Thirty drug addicts hope to  reclaim their lives by braving  the icy Atlantic ocean.  Waterboys

One of them, 22-year-old Shahim, has been a drug user for
half his life. But thanks to Cape Town swimming coach Anton Louw, he
now keeps his addiction at bay.

Louw is the brains behind an ambitious drug
rehabilitation project called Walking on Water. And he is under no
illusion that all the recovering addicts who signed up will make it to
the end.

“But we believe that by simply committing to the
program these brave souls have already taken a quantum leap forward
in their recovery,” he said.

The project includes several months of training for the
swimmers, who will have to brave 13°C water off the Cape coast. Their
goal is to complete the grueling Cadiz Freedom Swim next year — a
7.5km swim from Robben Island’s Murray Beach to Bloubergstrand.

But first the group will have to swim a section of False
Bay, a stretch of ocean off Muizenberg, around Cape Point and then
Dassen Island off the West Coast.

Speaking from a Grassy Park rehabilitation center his
family booked him into two weeks ago, Shahim said he took up swimming
to keep boredom in check while overcoming his addiction.

He had used “every drug on the market”, the latest being
heroin. It is his third time at the center. He was first admitted at 19.

The Lavender Hill youth  smoked his first cigarette at  nine and was hooked on dagga  before turning 11.

“My younger brother is in his second year of college now,
studying electricity. I know I’m a disappointment to the family. They
are respected in the community. My mother started a brass band to keep
children off the streets and I did the exact opposite.”

He learnt to play the trombone but sold the instrument to buy drugs.

“When I go back home, I can  show the people in my community what I have accomplished,” he said.

“Swimming from Robben Island to Blouberg will most definitely be an accomplishment.”

Buyekezwa Makwabe
Published: Jul 27, 2008  (The Times)