[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I first met Mary at a party hosted by some rich boys and girls with lots of money for drugs. My first wife had passed away some time ago.

We lived a crazy life together, moving from place to place. We smoked, drank and had sex like rabbits. I had grown up without a father figure and dealing with the pain of my first wife’s death brought me to a place where I did not care about rules and authority anymore. I was in and out of prison, hospital, rehabilitation. Mary and I were like Bonnie and Clyde. It was us against the world. Due to our addiction, we were frequently involved in armed robberies, house breaking, theft, selling girls as prostitutes and selling drugs.

We hit rock bottom when we became robbers who were robbed. We fled. The cycle continued.

Our families wanted nothing to do with us, especially mine. Our children, my son and her daughter, were taken away from us. We had to comply with certain rules to be able to see them. We were selfish, we only thought of ourselves. We started begging on shop stoops as a cover up to rob people coming from the pubs and supermarkets. We befriended people to win their trust and then when they least expected it we would rob them, break in to their houses and steal their cars. I did garden jobs, washed cars and fetched their children at school. I was a runner for the rich drug addicts, I enjoyed running off with their money. Mary and I eventually separated. We met again in a tea line for vagrants. We used to get food at the mosque, the church, knock on people’s doors, help carry people’s groceries to their cars, wash cars. We stayed at shelters until we met a man who worked at U-turn. He was handing out vouchers. I needed to know how the voucher worked because with a voucher I could save money. In the past I paid R2 a bowl of soup with dry bread.

He directed us to U-turn service center in Claremont, known as the Powerhouse. U-turn first helped us with ID books. From there we ended up going to the Ark. Mary was at the main Ark. I was at the men’s Ark. We became sober. We became Christians. Our family drew close to us. I started a job in the open labour market. I moved to Elim night shelter in Elsies River. I was earning a salary. All of a sudden Mary did not want to live in the shelter anymore. She moved back to Hanover Park. I followed her, like an ox to the slaughter. She started using again. I knew all along it was a very bad move. I started drinking, staying out of work, being late for work and hearings. I stopped going to church. Everything fell apart. We were once again disconnected from our children. We separated again.

I went back to U-turn and waited to be accepted. I was attending their daily Ignite program and doing voucher earning activities from 14h00 to 15h30 which earned me three vouchers. With one voucher I could buy myself a proper plate of food, sandwiches, jam, peanut butter, polony, cheese, marmite and lots of fruit.

I attended every day of the week. On a Tuesday and Thursday I could buy myself clothes with the vouchers that I earned by cutting rags. The rags were meant for stuffing punching bags and supplying to shops. U-turn booked me in at the District Shelter, and bought my weekly train ticket so that I could travel to an outpatient rehab in Muizenberg known as Living Grace. I was back on track. I left the rehab early on my first day. I had an appointment with the social worker at the District Six shelter. That very day in CT after seeing the social worker I picked up a R3000. It was my downfall and I fell straight back into addiction.

Mary and I were back together. Back to square one. I started working for a very kind lady. She trusted me, her husband accepted me through her. I asked her to try and find out about a place that can help me get off from the streets. By now some people were prepared to help me, on condition that I stayed away from Mary. I lied to them, because by now Mary and I got married at home affairs in Wynberg. The lady said she will get back to me.

Mary and I were sleeping in the graveyard, shop stoops, schools, soccer fields, on people’s property without them knowing, train stations, bridges and even in the bush. At one point we even slept in Victoria Hospital’s Trauma waiting room, acting like patients waiting to see the doctor or as if we had no transport home. I was really at rock bottom. I was no longer smoking for the fun, I was doing it to block out all the pain and hurt.

One day standing at Wetton Station, I called on my Creator.

I asked him for a miracle. I did not want to leave Mary behind. I had already lost my first wife. I told her I did not want to live like an animal anymore. If push came to shove, and if she was not prepared to change, I would have to leave her.

The lady who I had asked help from gave me a piece of paper and on it was written: “Uturn working together to uplift street people”. There was also the contact number of a Mr. David.

I was thinking: “what would I tell these people for the third time?” I prayed: “Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m going. I started off alone at U-turn. Mary somehow knew I was serious. She joined me. U-turn let me attend the Ignite Program for a full year. They needed to be sure that I was serious. Mary was sent to Toevlug in Worcester. Uturn paid for everything; her transport, her stay, her books, stationary and pocket money. I was booked in at Loaves and Fishes in Observatory. I went in there ‘dik gerook’ of the buttons, high as a kite on tik and lekke beer in my system. I was treated as a prodigal child. Soon enough I was wondering: “what did I get myself in to?” I was exposed to a world of rules and boundaries around every corner. Back at Living Grace in Muizenberg it was hard being treated like a little child. When Mary moved in at Loaves and Fishes Restoration Center after 8 weeks at Toevlug, I had to move out as they don’t have the facility to house husband and wife. I felt it would be better for her to stay there. By now I was depending on God Almighty to carry us on this journey. As long as I was close to Him I was not going to lose. By now our family was spectators. The miracle happened. U-turns management decided to accept Mary and I together as the first married couple in the program. Hallelujah! God worked through the Social worker at Loaves and Fishes and I moved to Moira Henderson. God then worked through the manager at Moria Henderson to get me in at the Carpenters shop in Cape Town.

Mary and I were apart for nine months. We were like boyfriend and girlfriend now. Through the teaching of U-turns Life Change Program we could use of our savings to buy smart phones. I worked hard to apply the teaching I was receiving from my OT’s and the rest of the rehab team. I appreciate everyone else who keeps the U-turn ship sailing. The secret in the program is growth and you learn that taking ownership of your life is so important.

I learnt about communication, punctuality, showing up, sobriety, presentation at work and new manners. The rules of the program helped me to recognize the areas where I needed to grow. I renewed my driver’s license, my ID card and Mary and I attended marriage counselling at Hope House. We joined the Jubilee Community Church in Observatory. We belong to a home cell in Warmer Road, Woodstock. The people there accepted us for who we are in Christ Jesus. I had to be moving out of Carpenters. Once again, thanks to the teaching of Uturn, I learned how to save money. With our savings Mary and I could afford a joint deposit. Hallelujah, God Almighty worked through a wonderful brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ to bless us with a R3000 to pay the deposit. U-turn came along side us to go and check out the accommodation to approve it. It is part of the life change program to make sure the champions don’t make the wrong choices that would trigger them to use drugs again. Mary and I are living in the Northern Suburbs now. It is a separate entrance with 2 rooms, kitchen, shower, toilet and a backyard to hang the washing. U-turn blessed us with 10 items each for our new home. The home cell members also blessed us with items and money. I was not at my exit stage at U-turn. I had been disappointed with one contact for an open labour market job. The person said he would give me a job but in the end the person did not answer my calls. I decided with the help of God to do it old school. I went out and knocked on company doors. Hallelujah I am employed now. I have graduated out of the U-turn Life change program. My photo is on the graduation tree. Mary is still in the program. She is on her exit stage. Some people need a crutch for a shorter time, others longer. U-turn is based on Christian morals. It is the person that needs to decide to make a U-turn in the right direction. Turn away from the devils’ ways which leads to death. Make a turn in the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ’s ways which lead to life in Heaven. I choose to keep my chin up, my eyes towards the Son and my feet moving forward. Soon with the help of God Almighty and hard work, we will have a house and our children living with us.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]