Review: Ricardo

‘My parents told me: either you go to a clinic or you leave the house immediately’

My mom tells me I was the perfect baby: I slept all the time. Nine months after I was born, we moved to Papendrecht – the same place I live in now. My grandfather may even have been happier with me than my parents. When I was born, he was admitted in an addiction clinic. One week later, my grandfather was allowed to go home. He did everything for me. He bought me everything I wanted – nothing was too crazy or too expensive. When I was two or three, my baby brother was born. I could not get along with him and bullied him. Why? Because I never wanted to be a ‘big’ brother. Another reason was that I was bullied myself at and outside of school. It started in elementary school and did not end until somewhere in middle school, although there was a short pause in sixth grade. I was bullied for a number of reasons, varying from my name to the word ‘Softy’ because I liked soft ice cream.

At school I was only bullied with words and signs, but it often turned physical in my neighbourhood. I was kicked and hit with sticks and tree branches. I could go on like this. Sometimes I managed to stand up for myself because I was really sick and tired of it, but it would get twice as bad in return.

Eventually I decided to stop standing up for myself because it didn’t help and it often made things worse. I hoped the bullying would stop in middle school, but nothing was farther from the truth. I often felt alone and abandoned. I told my parents I got bullied, but they never knew how bad it actually was until I got to Yes We Can Youth Clinics.

I got introduced to drugs for the first time in eighth grade. In a corner, a few older friends were rolling green stuff into this weird, long cigarette paper. I found out it was weed and that they were about to smoke a joint. I thought it was exciting, because it was something you weren’t allowed to do, of course. They offered me a couple of drags. I accepted in order to act tough and to feel like I was part of the group. I actually thought it was rather disappointing, but the excitement of doing something forbidden gave me a kick. Later that year, those guys introduced me to a different group and I started smoking weed with them. This was when my addiction started. I started hanging out and using with these guys about three to four times a week after school and often on weekends as well. After about a year, I got into a fight with one of those guys and left the group.

After a year, I got in touch again with a guy I used to use with. He smoked weed every day. Because I got a kick out of smoking weed, I started hanging out with him again and left all my good friends for him. I attended school less often and spent more time with this guy. My friends, family and even the police warned me, but I didn’t care. I only wanted to chill and smoke weed together. After I found out he had lied to me, betrayed me and had stolen from me, I dropped the guy and started hanging out with other friends I had met through him. I really felt at home with them.

I was accepted for who I was at that time and accepted for who I thought I had to be. I stopped going to school then. My daily routine consisted of getting up at around 11.30, smoking a joint, taking a shower, eating and walking the dog. After that, I would go to the shop and to my ‘friends’. I spent two and a half years like that. I realised I couldn’t go on like that. I realised something was wrong with me when I lay in bed at night and thought about that day. I thought about how crazy I made myself thinking about not having any drugs or money to buy it.

I started stealing from my parents and my little brother. Most often it was money. Or jewels which I sold at the jewellers in exchange for money to get more stuff. I drove myself crazy. To get rid of the guilt and the shame, I started smoking even more weed. My relationship at that time suffered and finally ended, after having broken up numerous times before. I thought I had everything under control, but I didn’t. I had become a slave to drugs and obviously addicted. But even those thoughts and feelings I managed to keep at bay by smoking weed. I didn’t care about anything else but weed, money to buy weed and about using weed together with my buddies.

I thought smoking weed was the only way I could be myself. I started using more and more. I went from one gram a day to somewhere between seven to ten grams a day. Not all of it was mine, some of it also belonged to the ‘friends’ I smoked with. I got into a lot of fights at home during that time. I was often in a bad mood, short tempered with my family, mean towards my brother and uninterested in anyone else. Whenever my parents were upset, I would let them finish their tirade and then go upstairs or outside to smoke some weed. I often heard my mom cry at night after she smelled weed coming from my room. At that time, I often wandered the streets, lost in my own thoughts, with a joint in my mouth and a hoodie over my head. Often tears of sadness streamed down my face. I suffered from negative thoughts. How can I stop smoking weed? How do I make everything right again? I could only come up with one solution: suicide...

After the umpteenth fight and under the influence of drugs and alcohol, I went to the bridge crossing the railway and waited there. I let one train pass and then another. Why did I let two trains pass? I don’t know. Maybe it was cowardice, maybe a lack of conviction, maybe it was something else entirely. While sitting on the railing, an old friend passed me. She convinced me to leave the bridge. I will be forever grateful to her.

My parents finally had enough after again finding drugs on New Year’s Day. They handed me this choice: either go to a clinic or leave the house immediately. Honestly, I preferred leaving the house, but I knew I could not afford a place of my own nor crash at someone else’s house. I also did not want to end up sleeping under a bridge, because that would really make me a junkie. After sleeping on it, I decided to go to the clinic.

My parents found Yes We Can on Google and I sent the intake form myself. Some two months after the various intakes, the time had come: I was going to the clinic for ten weeks. I entered the clinic at the end of February, 2013. I felt uncomfortable at the beginning and thought to myself ‘What am I doing here?’ That changed after about two weeks. I started to work on myself, taking baby-steps.

After about four weeks, finally having processed the end of my relationship and being able to get my ex-girlfriend out of my head, I really started to improve. Starting as an insecure boy without any confidence, fully settled in the victim role, I began to grow. I became more self-confident and less dependent on validation. Due to Yes We Can Youth Clinics, but mainly due to myself, I finally became my real self again.