Drug Abuse—Our Journey There and Back
IF YOU met us we would probably appear much like any other young couple you might encounter. The difference is that Nancy and I have been drug addicts. Perhaps our story can help others who are enslaved to drugs, but who want to free themselves and live useful lives. It may also help the parents of young people who are flirting with dope.
When I think back to when we were teen-agers on drugs, I am appalled at some of the lurid things that infected our existence, for that is what it was, merely an existence.
Neither Nancy nor I suffered as so-called “disadvantaged” children. We lived in “respectable” suburban neighborhoods, and came from what one would probably characterize as typical working-class and upper-middle-class American families. Our parents probably felt that they were raising their children in “safe” areas. But let me make a very important point.
There is no such thing as a geographically safe area where one’s children can be protected from exposure to drugs. Too often parents are inclined to soothe their minds with the deception that the drug scene is associated with living conditions of people who are underprivileged. This simply is not the case. Drugs of all kinds have permeated virtually every community. If a person wants drugs, he can find them. It is a matter of motivation, not location.
I, for example, was raised by devoted, hardworking parents. I had a happy childhood and led a normal, active life. Taught the value of work, I carried my load of responsibility in the family. In school I was an A-student, interested in science and mathematics. With all my heart I wanted to be an airplane pilot or an astronaut. John Glenn was my boyhood “hero.”
But the fact of the matter is that, as I entered my teen years, I became bored with life. I wanted “excitement,” and I became involved in petty crimes—“just for the fun of it.” About this time, in 1964, my family moved to New York to an affluent suburban town.
On the drive to our new home, I vividly recall resolving to change my life-style, not to stay with the “squares,” as I labeled the youngsters who behaved themselves. I began searching out associates of like mind. We competed to take on all dares. I wanted to be the “big shot” in our crowd. So the taking of drugs was inevitable. My parents were totally unaware of this change in my thinking and behavior.
Getting started was so simple: An “innocent” puff on a marijuana cigarette; then another and another. In short order I moved on to LSD, heroin, barbiturates, sniffing cleaning fluid—I tried everything!
What Drugs Can Do
One day a friend and I got hold of asthma powders. We tried eating the stuff, drinking it, smoking it, sniffing it. I finally went into a drugged stupor. Somehow I made my way home. It was dinner-time. I managed to get to the table, but I was suffering the sensation that the table and the food were falling over onto the floor. Nothing remained still.
I stumbled from the table and fumbled my way upstairs. That is the last I remember. My mother found me in my sister’s closet, naked in the dark, playing with dolls. When she switched on the light, I jumped up, ran down the hall and fell down the stairway. My father forcibly restrained me until an ambulance arrived. The doctor got me in time, administered an antidote, and my life, such as it was, was saved.
I felt no regrets, not even after the close calls, and there were to be many. Still, in the back of my mind, I had a certain sense of guilt.
Getting to Know Nancy
Nancy, who later became my wife, comes from an upper-middle-class family. She was well provided for by her parents. She was taught all the graces and made to feel that she was special. Her predictable expectations were to enjoy her school years and then marry well. This is to say, marry a young man from her social class who would provide for her in the life-style to which she was accustomed.
Nancy’s family moved to our town about the time that she entered high school. One day I asked her to go out with me. She refused, for I was notorious among the young people as a drug user. But, as the popularity of dope widened, so did the number of young people in our town who used it, including Nancy.
She also began on marijuana. Was it that she wanted to escape, or craved excitement? No, she was merely curious. It was not long before we were dating steadily and together indulging our mutual craving for drugs. Two normal children from “good” families and “good” neighborhoods had become slaves to drugs, and participants in deeds associated with drug use.
Deception and Evasion
Neither Nancy nor I ever discussed our drug habits with our parents. In fact, we went to considerable lengths to deceive them. Perhaps they suspected, but if they did it was never mentioned. If they knew, they probably wanted to deceive themselves and believe otherwise. I am certain my mother still saw me as “Johnny all-American boy.”
One of our favorite deceptions after using drugs, and just before returning home, was to drink a can of beer. I would arrive home barely able to make it up the stairs, and my parents would say: “Oh, he has just had a little too much to drink!” So much did they not want to admit that their son possibly used drugs that they preferred to allow for addiction to another equally harmful, but more socially acceptable practice—excessive use of alcohol.
