Updated: Jun 25, 2020
| This is the 465th story of Our Life Logs |
My mom gave birth to me in the city of Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria, in July 1985—but I should say, I come from a polygamous background. My dad had two wives; the first wife had three sons and four daughters, and my mom, the second wife, had my younger sister and me. My dad made good money and built a house for us all to live in. Still, all this made for an uneven family dynamic. Because we came in second and were the minority, my younger sister and I were often looked down upon. Even worse so, my mom was my dad’s choice wife which brought a lot of envy in the house.
Apart from that, my dad expected me to chase official careers like medical doctors, engineering and the like. But as a kid, I never had flair for such careers. Whenever teachers asked what we would love to be, I usually didn’t know. I had emerged as the best artist in primary school. I would spend my free time drawing Spiderman and Superman, but any chance of that talent going somewhere was squashed by my parents’ expectations for me to go into the sciences. The problem with that was that my scores were nothing to write home about, and I was on probation in the science department.
Despite their discontent, I kept progressing with arts and, damn, was I getting good! My dad could have easily put me up for a private higher institution, but because I had an interest in the creative arts instead of law or even mass communication, he wasn’t in support of spending extravagantly on unnecessary things. He despised the idea. A typical Igbo man!
During the first semester of my 200-level year, I met a guy at a conference named Subomi. Subomi was a 300-level student in the department of physics, who was also quite artsy; he was a photographer. I jokingly asked, “What does physics have to do with cameras?” He answered seriously and his answer struck me deep. “Shutter speed, ISO, Exposure, Aperture and the rest. All those are physics. They require calculations. A change in one will definitely affect the other, so, you have to be sure what you’re doing is well calculated or else you’re passing the wrong story.”
I thought about this response for a while, “What intelligence.” I wasn’t gonna be a photographer, but from that moment, I decided I was going to be a filmmaker or cinematographer. I always admired the moves and all that jazz in movies.
Just as I was discovering my new path, luck struck me. I was out one night trying to catch some creative night views when I saw this beautiful, attractive lady. I walked up to her and in no time, we clicked. We both went to the same university and had the same ideals. We soon began dating and she became a bridge to achieving my goals. My “muse” as she would often call herself. At that time, I was confident in every way.
That year, I went home for the holidays and spoke to Mom about my new love for cinematography. Passion dripped from my words, but her response wasn’t encouraging at all. You must know that yelling African parents can be pretty intense. The biggest mistake I ever made was telling Dad. What was I even thinking? The man called me “mediocre,” and at that moment I started wondering if I truly was.
When I returned to school, I got another load of bad news. My girlfriend broke up with me because she wasn’t seeing any future with us and that I wasn’t serious enough. At that moment, everything was shattering around me, and I felt like I would never be able to have a life I could be happy with.
In my anguish, I called Subomi, who invited me over to his place. In no time, I was in the taxi. After explaining everything to him, not leaving anything out, he asked me what my next line of action was. I wasn’t even sure if I had any. Subomi stood up from his bed and opened a box in front of me. He dipped his hand deep into the sides and brought out a paper with contents wrapped in it. I wasn’t sure what it was at first.
“This has been my greatest companion since my mother’s death.” I was shocked. I hadn’t known he lost his mother, and what was in the paper that he called his companion? Subomi unrolled the paper to reveal some whitish stuff. I was beginning to understand what this is.
“C-O-C-A….,” I was stammering.
“Cocaine,” Subomi said to me. “Just a sniff and all your worries are gone! Trust me!”
In my heart, a part of me was saying “Don’t do it!” But the promise of my pain going away was enticing. I saw it as the best option, the only option I had. And when I tried it…what a feeling! I was planets away. I began seeing late grannies, I saw the famous cinematographer, Clarence Peters. In my drug-induced fantasies, we shot a video together that was never going to be released. It was exciting!
However, when the drugs wore off, I would go back to reality, to the hopeless feeling. This became a part of my everyday routine and I kept taking the stuff, trying to get the same feeling as the first time. I kept taking more, but I wasn’t in any way close to the first time. I thought it was helping my self-esteem but really it was destroying the little thing I had. My self-esteem had gone so low that facing a bit crowd without drugs was an impossibility, then I knew I was nothing without drugs. My hunger increased and my thirst was never quenched. Still, I refused to agree that I was addicted to drugs.
Things got so worse when I went home for semester break. I came home trying to hide the new identity I was carrying. But I just think mothers have a way of noticing changes in their children.
A memorable night made things clearly known to everyone. Feeling withdrawals take over me, I snuck into my dad’s room, picked up some cash from his drawer, and went to check up on my dealers. Lucky for me, they were available to deliver the white now I craved. I hurriedly pour out the whole stuff on my bedside table and was soon sniffing in and out. With just my sister home and my parents away, I didn’t lock my door. Big mistake.
