There have been various reasons proffered as to the possible causes of the noticeable upsurge in the abuse of mostly illicit substances – in the hope of finding a lasting solution, and saving our youth (who are the main victims of this cancer ravaging our society) from imminent total destruction.
At the top of the list of reasons cited has been idleness – primarily as a direct consequence of the poor performance of the country’s economy, which has led to unbelievably high rates of unemployment – mostly affecting that particular age group.
Indeed, it can never be denied that an ‘idle mind is the devil’s workshop’ – and, the fact that the majority of the younger generation spend a large portion of their time loitering around, seemingly without any purpose, aim, and hope – can contribute significantly to one’s mind becoming the workstation of the devil.
The human brain, as with the heart, were designed and created to work perpetually throughout one’s life – and, the day they stop, is the day one dies.
Therefore, as the brain goes on operating, with the mind always busy thinking, analyzing and planning – it needs the raw material to use.
Just as any other production line – the quality and appropriateness of the end product is a direct result of the quality and appropriateness of the raw materials put in – of course, as well as the effectiveness of the production process itself.
As such, there has to be a perfect balance between these fundamentals.
If the production process itself is perfect – yet, fed the wrong inputs or raw materials – then the end product will be flawed, useless or totally wrong.
The same applies vice versa – when the inputs and raw materials are of good quality and appropriate, yet the production process of distorted, inappropriate or faulty – the end product will equally be bad.
This logic applies to the human mind – as a never-stopping production line
What one puts in, and how it is processed – determines the outcome.
The issue of substance abuse is no different.
It goes without saying that, the decision one makes on whether or not to take drugs or alcohol is a direct product of his or her own mind.
I have never made a secret of the fact that I struggled with alcohol from my youth – which, as a consequence, destroyed my life in so many ways – and, as such, I consider myself a bit of an ‘expert’ when it comes to such matters.
One major fact that I noticed – both during that time, and my subsequent new life of sobriety – is that, it all starts in the mind.
Becoming an alcohol or drug abuser is mainly dependent on how one’s mind is equipped in handling or processing what is going on in his/her life.
Indeed, we may talk about such things as unemployment, or idleness in general – but at the end of the day, it all boils down to how the particular individual has been equipped to deal with such circumstances.
Having no job, or hope for a job – in itself can never send someone down the path of alcohol or drug abuse.
It is the same as an individual who catches his/her spouse or romantic partner right in the act of cheating with another person.
How is he/she expected to react?
Is there a pre-determined response – or is this not largely a product of how he/she was socialized?
One person may simply turn away and move on with life, another may throw a fit and even inflict grievous bodily harm on the two cheating lovers, or then there is that one who is so hurt he/she decides to take his/her own life (suicide).
And, there are even those who are so desperate for their partners’ affections, and crippled by the fear losing them – that, they forgive the infidelity without a second thought, and actually beg the cheating partner not to leave him/her!
These are all varied reactions to the same scenario.
The question is why?
Why would different people respond to the same situation in such fundamentally different ways?
It all boils down to the particular individual’s mindset and thought-processes – which are governed by how he/she was raised and socialized.
For starters, I did not start drinking because I had nothing to do.
In fact, as with most youth today – I began whilst very much busy at school (doing my advanced level) – which dismisses that theory that idleness is the root cause of substance abuse.
In my particular case, this boiled down to me being an introvert – who preferred a more isolated life, away from the social space – which so many find attractive, entertaining, and even necessary.
I found (and, still find) much joy, pleasure and satisfaction in spending time in my own thoughts, studying and learning – as opposed to mixing, and all that stuff society considers fun or even imperative – which usually involves spending time in social gatherings.
Therefore, as society and family expected me to be a part of these – I opted for the Dutch courage and ‘loosening up’ that came with a drink or two.
However, this gradually escalated from one or two, to three or four…and the rest is history.
As such, in order to end this trail of self-destruction, I needed to call upon a greater power – Jehovah God Almighty, through my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus – to free me from the shackles I had placed around myself.