In our town the police suspected that I was on drugs, but they were never able to catch me with any on my person. Time after time I would be stopped and searched. When I was seventeen I was taken to the police barracks, tied up and hung upside down like a piece of meat. The troopers proceeded to kick and knee me in the stomach and about the body. They tried to frighten me, break me. I can understand their disgust. I represented what was evil in their town. But their threats accomplished nothing with me.
Seeking a Change
As Nancy and I advanced through our teen years, we began to think more of the years to follow and the effect that continued use of drugs would have on us. We were becoming apprehensive and fearful of our shared habit because there was no denying its damaging effects.
After using drugs for some time, it becomes difficult to relate to others, to express oneself or to think clearly. One feels isolated and unable to communicate, particularly with nonusers. Moods of deep depression, withdrawal, and, even aggression, emerge. During our periods of relative clear-headedness, which were becoming less frequent with each passing month, we realized that we had to stop. We had to get out of the drug environment if we were to survive. But how?
I decided to make a radical change in my life. Perhaps I could then help Nancy. I enlisted in the United States Marines. But even there I couldn’t escape drugs. Within weeks after arriving at basic training camp I was able to identify the drug users, and soon was continuing my habit. There was no running away!
Finally, on a military leave I proposed marriage to Nancy. We loved each other; perhaps we could do better together. She accepted. We were married on my following leave and Nancy came to make a home for us near the Marine base. We also continued on drugs.
More and more we talked about world conditions, the hopelessness of everything, and what we should do about our particular problem. We knew that to have any kind of future we had to shake the drug habit. But we also sensed that we just did not have the strength. Anyone on drugs who says he can quit anytime he feels like it is in for a rude awakening on the day he decides to try.
In retrospect, however, I realize that something very important had happened to us. Our motivation had changed. We no longer craved excitement, the satisfaction of our curiosity, or association with and acceptance by the old crowd. But still, we were scared, hopeless, desperate, searching for a way out.
Finding Needed Strength
Nancy took a job as waitress at a local restaurant. This was the forerunner of what was to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us. One day in conversation with another waitress the subject was, of all things, haunted houses. The girl said that she had recently learned some very interesting information on spirits, and asked if Nancy would like someone to come to our mobile home and discuss the subject. Nancy said, Yes. The young couple who called a few days later were Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Our first look into the Bible was with the aid of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. We discussed the chapter “Are There Wicked Spirits?” The discussion was an eye-opener in more ways than one. Not only were our questions answered about wicked spirits, but we received a faith-building look into what the Bible has to say about our times and the future. Frankly, we were both impressed and not a little breathless to have discovered so much in the Bible in just one evening. We gratefully accepted the Witnesses’ invitation for a weekly free home Bible study. Suddenly the future had a glimmer of hope.
Nancy and I were ready for the Bible truths that we learned in the following weeks. It all made so much sense. We could finally see a sure solution to earth’s ills and a valid, attainable way out of our own personal disaster—drug abuse. During the ensuing weeks of study we learned why we should honor Jehovah and respect his principles for life. We came to understand the meaning of true Christian love, and to realize that such love indeed exists among Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. We learned of God’s established kingdom under Christ and the blessings in store for humankind. And best of all, we learned that these blessings would be realized very soon, in our lifetime. Every day we grew stronger in faith. And every day we wanted to share what we were learning with more and more people.
My active duty in the Marines ended, and Nancy and I said good-bye to those wonderful people who had helped us so much with Bible truths. We returned to our hometown, but not to our old associations. Instead, we filled our days with continued Bible study and association with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
While neither of us can say it was easy, we were able to reach that great day when drugs had no further place in our lives. Something else of far, far greater value and power now filled our lives—the truth of God’s Word and the desire to serve Jehovah forever. Happily, together we reached the conclusion that we wanted to dedicate our renewed lives to Jehovah and be baptized. We were, on December 2, 1972.
Today, our drug ordeal is behind us. I have the privilege of being a ministerial servant in our local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Nancy is very active in the witnessing activity. And we are both busy raising our lovely, new little daughter, Rebekah. We are happier now than we ever thought possible. We have found useful drug-free lives in the only lasting and meaningful work in the earth today: Helping others to learn of Jehovah’s eternal purpose and how to come under His protection and blessing.—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 11]
“My mother found me in my sister’s closet, naked in the dark, playing with dolls.”
[Blurb on page 12]
“One of our favorite deceptions after using drugs, and just before returning home, was to drink a can of beer.”
[Blurb on page 13]
“The subject was, of all things, haunted houses.”