You can always count on us

Zdenek Ridaj
Nove Straseci
July 2000

I come from a Romany family. We’re seven brothers and sisters. I’m the eldest.

These days, children and young people are in danger of drugs. Unfortunately, it struck our family, too. I was trying to decided whether I should write about this and finally decided that I would: it’s an important topic. These words might also help someone else with a similar problem.

Vojta is my youngest brother. He is twenty-one. When he was about seventeen, he had his first experience with drugs. He started smoking marijuana. Then he switched to harder drugs. And he slowly developed an addiction.

Vojta grew up without a father because our parents divorced some ten years ago. So there was nobody to have him firmly under his control.

Vojta is quite bright. When he was fifteen he apprenticed to become a car mechanic. He finished primary school with honors, but he never enjoyed school: he liked to do other things. He played percussion instruments, went to discos – and started to take drugs and became a loser. ]

One night he stayed in the streets. He was dirty and doped-up, and slept in a park. The police brought him to our mother’s place. She was shocked, and just cried, feeling helpless. So she called and asked me to come and help.

After talking to my wife I decided to bring Vojta to stay with us.

It was a difficult time for all of us. I’m the eldest brother, so he still respects me. He listened to me, maybe more than my own daughters did. And I found him a job.

It was hard for him. He had to get used to getting up early and go to work regularly. Every day I searched his pockets. And every day we talked about life.

I know that he found it boring: he thought it was useless. I was strict with him. I’m sure he must have hated me. But he was slowly getting rid of the addiction.

Then he started to suffer from depression and felt sick. He had cramps, diarrhea, pains and fever. He was aggressive and desperate. He felt as if he were in jail. He hated me.

But he found a friend in my wife. She was his listener.

His health problems never allowed him to have a job for more than three months. He always quit or was fired.

A year later, though, we felt he had got over it. His condition improved, and he was more relaxed.

But then he failed, betraying himself mainly. We started to find money missing. Once I sent him to get money from the cash machine. He abused our trust and built up a debt for us of three thousand crowns.

Yet he was not such a bad person: he got a guilty conscience and admitted with tears in his eyes that he needed the money to buy drugs. He felt very ashamed and promised he would improve.

And indeed, he started to work on himself. He stayed with us for three years. Then he could go back to our mother.

Now he is “clean,” as they say. He has completely changed his way of thinking. Maybe he has reached maturity. He enrolled in a distance-learning course at a school of economics, and he passed the entrance tests. This September he is starting to go to school. Though he doesn’t work yet: he is unemployed, on the dole.

I think I managed to help him. I know he made a mistake, but I still love him. There is nothing more that I can do for him. He needs to launch out on his own. I believe the three years were worth the effort. I hope he won’t lapse into the same thing again.

Vojta, if you ever get to read these lines, forgive me for writing them. We keep our fingers crossed for you and hope you’ll find your way. You can be sure we love you, and you can always count on us. If we can, we’ll help you.

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