Older and Wiser

While on the phone with my debate girls, we were discussing summary drug offenses (In Canada, if you are arrested for carrying a modest amount of marijuana for personal use you get a ticket rather than a court date). Anyway, one of the young women commented that she didn’t think that marijuana was addictive.

I disagreed. I disagree strongly.

Now, I’ll stop here. Lots of people use marijuana, including my neighbours, and they are good and decent people who pay their bills, have jobs and are an asset to the community. Frankly, I’m pretty sure that our cops have better crimes to fight than arresting my neighbours toking up in their backyard. No, it’s not the neighbours. It’s the kids who go looking for drugs as  a panacea – to ease the  hard stuff in life, to stop the hard stuff of growing up, and when marijuana isn’t enough to blot stuff out, when it’s not enough of a thrill, they keep looking. Not every kid, but some of them, enough of them, that we are losing millions a year.

I got involved in drugs when I was younger – enough – more than enough –  and with hard enough stuff that I am profoundly fortunate to be alive. I am fortunate to be in possession of most of my brain cells. I am fortunate that no great harm came to me while stoned out of my mind. The fact that I have used cocaine makes my heart do strange things in my chest.

One of the girls asked me, not just if I had used drugs, but what I had used. My heart stopped beating. I’m not proud of my past, but I’ve reconciled it, and truthfully, I’m over it.I haven’t even really thought about it for years. I’ve never thought about explaining it to a teenager. I didn’t know how to explain. Things I haven’t remembered for years now suddenly came back. I didn’t know how to tell her about luck and fortune and stupidity. I didn’t know how to tell her I was lucky. I wasn’t smart, I sure as hell wasn’t in control, and I didn’t have a plan. I was lucky. And I didn’t know how to explain that. I didn’t want her to see me, and not realize, not everyone is lucky.

You see, it’s not the drugs. The drugs were bad, and if I’m honest they were good. After all, no one does drugs because they don’t like the feeling of being high. It’s enough that I’ve tried them, and enough that when I think about it, I am beyond thankful that I’m not dead. It’s the friends. It’s what I saw. It’s what I did. It’s what I did that I remember, and what I don’t remember.

I got to the end of junior high, and was sent to boarding school. I turned my life around and other than the fact I smoked for years, I’ve never had a problem. I ran into a friend during my first year of university. I was upset that I had failed calculus. He hadn’t finished high school. When he caught me up, 2 friends were in jail, one for murder. 3 friends became single mothers. 5 funerals in university.

And I don’t know how you tell a young woman this – not that I used drugs, but everything that goes along with it. The things you will do for drugs, the decisions you make and don’t make, dropping out of life. How do you tell someone that it started out as fun, and it ended with death? How do you tell them fear? How do you tell them the horrible, awful things you’ve seen? How do you tell them no one wakes up and thinks that they will become a drug addict? That you think you will control the drugs and then they are controlling you? How do you talk about the nexus of power and control and addiction? That people who supply drugs are exactly who your mum warned you about, and she didn’t warn you enough?

There was no good in it. It leads nowhere, don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently.

The older I get, the more thankful I am.

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14 Responses to Older and Wiser

  1. Debby says:

    You may be the bravest person that I know.

  2. Donna says:

    I think your debators are very lucky to have you in their lives.

    I often think about how my husband and I will talk to our children about our past lives. We both were lucky enough to have survived many stupid things as well. At the time I thought the adults in my life were just being overly protective. But no one really took the time to tell me why they were so concerned. I have to believe that being honest with my children about what I’ve done and how I feel about it now will make a difference in the choices that they make.

  3. loribeth says:

    I somehow have managed to reach the age I’m at without ever giving into the temptation to try drugs, not even pot (& believe me, there were plenty of opportunities, especially at university). But I most certainly abused my share of alcohol. And put myself in some some situations that make me go “yikes” now. Like being the only girl, getting plastered in a dorm room with half a dozen guys. I’m just very fortunate that they were all really nice guys, even when drunk. Or being in a car full of kids who were smoking pot & driving (over the speed limit)(pre-seatbelt laws, of course) on the gravel side of a dark country road, because the other side had been freshly tarred & the guy didn’t want his car messed up.

    I hardly touch alcohol these days. I find I get fuzzy after just a drink or two, and you don’t bounce back from a hangover in your 40s the same way you did when you were 20. Plus, far too many people I know have had their lives tragically altered by the mixture of alcohol & cars.

    So I agree with you totally, Mrs. Spit. It’s just not worth it. At all. But I’m not sure how you get that through a 16-year-old head.

  4. WhiteStone says:

    When you figure out how and what to say to teens, let me know. I have a whole roomful of them every Tuesday nights. My reason for being there is not drug counseling, but now and then we touch on drugs. I’d like to give them more than “drugs will kill you”. I need to be able to elaborate more on that. I need to let them know I care about them and I want them to look more closely at their young stupidity and where it will bury them. I was fortunate to have never been exposed to drugs (hey, when I was in high school, there were NO drugs, only alcohol) but in my younger years I recognized early that alcohol destroys lives and marriages. Drugs have to be exponentially worse. Thanks for a good post. It’s helpful to me.

  5. Brown Owl says:

    some learn from other’s witness.
    some learn from witnessing first hand.
    some learn from books and educators
    some learn from warnings by parents.
    some never learn, and try anyway.

    I do not know what you told the girls. I do believe they both respect you, and so perhaps they will learn this different lesson from you too.

    let us hope.

  6. HereWeGoAJen says:

    If only all 16 year olds were smart enough to learn from people who’ve gone before them…

  7. Yes, I am lucky to be alive also. I medicated myself for a long time and feel fortunate to be where I am, wiser, sadder, but humbled and thankful.

  8. I am glad that you survived. I can’t imagine a world with out you. I hope you told them exactly what you wrote. I had a friends die, end up in jail and do some really stupid things because of drugs. Once again, thank you for sharing.

  9. Angie says:

    I think the thing that hit me when I was young and experimenting was told to me by a 45 year old uncle of a friend, who couldn’t pay his rent, was living like a college kid, barely making ends meet, driving a crappy car, failed out of two marriages, his kids thought he was a loser, he said to me, “Don’t believe the movies. Drugs don’t take away everything you have overnight most of the time. You usually don’t die. You just become a loser that no one trusts or likes. It is sometimes worse than death.” It was a good impetus to get my crap together. xo

  10. Seraphim says:

    Thank you for sharing some of your story. As you say, it’s not so much the using of drugs, it’s everything that goes along with it. I am so glad you came out the other side older and wiser. I too, have lost friends and I am so grateful that wasn’t my path. I am sure you said the right things. xx

  11. Jess says:

    I think you should tell them exactly what you said. Did you?

  12. Jamie says:

    I agree with the above commenters – I think you should have told them exactly what you said here. Growing up they will hear “Don’t do drugs” and “They will ruin your life” but no one talks about in what context they will ruin your life. It is all presented in a very removed, this-could-never-happen-to-me sort of way.

    I think I’ve said this before, but these girls are so very lucky to have you in their lives. And I have the feeling your thoughts and opinions will mean so much more to them than that of their parents and other adult peers.

  13. Azaera says:

    I’m lucky enough to have parents who have done the stupid stuff when they were younger so I never had to learn first hand. I’m thankful for their experiences and for them being able to tell me about them.

  14. Kristin says:

    You tell them exactly like you told us in this post.

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