Turning vice into virtue

With two decades of ‘lived experience’ with addiction, Adam Labuschagne is dedicated to helping others.
Rovaldo Kavanga
Iréne-Mari van der Walt

After a long struggle with addiction, Adam Labuschagne is aiming to turn his ‘lived experience’ into a career as an addiction counsellor to help others who are struggling with addiction.

His dreams of becoming an addiction counsellor started while he was an active addict, explains Labuschagne.

“During a part of my active addiction, I started thinking to myself that if I ever get out of this, I want to help others,” he says.

After his recovery from addiction, Labuschagne was able to convert various short-form qualifications into a degree which enabled him to start work as an addiction recovery counsellor.

This, in conjunction with his ‘lived experience’, sets Labuschagne apart as an addiction recovery practitioner.

“Lived experience is a term used in the first world, if one could call it that, that counts time as an active addict as experience,” he explains.

Labuschagne has roughly 20 years of lived experience under his belt and believes that addiction in corporate spheres often goes unnoticed.

“The corporate people are often the functional addicts because their addiction is able to hide behind a lifestyle. Their lifestyles do not indicate addiction, because they have the means to support addiction better,” he says.

Labuschagne implores drug users to challenge themselves with the following four questions:

• ‘Have I ever thought of stopping or cutting down my intake?’

• ‘Do I get upset at the mention of my use of the substance?’

• ‘Do I feel guilty about using?’

• ‘Do I experience withdrawal symptoms if I go without this substance for too long?’

He believes that habits are worth looking into if an individual answers yes to two or more of the above questions.


Labuschagne says there is not only q cstigma imposed on drug users from non-users, but also among drug addicts themselves.

“I do find that there is a stigma between drugs, like the idea that a certain type of drug is used by a certain type of person,” he says.

“Mostly, people will use whatever is available to them, so it is dependent on where this person finds themselves,” he adds.

However, he notes that individuals may use different drugs for different intents. “People who feel the need to belong will often use stimulant drugs while those who want to feel numb will usually gravitate toward opioids,” he says.