I Sought a Simpler Life Through Drugs
I SAT in the dimly lit cell on a dirty old piece of foam rubber. My mind reviewed the day’s events. How could we have been so stupid as to get caught!
If only we had remained calm and not panicked, our car wouldn’t have been pulled over by the police. If only we had got rid of those marijuana butts and hidden that bag of pot before the police looked in the ashtray. How did I get into this mess? My mind drifted back over the years . . .
As a teenager, I was tall and skinny and therefore felt awkward and out of place. I was extremely shy and had few friends. Yet, I wanted to be popular at school, to be cool. Gradually, I began to grow my hair longer, wear faded jeans, and sit in the back of the class with other cool kids.
Then one day it just happened. I was out in the smoking area with some kids. A marijuana cigarette was passed in my direction. Not wanting to be looked down on, I joined in and smoked it. Soon I found myself drawn into a new circle of friends. At last I had gained a measure of popularity and had many friends.
Later I began taking harder drugs. It was all exciting and adventurous, sneaking around getting high and doing other things a loose way of life entailed. I began to tell myself that life would be much simpler if everyone smoked pot. Why? Because it helps you to appreciate the beauty around you and to relax, therefore it must be good for you. So I reasoned. But now, in this dirty cell, reality had hit me smack in the face.
My parents did not know that I had been using drugs. How badly they would be hurt when they found out! After what seemed an eternity, the cell door swung open. An officer told me that my father was there to bail me out. It was a tense ride home.
My father called a lawyer to help me face the court officials. He was a friend of the family and was perplexed to hear that I had got into trouble. Later at the police station, the lawyer spoke with the local officials in my behalf. Anxiously I awaited the outcome.
Finally, it was decided that I was to be released, since I had no previous record of arrests. The lawyer kindly counseled me to center my attention on other pursuits instead of drugs. I told him I would for sure. But words are cheaper than actions.
Depression and Attempted Suicide
I continued to associate with my old friends. So because of peer pressure, I resumed taking drugs. After a time the thrill was gone. But I could not do without them. I needed a boost to get away from the problems around me and help me through the day. My friends and I could not enjoy ourselves without drugs. Even on a beautiful day on the lake waterskiing, we would all mourn and say, “Oh, if we just had some pot!”
Eventually I began to experience periods of deep depression. Life had no purpose. I had nothing to look forward to except getting high. I began to contemplate suicide. One day I swallowed almost everything in my grandmother’s medicine cabinet in an attempt to overdose. But to my dismay, I awoke again the next morning.
One evening when I was not on drugs, I climbed up on the roof of our house. I was particularly struck by the beauty of the night. The moon was full, huge gray clouds were blowing across the sky, and the tall pine trees were swaying in the breeze. ‘Is there someone behind this serene beauty and order in nature?’ I wondered. ‘Is there some higher purpose in life than just living like an animal, seeking to satisfy one’s physical desires?’ I was becoming aware of my spiritual need.
I began reading about reincarnation. I looked into Zen Buddhism. I also dug out an old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read the “New Testament.” There I found some thoughts that I liked, such as Jesus’ words: “All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.”—Matthew 7:12, American Standard Version.
‘Who on earth applies such things?’ I wondered. ‘Who can explain the Bible to me?’ I decided to go around to different churches to find out. But because of my shyness, I could not even bring myself to get out of my truck to enter any of them.
The Answer in a Secondhand Book
One evening I tried to pray to God. “Please help me to find those who truly apply Bible principles,” I asked. A week later I was looking around in a secondhand shop. Among some used books, a small blue one entitled The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life caught my eye. I bought it and read it through. It explained the Bible’s main doctrines and supported the statements with Bible quotations. I decided to follow the advice on page 138 about attending the meetings at one of the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I had never spoken to any of the Witnesses before. But I remembered my mother once telling me that a man who did upholstery work for her was a Witness. She had warned me never to talk with him about religion, since he would talk my ears off. I looked him up in the phone book and gave him a call and asked where the Kingdom Hall was.
The upholstery man met me on the porch of the hall and took me inside. He began introducing me to everyone who came by. I was surprised that they all knew one another and that the hall was alive with friendly conversation instead of being quiet, as I thought it would be in a church. I must have looked odd to them, dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans and with my hair hanging over my shoulders and down my back. But no one made me feel different. They welcomed me.
After the meeting, Mr. Parciacepe, the upholstery man, asked me if I would like to study the Bible. I accepted. As the study progressed, I saw the need to make changes in my life. My dress and grooming changed. I broke free from drugs. I replaced my former associates with new friends from among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Lawyer and His Client
In 1979, about a year after I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was able to enter the ministry full-time. The first summer I was doing that, something unexpected happened.
One of the Witnesses, a lawyer by profession and an elder in the congregation, decided to visit some of the local lawyers in town to tell them about our beliefs. He took me along with him. One of the lawyers we visited turned out to be the one who helped me years ago when I was arrested for drug possession.
My companion explained the purpose of our visit and then introduced me. As we shook hands, a look of surprise and disbelief came over his face, and then he smiled broadly and exclaimed: “Ladd Stansel! I would never have recognized you! You have certainly changed!”
After the initial shock wore off, I showed him a copy of the book that I had first read and said: “This book has really helped me to understand the Bible’s principles and to see the importance of making these changes. I would like you to have a copy of it.” Taking the book, he thanked me kindly. As we drove away, we wondered how this had affected him.
A few days later we found out. My mother and my lawyer companion received very touching letters from my former defense lawyer. He wrote that he had witnessed a miracle—the transformation of an insecure drug-using teenager into a fine young man who was now able to contribute to the community.
These last seven years have been of great help in my maturing process. In 1981 I was accepted to work as a volunteer at Bethel, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York. My life became even more enriched when last year I married Sue, who joined me in serving at Bethel.
So it was not drugs that simplified my life—quite the contrary! It was by shunning drugs and serving my Creator, Jehovah God, that my life became simple and filled with contentment and happiness. (Matthew 6:22)—As told by Ladd Stansel.
[Picture on page 23]
Ladd and Sue Stansel today