Me, a Junkie?

There’s this dude that hangs around my area, his name is Chika and he’s a junkie. We have a ritual, Chika and I, once he sees me from a distance of a mile about to enter my car, he would engage in the most ostentatious laudation you have ever heard. With arms raised, he hobbles on his scrawny six foot three inches frame, this hobble from an untreated infection on his leg, his face lit in a toothless smile, an uncanny contrast from his tattered clothes and deadpan eye. I often use to wonder how he lost his teeth; fights, Illness or some other mishap, but whenever Chika needs to entreat you, he would flash all his gum. On getting a few feet from me, he would prostrate flat on the floor, against my many expressed displeasure at it, and end the tirade of praises with, “anything for the boys?” Or “Oga abeg find something for your boy”, all Chika wants is a few Naira notes to get himself a wrap of igbo* (marijuana) to calm his rocking volcano, that is until he needs another fix. What is most amazing is that once he gets his high, he can walk pass me without as much as a hint of recognition on his face. But when he’s shaking and trembling  and sweating, when he’s disoriented and lacks the ability to function properly, he’ll beg and praise and when that doesn’t work, he’ll threaten and bully and when that fails, he’ll steal. In the correct accepted parlance, Chika is a drug addict.

Addiction, according to psychology today, is a ‘condition that results when a person ingests a substance… or engages in an activity…that can be pleasurable but the continuous use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities….Users may not be aware that their behaviour is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others’. Basically, addiction is anything someone engages in or consumes that becomes compulsive, harmful and interferes with normal life activities. We all have a Chika living around us, if you are blessed to live in the upscale part of town, you have one or two of them on your street, but if you live in the ghetto, then they are the Landlords that occupy the abandoned structures, they sit in the morning and smoke their joints, waiting for you to come by and pay your ‘free movement tax’. You may even be living with one in your home; that brother or sister who got mixed up with the wrong crowd and got affected, now you have to manage him and watch your belongings closely. Interestingly, today I’m not talking about that addict you’re thinking about. I’m talking about the one you wink at every morning when you catch a reflection of yourself in the mirror on your way out the door, the one who is cool and calculated and seemingly in control, I’m talking about you and I. Say what? Addiction is not just about drugs, or sex or any of those vices you are so righteously vindicated of. An addict is also defined by the oxford learners advanced dictionary as a person who is very interested in something, and spends a lot of their free time on it (I can hear you go oh, oh!).

I was standing in front of a book shelf twelve feet high and twelve feet wide going through the books colourfully displayed side by side, one end to the other. Everywhere I turned were flashes of colours; blue, red, gold, intricate designs on paper and hard backs, even the rainbow could not boast of that many colours. The air was saturated with the exhilarating smell of knowledge and intelligence and I could tell I was high. All the signs were there; I was smiling and having a low muffled conversation with myself, I felt light and with no care in the world. My challenge at work was forgotten, the depression I was struggling with that morning lifted, and my grouchy mood was a thing of the past. Oh that’s awesome and healthy you say, maybe so, but let’s finish the narrative. Don’t forget that addictions are pleasurable too. Beside me was my trolley and it was laden with about seven books already, and considering that I came only to window shop, that’s seven books over my budget. I wanted to pick the next book on the shelf, but I really needed to get the one beside it. I struggled with this life decision for a minute and solved it by putting both books in my cart and felt the sweet ease of solving a difficult problem. I know you’re wondering what is wrong with this great picture, especially when you know you can never go wrong with acquiring knowledge. That Is the thing with addiction, the substance itself does not have to be harmful for it to hurt you; it’s how you use it and the lack of control of it that makes it injurious. In my case, my very positive experience was harmful, because one; I didn’t have the money to make the purchase, I was calculating in my head how I would use the money budgeted for other needs, and even my savings for the month to pay for books, and if it was not enough, I was ready to borrow. Two; I had close to a hundred books in my library at home that I was yet to read, the books I just picked were neither of immediate importance nor a resource for an ongoing project, they would only be an addition to my growing stash of unread books. Three; it was a compulsive and unplanned act, that was not in my to-do list or budget, so even though I knew I could not afford it, I still could not overcome the urge to possess them. That day, with my hands raised, with a toothless smile on my face and my own hobble, I approached the bookshelves, prostrated and asked “anything for the boys?” I was Chika and my craving for new books was my high.

Ok who is this geek who gets high on books you ask, and how on earth can you become an addict when the thing is good and advantageous. The power of addiction like I said is not in the substance, but on the hold it has on you and the quality of decisions you make because of it. Once the engagement becomes harmful (like making you go broke, get in debt or get overweight), to the degree that it is detrimental to you, it is addictive. You are meant to be in control of your life and time, but whenever you notice that something has gotten a grip on you, that you just can’t help yourself but do when the craving comes, you are an addict. It could be coke on a hot day (somebody save me), video games, movies, food, your appearance, the games, your friends, or the pretty girl down the street. Whenever you obsess over anything you are meant to be in control of, you are in simple terms ‘an addict’. For us to be truly successful, we must be in charge of our lives, putting everything in their place and in their right quantity.

So before you sit on your elevated judgement throne and pass sentence on Chika and I, please take a moment and think of the thing that yanks your own chain. If you are sincere, like mine, they would be more than one. We need to realise that sometimes, success is not in discovering or adding something new to our lives, but in bringing balance to the things that are already there. Today when I see Chika, I still want to help him get off substance abuse, but I am less critical and judgemental now, and so should you.

Success often comes, not in the introduction of the new, but in the proper management of the old
-          Kanayo aniegboka (kani)

Kanayo Aniegboka

Kani is a Nigerian born and based minister, public speaker, entrepreneur and life coach. His keen and unique perspective to life issues makes him a refreshing voice to listen to. He currently serves as the Executive Coordinator of House on the Rock - Word House and sits on the board of a number of companies.

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