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Friday, July 12, 2024

OLA ASAGS – The Moving Story of a Former Drug Addict

My name is Ola Asags and I was born in Warri, a city in Delta State, Nigeria. My parents gave birth to me 59 years ago, and I’m the fourth child. I have four siblings, but one of them is late now. I grew up and schooled in the same state. 

When I was a child, I loved flashy things. While other young girls were fascinated by dolls, I enjoyed playing rough games. People called me a tomboy because I used to climb trees and play football. I was also very stubborn and energetic.  

My dad died when I was five years old. So, my mother raised her five children single-handedly. She was a very strict woman. During my childhood, I was negatively influenced by one of my aunts who lived in England. Back then, she used to come home regularly. She was very tall and beautiful. She loved dressing up in flashy clothes, and I still remember her long polished nails. 

As a child, I liked her elegance and wanted to be like her. Whenever she returned from overseas, I was always available to run errands for her. I was the one who cleared the tables after she had finished eating, drinking, or smoking. 

So, one day, while discarding the cigarette butts, I was tempted to smoke one of them. At first, I tried to ignore the voice that was telling me to do it, but after so much craving, I yielded. I coughed after inhaling the first smoke and wanted to stop. However, I still tried it again, and that was how I started smoking at a tender age. 

Due to my naivety, I felt that smoking would make me beautiful as she was. I used to hide at the backyard to smoke. Deep in my heart, I wanted to grow up quickly so I could leave the house and be free to do whatever I liked. Fortunately, when the time to go to secondary school came, I was registered at a boarding school.

Life in secondary school was interesting. The first day I arrived, I felt like a bird who had been released from its cage. I was ready to explore and achieve all my dreams. In the beginning, I concentrated on my studies. Then one day, I met some girls at the back of the hostel. They were smoking cigarettes. When I saw them, I was both surprised and happy. They looked elegant, and that was why I joined their group. 

We did a lot of silly things in secondary school. We fought, broke school rules, smoked, drank alcohol, sneaked out of the school premises to attend parties, and a lot more. While others were learning and preparing for their future, we were ruining our lives without knowing.

After graduating from secondary school, I was admitted to the university to study Mass Communications. Over there, I started mingling with bad friends again. I met a group of girls that said to me, “Ola, small girls smoke cigarettes while big girls smoke marijuana.” I have always wanted to be called a “big girl”, so I joined them.

In the university, there was no teacher or parent to monitor my movement. So, I was always moving from one club to another. During lecture time, I would be at home smoking or sleeping. I was paying bribes to upgrade my scores, but not all the lecturers were corrupt. Therefore, I failed some courses. Even the times I sat down in the classroom, I was absent-minded. My focus was on how to make money and have some fun. 

They say that the friends you keep are a reflection of who you are. As time went by, I found myself dining among cultists, criminals, and other terrible sets of people. I had become a rascal and my life was at risk. So, I couldn’t complete my university education due to the wrong choices I made.

My mother loved education so much. After I dropped out of school, she sent me overseas to start afresh. She made a huge sacrifice to fund my education. Over there, I met a rich and handsome guy. I was very beautiful, and I guess that was why he had his eyes on me. Although other girls wanted to be around him, he picked me to be his girlfriend. The guy bought fanciful clothes, bags, pieces of jewellery, and everything for me. We were both happy, but later on, I discovered I had become his puppet. 

We used to party all night. Then one day, after we returned from a nightclub, we made love, and suddenly, I started experiencing excruciating stomach pain. When I told him about it, he explained that I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms that had been transferred through sex. So, he gave me water, but the pain was still there. Later on, he gave me a drug and the pain disappeared. At first, I felt they were painkillers. I later realized that he had introduced cocaine and heroin into my body.

He was a drug user and trafficker. One day, he said to me, “I guess you are going to school to enable you to earn money in the future. However, I feel you are wasting your time because I can show you how to make money today. “ He convinced me to join a gang of drug traffickers. So, I abandoned my education and started selling and buying drugs. I made a lot of money and bought a house and a car. 

