Time and fate have not been very kind to Laone who looks every day of her 30 years and more. The last born in a family of five with a mother who worked as a nurse and a father who was a school teacher she dreamed of a future behind behind a white picket fence with a husband and two to three children with a car in the garage.
“I grew up in a middle class family and had more opportunity and privilege than most. My parents provided everything. I was loved and doted on more than my elder siblings.”
Towards the end of her education at Naledi Senior Secondary, Laone got mixed up in bad company. “I had some friends who would take me out to clubs. Sometimes we would bunk school and go drinking in Old Naledi famously known as Zola and G-West. That is where I met my first boyfriend.”
Discovering love and drugs
In 2006 fresh out of senior secondary school she met and fell in love with this happy go lucky guy who lived on the fast lane. Unbeknownst to her, her first love would introduce her to a life she now regrets more than anything. “He was way older than me but I didn’t care. We spent a lot of time together usually drinking and smoking. He taught me how to roll my first marijuana blunt.”
Her boyfriend was a well-known dealer in the drug underworld. He spent lavishly on her, plied her with expensive clothes and gifts. It did not bother her, in fact it added to the thrill and allure. Back then, bagged yourself a bad boy was a big catch.” I was na├»ve and young, he was flashy always, decked out in the latest clothing. I innocently always thought it was because he made a living off selling weed.” She got her first taste of hard drugs in 2006. “My boyfriend had a Nigerian friend who quickly turned into my friend. He would come into the country and we would offer him accommodation either with us or at another place because my boyfriend was well connected. His way of thanking us was by bringing us drugs. Cocaine to be precise. The day he brought it was the first time I tried it with the supervision and instruction of my boyfriend of course. It became the norm; whenever he came into the country he would bring us the goodies (cocaine). That is when I realised my boyfriend was a drug dealer”. Living with her parents meant her freedom was limited so she left home and moved in with her boyfriend. A continuous cycle of heavy drinking, snorting coke, rolling blunts and sex; the relationship was uninhabited to say the least. She never made it to tertiary school. Instead she got sucked into the fast and deadly lifestyle of drugs.” Crack cocaine and marijuana were my go-to drugs.”
The relationship was a tumultuous. Her boyfriend was a control freak. It lasted three years before they decided to part ways. At this point Laone was already addicted to drugs. As a BGCSE certificate holder, Laone held a few odd jobs here and there but never really stuck to any because her drug problem controlled her. Staying home all day and getting high became her first priority. She would wake up in the morning and first thing she did was take a hit. “I was now a full blown druggie, newly single with no job and no money. My drug habit gnawed at me every day. My boyfriend no longer supported my habit because we had broken up. In the beginning of my crack addiction I always swore to myself that I would never sell sex for money. Unfortunately, I was very naive and uninformed about the progression of addiction and I did not know what desperation felt like.” Laone admits that the first time she sold sex was in exchange for drugs.” I was broke and single and dependent on drugs. I did everything to get high and selling sex seemed to get me what I wanted. I would get sick. I wasn’t eating and living right. I was constantly drinking and doing drugs. The coughs and nosebleeds were bad.” Even when they were broken up and no longer together her ex-boyfriend was in one way or another fuelling her drug-use because whenever their Nigerian friend came they would all get together and binge on the goodies.
Pain, Heartache and lost hope
Laone was close to both parents but mostly her mother. She recalls her mother as her best friend often spoiling her more than her siblings. She admits that when the occasional cough and nosebleeds came her mother would be quick to treat her never thinking that there would be an underlying problem “The day I told my mother about my drug problem was the day I saw disappointment in her eyes. As a nurse she would often refer me to psychologists in a bid to help me with my problem but I think I was too far gone and I wasn’t really willing to go rehab. She was ashamed and disappointed in me but loved me nonetheless. She never disclosed my problem to the other family members. It was our dark little secret. On hindsight, I think it made the problem worse.”
