25-year-old Lagos-based programmer, Nelson Oriyomi, who overcame drug addiction, tells OPEYEMI ADEYEMI his victory story
You recently shared a post on social media celebration your victory over drug addiction. Was it really a serious problem for you?
Yes, it was a very big issue for me.
How exactly did the journey into drug addiction begin for you?
Before I started taking drugs, I was a smoker; I smoked weed prior to when I was introduced to Meth. There was a day four years ago, a friend of mine told me he would give me something, which was a new kind of ‘smoke’ around the block. He said if I took it, I would feel cool and relaxed. He told me different stories and lies.
You see, whenever these substance dealers want someone to start taking some of these things, they feed your mind with all sorts of fantasies. He said things like I would think straight, act well, feel agile and be happy. At first, I didn’t have any interest in it because I didn’t like it, but he was my friend and he was very persuasive. He kept coming and coming and I always found myself in the same room with him. I can say it was peer pressure.
So, what drug did he introduce you to?
It is called crystal meth; some call it ice.
What was the experience like for you the first time and what made you keep going back to it?
Well, the first time it felt really good. Whenever I took it, at that moment I would stop being depressed and it really offered the comfort and succour I sought at that time. Drugs, in general, are actually a bad thing. They offer you what you want at the moment but the positive feeling is temporary. In two to three hours, you will begin to get that feeling you detest again and go back to the drug to suppress it. That is how the addiction kicked in for me. In fact, I even introduced people to it because I felt like I was on top of the world.
People say drug addiction digs a hole in the pocket. How were you able to get money to maintain your supplies?
This is actually very true. It does not just dig a hole in your pocket, it totally messes you up and shatters your finances. Drug is actually very expensive and a gram as at then was N6,000 and it would only last you for five hours or less. In the process, I lost jobs, contacts, contracts and a lot of people. My job is a remote one, so whenever I was given down payment for a job, I squandered it on drugs and I would be unable to deliver any of the jobs or concentrate on anything I was doing. This thing (drugs) takes your attention away from real life. I lost all my money to drugs, sold all my belongings and even sold my phone. In the process, I almost sold my house and my only saving grace was that the papers were with my mom and she wouldn’t hand it over to me. I believe if the papers were with me, I would have sold it and be left with nothing by now. Before I went into this drug I had savings of about N8m but I lost everything to drugs.
Did you ever do anything weird to raise money to procure the substance?
When I ran out of money, I started doing unusual things that you would not find me doing, like stealing people’s money just to be able to fund my drug lifestyle.
In all of this, was your family aware and what did they do?
I had my mom and she really tried for me. When she saw that everything was not right with me, she began to question me and I told her I was only thinking and that I was fine. Some people began to give a hint that I was taking drugs and she chastised me over it. At some point I cut her off because I felt like she was bugging and coming at me. My adviser was my enemy at that point.
As a drug addict, advisers automatically become your enemies. It’s something that I have witnessed. Whoever was advising me at that point was my enemy and I began to stay away from them because I felt like I was old enough to decide whatever I wanted to do with my life. At some point I almost cut my mom off my life.
Was there a particular condition that made you hungry to use drugs?
I initially resisted taking it but I began when I was looking for comfort because at that time I had an issue with my ex-girlfriend, which really affected me. My friends then, who were addicts, were the only ones I could turn to at that time. I think that was how they were able to penetrate me and get me to buy into drugs. I started taking it and the rest was history.
What exact effect did the drugs have on you? Did they make you sober or energetic or wild?
When you take it, you tend to forget everything that bothers you at that moment. This particular drug deprives you of sleep for days or even weeks, kills your appetite for food and you will definitely lose focus. If I was even able to catch a glimpse of sleep, in 30 minutes I would be up. Also, when I didn’t eat well as a result of the addiction, I began to lose weight and in months I had unbelievably transformed into a total stranger even to myself. I looked into the mirror and the image I saw didn’t look like me at all. It also causes tooth decay and terrible mouth odour, apart from messing with one’s mental health.
At what point did you become fed up and started seeking solution to quit?
I have a daughter and at a point, as a doting father that I am, I realised I was not being the best daddy to her and I wasn’t living the life I wanted for both of us. I started to feel that I was failing in my responsibilities as a father and I think it was the love I have for my daughter that made me reach the resolution to stop. I couldn’t even afford to take care of her anymore. I ran out of money and people were attributing my failure to my child. It was not easy for me.
What steps did you take to quit and how long did the process last?
What I did was that I called some of my friends for money and some of them had already run out of money because of drugs. I reached out to a friend, I explained to him and he didn’t believe I was ready to stop. He gave me some cash, I went to the park and took a bus to Ghana where I was raised and went far away from drugs and friends. Even if I was having the urge, I wouldn’t be able to travel to Nigeria because I had no money for transport not to talk of buying drugs. I was in Ghana for about seven months and was not in contact with anyone, not even my mom. Some people even thought I was dead. It was just my self-determination. I came out when I felt I was clean enough.
People say drug addicts have a tendency of going back to it with the right conditions. How confident are you that you’ve truly won the battle?
I am very confident that I have won the battle; I am never going back to it. Although I had withdrawal symptoms, I have overcome it totally now. I have even stopped weed entirely. I am no longer in contact with the friends who introduced me and those I introduced to drugs.
Do you ever feel the urge to sometimes go back to it?
That was when I newly decided to quit. For the first few months, I would want it badly but I resorted to taking weed to quench my thirst for it. But today, I am totally free from Meth and even weed.
What is the biggest lesson you picked up from this experience?
Drug is bad, it destroys lives, properties, dreams and goals. One loses major opportunities in life.
If you would advise anyone against the use of drugs, what will you tell them?
When I try to advise them, they won’t listen and I honestly know how it feels because I have been there. There is no way you can convince a drug addict to quit if they don’t first realise they have to quit by themselves. They will never listen and you automatically become an enemy. It’s just pointless advising an addict. It’s either it is enforced. If one happens to be a relative to one of them, it’s just better to bundle them up and take them to rehab rather than advise them.
After I shared my story, I had many people confiding in me about how they want to stop but they can’t seem to bring themselves to stop and the like. Apart from it destroying dreams, health, finances, it is important they look around to see the people who care about them and how they will feel if they die; look around and see how many people will be affected.