by Kimberley Cummins
”Drugs will kill you socially, they will kill you spiritually. Drugs will kill you financially, they will kill you morally. And when mentally and physically you’re dead, it’s best to stay a way instead.” Calypsonian Winston Blackmailer Morris
From the 1980’s when illicit drugs like crack and cocaine started to literally bring people to their knees that advice has been resounding.
There was the “Say No To Drugs” campaign, the fried egg experiment- just like an egg drugs will fry your brain and the establishment of D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). These were but a few of the initiatives designed to help people resist the use of illegal substances and ultimately their abuse.
While statistics have shown that these programmes gained successes nevertheless people continued to abuse drugs and by the 80’s the number had risen exponentially.
It was often said that sometimes people need tangible evidence of the harm and hurt these mind altering substances can cause to be a real deterrent for potential users.
An individual who hoped his true story could be that discouragement was Theo (not his real name).
Like many young people he had tremendous potential but drugs got in his way.
Sitting on the verandah of his St. Michael home as he clutched an edition of a narcotics anonymous publication, he told Barbados TODAY that the biggest mistake he ever made in his life was to smoke a cigarette.
He explained that first smoke led to him using marijuana and ultimately his addiction to crack.
Theo was raised in Parish Land in Christ Church. As a child his father was non-existent and his young mother worked extremely hard as a maid to support him and his three siblings. In primary school he was one of the top students at that school and when he sat the Common Entrance Exam he gained a place at one of the island’s top schools- The Lodge School.
Things then began to look better for him but when he reached secondary school he was in store for a big blow to his confidence.
“I was exposed to lawyers’ children, teachers’ children, children whose parents had big jobs. At that time my mother was a maid and my father was a labourer. I felt really out of place and I felt lost so I never really settled down to secondary life,” he said.
When he was 13 he was first to be exposed to marijuana and he liked it.
“At that time reggae music and Bob Marley was now tekking foundation in Barbados and that lifestyle seemed attractive to me and I went towards that. Marijuana caused me to forget for a while all of the things I was going through and it become habitual – smoking marijuana and finding ways and means of getting it.
“One of the first things I started to do was steal money from my mudda purse to buy it. Eventually my school work start to deteriorate, I went from a top student at primary school and at secondary school I start coming last, then I stop gine. I start to play truant, I would leave home for school and never get there. I would go in the bus stand and walk ‘bout whole day or go in the theatre. I start to get suspend and my mother had to go to the school and meet with teachers, eventually they put me out of school when I was 15 and I end up pun the block.”
Grinning, the 45-year-old said that liming on the block the drug became more accessible and his love for it grew. He then became a Rastafarian, where he would argue with any one who opposed his habit by stating that herb was a natural plant grown by God or that weed was wisdom.
By age 20 he moved on to using crack cocaine.
“From the time I start to use crack my life start to go down hill at a very rapid pace. I start to steal from home any and everything that I could get to sell to buy this drug. I start to steal from people in the neighbourhood. It start to get out of control and people start to cry shame on me ‘This boy went to Lodge and look how he turn out’. I start to get involved in petty crime. Carrying my crime now from the home and the neighbourhood to the streets and I start to shoplift. Then I start to get in trouble with the police and was brought before the courts. I became a regular face in the courtroom and I start gine prison regular. I went to Glendairy, I went to Harrison Point, I went to Dodds.”
Between 2000 to 2013 Theo was incarcerated more than 10 times.
On numerous occasions he tried to stop using, he told Barbados TODAY.
At times looking in our direction but somehow beyond us, he said: “I honestly tried to stop. Crack cocaine is so highly addictive that it is take a miracle to stop using it.”
In 1993, was his first effort at recovery. Though apprehensive about checking into the Psychiatric Hospital because of its stigma, he did and completed a six week walk-in programme with the Fellowship of Narcotics. However, as soon as the programme ended he returned to familiar territory- the block with old friends.
