“A new life is possible,” former drugs user testifies
Rooting out drugs abuse from a society is a huge task, and not something a single man can accomplish. That is why the United Nations has initiated the International Day against Drug Abuse, to bring together concerned citizens and officials to look at ways to stop drug abuse and the alarming social, as well as individual, devastation it is causing.
The day was commemorated in Rwanda last Tuesday, a month after the First Lady Jeanette Kagame launched the Ijisho ry’umuturanyi (the neighbors’ eyes) campaign, a program that relies on communities to spot and report drugs abuse and trafficking.
“Being concerned about drugs abuse doesn’t necessarily mean one understands what it’s all about,” testifies Daniel Sibomana, 32, who lost his marriage and university degree to drugs. “To a large extent, you have to go through it to really understand how bad drugs can be. The luckiest realize that before it’s too late.”
The World Health Organization defines substance abuse as the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. This can lead to dependence, which includes a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.
Daniel Sibomana personally experienced all the above once he got addicted to Kanyanga and cannabis. “I reached a point where I was so desperate, I was convinced that my life was worthless and I just wanted to die – I was wrapping up my memoire at university when suddenly I felt like school meant nothing and dropped out. Of course I knew drugs would end up by killing me – it was written plainly on the pack of cigarettes which I mixed with cannabis that abusive consumption was harmful to my life. ‘What life? I would say. ‘So it kills me slowly? Fine, I’m not in a hurry! I’ll just fade out!’ All the reasons were good to take drugs, I would not think of why I was taking them, I’d rather think ‘why not?’ At a certain point I just didn’t ask myself any question at all, as long as I had had my fix.”
But the difficult question, especially for those who never used drugs, is “why?” People cannot understand why someone can let themselves sink in alcohol like Kanyanga, seem to enjoy it and suffer from it at the same time, or can be enslaved by a bunch of leaves rolled in a piece of paper.
“No one should be judged as fully responsible for drug abuse; bad choices can lead to drug abuse, but various circumstances lead to those bad choices.”
As one who used both, Daniel Sibomana does understand. “It’s all about feelings and emotions. Kanyanga would make feel the happy happier, a cannabis joint would make the weak feel stronger and would give the illusion of relaxation. The problem is that all these ‘feelings’ are only chemical effects and don’t actually change anything to the real situation. Before my wife left me, she had realized that I was used to these fake feelings, I had forgotten about natural emotions and the only way to feel ‘good’ became essentially taking drugs. That’s how I ended up in the viscous circle of drug abuse which later on became a deadly mental and physical illness.”
According to Sibomana, this can happen to anyone, anywhere, anyhow regardless of gender, age, education or social status. “I used to meet powerful, respected individuals on the illegal drugs market. This is why I believe that no one should be judged as fully responsible for being affected by drug abuse; of course, bad choices can lead to drug abuse, but various circumstances lead to those bad choices. Everyone has their own reasons.”
“There is a way out”
Yet today, Sibomana is also living proof that it is possible to kick the addiction. According to him, the solution depends on the mindset of an individual – you really have to want to get rid of the addiction. No matter how deep you’ve sank, he says, it depends on how bad you want to get back to the surface, it depends on how much you want to be free.
“You just have to assess your life and compare the benefits you are getting from drug abuse to the losses. When I made a decision to take my life back, professionals were there to help me achieve it through detoxification and rehabilitation programs. It became possible for me to retrieve my confidence in my abilities – I am now back at university.”
“Healing is not just a dream; a new life is possible from the moment one decides to make it happen,” Sibomana says passionately. “I was lucky to achieve that and I’m convinced that anyone who humbly recognizes having a drug problem and says ‘I say no to drugs, my life prevails!’ can achieve it too.”