Title: I Said No To Drugs
Publication Type: Memoir
Topic: Drug Usage
Chapters will be released every two weeks starting on Feb 15, 2021, then edited, typeset and and published as an e-book.
I originally wrote this manuscript in 2010, and I always intended for it to be published. However, I kept making additions until 2012 and the manuscript became less about a single story and more about a collection of stories. I did not know exactly when to stop documenting my experiences, because as I grew older and independent, I felt I understood more about drugs and their presence in everyday life. I went from drugs being references in stories told by older relatives, to seeing it in school when I was 16 to casually and openly talking about drugs later when I attended university. What always struck me was that usually most of the people that I have talked to encountered drugs around the ages of 15 to 19, which aligns to my own experience. And almost entirely everyone talked about marijuana, or more commonly weed, as their drug of choice.
And I understand why. It is largely popularised in culture, almost normalised as a safe, everyday drug. I never judged anyone who smoked or has tried drugs, but one thing I saw was clear is that everyone I met had different reasons why they depended on the use of drugs. But I also experienced how behaviours changed, and for some I could see they depended on drugs for control, but in reality, they were not in control. And that’s why I kept away from using drugs, apart from my parents having strict rules against their use. I wanted to have control of my actions and my choices, and I always felt that drugs were constantly being pushed onto me by my friends. The respect for them remained as long as they respected my choice, and no matter how much convincing they tried, I could not be swayed.
I decided to publish this book free on Pressure Ink in 2021 after a battle with a medical condition that has made me make necessary changes to my life. I once wondered when I would stop writing this book, and it is now, when I no longer drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. If you are struggling to cope, please know that help is available through the Samaritan helpline. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year by calling the free helpline at 116 123.
I know who I am, and you know who you are. No one needs to tell you otherwise. Drugs will not make you any more special than you already are.
It is important to not say ‘no’. Let me explain. Saying ‘no’ is too simple and depending on its diction, it might seem like a threat to the person who is influencing you. Best way to say ‘no’, that I always use is, ‘no thank you’. I feel that I have to give my friend, who is offering me to have some, some kind of thankful reply to not offend him and his actions. I tell them ‘I appreciate you sharing, but I do not really want to start to smoke now’. Up to now, this has worked, but the older I get, I feel that the occasions of drug offerings are becoming more frequent. I have never taken drugs, nor do I want to start. Starting is easy, continuing is even easier, but stopping is the hardest. I have lived in many different environments, but where I first saw drugs in action was where I least expected it. This made me realise that drug usage is unpredictable and able to happen anywhere. I heard the occasional stories from my parents, as I grew up in Latin America, about people they knew—friends—that took drugs. Stories with a hidden meaning. A method to educate me? Perhaps. Growing up in the United States, I did not hear much about drugs. Being in The Hague, Netherlands, where marijuana is easier to obtain than any other country in Europe, I did not see anything. It all happened in an international school, comprised of students from all corners of the world. A whole range of cultures, religions, and customs. Most of the cases I have dealt with, I get those who are surprised when I confess that I have not tried marijuana or any other drugs as a matter of fact. They cannot bring themselves to acknowledge it. They begin to ask questions as if it were something so mystical. In a sense it is mystical. For the person who has wilfully said no to drugs, and who exclaims that they have never tried drugs before, it is an achievement, and something to be proud of. For whatever reason one chooses to decline the kind offering, it is the correct thing to do. If it is attention that you want, what more attention can you get, when you are the only one in the group who has not tried drugs? As for me, that has been the case. However, too much attention can lead to becoming prone to influential attack and peer pressure that could lead in surrendering the fight to say no to drugs.
For this, I would like to stress that my success in saying no is hardly to do with my own will. It is the education that has been provided by my parents and by my early years in school. A proper education and guidance were the key to achieve saying no to drugs. I recently found my D.A.R.E programme certificate, and although it laid between some other sheets in a folder in a forgotten box, I still have not forgotten what this programme taught me. D.A.R.E or otherwise known by its full name Drug Abuse Resistance Education provided me with the foundation to resist the temptation of drugs. The D.A.R.E programme taught us how to understand why it is that drugs are not good and why it is important to say no to them. My school worked with several officers of the programme and together with the teachers and parents helped to educate children about drugs and drug abuse through arranged workshops. It was a very helpful programme and to the officers and my teachers, I would like to let them know that having that as part of my education is a great advantage in today’s world. If more school districts can come to identify this, then I think drug abuse cases may be inclined to decline. I too would have hoped that my other schools, such as my middle school and high school, would have had the D.A.R.E programme as a mandatory class session. Learning to resist drugs is not a one-time action and assume that one has learned it. It is rather a collection of steps and a collection of lessons that makes it possible for the notion to be tattooed in someone’s mind and attitude. It is a good start in elementary school, but children are too young to directly understand the implications of drugs. That is why the programme should be enforced later, to refresh the subject. The key to why I believe D.A.R.E. was such a successful for me is that it does not only teach children and young adults about the risks of drugs, but also teaches us how to learn and reason through several occasions where drugs are involved. In other words, they taught us that peer pressure exists, explained to us the possible reasons why it exists, and they helped us learn how ‘no, thank you’ is the best answer when offered drugs.