Another huge mistake I made was introducing my younger brother into the business. He was studying for a Master’s degree in England, but I made him deviate from his career path. Although he didn’t use any drugs, he became a trafficker. Unfortunately, he was arrested and sent to prison. The gang members were afraid that he might snitch on them, so they killed him while he was still in prison. 

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My brother’s death broke my heart. The same people I called friends betrayed me. My family members blamed me for his death. I had to deal with that guilt for a very long time. Each time the feeling was eating me up, I would take hard drugs to forget about everything. I felt drugs would help me, but I was wrong. 

As time went by, my boyfriend abandoned me and started chasing other girls. I had become addicted, so when he left, there was no more free supply of drugs. Since I couldn’t do without it, I looked for another supplier and started purchasing from him. Cocaine is very expensive and they sell a little pinch for about 3000 naira. I had become a heavy user and needed enough quantity. Would you believe I spent all my savings on drugs? I even sold my house and car. My addiction was so bad. 

A time came when the police caught some of our friends, and I had to run back to Nigeria. If you were to consider how I squandered my wealth on drugs, you might think that I turned a new leaf after returning. Sadly, I didn’t. Instead, I went deeper and deeper into drug use. In Lagos State, I discovered a place where most drug addicts meet together. It was called a Joint. Although it was a very dirty place, I moved in there because I needed a steady supply of drugs.

Over there, you will find many addicted people smoking, injecting, snorting, or inhaling different substances. It was very common to find dead bodies around the premises because most of the addicts were dying due to drug overdoses, tuberculosis, or hepatitis. Moreover, the police used to raid the area and shoot sporadically. So stray bullets killed some people. 

Most of the people that were living there had been rejected by their family members. For some of them, no one knew their whereabouts, so even if they died, no one would look for them. We had a drug addict who was working in the morgue. Sometimes, he assisted in burying some of the unidentifiable corpses. Honestly, that place was worse than hell. 

I was very close to my mother, but when she discovered I was addicted to drugs, she wept. She was praying for me to repent until she died.  My siblings used to come there and drag me home. However, the moment I start feeling withdrawal symptoms, I will run back to the place. My elder sister was so disappointed and she said to me,

One day you will die if you don’t stop this thing you are doing. But I want you to die where I will see your body and bury it. “

Like I mentioned earlier, I was a very beautiful lady, and if you saw me, you wouldn’t know that I was addicted to drugs. I used to wear expensive clothes and attend church services. The members of Reverend Chris Okotie’s church had come to the Joint to preach to us. Each time I attended their services, they would give me clothes and money for transportation. Since I love fashion, I would wear those clothes and use the money to buy drugs. So, I was going there to receive the gifts, not to hear the word of God.

When you are a heavy user, you can be on drugs round the clock. You will not even remember to eat. It is only after you have squandered all your money that you will remember that you haven’t eaten. Then you’ll start begging for money to buy food. The funny part is that you’ll still go for drugs instead of buying food when you get the money. Yes, that’s how addictive it can be. 

There was a day I sold some items and had 75,000 naira. So, I went to the Joint to smoke. I was there till morning, and when the supplier came to me, he told me that I spent all the money during the night. I didn’t buy food, only drugs, and my 75K was gone. At that moment, I was in a stable mood, so I asked him to lend me 500 naira so that I could buy food. After making my request, he looked at me and said, ” Are you cursed? Am I the one that spoiled your life? ” 

His words made me realize how stupid I was. I felt really bad and decided to stop using drugs. Right there, I started praying to God to help me because I couldn’t do it on my own. Before I left that day, another guy lent me 5000 naira and I promised to pay him back.

