5 Nigerians Talk About Their Battles With Drug Addiction

September 24, 2020

Addiction, sometimes can be a three-headed hydra. Sever one head and two grow in its place. I’m writing this in the hopes that people who struggle with their addiction will read this and realise that they are not alone. I’m hoping the people whose responses thousands are going to read will realise how much impact their stories will have on others and that it further bolsters their resolve not to relapse.

I spoke to five brave people at various stages of their journey to recovery. We had some eye-opening conversations about drug addiction.

Edet, 30

Weed. I’m still in denial that I was addicted to it. I haven’t smoked in five months but I’ve been craving it intensely over the past month. I’m also realising just how much of my personality I had sacrificed for it. I became dependent on it. I thought I was powerful with it, I thought I was more creative with it.

I was taking out payday loans just so I could buy weed. I almost didn’t attend a friend’s wedding as a groomsman because I had spent all my money on weed instead of sewing the trad. I also believe it played a part in the demise of my last relationship; she was getting scared of me, she broke it off. I’m always shy to talk about this because marijuana use is so normalised and there’s a narrative that it isn’t addictive or it’s a light drug, not a “real” one like heroin, crack, meth, etc.

In the five months that I haven’t smoked, I’ve saved money. I’ve never had savings before. I’m investing money in US real estate, stocks, and bitcoin. I told myself that anytime I got a craving, I’d invest the money instead. I look back in regret at some of the years that I smoked. I’m envious of people that can smoke regularly and live a normal life; I’m still struggling to accept that that isn’t for me. 

I’m having to rediscover who I really am without weed but I’m not sure if I’ll never smoke again. In the short to medium term (now to the next 3-5 years or so) however, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me.  

Baker, 26

I’ve been smoking non-stop since 2012, except for two 6-month periods that my parents committed me to rehab. In my final year in uni, I had a mental breakdown. I had mixed weed, codeine and alcohol. My parents had to come pick me from school. I was in a hospital for two weeks and after that, they committed me to a rehab. The rehab was more like a psychiatric hospital. They housed the addicts and mental patients in the same place. 

I went to rehab a second time when my parents caught me smoking again. They were afraid I would have another mental breakdown. So a second stint at rehab for another six months. No phones were allowed in rehab but I managed to use my influence to keep my phone.

As I’m speaking with you right now, I’m smoking. I don’t plan on quitting weed completely. There are very few things I enjoy in life and this is one of them.  I’ve reduced my codeine intake though because it is not healthy. 

Priscilla, 30

I had an addiction to alcohol. I started drinking when I was 10. My mum sold Chelsea Dry Gin and Squadron. I’d sneak out the bottle, hide it and drink it in small sips at various times till it was empty. The day I fully became an alcoholic was when I gulped half a bottle at once. I can’t remember the rest of that day.

I enjoyed the burn when the gin hit my gut. When I turned 12, my mother stopped selling the drinks. So I started stealing her money to buy alcohol. I quit when I turned 13 and didn’t touch alcohol ever again. This happened because I started spending time with my dad, who’s also an alcoholic. Although Warri in the late 90s was full of other alcoholics, seeing someone close to me so dependent on alcohol broke me. I’ve been told I look like my dad, so I was afraid I’d grow up to become like him.

I participated in a church program and opted to give up alcohol. It was difficult at first, but with time it became easier. Even when I stopped being religious, I didn’t drink. Today, I can pass by the alcohol aisle in supermarkets and not be bothered. I’m just lucky I quit when I was young.

Victor, 26

I’ve been clean for four months after quitting an 8-year drug addiction to marijuana. I smoked practically every day. I smoked through uni and NYSC. If I travelled to a new city, I would locate a dealer within an hour. I dabbled in other substances like pills, crack, coke and codeine but I hardly ever enjoyed them so I stuck with using different strains of weed. 

In 2019, I was involved in a terrible accident. I sustained a head trauma that injured my brain. After I recovered, I continued smoking. One day during the lockdown, I started feeling tremors in my head and torso. A neurologist told me that the injury had probably flared up again but the truth is I was smoking a whole lot more during the lockdown. 

I had been looking for a reason to quit drugs. That was it for me. I went cold turkey on the 7th of May. At first, I had severe withdrawal symptoms; lack of appetite, anxiety attacks and I couldn’t sleep. I’ve been on medication for the brain injury and to help with the withdrawal. I really love(d) cannabis but I had to realise that my life is more important.  No more smoking for me. It also helps that I have friends and family who act as accountability partners. They have been really supportive and don’t judge me when I tell them I’m craving; just words of support and prayers. 

Chi, 26

I’ve been smoking on and off for 8 years. I had my first joint in 2011 when I was 16 and I loved it. I loved it so much that I’d go visit the guys so I could smoke. It was all fun and games until 2014 when  I couldn’t eat or sleep without it. I was fighting a lot of inner demons and marijuana was the only thing that helped. It affected my studies and relationships but I didn’t care, as long as I was high. And I was always high.

I didn’t admit I had a problem until I was in law school. I smoked Colorado and I fell off a bike into a small river, and I can’t swim. At this point, I knew I couldn’t continue like this so I called my mum and we went to the University College Hospital (UCH) for rehabilitation. That was the first time I went to rehab. I was sober for six months but I fell off the wagon during NYSC, so I went back to UCH for two months of rehab. 

It didn’t work. I relapsed two weeks later. Subsequently, I went to rehab thrice in two years. I blamed everybody but myself for my addiction. I had to face myself and accept the consequences of my actions. Now, I’ve not quit. I’ve just changed my narrative about it. I still smoke, but I don’t let it control me. It doesn’t drive me anymore and I only smoke when I want to. I haven’t smoked in the last two months but I’m going to find some time to smoke soon. Marijuana itself isn’t evil. People just tend to abuse it. I’ve decided to make better use of my present.

Read: The 30-Year-Old Navigating An Open Marriage

One year ago, we left Nigeria for an 80-day adventure across West Africa. Something is coming. Unshared stories. New perspectives. Limited series. 10 episodes. Jollofroad.com

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