I will keep referring to the word drug throughout my writing, and by this I refer to any of the drugs that are illegal. Although alcohol and cigarettes are considered and are in fact drugs, I do not regard them as drugs in my life and I have consumed alcohol and have in the past smoked cigarettes. It is something I am not proud of, but experiencing these two products, has increased my confidence and attitude in saying no to more potent, illegal drugs. I have gathered a short summary of my experiences involving all the moments in which I have been offered a drug or asked if I have tried drugs and why I choose to say ‘no to drugs’. I will not lie and say that it is easy to say ‘no’, nor will I lie about wanting to experience what it is like being under the influence of drugs. My purpose is to share my story and to relate to those that have also been put under the pressure to try drugs. I know why I say ‘no’, and I hope that by the end of this, you will know why I say ‘no’, and you will have enough confidence to say ‘no’ as well. I am not an expert on drugs, nor am I a psychologist; however, I have experienced, and I have lived. I have been with people from all across the world and I have taken time to observe and study their individual actions. I have taken time to reflect back upon certain events and continue to question whether I took the right actions. Several times I have been haunted by saying ‘no’. Yet, I have never been forced to drugs. For that, I thank my friends for not forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do. All the events that I describe are true and I discuss them, because I believe that they are common from place to place, from person to person. There is always someone that has gone through similar events that I will describe. All the characters that I mention reflect real people, mostly people that I once considered to be my friends, but their real names have been substituted with other names, because I want to keep their identities confidential. I do not want to implicate my friends for this matter. I believe that to start the fight towards saying ‘no’ to drugs, one must first begin to communicate. Communication is the sharing of ideas. It is therefore important to provide evidence for such ideas, which can be comprised of personal events. I do not want to be an image of power, nor an image of fame. I am not looking for riches, or attention. I am just fighting for a cause. I want my story to be held as an example and help those who have stories to share, to stand up and share them.
In Chapter 1, I tell the story of a first interaction with a drug user. Then, I explore our natural need to learn from life, experience new things through the environment and reflect on the teachings of our upbringing. I describe the struggle between morality and greed, past and future and why I have made it a personal goal to say ‘no’ to drugs. I find the things that worries me most about drug usage, the power others have on someone who has never tried drugs. I learn that this is something that is very common, and I lay out my plan on how to fight against temptation, as I watch others succumb to it.
CHAPTER 2 – YOU’VE DONE IT?
I focus my story on the use of weed, a common drug I encountered throughout my teenager years. It soon became clear that once I knew to detect the signs of drug usage, I began to see it more widespread. The things I hadn’t seen in the past were becoming an everyday reality. It became clear to me how many had tried drugs, and I hardly had anyone left to talk to about it. I describe how wanting acceptance from others may lead to making the choice to try drugs and become dependent on them.
CHAPTER 3 – IT’S COOL, BRO
Life is about taking decisions. It’s the processing of reasoning about what we seek from ourselves and from others. I make the point in this chapter that drugs confuses our ability to make decisions, by essentially clouding our judgement. Those who say that drugs are cool, might still suffer with them and make decisions that even for seasoned drug users place their lives in danger. What I never understood is why it is that those who take drugs gain pleasure from tempting a non-drug user to try them for the first time. Once someone took a video of me while I was heavily intoxicated, and I was disgusted with it. To imagine that behaviour, but to happen to a friend, how could I be responsible for that? While others try to convince me to try drugs for the first time, I continue to convince myself against it.
CHAPTER 4 – A NIGHT OUT IN TOWN
I never went to house parties until I attended university in London, UK. Before this, parties were at the side of the Rhein in Germany, in a forest just outside city limits or going into the city for drinks. I occasionally went to friends’ houses, or even held my own drinking parties, but these were for a limited number of people. Parties in London were much larger, filled a three story house. I explain how I never really enjoyed going to house parties or clubbing, and could only feel part of it if I was myself very intoxicated, otherwise I wouldn’t understand the ‘drunk-talk’. I come to the conclusion that with such a high prevalence of drug use and its presence in the media and popular culture, it would almost be impossible to never come across it.
CHAPTER 5 – AWOKEN
For the first time I saw the effects of drugs on people I knew. I have experienced the effects of drinking too much alcohol on a night out, but I never saw how it affected others and how others would have seen me. I describe what I saw in detail, noting on how my flatmates changed in appearance from what they typically looked like. I describe how they lurched forward, as if their bodies were covered in slime that kept sticking to the floor with each step. I think about the extent of the damage inside their bodies, because their physical appearance looked ragged and consumed, that no amount of make-up could hide their pale faces and shrivelled skin.
CHAPTER 6 – PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
I make closing statements about how the past will influence the future, but it’s the present that we have to look out for. It’s about what is happening right this very moment that will shape our future. I see that drugs may not have such a drastic effect on people’s life, as I look to my friend. Perhaps drugs are their solution to do better or to overcome the burdens that overpower them. Maybe the reason they want to introduce others to drugs is because they want someone to be in the same mental state as them. They call me a hypocrite for drinking alcohol, and being in denial that alcohol results in fewer problems than taking drugs. We both take time to learn about our decisions and come to understand each other a little bit better.
CHAPTER 7 – WHO’S LEFT?
The title of this last chapter is a play on the phrase ‘whose left’, which alludes to the cultural depiction of passing a joint to one’s left. It paints the imagery of smoking weed and looking who to pass it on to. But it also paints the opposite picture, as a non-drug user, as it questions who is yet to be tempted into drug use? What is important is that both scenarios could be looking for the same person, those who choose not to take any drugs, but remain close to their friends. I acknowledge that there will always be change and we shouldn’t ever categorise any drug user based on our experience, every person who does drugs has their own motivations why. We must learn from these people, because as I have learnt, even the most seasoned drug-user chooses to stop and educate others about it. I close the memoir finishing story from Chapter 1 as I realise that I am not alone.
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