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Facing Tough Truths: A Mother and Recovering Addict’s Mission to Tackle Drug Abuse

Brescia Bianco-Badenhorst is the one recovering heroin addict you want your children to know and listen to. Bullied at school and harshly judged by society, at an early age, she turned to alcohol and drugs for solace.

“Drug and alcohol addiction is a harsh reality among South African kids. From my own experience, I know that children have access to drugs if they want them.” Various anti-drug organisations echo her concerns.

Dr David Bayever from the the Central Drug Authority (CDA) says drug usage in South Africa is twice the world norm and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) reports that the average age for drug dependency in South Africa is a staggering 12 years old.

“It starts with experimenting with weed, alcohol, vaping and smoking and leads to ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. These are easy to get hold of,” says Brescia. SADAG notes that the low cost and easy accessibility of drugs and alcohol, age and peer pressure increase the risk factors of abuse among adolescents.

Brescia’s mental health was impacted by profound personal tragedies, including losing her grandmother to suicide and her grandfather to alcoholism. Her father died by suicide when she was only four years old casting a shadow over her childhood.

Her brother, struggling with bipolar depression, made repeated suicide attempts during their youth. “Each suicide attempt felt like a dagger to the heart, as I grappled with the fear of losing him and the guilt of not being able to save him,” she says. His mental health battles eventually led to his suicide. This followed on after the death of her uncle by suicide.

“Addiction became my constant companion, offering fleeting moments of escape from the pain of reality,” she says. “My life became a blur of crime, homelessness, and estrangement from loved ones,” she says. Eventually, hitting rock bottom, Brescia realised that she was on a path to more despair.

With the help of loved ones, she began the difficult journey to recovery. She entered rehab and through therapy and support groups found a new sense of purpose. “I was determined to reclaim my life from the clutches of substance abuse. It was a journey full of challenges, but with each passing day, I grew stronger in mind, body, and spirit.” she says.


Now, celebrating 20 years of sobriety, Brescia is a fulfilled and happy wife and mother and owner of a successful business, Semicolon Marketing and Events. Her goal is to give back by speaking about mental health awareness, suicide prevention and drug addiction, aiming to destigmatise these taboo subjects to help other families.


“We need to have these difficult conversations. If we don’t, children will seek answers elsewhere. The worst thing parents can say is ‘not my child’,” she says. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in the US reports that by talking to your children regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, you reduce their chances of using them by 42%. The Partnership to end Addiction reports that the problem is that only one in four teens report having these conversations, leaving 75% of teens uninformed.

A devote Christian, Brescia is a sought-after speaker at churches, schools, fundraising events, parent- and-children’s events and women’s functions. “Statistics state and theoretical evidence suggest that I should be living on the streets or find myself in jail or a grave right now. The fact that I am not is a miracle. I am fortunate to have transformed my passion for advocacy into a thriving business.” To learn more about Brescia’s advocacy work, visit

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