Elnas (Not her real name) Story

Jacques was born 2nd December 1980. He would have been 34 years old this year.


Marelize was 8 at the time, born from a previous marriage. Marelize is handicapped, mentally as well as physically, but has always only been a ray of positive sunshine in my life. Although she was in a centre for handicapped children at that stage, she was home some weekends and usually during holiday times. She is in a home for the mentally handicapped in Fishers Hill at present and has been there for the last 20 years.


Jacques was everything I could have wished for, a beautiful, healthy, normal baby – later the cutest toddler and little boy. Always extremely busy, always planning something. Before he could even walk, he was crawling. He used to pull a chair closer to the kitchen cupboard, used to climb onto the cupboard then onto the fridge and start counting. I would have run from wherever I was because at the count of three he used to jump.

A little boy that stole everybody’s heart because of his good looks, his charming attitude and above all his self-confidence – I think all of you know exactly what I am talking about. Later in life they use all these skills to manipulate everybody to do exactly what they want us to do.


His baby brother, Etienne, was born February 1986. He was very pleased that he now had a baby brother and was fond of him.


Jacques turned 6 in December and his father insisted that he had to go to Grade 1. I wanted to keep him back. I still believe it would have made a difference because I felt and in my heart still believe he was not emotionally ready for Grade 1.

Etienne tragically drowned when he was a year old. It had a huge impact on Jacques but also on the rest of the family.


But, first of all I have to get back to myself. In short, I grew up in a home where my father was an alcoholic and my mother started drinking when I was 12. My brother was out of the house by then and working. My sister was at college where she studied and also boarded.


Later in my life I thanked God that He taught me those lessons at a young age. I think I became a little wiser on how to handle a person with an addiction and what to look out for.


Emile, was born February 1988. Also a very bright and charming boy, a gift from God. Emile turned 6 in February and went to Grade 1 the next year. He was 10 months older than Jacques when he started school and I believe it made a huge emotional difference in how he handled peer pressure and day-to-day living. Jacques was never a child that really did very well at sports, but excelled in cultural activities. He never got less than gold certificates at any Eisteddfods and always had leading parts in school concerts.


He was 15 when he was expelled from the High School he attended in Pretoria in May. He then went to a school in Johannesburg, where he, by his own account, battled to adapt. He later said that was where he started smoking dagga, but I don’t know? In December 1994, when Jacques was 14, we went on holiday to San Lameer. I realised then that he was using something and I also realised it was not alcohol. There I caught him one day with dagga. Dagga, nothing serious to them, but it is our “gateway” drug. It is the drug that usually leads to stronger and heavier drugs. The next year he went to another Afrikaans High School here in Benoni. By now I knew that Jacques was using. I was not always sure what. His father lived in total denial about it and as they do, Jacques used that to play us off against each other. As I said, they are the masters of manipulation.


He started to waiter at a restaurant, getting money, using more. He got more and more abusive and aggressive.


I took him to more than one psychologist. In fact, at that stage I don’t think there was a psychologist on the East Rand that we hadn’t been to. I eventually took him to yet another psychologist when he was 17 years old. Marius* did his internship at the police. I still believe he had the best way and attitude in dealing with Jacques and his problems. We were there for a session and Jacques, true to their attitude towards life said to Marius*, “I have got a very strict mother, a very absent father, a handicapped sister, a brother that drowned and a younger brother that is doing well in everything – in school, in sport and all other extra-mural activities.” Marius* just looked at him and replied, “Yes Jacques, I agree with everything you are saying but, your mother deals with all that and she has to deal with you as well.” The way Jacques was, he didn’t want to go back to Marius* so he told his dad that I had an affair with Marius*. That was the end of having any sessions with Marius*!


Jacques was always a man with a plan.


On a lighter note – one day Jacques had an appointment with Marius* and said to his class teacher, “May I pleased be excused? I have got an appointment with the psychologist so that I can learn how to handle the principal.”


He was in and out of rehabs for a very long time, always promised not to use again. Always trying. Maybe I always tried harder than him?


