Writer’s Name: S.F. Hardy
Title: Overcoming Addiction
Controlled substances have played and continue to play a key role in the destruction of the African-American family and community. Once looked at closely, one will find that addiction can be attributed to many of the social ills that plague our community as a whole. Many of us, if not all, have at least one person in our family who has succumbed to the ugly reality of substance abuse. As time goes on, substance abuse seems to get worse. With new designer drugs, prescription drug abuse and the inhalation of everyday household items, there seems to be an upswing of usage rather than a decline. AP, a former substance abuser and current prisoner reveals his addiction to drugs, alcohol, and crime in the 80s and his road to recovery.
S.F. Hardy: When was your first experience using illegal and legal substances? What where they?
AP: I was 12 years old the first time I smoked weed (marijuana). Although I had been exposed to it prior to my experience, I had no real desire to partake. My friend’s brother who was 16 at the time offered it to me and I accepted. I wanted to know what all the hype was about.
S.F. Hardy: Many opponents argue that marijuana is the gateway to severe substance abuse, would you agree?
AP: I agree strongly.
S.F. Hardy: Please expound.
AP: My curiosity was enhanced. My thought was I’ve already tried weed so why not try other drugs? I tried everything except for heroine; I was scared to only because I watched my father use the needle to inject the drug into his body. By the time I was 15, I had personally experienced cocaine, scalene (now known as ecstasy), and alcohol.
S.F. Hardy: Wow you were very young. How does someone at that age get access to these drugs?
AP: I was in a gang called… Them Boys. I sold the drugs, giving me direct unlimited access.
S.F. Hardy: Out of those substances named above which one did you prefer?
AP: I didn’t have a preference. I enjoyed them all the same; most of the time I was high off of multiple substances at once.
S.F. Hardy: How did your gang affiliation and drug abuse go unnoticed by your parents?
AP: Although I was engaged in illegal activity, my mother never suspected me because I was an honor student. I obeyed my elders and was never caught doing anything unsavory. However, when I was supposed to be around the corner playing with children my age, I was up to no good.
S.F. Hardy: When, if ever, did you come to the conclusion that you were a slave to addiction?
AP: I was 20 years old before I admitted to myself that I had a problem.
S.F. Hardy: What opened your eyes after 8 years of substance abuse?
AP: I was forced to acknowledge to myself that I had a problem when I began to hide it from everybody around me. Most importantly, the drugs became more important; I wanted to get high more than anything else.
S.F. Hardy: Did your awareness of self make you want to stop?
AP: No, I felt like I could stop whenever I got ready. I didn’t believe I needed to refrain at the time because I wasn’t hurting anyone outside of myself. I was unaware of the future consequences and it didn’t matter to me at the time.
S.F. Hardy: Do you feel like the drugs were masking some internal pain? Or was it just something to do?
AP: In hindsight I would say yes. I couldn’t understand why my mother was being physically abused by her boyfriend(s). I couldn’t understand why my mom would take my siblings and me to shelters.
S.F. Hardy: What would you say was the relationship between your substance abuse and crime?
AP: I was committing crimes before I started using substances. At 10, I was stealing out of stores. By the time I turned 12, I was the leader of the kids 10 and under in our gang, Them Boys. I guess you could say I was addicted to crime before I was addicted to drugs. I was infatuated with guns, robbery, and breaking and entering. I was in a gang Ms. Hardy, there were no limits.
S.F. Hardy: So would you say that drugs, crime or a combination of both landed you in prison?
AP: A combination. My need to get high led to my coming to prison. Although my crimes ranged from severe to petty, I never got caught for the harsh crimes.
S.F. Hardy: What was your first conviction? What was your sentence?
AP: I was sentenced to probation for carrying a controlled substance. Later, I was convicted to 2 to 5 years for receiving and concealing stolen property. I was released after 2 years, which I continued to commit crimes leading me back to prison where I have spent the past 18 years.
S.F. Hardy: How has prison changed you?
AP: Prison saved my life! I feel like I have been given a second chance. Being in prison has given me time to reflect because I have been separated from crime and controlled substances. I’ve come to realize how precious life is and I’m no longer willing to give up the joys of life for crime or drugs.
S.F. Hardy: What would you say or do to deter young people from engaging in drugs?
AP: I would stress the importance of loving themselves at any at all cost. Don’t do anything that will take away from their physical and mental freedom, and success. I would impart, we all go through hardships in life and drugs are not a viable coping skill; drugs and alcohol only enhance the problem(s).
S.F. Hardy: How has substance abuse affected you internally?
AP: I would say the drugs have caused distorted thinking, irrational decisions, and has often made me angry, impatient, and frustrated. I have had to work hard to change and it is a daily struggle.
S.F. Hardy: Have you received any detox treatment while in prison?
AP: Prison does not offer detox. I detoxed and rehabilitate on my own. Although Narcotics Anonymous classes were offered it wasn’t enough. I had to strengthen my relationship with God. I became more spiritual and relied on my relationship with God to overcome my addiction to controlled substances and crime.
S.F. Hardy: Once released from prison, what precautions will you take so that you do not relapse?
AP: Taking life one day at a time, I will rely on my faith. Also, I have a great support system. I can honestly say that since being incarcerated, I have had time to reflect and realize what is important in life. Although I have been locked down for almost 20 years, I can never get used to being caged. I don’t want to come back here, nor do I have any desire whatsoever to ever partake in the use of addictive substances. Heck, I don’t even want to take prescribed medicines at this point in my life.