Lazy. Good for nothing. Druggie. User. These are words we use to describe people we see using drugs or people we know who use. We jump to conclusions about that group of guys walking down the street. They are useless; they are wasting their lives.
We think we know everything about them. But for someone who uses drugs, the story doesn’t end there. Ernest went through these prejudices, through these drugs. Where is he now?
“I never had a comfortable life. My mother abandoned me when I was young. She went to another country. Oh, sure, she called sometimes. But no one wants a mum on the other end of a telephone. My dad? He wasn’t there. I lived with my grandparents. It was all right while I was little. I didn’t know any better. I was more or less happy.
“Then, everything changed. My mum took me with her to her new country for a few months. After almost a year there, she said we were going back to my countries of origin to visit, only for a little time. I was ten years old. I asked why she was packing all my clothes if we were only going for a short period. She said boys play a lot, and she knew I would make my clothes dirty.
“We went. She left me sleeping at my grandma’s house and took the bus back. I was left in my home country, while I was sleeping. My mum abandoned me again. It wasn’t long after that I began to use drugs. I was in fifth grade.
“At school, some of the guys were planning to smoke after class ended. They asked me to join them. I agreed. Why? They were giving me that acceptance I wanted. My grandparents didn’t care about me. My uncle, only a few years older than me was abusive. They would hit or slap me, a lot. Why should I not try some marijuana?
“It was a Thursday. I remember I felt sick that day, but when I smoked the marijuana, it made my stuffy nose clear up. My eyes were red, and when I got home, I couldn’t look at my grandmother’s face.
“After that, I started smoking every night. I would go out with my friends and be able to forget my problems for a while. I remember I would laugh. I felt happy. I was addicted.
“Did I think about the future? Not really. I wanted to finish high school and get a job, but I didn’t have anything specific in mind.
“Why should I stop smoking marijuana? My friends listened to me; they accepted me. Quitting marijuana would only mean I was alone again, with my grandparents and uncle. I didn’t even consider it.
“Then, one day, I was sixteen. I had an opportunity to go the country where my mother was living. I went there. She said I could stay with her. When I arrived, she came to receive me and took me to a friend’s house. She said it was only for one night, that they hadn’t made up a place for me to sleep yet. I knew it was a lie. She would never really be there for me.
“Alone, in a new country, I studied in high school and worked to maintain myself. I found new friends with whom I could smoke. Nothing changed. At one point, I decided I just couldn’t continue studying and working. I was too tired. If I wanted to survive, I needed to focus only on working. With working more time, I had more money to use for marijuana. In fact, I started using more marijuana than before.
“This one lady had been inviting me and inviting me to church, I always said I would go, but I never did. I would smoke Saturday night and be too tired to get up on Sunday.
“Then, one Sunday, I went to church. The pastor was talking about people who only cry out to God when they need saving from a problem. He talked about the difference between having a real relationship with God. I felt a presence with me like I should go forward to pray.
“From that point, I knew I needed to change my marijuana habits. Why? Besides the fact that it is a crime, it could cause health problems, and it wasn’t helping me make wise decisions. That very night after church, the people I was living with asked me to smoke with them. I said no. I went into my room and closed the door.
“I wanted to go out there and smoke. I could smell it in my room. But I refused out of pure stubbornness. I still smoked sometimes after that. The temptation was just too great. But when I did give in, I would try to stay clean for at least a week. I slowly weaned myself off of it.
“Whenever I smell marijuana smoke in the air, I don’t stay in that place. I leave so that I won’t be tempted. I still remember how it made me feel. However, I want to make wiser, healthier choices for my life, and that includes no marijuana. I have not smoked marijuana in almost two years now.
“All I can say is if you want to quit, do it. You won’t be able to stop cold and never do it again. You will make mistakes. But mistakes along the way don’t mean you are a failure. It means you are learning.”