My name is Stephan, I am 28 years old at present. I was a drug addict for 16 years of my life and it all started with dagga. I began experimenting with dagga around the age of 12 and before I could blink my eyes I was in a "rehab" at the age of 13. I carried on with my bad habits with no regard for the efforts of my parents to help me. The next year, just before my 14th birthday, I was back in rehab again. This time it wasn't just for dagga. Because of the "'freeing'' of my mind and spirit through dagga, I had become open to many other things. In the rehab I shared a room with a member of the '26 gang' from Walvis Bay who taught me the ropes and how not to get caught doing wrong. I was raised knowing and loving Jesus Christ but the dagga had broken down my morals and values, it also gave me the confidence to sin without caring about the consequences.

Previously I had been a top sportsman, taking part in rugby, cricket, gymnastics, tennis, swimming, golf, athletics, cycling and wrestling and now I couldn't even run 100m without wanting to vomit because of my dagga habit. Before dagga I used to be a top performer at school, always at the top of my grade. Dagga seemed to open my mind and fill it with all these ''brilliant'' ideas. Yet I stopped paying attention at school because I was daydreaming about rubbish and watching the clock waiting for school to end so that I could go and smoke a joint with my ''friends''.

Obviously I had to start lying about what I was busy with and I started stealing money because my pocket money wasn't enough for all the dagga I was buying and the other things that go with it. I would stay awake until 3 in the morning, smoking dagga and listening to "old Bob's" redemption songs before going to school. I would also wake up early so that I could smoke a joint before going to school. I neglected my personal hygiene and my teeth are currently falling apart and are almost non-existent because for 16 years I didn't care enough to brush my teeth as I was high 24 hours a day.

Pretty soon I was getting high at school and selling dagga there. By the age of 16 I was selling dagga and other drugs and staying on the streets or at friend's houses as my parents wouldn't let me do what I wanted. I was kicked out of several schools and was failing. I no longer tried to hide my addiction and used dagga openly. My church attendance had ceased long ago, and my family relations were null and void. I was wanted and stopped by police on a regular basis.

At 16 I made a deal with the devil while I was high, selling my soul for drugs, money, fame and power. Soon afterwards, I was taken to a certain rehab in South Africa on a court order from the Namibian Government, who said it was either rehab or jail. I chose rehab. I continued smoking dagga in the rehab by sneaking out to the neighbouring chicken farm and trading my expensive clothes for envelopes of Swazi dagga. I was there for 6 months and I wasn't back at home for more than two weeks when I was in the same old place doing the same old things, except this time 'bigger and better'.

I had stopped schooling completely. My parents paid for me to home school but to no effect. At this stage I was very well known, dangerous, and saw myself as above anyone and everyone. My parents stopped confronting me as they were afraid of me. People would walk on the other side of the street when I came down the road. I was doing what I wanted and taking what I wanted.

On the night of the birth of my sister's first daughter, my parents had to quickly stop by the hospital to see the child and to tell my sister that we were on the way back to the rehab in South Africa as the Namibian police wanted to lock me up, and if I was taken to a rehab in another country, I would be beyond their reach. I was smoking dagga excessively at this stage and by now it was a joint in between hits from the crack pipe, just to stay calm enough until the next hit.

I wasn't in that rehab for a week when I broke out and made my way to Sunny Side in Pretoria with stolen goods, looking to get high again. When the first lot of dagga, crack and heroin was finished, we woke up and ran through the streets grabbing cellphones while people were talking on them to pawn with the closest drug dealer. The police caught us and took us back to the rehab. I ended up staying there for a year and a half.

When I went back to Namibia I stopped the dagga and drugs for a while, but the effects were still there and almost permanent, the damage had been done, the behaviour and thought processes of a smoker still remained. People who say you're too chilled to do crime or fight when you're high on dagga talk rubbish. I once beat my father till the blood dripped down his face because he spoiled my high by trying to teach me manners.

I then got the chance to go to the UK to work and try and get away from it all. I wasn't there for more than a few months when I discovered the strong dagga that they have there. This time I wasn't letting go because after smoking that kind of high quality dagga for the first time, I reckoned I had been missing out on the good stuff and that I had better catch up before it all disappeared. It wasn't long until I had connections up north and I was bringing dagga down to London for a huge profit, except that my ''profit'' was not having to pay for what I smoked.

