Pubdate: Sun, 09 Nov 2008
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2008 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Tyrone S. Reid
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


This is the final instalment of a three-part series about drug use
and addiction among Jamaicans. The series chronicled the battle and
triumphs of addicts,  and examined the various programmes in place to
help people kick the habit.

For generations, many families of drug abusers have struggled to cope
with the behaviour of their 'sick' relatives. Watching them throw
their lives away is hard  to bear, and in many worst case scenarios,
this 'illness' results in the death of the loved one.

Fortunately for the two daughters (both in their 20s) of 59-year-old
Junior Clunis, their father (convicted  in January of drug possession)
has decided to clean up  his habit. Clunis told the Sunday Observer
that he was  addicted to marijuana for nearly 30 years, trying 
unsuccessfully to quit. But it wasn't until he  participated in the
six-month rehabilitation programme  at the Maxfield Park Health Centre
that he was able to clean up his act. Today - after graduating from
the  programme - he is ready to turn over a new leaf.

"When I got caught by the police with the marijuana last year in
January, I had been smoking for about 30 years. So after my sister
bailed me out and I went to court, they asked if I wanted to join the
rehab  programme," Clunis told the Sunday Observer. "When I  started,
I got tested every week but there was so much of the thing in me that
when the full time was almost  up, the drugs were still inside me so I
had to continue on the programme for more time," Clunis said.

While on the drugs, Clunis said experienced shortened breath and
severe weight loss.

"I used to weigh under 130 pounds because I never used to eat much.
The smoking used to take away my appetite, but now I weigh about 160
pounds and I feel much, much  better," Clunis told the Sunday
Observer. "The main  reason I started smoking weed in the first place
was  because I used to see my friends do it and I decided to  take a
chance with it until it became a part of my system. So basically, I
was smoking from I was 19 'til I turned 59."

Though determined to kick the habit for good, Clunis said
acquaintances have been encouraging him to revisit his old habit.

"People even give me weed to start smoke again, but I tell them no. I
don't think I will because the way my  body feels good now, I don't
think I want to go back to where I'm coming from. I eat more now and
I'm more energetic. Even my sex life has improved. And I don't want
to be an embarrassment to my family anymore."

At the same time, Clunis wants his determination to be an example for
other recovering addicts, particularly young males.

"I want to encourage them to use me as example based on the
difference that stopping from smoking weed has made in my life. I
also want to be a positive example for my grandchildren," Clunis
said. "If you can avoid it in  the first place, that's good because
it's an habitual  thing and if you don't stop, it can drive you to do
bad  things if you're not careful. For me, weed smoking caused
embarrassment for my relatives because nobody else in my family has
smoked weed. So it's just a matter of will power for you to quit
smoking," he said.

Head of the rehabilitation programme, Dr Myo Oo, said Clunis
displayed exemplary conduct throughout the programme.

"He was very positive, very mature and he complied with all the
rules. He had a very positive attitude and was a role model in our
group therapy," Oo told the Sunday Observer.

Clunis' 24-year-old daughter Julianne expressed her unbridled joy at
her father's decision to permanently give up smoking.

"I am very relieved that he is now getting healthier and not much
damage was done to his liver. He is very quiet at home now and works
harder than ever," she  said. "For the future, I hope he can continue
to live comfortably, free of all sicknesses because he really is a
very good father."

In the meantime, AFAFOSA makes it clear that drug abuse is not unique
to any single sector or class of society. AFAFOSA President Steve
Ashley notes that families of all socio-economic backgrounds are affected.

"It can happen to anyone and that's why we need to reach out and
sensitise the public as much as we can about substance abuse and the
importance of helping addicts make a full recovery," Ashley told the
Sunday  Observer.

AFAFOSA member Merline Daley agrees stressing that many relatives
lack the knowledge of how to deal with a chronic substance abuser in
the family.

"With the pressures of life, helping [the relatives] cope is always
going to be important. So our association is currently seeking
retired Jamaicans to volunteer with the association. We also feel
that going  into the schools is important to educate the children," 
said Daley. "It is important to realise that drug abuse is more of a
disease than a criminal act. It is  something that needs to be treated
to help the individual get better."

As for Clunis, he is hoping to keep on the clean path as he heads in
to his senior years, embracing life  drug-free.

"I have my family to look out for and my job (doing construction) to
pay attention to. So it's a brand new day for me," he said with a
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin