Desiree-Anne Martin grew up in what she describes as a dysfunctional home where gambling, addiction and abuse was the norm and it was this life that set her on the path to drug use.
Ms Martin, from Kenilworth, recently launched her memoir, We Don’t Talk About It. Ever where she openly shares her journey from intravenous heroin addict to now wife, mother of two, and addiction counsellor.
Ms Martin started her 12-year long journey with addiction at the age of 17. She started off with slimming tablets, which later led to alcohol and eventually “every drug under the sun”.
When she moved from an all-girls school to a co-ed school in matric, Ms Martin, found herself having issues with the way she looked and turned to slimming tablets to lose weight.
She, however, found herself abusing them as they not only helped her lose weight but had a mind-altering effect too.
After school she moved to the UK, where she had her first encounter with alcohol – as she couldn’t get her hands on the slimming tablets – even though she promised herself she would never touch it, coming from an alcoholic family.
“I made a solemn vow never to touch alcohol, but I liked a boy and was shy, awkward and self conscious and didn’t know how to approach him,” she said.
Ms Martin said when she took the first sip of alcohol, it felt like she was “coming home” and made her more sociable.
“When I drank I realised I could become this person I always wanted to be and not the person I was,” she said.
Ms Martin said she later found herself using other drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and LSD. By the time she was 24, she picked up heroine for the first time. Ms Martin never thought she’d become a heroine addict – having seen her boyfriend at the time battle with this addiction.
After living with him for a little while and tapping out all her resources, she found herself stealing and borrowing money to support his habit. This was when she simply decided to join him after he offered it to her on her birthday.
“If I thought the alcohol was the solution, heroine took away everything. It was an altered reality,” she said.
She eventually sought help and has been clean for 14 years.
During her first stint in rehab, she said, she again found herself “living a lie” pretending to be a model patient, on the road to recovery.
Ms Martin’s life took a dramatic twist, while she was let out of the rehab one weekend. She relapsed and was raped and this, for her, was the turning point.
“That’s when I made the decision to enter into recovery,” she said.
In her book, however, she speaks about her recovery journey and how this path was filled with many lows.
“Just because you are in recovering doesn’t mean that everything is all peachy and rosy, in fact, it’s harder because there is no anesthetic – nothing to numb the pain,” she said.
Speaking on the title of her book, she said this was the one rule they followed in their home, never speaking about anything but rather just pretending that everything was perfect. She said it was this which eventually led to her identity crisis, having to live two lives, one where she learnt how to keep secrets and pretending that everything was fine.
Ms Martin also speaks about her mental health problems – which she believes had gone undiagnosed for years, her struggles with post-natal depression and how she struggled to come to terms with her having a mental illness.
She said while the book has many themes – from sexual abuse and identity crises to addiction and mental illness – she hopes it will serve as a story of hope.
For more details on Ms Martin’s journey, visit www.believemore- deeply.co.za