I once heard about a McDonald’s employee hiding marijuana in a Happy Meal bag and mistakenly giving it to a customer who unhappily returned it. I would’ve had a much different reaction had I been the customer several years in the past, because no traditional Happy Meal would have made me happier. But come to think it, without marijuana, or alcohol, it was hard for me to be happy at all. So getting marijuana was as much about avoiding depression as it was about being happy. On the rare occasions it was hard for me to find, I remember spending hours with friends and also the disappointment in a fellow pothead who was subjected to a mean joke. He chipped in some money with another friend and I who left his home in search of weed to buy. When we returned empty-handed, the friend I left with told him we found some. Then the jokester let him go through a box of pipes and select one to use before telling the truth. He was bummed out, but man, I would’ve hated to see his reaction had he been a crackhead and not gotten what he expected.
Cocaine is bad enough without turning it into the more-addictive crack, so-called for the crackling sound it makes when smoked. Less than one minute after I’ve quit hearing that sound I have seen people pick through carpet hoping to find some they may have dropped because they’ve already gone “too long” without a hit. I saw one poor guy pick up and smoke what he thought was a piece of crack, then quickly blow out the smoke of whatever it was with a disgusted look on his face. He probably would have sampled anything remotely resembling crack, and he wasn’t even an addict. Crack’s high is so brief it has even first-time users desperately seeking another hit to remain high. On the occasions I’ve smoked it myself, I also had a strong urge to keep smoking while I was under its influence. Once its effects had completely worn off, I was back to normal and back to thinking it’s a lousy drug. I was just around it so often I didn’t always turn it down. I dabbled with some other hard drugs too, though it barely went past experimentation.
With the easy access I used to have to hard drugs, I consider myself fortunate that my only addictions were alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. Tobacco was the one drug I was allowed to have in prison, and despite its prohibition in the county jail, it was available there too. Even so, I smoked my last cigarette the night of my arrest. By the time I went to prison and was allowed to smoke, I had virtually no desire to. Many others didn’t have that willpower. I knew one man who was still smoking after having two heart attacks and a stroke. Others had emphysema and were still smoking. One of them I pushed around in a wheelchair because he couldn’t walk far without losing his breath. He and another inmate with emphysema would come out of the medical building together in wheelchairs following breathing treatments, then light up the moment they were outside. I also ate meals with a guy who continued to smoke after being diagnosed with an early stage of emphysema. It wasn’t that bad, he said, so I guess he planned to quit only when his lungs lost enough of their elasticity that he too was getting around in a wheelchair.
Prisoners weren’t permitted to smoke indoors, but it’s silly to think they would comply with that rule. After several lawsuits filed over the effects of second-hand smoke, one inmate settled and then Missouri joined the states that banned tobacco on prison property. (That inmate was transferred to another state for fear of retaliation by other inmates and staff alike.) The ban took effect April 1, 2018. Weeks earlier the commissary quit selling it, so what was left sold for outrageous prices and I’m sure only staff were still throwing butts on the ground, where they didn’t stay for long. Inmates even took them from puddles of rainwater to reroll when they dried. Tobacco has a powerful hold on some people and years before the ban I knew an inmate with little money who fed his addiction by doing things you’d expect someone to do for crack. For the amusement of others, he snorted an entire packet of Ramen-noodle chili seasoning. His face was red and covered in sweat halfway though, so he took a break before snorting the rest. His reward was four cigarettes, and for two cigarettes he let someone kick him in the testicles. I doubt I would have gone to those extremes to feed my past addictions, though I did write four bad checks for alcohol, knowing in advance that I would have to pay a $20 fee for each check in addition to what they were written for. I was so desperate to get drunk that I ignored the consequences I would later face.
Going to prison very well may have saved my life. I had no intention of slowing down my alcohol consumption and could have ended up like a drinking buddy I had when I was 20, just shy of the legal drinking age. I met him when I went to an older friend’s house to ask him if he would buy me some booze. Right after I got there this neighbor of his, my soon-to-be drinking buddy, showed up with money for a ride to a gas station so that he could buy booze of his own. Perfect, I thought. I gave him the ride he wanted and he bought me what I wasn’t yet old enough to legally purchase. Not long after that I was getting drunk with him in his home on a regular basis. Eventually he learned he had cirrhosis of the liver and told me his doctor said he had about 90 days left to live if he quit drinking. He was totally apathetic about it and continued to drink. I couldn’t tell you about the last day I spent with him, because I don’t remember it. All I know is there was a point in time that I quit going to his home, and I can only assume the reason was he had died.
Much of my past is a mystery to me. There were times I would be at home drinking alone, black out and wake up the next morning in someone else’s home not knowing how I got there. Or I would wake up in my own bed and later find out I was at other places the night before. This didn’t worry me as it should have. I got to the point where all I cared about was my next drink. A lot of people are in that same position with alcohol or some other drug. Addicts are always after that next high, and once it’s over, they’re depressed again and often left with a sickening feeling over the money they spent on something so brief. They knew what the consequences would be beforehand, but their concern over the “right now” took precedence. It’s far more serious when taking eternity into account. If it’s foolish to lose your money and possessions to an addiction, how much more so to lose you soul to an addiction?
Alcohol ended up being the drug that had the strongest hold on me and it took way too many bad decisions for me to seriously consider what I was doing to myself. Then I thought more and more about the fate of my soul. It wasn’t until the last weeks before my final arrest that I made real attempts to sober up. I kept counting the number of days I went without drinking, but each time I quickly relapsed and was back to square one. That was a very hard time in my life and now that I’m past it, I want to help others overcome addiction by getting them to seek God’s guidance. Whether the addiction is chemical or not, God can provide someone with the strength to overcome it. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13)
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