He got a job on a cruise ship. He had to fill in a medical history and go for a medical examination and urine drug screening. We applied for his visa went for the interview. I took him for his medical. On the way home I asked him what he was going to do as he knew that the drug test wouldn’t be negative. Like I’ve said, he always had a plan. He just told me he asked our gardener for a urine sample before we left and switched the samples. We always try and help them – always trying to make things easier for them. He left in December. He contacted us on a regular basis but because of the time difference, it usually was very late at night.

The beginning of January he phoned one day during the middle of the day. I was immediately suspicious. It took me some time to find out but he had been kicked off the ship. They had randomly tested for drugs and he tested positive. He took the money he got and went to Ireland – one of his “drugging buddies” was there. This I only found out later. They started selling drugs. Jacques got caught – his passport was confiscated and he landed in jail. The inmates told him that if he was granted bail, he should leave Ireland and go to London. He should not try and get onto a flight without a passport, he should get onto a ferry where they usually don’t check your passport. He did that and got away with it. Because his passport would have expired in the time that he would have been away, he applied for a new passport before he left. I collected his new passport and always trying to fix everything, took all my savings, booked a ticket, planned a week in Spain, because I thought it would be easier for him if he had gone to Spain and back to London to get back to South Africa. I went to London to take him his new passport. At least now he had a passport.


He didn’t want to take the chance to go to Spain. I think, maybe for once in his life, he was too scared or maybe he knew that he wouldn’t be able to use while he was with me 24/7. I don’t know? He came home about three months later, still using drugs. It then got even worse.


He eventually got so out of control and aggressive that I had to get a restraining order against him to protect Marelize, Emile and myself. The dealers delivered drugs that he was selling to the house and threatened that they would harm us if he didn’t pay them. This was a very hard decision to make, but I know it was the right thing to do. I moved out of the family home in Lakefield with Emile, then 18, into a house in Rynfield.


Jacques went to rehab again, but didn’t stay long and didn’t complete the programme. His father was still in denial and said it was because the discipline in the facility was not strict enough. A few months later he went to another rehab facility at the Coast where he stayed for almost 5 months. When he came out, I allowed him at my house again. It went well for a couple of weeks. He went to NA meetings and tried to make other friends – something which is very hard for them because while they are in that circle, they have a lot of friends. When they stop using, they haven’t got friends anymore. He built a relationship with his brother and with me again. He became the “old” Jacques that I knew again.


I started working then with JP*, also a psychologist. Today I know that only God could have sent me there, otherwise I don’t know if I would have survived. The best friend and person anybody can wish for.


One Friday, I went home early and Jacques was at my house. I immediately noticed that he was using. I can remember so clearly looking at him, taking him by the shoulders and telling him, “Please Jacques, you know the cycle of drugs. Drugs, Stealing, Jail, and the last is Death” I reminded him again that he had gone through all the other steps and that he was busy gambling with his life. Those were the last words I said to Jacques.

Jacques relapsed, went on a binge that weekend and had a fatal car accident on the Monday. There were four in the car. One girl was killed, Jacques had very serious head and brain injuries and the other two didn’t get hurt. When I saw the scan and x-rays, I had very little hope. I asked the neurosurgeon to do a drug screening. He tested positive for everything possible. I still thought if he pulled through, if he gets charged, maybe it would be manslaughter instead of murder.


Jacques was declared brain-dead on the Thursday.


I asked if there was any possibility that we could donate his organs. He was clean for a few months before that weekend and after they did some tests, we were told it was possible. At least we know, as his brother said at his memorial service, that somebody is walking around with “the heart of a lion”. Other people got kidneys, corneas, liver and tissue transplants, amongst others.


If I can be a shoulder to cry on, a hand for anyone to hold or an ear to listen for anybody, I will be and I will gladly do it. I think I know what you are going through. I know the pain, although everyone experiences this in a different way. I can only ask you try and stay positive, never stop praying, be there for them, support them, but don’t let them use or abuse you. They are all wonderful people, but we can’t do it for them. I know we all want to but this is something that they can only do themselves. We can only be there for them and support them and love them.


Written by a Loving Mother

Elna K


*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

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