I smoked about 7-10 g of the strongest dagga that the UK has to offer a day, excluding the weekend binges. I was smoking first thing when I woke up, at work, after work, before I got on the train, when I got off the train, before I ate, after I ate, and so the routine was with everything I did. I started my own growing rooms and it went well until one day I came home and my wife was gone along with everything in my house, except the lights and shriveled plants that had become my life.

Everywhere I went I got into fights, because at this stage I was very paranoid and schizophrenic because of the strong dagga I had been smoking. I was angry because no matter how much I smoked, I wasn't getting high anymore. I was hearing voices telling me things, what people I didn't even know were saying about me on the train for example. I would then just beat someone up because of what I thought I heard.

Very soon there was no more job to go to, no more friends, no family, just a slum house in between two drug dealers in East London. I was stealing copper cable and material from work sites to just be able to function and think ''straight'' because if I didn't smoke dagga I couldn't think, I couldn't eat, I couldn't even do my work unless I had a joint. The voices in my head had become a real and life threating problem for myself and those around me. I was having inward discussions with them on whether or not to jump in front of the train or whether I should I buy a gun from my neighbour and start shooting the people on the London underground for always laughing at me and talking about me on the trains. Now I had become crazy, not just a "pot head" or "stoner" or "junky" anymore, I had become mentally and physically unstable and was fearing the worst. Not long after that I was strangled the girlfriend I had for smoking my dagga while I was asleep, threw her around the room for smoking without me, and used any excuse to get violent with her or the people in my house all because I couldn't get high anymore no matter how much dagga I smoked.

One night I was at a train station at Alexandra's Palace, waiting for the last train of the day home. I was alone and smoking a joint and I realised how bad and hopeless I had become. I phoned my father in desperation and he could hear in my voice that I was at the end of myself and he bought me a ticket to come home to my family in South Africa. Yet when I arrived home the first thing I did was get "hooked up" with a high quality dagga dealer. I was very happy to find out that the good "skunk" I had discovered in the UK had made its way to South Africa and I was smoking away again.

My parents got a restraining order against me and I left home. I found work in Bloemfontein where I smoked and worked as normal again for a few months with guys I knew from London (also smokers). We then got a contract to build 10 schools in the Transkei. We were smoking like crazy as Port Saint Johns wasn't far away and the sangoma that was working with us had connections there for the best skunk in SA. We made regular trips there and back. One night after smoking a strong, pure joint the sangoma started singing and made me go into a trance and I had visions about the future because I had opened myself up to dark spirits by smoking dagga. Things got worse and worse after that.

I had gone from being a top performer and sportsman in English private schools, who ended up as a carpenter, not an engineer, because dagga caused me to leave my ambition to study behind, in London earning 1200-1600 British pounds a week, and finally to someone who packed bags of animal feed at a factory in Aliwal North for R1200 a month just because of an initial innocent dagga joint with a friend.

My wife is divorcing me and I've worked myself into the ground (an average of 112 hours a week for 9 years) just to get high, and all I have to show for it is damaged lungs, a brain that doesn't function at normal capacity, a trail of destruction and hurt people, and life lessons learned at the cost of my life. All the cool dreams and plans I had whilst high on dagga never became a reality because I was too busy getting "stoned". Besides, who are we kidding, a few minutes after a dagga induced 'epiphany' and you can't recall what it was you were thinking about in the first place.

Dagga made me stupid, dagga made me cry, dagga ruined my family, dagga killed my friends, dagga ruined my chances of fulfilling my childhood dreams, dagga ruined my love for life, dagga made me not care, dagga made me rape, dagga made me kill, dagga made me dead and dagga isn't safe. All in all if you had to put the best cocaine, heroin, crack, LSD or ecstasy in front of me I would've chosen the dagga every time. Yes, I was a crack cocaine, heroin and ecstasy using, mandrax smoking, mushroom eating, alcohol drinking, glue and benzine sniffing addict, but at the end of the day it started with dagga and ended with dagga.

Dagga opened the gates to other drugs and to hell and it was the last thing I was using before the Lord Jesus Christ in all His mercy came and changed my life and broke me out of the chains of this epidemic that ruins lives. It takes an Almighty God to set you free from the grip of dagga and its friends.