Prior to Grade 11, whenever I heard the words ‘substance abuse’ my mind immediately pictured useless, pathetic and stupid people who were ruining their lives for no reason. My notion began to change slightly as I moved through my last schooling years but even with an ever-increasing academic workload I would never even consider any substance as a stress reliever.
The circumstances which made me think long and hard about my life started with a relatively innocent incident one day in chemistry class. The teacher announced that we would be starting organic chemistry and asked the class to name the chapter they wished to start. “Alcohols, of course!” said several people.
It wasn’t until a classmate’s party that I realized exactly how many of my friends were drinking. Not only were they drinking, they were also trying to convince me to join them. I immediately declined and also urged them to stop, advising them that their lives were deteriorating. Of course, my advice went unheeded. It was much easier to convince one person to start drinking than convince twenty to stop.
As time passed, however I realized that my friends were having the time of their lives. Clubbing one week to party hopping the next, each time with alcohol, each time without me. Instead of a feeling of integrity, pangs of regret troubled my brain every time I thought of my friends.
It was my life, not theirs that was deteriorating. Every week my mind would be loaded with academic work while my friends would fill themselves up and urge me to join.
As weeks passed I began to grow more distant from my classmates and soon realized that I was fighting a losing battle against staying sober in an effort to keep my friends. Ultimately, I would be forced to choose between being a loner and being an alcoholic, between my friendships and my liver. Of course, I still did have a group of classmates who never touched drink but losing nearly half the people I grew up with to alcohol was difficult to stomach.
Eventually it took a considerable amount of thought and several leaflets from Alcoholics Anonymous to convince me that my life wasn’t worth wasting.
My dilemma dramatically changed my perspectives on life. I learned to be much more far sighted and began to resist the temptations of alcohol. I also began to value and appreciate my life more. To my immense relief, I also learned to mingle with my friends attend their parties without laying my hands on a drink.
Although I still wish my friends would stop drinking, I no longer think of them or any substance abuser as pathetic or stupid. As I remember the days when I could so easily have joined them, I simply think of them as people who have made the wrong choice.