Monday, April 26, 2010

Lessons Learned Week: Why I Just Say No- The Story of Terry

I was in private school up until my 10th grade year, when I switched to public school. Up until them my exposure to black people, let alone the "black experience" was limited to weekends when I would I attend Jack & Jill functions or church functions. I was the girl at cotillion on Friday, the African American Museum Saturday morning and a fish fry at the church Sunday afternoon. Somewhere around 7th or 8th grade, boys became important. At that time, I was still at an all-girls private school. The private boys' school up the road had 2 black boys in my age range. By the time we hit 13 (having been thrust together at every function since age 5) we were thoroughly sick of looking at each other. My crushes would have to come from somewhere else.

It was about that time when I became active in Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF); if you grew up in a black church you had one of these. All the "youth" were put in the Youth Choir, MYF, Youth Sunday School and whatever else they could dream up to keep an eye on our young behinds. It was at an MYF meeting when I first met a guy I'll call Terry. Terry was young gifted and black. He was tall, athletic, quick-witted with one of the greatest personalities I had ever seen. He was gorgeous. That stereotypical good-looking guy from back in the day – light skin, wavy hair, big white smile, chocolate eyes fringed with long lashes. A room was better the minute he walked in it. He literally had a light about him. I had a little teen girl crush.

This was back in the day when we were very much into matching our clothes. Terry would rock a pink polo shirt (collar flipped up just so), khakis, pink socks and loafers and be the coolest dude in the room. He could sing, he could dance and he was a genuinely nice guy. He was SO athletically gifted that college scouts were already coming to look at him play football and run track in 8th grade. In today's terms, Terry was a rock star. We were friends in the way that early teenagers can be. Giggly, gossipy, bike-riding pals who shared a love of green apple Now-or-Laters.

Somewhere around the beginning of ninth grade, Terry started hanging around the wrong folks and liked a "faster" kind of girl to hang out with. He told me I was a "good girl" and if I wanted to stay that way, I need to leave him be. Even at fourteen I knew when someone was telling me something for my own damn good. I stepped back (way back) but was a little concerned. I'd seen enough afterschool specials to know that wrong crowd = no good end time and time again. People whispered that he smoked marijuana and stayed high. I didn't know what that meant back then but it scared me to death. All I knew what that sweet Terry's personality was not the same and he no longer appeared to care about anything.

Somewhere between tenth and eleventh grade, Terry apparently got hold of some bad stuff (I never knew exactly what it was but the story was it was a joint that was laced or dipped in something serious) and his mind was gone. I mean, gone baby, gone. Gone like he couldn't put full sentences together any more. I remember one event where he stood at the back and did jumping jacks for an hour and a half straight. At one group overnight, he curled into a ball under the refreshment table and refused to come out. At a choir rehearsal, he started singing Prince songs and couldn't stop. They had to call his mother to come get him. I recall trying to get him into a friend's car one night and in our struggle he looked at me and said my name. His eyes were completely dead and blank and he said my name more like a warning than the beginning of a sentence. I freaked out. The Terry I could trust was gone, completely replaced by someone or something I did not know. After that, I didn't spend any significant time with Terry and was never alone with him again.

As the years passed, the church grapevine kept me updated on Terry's life. I don't know if he ever graduated high school. He started selling drugs and went to jail. Got out more addicted than when he went in. He spent time in and out of rehab. He went back to jail got out again. I think he had a job for a minute. Last story I heard was that Terry had moved back home with his parents. He was arrested walking down the street in broad daylight carrying a neighbor's big screen TV. Because it was his umpteenth arrest, I believe they threw the book at him and he's on serious lock until the 33rd of Neveruary.

I didn't need a lot of parental warning to stay away from drugs. My father's father, in his mid-thirties, was in the middle of a card game when he felt tired. He lay down to take a nap and never got back up - instant heart failure. My father battled heart problems (requiring a quintuple bypass) in his later years. Heart failure is what eventually killed him. The name Len Bias stays etched on my memory. So I always feared that the slightest strange chemical would kill me where I stood. I was always positive I was going to be that one in a however-many that tries something for the first time and keels over. (I'm over-dramatic like that)

But primarily, if I was ever tempted to even light up the sticky-icky – I thought about a beautiful, brilliant young man with his entire future ahead of him replaced with an empty, vacant shell with nothing left to lose or care about. Terry became the cautionary tale of worst case scenario that hit a little too close to home for me. So yeah, I understood that drugs are bad and illegal and all those common sense things but really instead of Just Say No, I thought – remember what happened to Terry?

I was called 22 types of stuck-up, prissy snitch in college (and after) for skipping on any of the puff-puff-pass type activities. Even had one guy tell me, "You can't live your life motivated by fear." To which I replied, "Is it fear to not put your hand over a flame if you already saw someone get burned? Or is just a smart healthy respect for the damage that fire can do?" He shrugged and walked away. Um-hmm. Peer pressure be damned.

So that is today's Lesson Learned: When you see someone's light get extinguished, you don't need to step into the same wind storm. I have a love of life. And with exception of a social drink, a time-of-the-month painkiller and mood-enhancing chocolate, I tend not to want to go through this one life I have chemically impaired. Let's keep things crystal clear, shall we? Well... these are my thoughts anyway.

Thoughts, comments, insights? The floor is yours, BougieLand.

UPDATE: Before one more person sends me a note advocating the wonders of weed... this is just ONE WOMAN'S decision to decline. Ya'll do whatcha want. You're all grown.

24 comments:

Inkognegro said...

Never. Not. EVER.

I will suggest that while I have NEVER been so much as "up on my tippytoes" much less lifted, I "get it", I am not the type to rant on those who do.

