baby and his wife, along with his faith in God, are keeping him on the right path.
“Now when I am faced with a challenge, I turn to God. I pray. I have no craving for drugs, but they haunt me in my dreams where I dream of using and then I get up and pray and have faith.
“People look at me and they would never say that I went through all those things. I had to make a change, I hurt my family so much and I had to stop what I was doing.”
Young people caught in the web of substance abuse should get help before it’s too late, he says, because everyone is born to do good and drugs shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of that.
“Change is possible,” says Sergio. “The drugs that you are doing, you were not born with that. You can overcome it. I encourage the community to love these children and take them under your wing before they get recruited by gangs. Show them what the world looks like out there – that’s what they need.”