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The account of Nikki’s life can only be described as a Hero’s Journey. Doted on as the youngest, and only girl, of a middle classed, Jewish family steeped in traditional values, her formative years were happy; protected in the white-picket-fenced suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa. That is, until her father suddenly died when she was the tender age of ten-years old.

This shock dismantled her family, with each member turning inwards and battling with their own grief in their own way. Nikki was both overly-pandered to, and dismally neglected. Her every whim and desire was given into to appease the ‘poor child,’ while very little attention was given to her emotional needs and her now-single mother became draconian in order to deal with the hardships of raising her four children, alone.

She threw herself into school sports and academics in order to be recognised. This was the one area of her life she felt she had control of, while her inner turmoil around her unfamiliar family life was further suppressed. She easily excelled in all areas of school life, and became popular with an active social life. Nikki welcomed the distraction and attention, however it was to be precisely the outlets that she sought for solace that lead to the alarming avalanche that was her eventual fall from grace.

Moving away from books and sports, her popularity perpetuated her rapid snowball into active addiction when at 16; boys, booze and rebellion became the order of the day. By 18, she had discovered her infatuation with cocaine, and eventually speed-balling and opiates.

Her distraught loved-ones sent her to family in Australia, to escape the dark world she had become a part of. Travelling cross-continents in painful heroin withdrawal, the plane made a stop-over in Malaysia where her aching body desperately begged her to search for a dealer. (Un)luckily for her, she found one, and spent her tenure overseas, where she was meant to get healthy and clean, doped up.

Her frantic family now sent her to a luxury rehab in Cape Town, hoping for a stronger intervention, however she relapsed in treatment. So manic was her level of insanity now that it seemed nothing would help. How could someone from such a ‘normal’ community find themselves at this level of rock bottom?

She was shipped off to Noupoort; an extremely strict, long-term treatment centre in the middle of nowhere, with harsh codes of conduct and military execution. This is the last-resort for many a suffering addict. And it was here, she met her first husband.

“So romantic” is how Nikki dryly describes it, while rolling her eyes. They were two broken people who somehow thought that their love (or idea thereof) could “fix” them. She was looking for the family life that had been taken away from her with the passing of her father, and urgently held onto this ideal. Somehow, they did manage to stay drug-free for 8 years, even though the toxicity of their union was palpable.

They had all the picket-fence trappings; kids, a house, just enough money to be comfortably-constantly-working for more, and misery masked in materialism. Some may seek solace at a time like this in extramarital affairs, or working too hard, or staying as far away from each other as possible, or even a messy divorce as distraction. Nikki and her husband did what they knew best to do to escape, and relapsed.

The previous avalanche of using could not compare to this. With a massive heroin addiction dictating her every move, Nikki fell to a level she had previously not dreamed possible, and committed a crime, which would eventually send her to prison.

The story around the next few years is quite fascinating. It was shortly after Nikki was arrested for fraud that she managed to get clean, and muster up enough common sense to get divorced. Her ex-husband became a non-entity in hers and her kid’s lives.

Due to our tedious and overwraught judicial system it took four years for Nikki to be sentenced. She was found guilty and after a further 3 years of appeals eventually found herself walking into lockdown. Now, multiple years clean and sober and living life as a productive member of society; a single mother, and Addictions Counsellor at a top Rehab Centre, she could not escape the consequences of her past. For the past 7 years she had done the almost-impossible and rebuilt her life from rock bottom (once again), creating something quite beautiful for herself and her kids. She was not only soldiering along, one-white-knuckle-day-at-a-time, but giving back to society and inspiring others with her journey. All the while, the crimes of her past hung over her, a black cloud with no escape.

A further complication had arisen. She had met a man. Six months before she was to be shipped off to prison, Clive arrived in her world. Fortunately, although timing couldn’t have been stranger, finally Nikki would learn what true companionship is. Clive even committed to helping look after her children while she served her time, and is now in the process of adopting them as his own.

The irony is that Nikki will describe the almost-year she spent in jail as where she truly discovered what it means TO LIVE. She met her mentor while participating in a course facilitated by her in prison and realised that her entire existence up until then had been a war. Whether battling addiction, or battling to make ends meet, or battling suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem, she knew nothing about such ideals as Balance, Harmony, Peace, or even Love.

She had strengths, though. The narrative of self-hatred was replaced with moments of clarity as she discovered her ability to connect to the core of each person she encountered; no matter their story. Her life’s purpose became clear. She was to help people find a way out, the only way she knew how: Through Personal and Empowering Solutions.

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