Clearly Coke and Meth and stuff....That is bad for you and addictive.

Weed? *shrugs*Too much is bad, a little bit now and then probably ain't that bad of a thing.

Frankly, I wish folks were as diligent about their Alcohol and Food Comsumption as they are about Drugs. We would all be better off.

Anna N. said...

I agree with Inkognegro - based on my family history I would steer clear of alcohol before mary jane. Either way, moderation is the key. Ole boy sounds like he would've gone off track no matter what - the sticky icky was just his gateway of choice.

Reads4Pleasure said...

I do get my drink on from time to time, but I've never smoked, sniffed or snorted anything and have never had a desire to.

What happened to Terry happens more frequently than people would like to believe. In my neighborhood, it was spoiled and obnoxious Marlon Glasper. Hadn't seen him in years until I visited my mother's church a few years ago. He kept moving his head back and forth really quickly and mumbling, but no one commented on it so I guess it was the norm. Last year I was delivering socks to seniors at the nursing home and guess who was a resident there? Marlon. At 40 he was in a nursing home because his mind was that gone. According to my brother he got a hold of some bad stuff right after high school and hadn't been the same since. Both of his parents had passed so the nursing home was the only place left for him.

derek love said...

Chele - thanks for this. I lost my best friend when I was 16 to something VERY similar to this. Picked the wrong thing to puff. Folks always warn about gateway drugs forgetting that some people never even get to the gate. Ever since, I will sip something (that I watch someone pour or get myself). I have two and I'm done. Life is too short. #RipJosephSanchez

Carlton said...

It is definitely the real life examples that have more weight than the simple "Just Say No" message. Even the sports stars who fall from grace because of drugs don't have the same impact.

Kiki said...

LOL at your Update - too funny. The "herbalists" rep for their set. I went througha period where I tried a little of everything but I didn't like the feeling of something else being in control of my thoughts and actions, even for a little while. I'm too tightly wound to cede control like that.

Hidi said...

Wow. I feel there is more to Terry's story of drug use. Many things could have been going on behind closed doors. Who knows??

Anyway, I stay away from drugs and alcohol; no thank you, i'll pass. I have seen the negative effects of those things within my family. It just not worth it.

Joy Andrews said...

I'm a dancer, I've seen too many careers go straight to hell when drugs get involved. I'm all over the "body as temple" thing. But I've known a lot of people who just start of experimenting and end up with a way of life.

Sarah said...

Reading this opens up a Pandora's box of thoughts. As a youngster, I stayed sober because my grandfather was an unacknowledged alcoholic. As an adult, I spent too many years in a college town witnessing all sorts of foolishness. I've tried to adopt the live-and-let-live principle, but the older I get the less I can manage it. Nobody lives in isolation and a person's individual actions have anywhere from a ripple effect to a tornado in the lives of those around them. I've never wanted to have anything to do with either drugs or even alcohol, but they have had a negative effect on my life anyway from my grandfather through my ex. It is one of a number of things that depending on my mood if I think about it I either shrug or want to throw the tea mug across the room. Such is life.

Pure Choco said...

I spent about three years being "recreational" by that I mean I spent every day of those years recreating the same stuporous state. I WISH I'd learned this lesson but no... I gotta do things the hard way. 4 years clean and sober on May 3rd. Just say no don't mean shit but maybe, just maybe - someone will read your story about Terry and have a second thought.

Stank_0 said...

That story is so depressing. It sounds like the joint was dipped in embalming fluid and something else. His effects sound hallucinatory.

I will echo someone's thought. I'm too controlling to allow anything/anyone to control me.


I'm learning I can't really drink anymore either.

Hidi said...

Congratulations :)

OneChele said...

"Everything in moderation" is probably a good motto all the way around.

OneChele said...

40 in a nursing home - whew!

OneChele said...

Sorry for your loss.

JaymeC said...

I won't go into my boring tale about my family member who ahs battled addiction for over 17 years.
Best to learn this lesson early and once.
My tolerance for alcohol isn't what it used to be, I'm a cocktail and a half once a month girl.

OneChele said...

I would agree.

happinessisme said...

Eh, I don't want to take anything I have to snort or inject, have too many friends that have died from that stuff. One chick from high school TRIED heroin for the first time and went into a coma, had a severe allergic reaction. As far as weed goes...I live in Amsterdam.

JaymeC said...

Congrats on winning the struggle!

OneChele said...

LOL at "herbalists"

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Michelle, this is a fabulous post and hope it serves as a warning to every young lady and man that some lines are not to be crossed. If one knows that people in their family are alcoholics or drug addicts, then they may have inherited that genetic vulnerability. That occasional beer or joint may be fine for their friends, but for them, it's a door to hell.

Some drugs should never be experimented with; my guess is Terry got hold of crack or PCP mixed in his weed, and was gone. What a waste. Been through something similar with my son and it's very hard.

Oyan said...

A classmate in 7th grade, was known for her 'boldness', and was also a bully. Very pretty, but 'out there'. She and her crowd would make fun of us 'squares'; she always laughed at me, the nerdy girl,with the violin. I see her on Friday, during lunchtime, see her leave the campus with her 'friends'. I come back to school on Monday and learn that she is dead, from an overdose of heroin mixed with something (some cleansing agent) she let someone shoot into her. Bold indeed. I never forgot that. She was 12/13 years old. For me, it is the occasional drink, forget the idea of alcoholism, now that it can cause weight gain, I'm out lol! Great story by the way...

PGL said...

I'm with you - Fear is something we feel for a reason and sometimes we need to heed it!

Just Passing By said...

Thanks for the good news story. Congrats!

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