MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
WHEN his mother and father divorced, a heart-broken David Simfukwe turned to marijuana for comfort. Alas there was no real comfort in the drug that would later enslave him and threaten to destroy his life.
With his mother out of picture, David recalls how his father would spend most of his time in different drinking places and without giving him the much needed attention.
This made David feel out place and prompted him to find love and happiness in marijuana. It was a futile attempt.
“My friend first introduced me to marijuana in 2008 when I was in grade 8 at Chongwe Secondary School. Whenever my father would go drinking, he would take me along and with him. I began to think beer drinking and drug abuse was a normal way of life, “he said.
With time, David got addicted to the drug and he graduated from abusing marijuana to heroin, a much stronger drug.
He became drug dependent and reached a point where he thought he would not survive without using drugs.
Things got to a point where David’s mother had to take him to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and Chainama Hospital to seek help but he still did not change.
He later got into a relationship with the hope of finding love and acceptance, but in the process ended up having a child with his girlfriend. However, the woman walked out on him because of his addiction to drugs.
David’s turning point came in November 2014 when his mother took him to Teen Challenge Reformation Centre in Kafue, where he met his Lord.
“When I got here, the people showed me love and welcomed me with open hands. I met God and I realised that drugs were only destroying my intellectual ability. Though in the early days I was struggling with the cravings and could sneak in the bush to smoke and abuse heroin,” David recalls.
Now a member of staff at Teen Challenge Zambia, David cannot even stand the smell of cigarette, saying it irritates his sense of smell.
Another former drug addict Evans Mwila from the Copperbelt says his family background made him become dependent on drugs.
In an interview, Evans said most of his family members drank alcohol freely and this made it easy for him to start abusing drugs as he did not see anything wrong with it.
“I started with marijuana then I later graduated into codeine and heroin because marijuana would no longer make me high. At times I used to wake up from my sleep in the night just to abuse drugs. If a day passed without abusing drugs, I would feel unwell and out of place,” he narrates.
Evans remembers writing his Grade 12 final examinations under the influence of drugs and this affected his performance.
The desire to stop taking drugs came after his father refused to take him to college on account of his addiction to drugs.
He heard about Teen Challenge Zambia from a former drug addict who has been helped to reform by the rehabilitation centre.
He was taken in for rehab at the institution that is helping young people to reform based on Christian teachings of unmerited love, unconditional acceptance and the non-judgemental reception.
Evans says the spiritual teachings at the centre have greatly helped him to completely withdraw from using drugs.
“I have come to know God and also the health implications of abusing drugs. In my early days, I used to sneak into the bush to satisfy my craving (for drugs), but I no longer do that because my life has completely been transformed,” he says.
And Samuel Ng’andu, who was addicted to drugs between 2011 and 2012, urges young people to resist peer pressure to do wrong things.
This is precisely what made him start using drugs – his friends would persuade him to try it out and out of curiosity he did. Before he realised it, he was dependent on drugs.
Samuel says his life has completely been transformed because God has taken over and revealed to him the purpose for his existence.
He urges addicts who are struggling to break free from drug dependence to turn to God for spiritual help.
Teen Challenge Zambia founder Wafuka Kapolesa says the alarming rate of drug abuse among the youths in Zambia inspired him to found the rehabilitation centre in 2011.
Pastor Kapolesa says drug addicts are difficult to handle because when they are taken to the centre they are quite rebellious and unruly.
He says clients who show serious addiction are normally referred for medical treatment before enrolment into the rehabilitation programme.
“We have been working in collaboration with DEC and Chinama Hospital who help us to attend to certain cases (referrals). When the students come here, we treat them as brothers and not drug addicts, “Pastor Kapolesa said.