Saidah Long was 19 and pregnant with her first child when she applied to the then National Housing Authority (NHA) for a home.
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Seeing her three-year-old daughter about to use the paraphernalia to smoke crack cocaine snapped Beverly Morson, mother of five, back into reality. She made a firm decision then and there to change her life around and get all the help necessary to get out of her drug addiction. “O my God! I am creating an addict of my daughter,” Morson, who was 36-years-old then, blurted out as she pushed open the door to her bedroom at her Arima home over 23 years ago. “I had left home and abandoned my children in the house—a teenage son and my three-year-old girl. I was living on the streets. I would usually frequent my house to see what I could pick up to sell. “This day was like any other day. I went to the house to see what I could get to sell so that I could use the money to buy crack and as I pushed the door to my bedroom I saw my little daughter sitting there with all my paraphernalia lined up around her. She was holding the box of matches and, just like she would see me do on numerous occasions, took a match—and as she was about to strike it I just leaped forward and snatched her up from the ground,” Morson said.
“I could not help but cry and cry out to God. All that was running through my head was that I was creating a young addict of my daughter. “That was the breaking point for me. At that moment I knew I had to make a permanent change in my life and do all in my power to get over this addiction.” Morson took a bold step of faith, left her daughter in the care of her teenage son and sought professional help to come clean. It was a move she has never regretted. Morson’s daughter is now in her 20s but is at home suffering from a mental illness. “My constant drug use during the nine months I was pregnant with her caused this and she is at home not able to live a normal life. She suffers from a lot of seizures,” Morson said.
Her first two sons live on their own and are fighting with issues of their own. One of them livess in the United States. “My last two girls are doing well. One of them is currently pursuing her degree in graphic design and the other is waiting on her Cape results. She wants to become a teacher.” Morson started using drugs from the age of 11, starting out with marijuana. She eventually became a vagrant living on the streets. “My mother died when I was at a very young age and my father was never around. I was left in the care of my grandmother, who was a disciplinarian. Education and manners mattered to her but that did not go well with me. I began to rebel and started drugs, from marijuana to crack. When my grandmother died I was about 16 years and already a full-fledged drug addict,” Morson said.
“I always wanted to fit in. I always wanted to feel like I belong, I wanted to feel loved. Anybody who showed me that attention, I would gravitate towards them. Most of them were delinquents, users and abusers, including users of illicit drugs. Hence the reason how I ended up as an addict living on the streets. “As the years went by I kept saying to myself that I wanted a better life but I just did not know how to get out and how to access it. I guess that day when I saw my daughter I had no choice but to get out and find the way out,” she added. Morson was an ardent drug user for 25-plus years.Last Thursday, made it 23 years, nine months since she last used drugs.
A new woman
Today, she feels she stands a living testimony as to the goodness of God and the success of rehabilitation programmes she has had to endure throughout her recovery years. Morson is now the programme manager of Serenity Place Empowerment Centre for Women at Cochrane Village, Point Fortin. “I am proud to give back to society and I am proud that I am able to help women because I went through all those things they are going through and have gone through,” she said. The centre, which was established in 1996, has seen over 375 residents, including nationals from Guyana, Santo Domingo, Belize, Barbados and T&T. “Safely I can say about 65 of the residents are doing very well and have been reintegrated into society.
Some of them have migrated and living successful, clean lives. Two of them are now back at the centre, this time helping me to help others. I feel great and self-fulfilled to see the success stories emerging,” Morson said. The centre receives a subvention from the government, and Morson hosts fund-raising events. “The centre takes a lot of money and I am always asking for help. We also get assistance from corporate bodies and individuals. The centre is growing and we want to keep it that way and make sure that we have the necessary funds to take care of these women who either willingly come to us for help or are sent to us through the judiciary system for help.”
The drug problem
Globally it is estimated that in 2012, some 243 million people corresponding to some 5.2 per cent of the world’s population aged 15 to 64, had used an illicit drug—mainly a substance belonging to the cannabis, opioid, cocaine or amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) group—at least once in the previous year. This was recently disclosed in the 2014 World Drug Use Report.
Other rehabilitative centres where help can be sought include HEAL Centre for Drug Prevention, Rehabilitation and Development of Healthy Lifestyles and Rebirth House. The Piparo Empowerment Centre is a therapeutic community established as a refuge for recovering male substance abusers. The centres are also assisted by the Ministry of Social Development.