Which He did without any problems – and, in so doing, I am now comfortable in who I am, an introvert – and, do not feel pressured to be someone whom I am not, thereby enjoying, to the full, the fruits of a sober life.
Nonetheless, we go back to the issue of socialization and the mind-process.
I can never blame the pressure to fit into a social world, or my introvert character, for electing to drink alcohol as a way of dealing with what I felt were uncomfortable situations.
All this was my own fault in not being able to effectively process and handle this tricky place I found myself in life.
I had to be equipped to be able to stand firm in who I was, and feel comfortable and okay in being me – without feeling pressured to be someone I was not.
Furthermore, as someone not living on a one-man island, I still have to meet and mix with a whole lot of people in my life and line of work – and as such, need to have the skills in how to handle such environments, which I have beautifully mastered.
Such character traits are what were missing in me before – characteristics that are purely about one’s mindset.
That is where we need to focus on, as a nation, should we hope to effectively deal with the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse.
The issue of not necessarily about unemployment or people without anything to do – but, how individuals are socialized to handle different situations they encounter in their lives.
The weaker and unprepared one is, the more likely to crumble in the face of particular challenges.
Let us remember that, not everyone who is unemployed is drinking him/herself silly, or getting high on crystal meth.
Similarly, not everyone who is gainfully employed or regularly engaged in some activity is sober.
In fact, we can take this matter even deeper.
We can ask why there are even people who feel the need for one or two beers in order to ramp up their sense of having fun?
Why are there individuals who believe that the only way for them to attain maximum fun and have a good time is through a glass of wine, or pint of beer, or a gin and tonic, or a joint of dagga – even if this does not descend into what we term ‘addiction’ or ‘abuse’?
Why are there people seemingly unable to relax, and enjoy themselves, without the assistance of ‘outside influences’?
Does this not point to a world where most people are now no longer equipped to handle life as it is – but, need to be boosted or bolstered by some substance – whether they eventually abuse it or not?
That is a thought that worries me everyday!
What happened between when we were little children and could have great fun workout a single drop of booze – and, when we grew up, but now incapable of handling the daily hassles of life without the aid of alcohol or drugs?
Is that not the reason why we even have those we refer to as ‘recreational drugs’?
Why does anyone require drugs to have some recreation?
This goes deep down to how our minds operate.
The bottom line is that, in raising our children, we need to adequately train and equip them on how to handle life, and all its challenges.
Our children need real life skills
These can never be found when they spend their time in front of the television set, or listening to music, or watching movies, or on the internet, or even at school.
In fact, most of these things, such as television, music, movies, or the internet – if not handled diligently can be detrimental, as they seldom build character – but, can actually plant these ideas of drugs and alcohol being the solution or even ‘cool’.
Let us also remember that, even when an individual has failed to handle a particular situation in his life – still, the idea on how to ‘solve’ his predicament has to come from somewhere or someone.
If a person is not exposed to the world of drugs and alcohol – yet, still fails to handle what life throws at him – there is no way he will opt for these substances as a ‘solution’, as they will never occur to him as an alternative.
For example, someone who did not grow up in an environment of guns and gun violence – no matter how angry he becomes, shooting others will never come into his mind.
So, who is planting those ideas that drinking alcohol or taking drugs will help?
We ourselves, as parents, have a huge responsibility to play in safeguarding our children, and equipping them for life.
Merely blaming unemployment and idleness is not only disingenuous, but also is taking the easy way out.
Besides, how does a living, breathing, thinking individual, surely, end up having ‘nothing to do’?
Why not read books, write constructive material, tend to a garden, or volunteer in developing one’s community?
We need to do the real hard work in the lives and livelihoods of our children from the day they are born.
There can never be any shortcuts.
Why should our children even end up idolizing known substance abusers – who have become famous celebrities?
How do those beliefs enter our children’s minds, if we are there to protect and guide them?
Failure to do so, is what is leading to the scourge and cancer of substance abuse, which has ravaged our young generation.
As long as we do not acknowledge the real causes – we will watch helplessly as an entire generation slowly perishes.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]