Abraham Lincoln once travelled with a Colonel. After covering some distance, the Colonel took out a bottle of whiskey and asked him if he would like to have a drink. Lincoln politely refused telling him that he never drinks whisky. The colonel did not insist further. After a while, the colonel made another offer, “would you like to smoke with me? Lincoln then shared an incident of his childhood with the Colonel.
‘I was about nine years old then. My mother was very sick. She called me and said, “Abey, the doctor tells me I am not going to get well. I want you to promise me before I go that you will never use whiskey or tobacco as long as you live.” I promised my mother I never would. And, I have kept that promise. Now would you advise me to break that promise to my dear mother, and take a smoke with you?’
The Colonel was touched; felt it was the best promise to be kept.
Drug and alcohol addiction mostly start with an experimental use in a social situation. Then for some people, the use becomes more frequent and becomes an addiction. And, we all know what happens as a result.
It pains most when you see a promising career coming to an end due to an addiction. A young man once shared in one of our AIDS conferences, ‘I studied in a very good school. I didn’t realize that the first shot of an injection offered by a friend would change my life for ever. I could not live without it and became a drug addict. I had to often steal money at home to buy what was offered free in the beginning. My grades dropped and I had to leave the school. And, now I am living with HIV.’
I asked this person after the conference which is your bigger problem: HIV or drugs. He said, ‘Drugs, because with treatment for HIV, I am doing fine but despite several rehabilitation courses, I find it difficult to fully come out of my drug-using behaviour.’
I wish this man, too, had politely refused his first shot like Lincoln did. The lesson from Lincoln’s sorry is for all to remember: If you say no politely, based on a conviction or a promise you have made to someone, your friends will not mind. In fact they will respect you.