I was around 15 or 16 years of age and studying in high school when I began to smoke marijuana. I was in it for the fun with a few friends and within three years realized that I was addicted. Some years prior to that my younger sister had fallen and landed on her head resulting in a serious injury that required constant treatment for years. She was eventually diagnosed with a condition, schizophrenia, which will permanently put pressure on our family’s resources.
My Mum and Dad had to work around the clock to help cover costs, so I did not see much of them. My Dad was a policeman, but an honest man, so he did not earn much and needed to get a second and third job to help cover the costs of living and medical treatment. His police medical insurance did not cover the expensive medicines and, at times, not even the less expensive common medicines. With my parents so caught up in trying to cover costs I was more or less free to go my own way, but clearly I got lost.
To pay for my addiction I began to steal things from home and from others. I had begun university studies but soon dropped out and just hung about with my friends who were also into drugs. I did not study, had no job and had given up on life, including on my family. Eventually, on seeing the suffering that I was putting my parents through, I began to take stock of what I was doing. I was only 22 years old, and my only constant activity had become smoking marijuana. I saw my Mum crying; she pleaded with me to stop. She had to hide anything of value in the house. I wanted to drop the marijuana habit but could not do it alone. I desperately needed help and knew my parents were there for me. If it were not for their patient and determined insistence that I reform my life, I doubt I’d ever have beaten the drug habit.
Because of the marijuana I stopped participating in the parish youth group where I was a catechist in the fi rst communion program. But then, one day my parents really got through to me, and Columban Fr. Leo Donnelly came to see me. They took me to a nearby hospital for therapy, and Fr. Leo helped cover the cost. I don’t think that program helped me much, but my Dad thinks that maybe it did help me more than I think.
My Dad became really concerned when one day last year I stole his police revolver to go out and rob some place with my friends. He was so stressed and worried that he suffered partial paralysis of the face. If I had done any harm or been caught with the weapon he would have been punished severely by the police for being irresponsible with his pistol. Dad got a real fright and that also frightened me; I realized the gravity of the problem I might have caused.
Then, around that time some women from our small parish community came to the house to invite my Dad to a retreat, and he persuaded them to invite me. Of course, he told them about the problem I had with drugs. That invitation came at just the right moment for me. They agreed to come to the house to collect me on a Friday evening at 6:30 p.m., and I was packed and ready at 5:00 p.m. During the weekend retreat things changed for me in a major way. I met others who had been through a similar struggle. I saw what their faith in God had led them to. I saw how happy they were with their renewed lives. Their families were happy, too.
I began to read the Bible and to pray the rosary. I’d already broken with the drug habit thanks to the support of my parents and Fr. Leo, but I needed something more to keep going with my life, to be hopeful and happy about myself. I found that through the community that ran these weekend retreats. I had returned to my family, and the retreat helped me return to God.
Things began to change for me. I got a job. In consultation with my parents I moved out of our home in order to put some distance between me and my marijuana-smoking friends. I made friends at work and lived by myself near to my place of work.
I feel so grateful to God for all that I have been able to change in my life. Prayer and faith have given me so much inner strength to face up to this terrible addiction that I’d allowed bury me alive when I should have been pushing ahead with my life.
My Dad tells me how I used to cry and promise him that I’d change but, at the same time, he was finding little packets of marijuana in my room. My Mum was tough with me, but my father chose to be patient and kind; without planning, it was like a “good cop, bad cop” act. I tended to confide in and depend on my Dad.
Things got so bad at one stage that I left home, but I kept going back. My Mum would buy me clothes because all I had was old and unwashed, but then I ended up selling what she bought me. My Mum did not ask me what I did while away from our home, but friends and neighbors commented to her; I know it all hurt her so much.
My Dad was often away from home because of his work. When I was small we lived in Chincha, three hours by bus to the south of Lima, but my Dad was working as a policeman in Lima. When we moved to Lima, we lived in rented houses for a while.
Because Dad was away so much doing extra jobs to cover living and medical costs, we did not have a close family life. I know that he later felt that maybe, because he was not there as much as he would have liked to be, I had not had the stability necessary to help me steer a straight and narrow course. Hopeful and happy at last However, I don’t want to blame Dad for anything; I feel he did the best he could.
After 20 years in the police Dad retired and with his severance pay bought the block of land where we now live. Here we’ve had more of a family life, and I’ve come to know my Dad better. In fact, we have become very close through sharing the trauma associated with my drug addiction problem. He bought me a Bible and a picture of Our Lady, both of which I will always treasure. Dad has become a real friend to me. He is an honest man and also a man of God; he would always to go his Bible study meeting in the parish.
I am now 27 years old and have a reasonably good job selling financial products in a credit union. I feel so grateful to Dad and Mum for hanging in there with me and for Fr. Leo, who in supporting my parents, helped make my recovery possible.