I Just Couldn't Say No
When I glanced at my watch—6:55 p.m.—I couldn't believe there were only five minutes left of youth group … ever. Tears stung my eyes as flashbacks of retreats, church lock-ins, pizza parties, and progressive dinners filled my head.
As we bowed our heads and grasped hands for the closing prayer, I found myself tightening my grip. Both physically and emotionally, I didn't want to let go.
The clock struck 7, and everyone began hugging and saying goodbye. My friends were excited about leaving Tallahassee and heading off to different colleges, but I didn't share in their excitement. I was staying in my hometown to attend Florida State University. I wasn't moving anywhere—not even out of my parents' house.
As my friends exited the room, I stood there frozen, feeling alone, afraid and abandoned.
Out of Place
That fall, my pastor suggested I attend InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meetings on campus. I took his advice, but from the beginning, I felt out of place. After talking to several members, it became clear why. Most everyone was talking about their wives, husbands and dissertations—almost all of them were graduate students.
Where are all the undergrads? I wondered.
Desperate for Christian fellowship, I continued attending meetings, but I didn't enjoy them. So after a semester, I quit going. Mom suggested I try another Christian organization, but I vetoed that idea. Why risk feeling misplaced or rejected?
With no friends, no girlfriend—not even a college roommate—I felt lonely and depressed. So I started building a stronger relationship with two guys, Rick and Brian,* whom I'd known since middle school but had never hung out with.
One day, I was complaining to them about how miserable freshman year was. I was not at all prepared for Rick's response.
"Pot will chase your blues away," he promised as he pulled out some marijuana and lit a joint.
My eyes widened. "Nn-nn-noooo, thanks," I stammered nervously. As the smell of marijuana permeated the room, I grew tense. I considered leaving but didn't want to look like a dork.
"We're hitting a club tonight," Brian said. "Come with us."
"Yeah, come on," Rick urged.
Forget it! I thought, then wondered, If I say no, will they reject me?
"You'll have fun," Brian promised.
I was still skeptical, but since I knew I could resist drugs, I figured there was no harm in tagging along.
For the next month, I went to a bunch of parties. The drill always seemed the same: People offered me drugs. I declined. And then they'd look at me funny. Some even asked why I came if I wasn't getting high. After awhile, I started asking myself the same question.
Maybe I should say yes just once, I thought. After all, it seemed safe enough—no one was vomiting, blacking out, or being carried out on a stretcher.
One night I sat down next to a girl with long, red hair and deep green eyes. She offered me her joint.
"One time won't hurt you," she said simply.
I caved. I reached for the joint, placed it between my lips, and inhaled.