I was fast asleep by the time my mom came back so I couldn’t see her expression at the drug residue. But I could sense a level of distrust due to the tongue lashing and all her tears when I woke the next day. Dad rebuked me, concerned less about the drugs and more that I stole his money.
Dad was no longer interested in me but still cared enough to pay for my schooling. Feeling like I couldn’t go there without getting scolded, I stopped coming around as often. I loved my drugs too much to hear any criticism about them.
Three weeks before the end of my third year, I discovered that Subomi was no longer taking drugs and, somehow, he was finishing with a 3.95 GPA while I was with 1.23 GPA. I was stunned. Subomi was already working in a studio, while I was ignoring my cinematography aspirations for the sake of short-term thrills.
I felt like a screw-up. I no longer cared about school or how I looked. My parents already knew about me becoming a druggie so there was really nothing to hide. I still got video calls about my new lifestyle from my mom and sister. Sometimes, I’d quit for their sake, but I’d always get back into it. I was an unrepentant sinner.
One of those days, my mother called me with pain in her voice. She said, “Imagine working so hard to get your son educated, and instead of him taking his life seriously, he’s into drugs. How would that make you feel?” I couldn’t give an answer, but I knew then that I was no longer living a meaningful life. I was already in my early 20s and I was not any way close to moving up in my career. When I didn’t respond, my mother continued, “Do you think your father doesn’t love you? Of course he does. He just wants the best for you and seeing you do anything below par is not getting down well with him.” I don’t know why this specific phone call worked, but I felt a desire to change for the first time. Still—I had no idea how to do it. I was deep in the jaws of addiction and any time I tried to quit, I always found my way back in.
My sister used to say to me, ” Ships don’t sink because of water around them, ships sink because water gets into them. Don’t let what is going around you get inside you and weigh you down.” I really don’t know how she came across such intelligent words, but they touched me deep down. Her love and belief in me triggered the urge to finally stop for good.
Quitting was easier said than done. Numerous times, I Googled: how to leave drugs. Of course, it suggested support groups, but I wasn’t the type of person to sit for long hours listening to something I probably wouldn’t apply to my life. I determined that the only person who could help me was myself.
In trying to quit, I began reading motivational books and listening to tapes I’d downloaded onto my phone. It all helped me see what I had been missing out on, it showed me that I hadn’t been living life to the fullest. It helped me analyze why I’d gotten into drugs in the first place: out of fear of rejection from people and things. It also stemmed from my breakup.
When I looked at my ex and others who had hurt me in the past, I realized something. They were all doing fine while I was wallowing in my own self-pity. Well, no more. I had to turn a new leaf.
I changed the kind of songs I listened to, I changed my appearance, and when I saw people who hurt me, I just walked away. I became more self-aware. I realized what works for someone else will most likely not work for me. I began focusing on the most important things: my career, my family, my academics, and my God. All of it helped me become a person I wish I had always been.
In reinventing myself, I finished my final year with much higher grades and I even began shooting my own short film. With a small crew and just three cast members, we told a story about a young and ambitious man who was on the verge of taking his own life. Fortunately, he was rescued in time, but the man learned to utilize his potential in arts and craft through social media. The message was basically to preach perseverance and self-motivation amongst the youth and a call for an end to unchecked depression.
My career kick-started after the short video went viral on the internet. I was becoming known and famous. Endorsements started eyeing me and companies were willing to partner with me on their projects. Now, I can boldly say I have six films locally and internationally recognized. After my short film became a hit, my family was supportive of my career and so proud of me.
Just think of what I would have missed out on if I hadn’t fought for sobriety. I would have let life pass me by and thrown my experiences to the darkness. But I didn’t; instead, I captured the light. I can boldly say I have conquered myself—can you say that too?
This is the story of Chidi Azubuike
Chidi is a filmmaker and graduate of the University of Lagos Department of Creative Arts in Nigeria. Chidi dreamed of pursuing the arts since he was a young boy, and when he was at university, it all seemed to be coming within his grasp. But when his parents rejected his passions and his girlfriend at the time left his side, Chidi was tempted to try drugs to alleviate the stress in his life. The temptation turned into an addiction, and it wasn’t until Chidi fought for sobriety that his life began to change for the better. While still in his early 30s, Chidi is working on a project on promoting the spirit of Africanism. His notable achievements are solely attributed to his willingness to change, which has been proven to be a huge possibility for everyone who desires such.
This story first touched our hearts on October 28, 2019.
| Writer: Chidi Azubuike | Editor: Colleen Walker |