Who is to pay for drugs?

No matter whom I talked to the past week, most conversations came to drugs, marijuana and other consciousness-changing substances. That’s not my favourite topic by any means, so that weird tendency made me think and brought some old sad memories back.

Some 10 or even more years ago a good friend of mine, a kind and fun young guy, got himself in trouble. I knew that he was smoking marijuana, maybe something else, but he never really changed in behaviour, never did anything outrageous or stupid when I was around, never put pressure on me to make me try anything. We never actually talked much about it, just made jokes about drugs that then felt innocent, like “What do you name an apple pie getting high in Md’s? Baked apple pie”-style.

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We were young students and were trying to make a living. He never seemed to be working on any kind of regular basis, but usually had some pocket money. We didn’t talk about it either. Parents still supported us a little or a lot, and it wasn’t something anyone was proud of. I guess I knew that something wasn’t right, but I didn’t want to pull it out or put pressure on him. I guess we were just teenagers with a traditional tendency to make poor decisions.

We were friends for a long time when his mother called me that day. He was arrested. In a few months, he was charged and sentenced to five years in prison. Up to today, I don’t know what his exact charges were. It included possession and distribution, maybe something else.

He wasn’t even 20 when he got behind bars for over 1,800 days of a strict regimen.

We remained friends. I wrote letters and came to visit once every half a year. (I had to pretend that I was a sibling, other visits were prohibited. And even family visits were limited, so when I came his parents had to skip their turn and wait several months until the next occasion).

I’ve never seen prisons in Canada, but I tend to believe that no matter where you are in the world, that’s one of the worst places to be. It’s depressing, humiliating, sad and scary; it feels like an end of everything. Even a short term in prison to a point crashes all dreams and plans, destroying a possible career, making people turn their backs, often changing personality.

Leaping ahead, he was set free on parole after only 3 1/2 years. I read letters and shared a lot of his memories of that time. It wasn’t the case with everybody. Some friends stepped back as soon as he got busted, others later for different common reasons.

His life lesson was the best shock therapy to keep me away from any kind of drugs since I was watching everything closely. He was just a nice teenager and everything else didn’t seem like it was worth talking about. How many boys, girls and adults like that do we all have in our lives? How many of us are wearing his shoes and struggling with some stigmatized issues that we just don’t talk about?

We discuss drugs as if it happens to some “people” in general, we educate kids about those “people”, we judge those “people’s” decisions, but it is something that is not about us only until it hits us.

The other day, I was watching school kids listening to more shocking and influential stories about the consequences of poor choices. The officer joked about them already trying their first drugs, secretly smoking or getting their first booze. They were 14-15-year-olds, and there were quite a few conspiratorial giggles rolling over the room. Well, who didn’t have the drive to try everything forbidden at that age, I totally understand.

Some of those kids changed their countenance listening about prices “people” paid; others kids didn’t, it wasn’t about them. Maybe not yet, hopefully never will be.

A friend of mine was a good friend; he never pushed me to “be cool”. I wish I was a good friend too, but I wasn’t. I didn’t talk about his life when we could change something, I didn’t want to see or hear what was going on with him. Those who stayed with him just took it as tough times, and he lost over three years of his life.

Easy money, easy drive, an easy way out of problems? Just for a moment, in the beginning, but not over the lifetime. Everybody ends up paying out that credit with huge per cents. And when it comes to drugs, it’s not just the individual who is paying the price. Everybody around, who don’t have anything to do with it, at first sight, pay it too. Not just family and friends, but the community as well. Trying to feed their monsters, with lack of money they kick the level of crime up. They get arrested for stealing and others judge them even more if they do it for drugs. The stigma keeps growing, increasing that silent gap and creating even more side problems.

And then we feel shocked when hearing about kids just watching their friends overdosing or being in trouble because they know, drugs are bad, but they don’t happen to us, so we pretend it’s not there.

The friend of mine paid his debt; I’m still paying the percentage on mine.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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