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A Gift Called Life: My Journey From Heroin Addiction To Recovery

Joining a rehab was the best decision I ever took.

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I had always said that I would never use drugs. Looking back, I did everything I said I wouldn’t do. The first time I used drugs, I started with marijuana. I didn’t like it, but I got used to it. I didn’t feel cool if I didn’t use it. I had a good job then; it was “the place” to work when I left high school.

In 2014, I postponed my 3rd year of studying Bachelor’s Degree in Law (LL.B). For me, just landing that job in a tourism company was fortunate. One day, I was hanging out at the pool hall before work. I started to feel tired, and someone said, “Try some of this. It will help you stay awake at work tonight.”

I didn’t even ask what it was; I just opened my mouth. Within twenty minutes, I felt like a new person. I could talk to people I was normally afraid of. I felt better than them. I started to take about ten valium pills a day. My logic was, “If just two made me feel so good, why not try ten?” It worked! But after six months, I started to miss work. I lost weight. My hair started to fall out, and my teeth started to hurt.

One day a close friend said, “Hey, try some of this; you shoot it in your arm.” Once again, I said to myself that I’d never do that. But about one hour later, I tried it. From that day on, I was in love with it. I never cheated on it. If it said jump, I would jump. I quit my job because something like this was too good to miss. I always wanted to forget my problems, and with heroin, I  could. It always fixed me up. It cost a lot, so I did it only when I had the money.

Selling heroin

When I started selling heroin, I got ripped off a few times. I remember saying, “Boy, are those guys in bad shape when they rip off their friends?” Well, six months later, I started ripping them off. I always wanted people to come to me for answers. I liked that power. So when I got my social security fund and tax return check, I bought some heroin and sold all of it—but saved one shot for me.

It sold fast; I made quick money and got a free high. I felt like a king, and, mind you, my name is David, and I had control! Everyone came to me for heroin because I dropped the price, and there were few dealers in Arusha.

‘I asked God to come into my life and take some of the pain away.’-David

When all the other people had shot their supplies, I was the only one holding them. Then I raised the price and started using more than I was selling. I didn’t want to do that, but I had no choice. I didn’t know then because I thought I was handling it OK. I lived at Kijenge Juu ward in Arusha at the time.

READ MORE: Tanzanian National Arrested for Possession of Cocaine in India

One day, the man I got my drugs from asked if I would take a chance and go to Tanga with him to purchase some heroin. My answer was, “Sure, why not?” We could have been busted getting on the Tashrif Bus to return home.

I had brought some with me and wrapped it in foil. When we went through the ticketing office, some police officers were conducting special drug operations. They didn’t check me. I got away that time; I was lucky.

Troubles with police

We came back, and my luck ran out. I got busted for a series of crimes consisting of six charges. This was my first time in police remand, and I was afraid of everything I heard from the streets about Arusha Central Police remand and its thugs, or nyapara as we call them.

A lot of it was true, and some of it wasn’t. That didn’t make me any less afraid. I stayed for one week there before I was bailed out. Two months later, I got busted for possession of a quarter kilogram of heroin and returned to remand.

Again, I stayed for a week and was bailed out. I had started to rip off everyone to supply my habit: family, friends, and strangers. I knew I was going to jail this time, so I just gave up.

When I got out, I promised to limit my heroin use to the weekends. I didn’t know anything about addiction. Little did I know it was the very first fix that started me. Almost everyone I knew went to jail for five or ten years, died from an overdose or was an addict. Consequently, I was led right back to the streets. In only two weeks, I was worse than before I started again.

READ MORE: Two Tanzanian Women Arrested in India for Possessing Drugs

My back was against the wall, and I was tired of living the way I did. Even though I didn’t want to stop using heroin, I went to the rehabilitation centre. I stayed there for 90 days as prescribed in the substance treatment programs.

Journey to recovery

Looking back, this was the best thing that ever happened to me. Before I got there, I believed once an addict, always an addict; I’d never be able to stop. At rehab, they showed me a new way of life, a way to cope with being an addict. I decided to move to the area.

There were four Narcotics Anonymous meetings each week, and I went to all of them. Narcotics Anonymous, often shortened as NA, are programs designed to help those suffering from addiction through recovery and to spread the message that recovery is possible. It was established in response to the success of Alcoholics Anonymous.

‘My sponsor suggested working 12 Steps, and when your knees knock, kneel’

While at the rehab, I also got a sponsor and attended many discussion meetings. It helped me to a degree, but I only felt strong at a meeting or after one. Before the meetings, I was always thinking about getting high.

This feeling lasted for about six months. Then some good things started to happen to me. They asked me to speak at a meeting that night. It made me feel good about what I was doing. I started to help start new meetings and help people with substance abuse and alcohol.

READ MORE: Court Orders Release of Suspected Drug Baron

Then I fell in love. Looking back, I was in heat. This new life and everything in it was a new ball game. Now, I not only had to deal with myself but with someone else, too. I returned home one day, and my fiancé said, “Get out! I don’t love you anymore!” I felt like someone had put a knife into my heart and turned it around a few times.

With no possible reconciliation, I leaned on a few people to get me through this adjustment. My sponsor suggested working 12 Steps, and when your knees knock, kneel. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on my knees. I also relied on Narcotics Anonymous literature because there were no Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

God did

I asked God to come into my life and take some of the pain away. He did. My life became a lot better and easier to bear after that. A while later, I started to date the disc jockey (DJ) from the local radio station we broadcasted once. We had a lot of fun together. We went to the Third East Africa Convention in Mombasa, where she was a DJ.

We started to make plans for our marriage. As most normal relationships go, we fought on the phone one night. But a real shock came the next day when her mother called to tell me she had been killed in a car accident that night. I felt like killing myself. I knew the pain was coming, which I didn’t want to feel.

I didn’t want to turn to drugs either because I knew that was not the answer. I called my friend and just started crying. He came over to my place and said, “Just tell me you didn’t get high.” Somehow I knew everything would be alright, and I guess out of relief, I started to laugh.

READ MORE: Indian Court Grants Tanzanian National Default Bail in Drug Smuggling Case

I continued to rely on Anonymous Narcotics meetings even more. I went to more meetings and talked about it, and before I knew it, the pain was easing, and I was handling it without using drugs. I asked God to come into my heart, and I thanked Him for putting her briefly into my life. Now I know that everything I have is only borrowed from God.

I am currently working on my second to third clean and serene year. My life is a lot better now today than it has ever been. I am happy, and I feel good about myself. I still go to meetings to boost my recovery. It helps to be in contact with people with the same problem as me, addiction. All my friends are through Narcotics Anonymous. Recovery is the new high to me.

Narcotics Anonymous saved my life! Narcotics Anonymous is my life!

David Eliace is the founder of Youth Dignity Forum, a non-governmental organisation working to transform informal settlements into economically stable and sustainable communities. He is available at or on Twitter as @DaveMollel. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at for further inquiries.

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5 Responses

  1. Aisee. Babuu, I’m so happy for you brother. God is good all the time. We have a lot to talk about brother. Nitakutafuta kwa simu.

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