Later on, I contacted an old friend who gave me 300 dollars. When I received that gift, I was so happy, and the next thing I did was rush to the same place I had left. On my way to the Joint, I saw a crowd that was gathered somewhere. They were looking at something. I wanted to find out what it was, but my appetite for drugs prevented me from stopping by. So, when I got to the Joint, I sent one of the drug suppliers to buy food for me. After eating, he brought out the drugs because that was the next thing to do. However, my mind was still wondering why there was a crowd at that place. So, I went out to see for myself. 

They were gathered at a dustbin site, and when I moved closer, I saw they were looking at the corpse of a young lady. On further examination, I discovered that I knew her. We had smoked together the previous day. They said she died of a drug overdose or tuberculosis. Her bones were broken, and they put her in a bag. They dumped her in the dustbin. I saw pigs and dogs eating up her intestines. Jeez… At that moment, my elder sister’s warning echoed in my ears.

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That girl was the only child of her parents. Her family members were in Port Harcourt, and I wondered how they would get the information. How would they find her dead body when dogs had fed on her flesh? That incident scared me, and I told myself that I didn’t want to die such a miserable death.  

So that was the point I vowed to stop ruining my life. I had been on drugs for 18 years, and I knew that if I didn’t stop, I would die untimely. I remembered how I used to hide each time I saw my age mates who were doing very well in life. Even the people I used to give money and clothes had become very successful. So, I was tired of being in bondage. I had sold my house and other property. I even slept under the bridge sometimes. My life was a mess.\

While all those thoughts were flowing in my mind, I remembered that members of an NGO called Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry (CADAM) had visited us at the Joint. They used to preach the gospel and encourage us to visit their rehabilitation center. So, after I got their address from the handbill they had given to me, I went to their office at R.C.C.G. Church, Acme Road, Lagos State. That was where I started my journey to recovery, and it lasted for one year. I met Christ at CADAM, and in Him, I found my life’s purpose. 

My rehabilitation process was not easy because I was highly addicted. Every morning, I used to snort one gram of cocaine in my right nostril and another gram in the left. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be able to get up or do anything throughout the day. To add to that, I would experience symptoms such as vomiting, teary eyes, running nose, body aches, and cold and feverish sensations, all at the same time. For some individuals, withdrawal symptoms could last for seven days, but in my case, it took one month. 

It is very challenging to quit the use of drugs, and that is why you’ll find some people going back to it even when they don’t want to. During the first month, my whole body was uncomfortable, and I was scared that I might die. Suddenly, I started hallucinating. I was seeing the Joint and talking to people over there.

 I would scream out of fear, but despite everything, I was determined to succeed. God helped me, and that was why I never ran back to the Joint. I spent six months at the rehabilitation center before my siblings knew my whereabouts. At first, I couldn’t return home because I was ashamed of myself, but I’m glad that they accepted me after I repented. It has been over 18 years now since I started a new life, and I’m grateful for who I am today.

After God used CADAM to rescue me, I joined the mission to rescue others. I’m currently working as a counsellor. I share my story with addicts and encourage them to repent. Despite all the mistakes I made, God has been so good to me. He brought me out of miry clay and stamped my feet on solid rock.

I have six people living with me currently. Some of them were rejected by their family members, while others are staying with me for safety reasons. I’m working in CADAM not because of the salary I receive. I feel happy each time an addict recovers, and such feelings are worth more than gold to me. 

I would advise all mothers to be mindful of the people around their children. Every growing child is quick to learn both the good and bad. What they see, hear, touch or perceive can influence them greatly. Whenever I go to schools and churches to share my story, I always tell young children to be careful of who they choose as role models. Especially those of them who follow celebrities on social media. Your role model will influence your life directly or indirectly. I understand it is difficult to find a perfect role model. For example, a very brilliant, hard-working, and successful individual could also have a dark side. You can emulate the positive aspects and avoid the negative ones.

Are you trying to overcome an addiction? Have you attempted to walk away but failed? If so, keep trying. If you are determined, then nothing is impossible. I pray that someday you will also share your story of success. Amen!

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