He added: “On numerous occasions I tried to stop using. I would endure for a while and I would always go back because outside of drugs I ain’t have much friends. Over time I tried to clean up my act but I became lonely because I didn’t have no friends on this side of the fence.
“Somebody introduced me to Teen Challenge in 2001 but I didn’t complete the programme ‘cause I get put out then I went back using. I went to Verdun House get put out, went back using and I end up living pun the streets. I lived in abandoned buildings, sleep at bus stops, I was homeless. I eat out of garbage cans, I walk the streets of Bridgetown at night picking up bottles. I was living in the pusher-man yard and would get up early pun mornings and clean ‘round the house to get a fix. I used to look to see who limes I could car’ way or who lef’ them gate open that I could car’ way them drinks bottles,” the father of a 17-year-old son said.
It has been 14 months since he used any substance at all- including cigarettes and with a big smile on his face he said he felt good about himself.
The day he finally decided to change for good, he said it didn’t occur like any dramatic Hollywood film, it simply happened when he realised he couldn’t do it alone and accepted the Lord as his personal saviour.
“I wanted to do it on my own but I could never get it done. One of the things I learned this time around was you got to want this thing. All the while when I was doing this deep inside me I wanted out but somehow I didn’t have the power to get out. Drug addiction so powerful, I could never do it on my own. I tip my hat off to them people who mek it on their own but I couldn’t do it.
“People used to tell me ‘Man it is a mind over matter, you ain’t got no willpower’. I try all of them things. I tried going to church, people praying for me and I would lef’ the pray meeting and go straight in the drug hole, I even get baptised. I was always looking for a way to stop using and I tried all the ways available but then I had to find out who God is. I don’t like to give credit to myself for how I am feeling today, I just say this a miracle God worked.
“I don’t want to rest on my laurels because drugs is just an arm’s length away – it is so easy to go back. Like in this neighbourhood I know where the pusher man live in the next gap, I know where the pusher man live up the hill, then there are some friends across the gap that I used to hang out with and smoke with so it is like every time I leave home I have got to put these things up front- I got to keep my guard up,” he said passionately.
“The temptation does come, I does got the feeling that I would smoke a cigarette, sometimes the day does don’t be going the way I like it and I does say I feel like smoking a cigarette to cool my head but I know what can happen so I got to be vigilant. I feel good with myself today as a man. I in a programme now that teaching me how to save, budget my money and form healthy relationships. I keep away from places and things associated with my former life. Right now I don’t have much friends but I belong to a fellowship, with other recovering addicts like me, we share where we were, our experiences now and where we would like to be. They tell me do it one day at a time and if the day seem too long do it in five minute pieces. So with the grace of my higher power I hope to maintain this life.”
Theo warned other youngsters not to do as he did but instead learn from him. He added, that every day he prayed that his teenaged son would never walk the same road he did.
“I would like that youngsters see me and use me as an example not to go down that road- there is no hope in dope. I had a lot of potential, all my dreams and aspirations went by the wayside as a result of drugs. I start with cigarettes, then marijuana and then cocaine … I could see clearly the progression. I remember from 12-13 [years] I wanted to be a man and my mother couldn’t control me, my father ain’t there so from early I was allowed to do my own things and I went after what was attractive- the block and marijuana smoking was cool.
“I want a better life, drug use rob me of a lot. As a youngster I had a lot of potential and I thought I would go places but I get involved in drugs. [Now] I learn that I used drugs to cover feelings and they tell me I got a lot of scars from my childhood that I never really deal with; poverty, abandonment, rejection.
“As a man I still dealing with a lot of fear, a lot of doubt, worry and when I use drugs it is easy for me to forget these things but then when the drugs wear off the same problems does stare me in the face. This new life to me boring. Getting up and can’t do this, can’t do that ain’t easy- it ain’t fun. I know what fun is gine out there and getting high or drink a beer, party… I still like that but I know I can’t live that way so I got to slowly embrace this other life ‘cause this one is what does keep me from that one,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org