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Marijuana; Gateway Drug?
Marijuana is considered a gateway drug, and Guy Gurley of Munford is living proof that it can be.
At the age of 21, Gurley smoked his first joint.
"A friend offered it to me, and I was curious and I smoked it. Then I smoked marijuana nearly every day for 10 years," he said.
He said the marijuana use led him away from his Christian upbringing and into the company of people who loved to get high.
"They didn't care about anything else. Neither did I," he said. "I was changing as a person. My values weren't the same. I lied to my family and denied I was smoking pot."
Gurley grew tired of marijuana. After 10 years, it took more and more for him to feel high, and it had started making him feel tired all the time.
So he quit marijuana and tried cocaine. He said he snorted it and injected it into his veins with a syringe.
"Cocaine was expensive. I couldn't afford it much," he said.
Gurley married at 31 and had a daughter at 33. He moved to Tennessee, but within the next 10 years, his marriage turned sour.
At the age of 43, while working long hours on a swing shift, he was introduced to crack cocaine.
"A guy I worked with brought crack to work. I tried it and fell in love with it," he said.
After his divorce Gurley started smoking crack every day.
"Crack has a weird affect on you. If you have $10,000 in your pocket and you tell yourself you're only going to spend $100 on crack, you'll spend all $10,000 before you know it," he said.
Gurley said he spent $500 a week on crack.
"I lost everything. I lost my job. I lost my SUV. I even moved back home thinking I could get away from it, but drugs are everywhere," he said.
Within a week of moving back to the Stockdale area, Gurley had found a dealer. "All I had to do was ask," he said. "You could probably go to any high school around and buy it."
At 47, Gurley was smoking crack as often as he could.
He moved in with his mother, who was in her 80s. He said he was able to get a new job and pass the drug test by drinking a lot of juice before going for a urine test.
He said no one at his new job suspected he was addicted to crack. He kept his pipe hidden in his car, and after work he would fire it up.
"It's just an automatic burst of energy, like flipping on a light," he said.
"It stays with you for a couple of hours, but you're always trying to keep that intensity level up. Even though you're high, you're not as high as you were," he said.
"And then you do it until you're broke, and you say I'm not gonna do it next week, but it's just a rotation. Every week it's the same,"
Gurley said he once went two weeks without crack, but he still couldn't break his addiction on his own.
Intervention came in the form of a police officer, when Gurley was arrested for possession and DUI.
"They took me in for a breathalyzer and they searched my car," he said.
"I gave them permission to search my car because I didn't think they would find anything. They found one crack rock in my backseat. I had drove some guys around earlier and we smoked. I guess one of them dropped it," he said.
Gurley could have posted bail for $100, but instead chose to remain in jail so he could "dry out."
He served 45 days.
"I had been wanting to get off it. I hated myself. I hated my lifestyle. I knew it would be just a matter of time that I would kill myself or somebody else in a car wreck.
"Crack controls you from the first time. When you realize you've gone too far, it's already too late. You can't do anything about it on your own. There's no saying no to it," he said.
Gurley wanted to go to a Christian rehab. His family did some research on area rehabilitation centers and decided Rapha Christian Home in Attalla would be the best choice for him.
Steve Yarbrough, founder and owner of Rapha Christian Home, said he visited Gurley in jail, and although he agreed to let him into the program, he had doubts about Gurley's mental state.
"I thought he was crazy. I agreed to let him into the program, but I thought he was too far gone for it to do him any good," Yarbrough said.
That was in August 1999. Gurley spent six months at Rapha Christian Home.
He is a Rapha success story.
He has been clean for four years.
Now Gurley spends much of his time at Stockdale Baptist Church, where he is an Awana's teacher to third- and fourth-grade boys. He also serves as an usher. He occasionally returns to Rapha to minister to recovering addicts.
He is undergoing a 48-week Interferon treatment for Hepatitis C, which he contracted while shooting up cocaine in those earlier years.
"When you're high, you don't think about things like dirty needles," he said. "I only have three treatments to go.
"My doctor told me recently that this wasn't supposed to work for me, but he was going to try me on it for three months, and it started working, and he had no explanation why."
Gurley credits Rapha for his recovery from drugs, and God for curing him of Hepatitis C.
"I would never even drink a beer now," he said.
"After what the Lord has done for me, I would feel ashamed of myself if I did, and I know that one beer would turn to two and two would turn to six, then I'd want something else, and I'm not going to do that to myself anymore.
"I am a new creation. I'm a new person in Christ. Knowing the power of Christ and turning my life over to Him has made all the difference," he said.
Gurley said his success at Rapha stemmed from the fact that he met so many people with drug problems as bad or worse than his.
"I met a guy that lived under a bridge when he came to the program. He only had a pair of shorts to his name. He made it. He is clean and sober," Gurley said.
Gurley has referred three people from Talladega to the program.
"After you see what it can do, you want to help other people," he said.
Gurley maintains a close relationship with his daughter, who is now a teenager. He has told her about his past and has talked to her about making the right choices for her future.
"We talk about everything. Drugs are out there. Kids should know what they are getting into before they make a decision to try drugs out of curiosity.
"When you do drugs, you're just lying to yourself and hurting the people who love you," Gurley said.