Unfortunately, Laone’s first love died a year after they broke up. He was murdered. At that point her life started spiralling out of control. “That was a tough time for me. He was my first love and just like that he was gone. I became a mess, a complete nervous wreck. To this day the emotions are still very raw. I didn’t know how to deal with the pain so I turned to the only thing I knew ÔÇô drugs.” To block the pain of losing her first love she resorted to two things that brought her comfort and seemed to make the pain go away. She hit the bottle even harder and her drug use escalated. She lived in a daze and was numb most of the time. Three months after her first love died, Laone then lost the most important person in her life – her mother. “I literally thought the heartache was going to kill me, I had never felt so alone in my life. I fell into depression, added to that was my extreme drug use. My life was a total mess.” Laone inherited a house from her late mother and says whenever she got the rent money (P4.000.00) she would blow it all in just three hours ÔÇô on drugs.
New man, children and sex work
A year after she lost her mother and first love months apart, she swung back into the dating world, met a guy who was younger than her and just like her ex, was also into the drug business. Barely a year into the relationship they had their first kid. “He was younger than me but was also fascinated by the drug business. It didn’t bother me because I was knee-deep in drugs; it just meant easy access to them. He was warm and caring and barely six months into the relationship I fell pregnant. Shortly after I gave birth I got into the sex work business.” Laone started selling sex six months after the birth of her first child. The father of her child was changing and not the same warm and caring guy she met. “I was under heavy stress, here I was, and a mother to a new-born, a drug addict and my boyfriend was proving to be irresponsible and unreliable. I had to quickly make a plan to see that I take care of myself and my child.” For someone used to selling sex in exchange for a high, life was throwing her some hard knocks and selling sex seemed to be the only option. “I never thought I’d sell sex to put food on the table, but I needed to take care of my child. A new born is very costly and demanding and so was my drug habit.” Laone was still in a relationship with the father of her child and even though at this point he was lost to drugs they had another baby two years after their first one. “The depression mounted. Two kids, absent father, a drug problem that was growing by the day, my problems seemed to be piling all at the same time. The father of my children was barely there, always out chasing his next high; he was totally consumed by drugs. He wasn’t bringing anything to the table and even though we would get into fights about my work, I had to do what I had to do. I wanted nothing more than to stop but the lights had to be on, food needed to be put on the table, the children needed to be clothed and fed and everything was looking to me to sort out. I would sleep with five guys in a night.” Laone’s boyfriend was now very hostile and violent. The fights got bad.” He used to beat me to a pulp, mainly because he didn’t like the idea of me selling sex but I couldn’t stop and he knew it. It wasn’t a matter of me enjoying my job, I hated it. I couldn’t stop because that was my way of providing for my family. On top of doing everything else I had to keep him happy by buying him drugs.” A year after the birth of their second child Laone gave birth to her third child.
When she talks of her kids she instantly lights up but that light is quickly dimmed out by a look of worry. Laone admits that she wants a different life for her children. She hates the idea of her children growing up and realising that their mother was a sex worker. ”I don’t like this life nor do I want it. I don’t want my kids growing up knowing their mother slept with men for money, I want a different life for them. I wish I gave them a different life than what I’m giving them right now. It hurts me to know that I went to good schools and none of my children attended pre-school. “She admits that she would like to leave this life behind but that also means she would have to kick the drug habit which is proving harder. The father of her children is currently at a rehabilitation centre out of the country and she hopes he will return a better man.
As a step to changing her life, Laone says she has applied for the Young Farmers Grant and is currently waiting for her goats. “I never went for tertiary school, I was busy getting drunk and high, but applying for the young farmers grant gives me hope that I can change my life as well as my children’s. I want to make legitimate money and provide for my family in a decent way.”
Laone’s drug problem seems to be a tough battle, “I can’t sleep at night mainly because of the thoughts that flood me. I think about my life, how it turned out, my mother who raised me with the hope of becoming something better in life, my ex boyfriend who although showed me and taught me how to love also taught me drugs, my children live a totally different life than what I would like to offer them. I can’t sleep at all, for me to sleep I need to numb myself and drugs do that.” Laone’s boyfriend is currently receiving help for his drug problem.”