Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Franklin Sinclair came from a "fairly good home" and went to "a good school" but none of that shielded him from the throes of drug addiction and an intense five-year period which saw his descent into drug-abuse hell.
His darkness began with the death of his grandmother with whom he shared a close bond.
Simultaneous with the loss was the introduction to marijuana (ganja) from a close friend. His first puff was meant to numb his pain, but it whetted his appetite for more. And more.
The harder he pulled on the weed, the deeper he sank into a space void of feeling and, before long, he reached his lowest point.
"I guess I was predisposed because of the environment in which I was brought up. Absentee mother, which is not the norm and a father who, himself, used to smoke ganja," Sinclair, now a father of two, told The Sunday Gleaner at a recent Editors' Forum on drug abuse.
Not even the strong Christian principles instilled by his grandmother and grandaunt could withstand the urge for a reprieve from grief when his grandmother died.
He was easy picking for his peers who offered him the weed.
"I was in high school and it was the night after my grandma's funeral. That was the first time I smoked ganja and my friend offered it to me as a means of comfort because I was devastated and I couldn't stop crying. My grandma was my world," said Sinclair.
Ganja mellowed him and he would become hooked before stepping up to crack/cocaine when a close friend returned to Jamaica after he was deported from Canada.
The friend managed to source the crack/cocaine here and that's how that relationship began.
"I was working, but I guess you could call me a functional user of marijuana. But he would come by in the evening and he would be smoking crack and me weed, while listening to music and eating some food.
"One evening, I did not have any weed and he came with crack and I said, 'Let me try that'," Sinclair told the forum.
"That first high was so intense," he recalled.
But it was the high before the low.
"It was for the worse. After a while, I couldn't control my urges. I would be at work and I get the urge and want to leave early. There were days when I wouldn't want to go to work. It got a point where I was absent from work for three days without even calling in," he stated.
After a drug-abused five years, there was no job, and that's when he really saw hell.
Alienated and alone, his only friends were fellow substance abusers.
Although hearing about the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), the throes of addiction blocked his need for help.
But he was pulled from the abyss through his only son who always pleaded with him to stop.
The love between son and dad led to the youngster deceiving his mother and sneaking his dinner to his drug-comatose dad.
"After being away from home for a couple of months, smoking my life away, a friend of mine who I hadn't seen for while said to me, 'Boy, Frankie, I saw your son the other day and I asked him about you and he said, who, him don't want hear nothing 'bout you. Not even your name.' And that was my jolt to reality," Sinclair said with raw regret.
"It cut to the core. I decided I needed to stop, and I sought help the following day," said.
Detoxification, and the Salvation Army would help him, and the NCDA through the 'Tek it to Dem' programme also helped him stay clean, now so for four years.
'Tek it to Dem' began in 2008 and assisted the homeless community, many of whom are substance abusers.
Sinclair said he has been given another opportunity to stay clean, and to again become a productive member of society. Now employed, he is able to support his children - now two - and he is able to give back. He confessed that there are times when the urge is great, but he is always reminded that he was there - once.
"I am reminded of the need to not give up so quickly. The pain, and loss, I don't want to go back there man. To know that what I have done for four years can be lost in a day is enough not to want to go back," he said.
Support from the NCDA family has brought him back - into the light.
The NCDA is observing November as Drug Awareness Month.