My brother started smoking when he was in seventh grade. He only had a few cigarettes a week, about a pack a month. Then his usage increased. It didn't seem drastic; he probably had one more cigarette each week, until it turned into a pack a week, then a pack a day. He claimed he wasn't addicted and could quit whenever he wanted. It was just something to do with his friends that relaxed him, or so he thought. My dad tried to help him quit, but how could he when my dad works nine or ten hours a day and school gets out at two? Alex thought he could trick everyone by taking a shower, using mouthwash or spraying on tons of cologne after he smoked. But his clothes reeked of fumes, and finally he didn't try to hide it. I was concerned for him, but I was a bit oblivious - until he got in too deep.
The instant I met Alex's friend Joe, I didn't like him. He seemed greasy and sneaky, not someone I wanted to associate with. Well, my brother did - for one reason. Joe had pot he was willing to share with my brother. They taught me how to measure and roll it while I watched in disgust. We'd go on walks at night and they'd smoke the joints they had slowly perfected. I knew it was wrong and illegal, but I never told anyone. One reason I didn't tell was because I never got along with my brother, but when he was high he treated me like a friend, not a lowly little sister. Plus, I felt a special bond because we had a secret. Once when I was going to tell my dad, Alex's best friend said, "If you tell your dad, Alex won't like you anymore." I had the biggest crush on this guy, so I believed him. I certainly didn't want my brother to hate me.
After a couple of weeks of using pot, his actions changed. He missed school, claiming he was sick, but I knew he was just tired. Every night he snuck out with friends and smoked. Soon he started acting like a jerk to everyone, including me, so I didn't like him smoking anymore. He was really depressed before he started smoking and the pot just made it worse. Eventually he had to go to a rehab center to help him quit. It worked for a while, but then he started again. It's been a hard struggle.
I'm proud to say my brother no longer does pot, but he does still smoke cigarettes. Now that he's 18, I guess he isn't breaking the law. I still worry because he has no motivation in life, thanks to the drugs. He's really smart and I know he could be successful if he put his mind to it. This just shows that lighting up a few cigarettes can ultimately turn your life upside-down.
The things my brother has gone through taught me several things. First, you should always tell an adult if you know someone who is doing drugs. I carry the guilt that I could have helped my brother earlier if I had said something. I also learned that smoking does not solve problems; it just makes them worse. In fact, it adds problems. And lastly, I learned I never want to touch a cigarette, or a joint, because I have seen the anger, guilt and sadness it can cause. Smoking is a major health issue among teens. Something has to be done. If not, what will become of all the promising young people in the world?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.