Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smoking The Joint

A few weeks ago, there was a letter by a young lady in New Vision of the effect that illegal drugs had on her brother while he was at school. Today, especially amongst the youngsters that attend the many private schools in Kampala, drug taking is nothing new and I am not saying it happens within the confines of the school grounds, but over the weekends when they are let lose by their parents to hang out at the many nightspots that allow in teenagers.

In my teens, call me na├»ve but I didn’t know much about drugs. The little I knew came from the movies like Shaft and James Bond’s Live and Let Die. Drugs so I thought was something you inject like heroin.

But at school in England, drugs were not about heroin – rather glue and amphetamines like ‘speed, uppers, dexies, bennies’. After school, the white kids would go to the bike shed and inhale industrial glue – the kind they use in shoe or leather factories. The whiff of the glue was so potent, that the workers in the factories were required by law to wear masks. But here were 14-year-old boys sniffing at it and going into a trance because as they put it, “it made them high and feel good.”

As a teen and like most other male teenagers, it was a period of discovery. We knew it was wrong and yes we knew too darn well that our parents would go into more than a spin of shock, horror and whatever convulsions that might follow but, we are male teenagers. We ‘know’ what is right and what is wrong. Our parents don’t know squat and are just oppressive people who gave us life. That is how the average teenage boy thinks.

Though I am not exactly proud of it, as a teenager, I did break a few laws that my parents laid down - the law of ‘though shall not drink’, ‘though shall not smoke’ and ‘though shall not be suspended or expelled.’ Okay so I was neither suspended nor expelled but I did have a drink and a smoke which at the time seemed to be the better of the evils.

As for the drugs? It was never my scene – not even the glue sniffing for as far as I was concerned, you ended up with a very spotty face.

But it was different at college and university. It was the period when Nelson Mandela was still incarcerated in Robben Island, Michael Jackson still had a face and nose that was devoid of any plastic and here in Uganda, ‘the bandit’ as the then Obote government called the lanky and waif like Museveni was causing more than havoc in Luweero.

At college, there weren’t that many black students. I think we were 30 out of a total of say 1,500. On my first day as I unpacked, there was a knock on the door and upon opening it, stood this white fellow wearing a dressing gown (even though it was just after 3:30pm) and sporting dreadlocks which I found rather strange. Looking at each other he broke the silence by asking if I had anything. “If I had anything?” “What would that be I” asked. White Boy simply shrugged his shoulders and said: “You know anything?”

To cut a long story short, seeing I was black he expected me to be a dealer because that was the myth that was being portrayed in the UK in the 80s and 90s of black people. Dale who was black and came from Jamaica did not have dread locks. He looked okay to me that we started to hand out. Drugs didn’t appear to be his thing – I never once saw him with the known ‘druggies’ until he took me to a party in Birmingham.

The party was heaving. No, tell a lie, it was steaming. Everybody who was black had dreadlocks, thick dreadlocks and not those spaghetti like things that the photographer Natty Dread thinks are dreads! This was the real deal. But it was the aroma of the club that got me going.

At some point during the night, a Rasta gave me a joint (for the benefit of parents who don’t know, it’s a slang term for a cigarette rolled using cannabis). It was a tough call and I said no, hesitated then freaked out but, seeing I was legally of age, I had a drag or two ‘just to try it out.’ And like former president Bill Clinton once admitted that he smoked a joint but did not inhale, I too believe I did just that. Except that I did.

And everything broke loose. As I sat looking at my drink, things didn’t add up because I couldn’t remember what the process of drinking was – as in how do I get the glass to my mouth? I couldn’t remember even though I knew I had done it countless times before without even having to think about it. It gets worse.
When we got back to campus and climbed into bed, the demons came out. The bed too had taken a life of its own in that it was ‘airborne’, while bats, vampires and skeletons were all around me, grabbing and tugging and wanting a piece of me.

The following morning when I awoke, I was huddled under my study desk, my clothes soaked in sweat and with more than just a dose of paranoia that for the next couple of weeks, I had to sleep with the lights on for the dark scared the hell out of me!
While the movies glamorize drug taking, if you are a teenager or a grown person who has just read this article, remember one thing: ‘Drugs WIIL ruin your life. Say NO to them. I was lucky that I came out unscathed at the end of it all – probably because I am a coward at heart, but trust me I have seen so many lives ruined!

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