Pan Macmillan has shared an excerpt from I Ran For My Life: My Story by Kabelo Mabalane.
In I Ran For My Life, Mabalane shares his extraordinary life journey, from being a multi-platinum-selling musician with TKZee, through the highs and lows of drug addiction, to finding hope again through running – eight Comrades Marathons and counting.
In this excerpt, Mabalane reflects on how he close he became to becoming just like Jub Jub, or even Oscar Pistorius. He also describes his experience of rehab, where he was no longer surrounded by “yes people”, but by people who would not tolerate his arrogance.
Read the excerpt:
I am the Monster
Maybe I am contributing to that myth of famous people who always get away with crap. When the Jub Jub thing came out I was very slow to point fingers, because I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it could have been me. Even Oscar Pistorius – every time I watched that case, my heart broke. That could also have been me, on so many levels. My temper, mixed with the drugs I was taking. Uncalculating, but angry. I hit a woman once. It was when I was stone-cold sober, had been off drugs for a couple of months. It was the most frustrated I had ever been. I don’t know if, even now, I am ready to talk about this. These men we see as monsters, it’s also something that can be closer than you know. You can be the monster. You just got lucky that you didn’t get caught.
The first step of the Twelve-step programme is to admit that you are powerless over your addiction, and that your life has become unmanageable. Before then, my life was unmanageable. I could not manage my life. If I could, I wouldn’t have been there, in that place. And it was flipping hard work. It hurt. It required real bravery to go through that process. I actually understand why a lot of people stay the way they are.
I went into rehab, as planned, on 1 November, and I came out on 13 December. Two days after that I had a gig – it was something that had been planned a lot earlier, before I even went into rehab. I remember getting on stage and the crowd going berserk. I was really appreciative of getting a second chance. I felt like I had got my selfrespect back. That people would start respecting me for being honest about what I was going through. I had been like this villain, and all of a sudden I was made to feel like I was a hero.
But there were people who weren’t happy with my sobriety. It said more about where they were at. I was accused of doing it as a publicity stunt, of being a media whore. Often by people who were in active addiction. For the first second, when you find out, it hurts deeply. But I had to rise above it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I can’t force someone to think about me in a certain way. If an orange tree says it’s an orange tree, then you’ve got to give it time to bear some oranges. If harvest time comes and it bears apples, you will know who the imposter is. You will know me by my fruit.
My mother came to visit me at the rehab centre every weekend. She was always there for me. She didn’t have to say anything; she was known by her actions. The addict goes in, but, parallel to that, the family goes through their own counselling. When I saw my mom give herself over to that, try to understand me, I knew that she was really there for me.
One of the things you have to do as part of a Twelve-step programme is write your own life story. See what kind of a prick you actually were. You have to travel down that road, start writing down all this stuff. For me, that is part of what spurs an addict on to sobriety: jeez, I did that? I didn’t sign up to be this person. Then, of course, after a few weeks you have to read your story out loud, to your group. When you learn about other people’s crap, you hear their stories week after week, it slowly becomes a safe environment for you to share yours. When you see someone else become transparent, it encourages you to become transparent.
When I finally read out my story, there were proud moments – because of the good stuff I had achieved – but also embarrassing moments, humbling moments. If anything, rehab humbled me. It made me realise that the sun didn’t shine out of my bum, and that when I drive around at night the moon is not following me. So there was pride, and there was regret. Regret because … if I had paid more attention and not missed so many things, I would be much further in life. As much as you pat yourself on the back after rehab, because you came out clean, you did it, part of that process is also realising how many opportunities you missed because of your addiction.
The first day I arrived at Houghton House, I was shown around, told where to go, and then thrown straight into ‘group’. There were plastic chairs placed in a circle. I sat down with this kind of ‘Do you know who I am?’ attitude. I folded my arms – I was completely arrogant, even though by that time I was already clean; or maybe it was because of that – and I just sat and looked at these people, pretended to listen to them. Maybe I was hearing what they said, but I wasn’t really listening. This one girl was sharing her story with the group. Like I said, you share where you have been so that people can identify with you and find strength in where you have been. It’s kind of a sacred space. It requires a huge amount of trust.
So, she was sharing her stuff. And I decided to just chip in. I gave her advice: I think you should do this, and you should do that. This is so embarrassing when I think of it now – not just me thinking that I obviously knew better than everyone else, but just the complete disrespect, like I was stomping all over the stuff she was sharing. I think everyone in the group was completely horrified at my behaviour. Worse, still, I carried on acting like that for another week or so. That story about me made the rounds. And my mistake ultimately wound up being the beginning of my healing process, and me understanding what I was there to do.
A week later, when the group met and got to confront each other, or confront another addict for their conduct, or applaud someone – it didn’t have to be negative – I remember basically the whole room just gunning for me. ‘We don’t know who you think you are. This is not the music industry. You are so arrogant …’ They really let me have it.
I had always had ‘yes people’ surrounding me – there were very few people who challenged who I was, or what I did. For the first time in my life that I could remember, there were all these people in this room, and they were all telling me where to get off. It was the first time that the penny dropped: that I had come there to change.
They didn’t just tell me what they thought about my behaviour. People told me how I made them feel. Nobody with a conscience would want to give off what I was giving off. And that’s when I started putting in the work. At the end of five weeks, the reports about me had changed. People thanked me for taking to heart what they had said about me. But it wasn’t just what they’d said about me that caused that change. My headspace started to shift when I started hearing their stories, really hearing them. When you hear someone else’s life story, it gives you the ability to put everything in a different context. You start to understand people more, you’re able to empathise with them. The fact that some people made my mountains look like molehills … it made me want to understand people more.