After experimenting with inhalants only a few times, Jama Clark’s boyfriend died in a fatal attempt to get high. Her world turned upside down, Jama now has to cope with the loss of one of her best friends, while making it through the hectic world of a 16-year old girl.
I am from Eldorado, a small town in Illinois, but I recently moved to Harrisburg which is only a town away. I liked the school that I went to in Eldorado very much. The teachers were great, and I loved my friends. I was on the cheerleading squad and had a stellar 3.6 GPA. Not to mention, a great boyfriend.
I first met Tommy at my best friend’s house — she and Tommy were cousins. I was 13 and Tommy was 15 and we instantly hit it off. He was a very fun-loving person who was always up for trying new things. We used to just hang out, watch movies and play video games. Tommy liked school, was in the FFA and had a lot of friends. We dated for about three years, and in that time Tommy never experimented with any drugs – in fact, he was always very against them.
I was very surprised when he and his cousin told me about their first experience huffing. They said that Tommy had passed out and when he woke up, he couldn’t even remember his own birthday. I couldn’t understand how they could do something that would cause them so much harm and not think anything of it.
Giving into the Pressure
Tommy’s dad worked for an air conditioning company so they had tanks of Freon in their garage. One day when I was 16 and Tommy was 18, Tommy asked me to try inhaling Freon with him just once.
As much as I didn’t like that Tommy was huffing, I decided to do it. I loved Tommy and I know he loved me, but for some reason I felt the need to impress him.
I didn’t like it at all. It made me feel like the whole room was spinning and everything Tommy said to me was slurred and his voice echoed, as if he was far away.
After that, I tried to stop Tommy from using, telling him that he could find better things to do with his time. I didn’t tell anyone else about his experimenting because I thought that he would listen to me. He even told me that he would stop, and I believed him. I didn’t think that I had to involve our parents or teachers or even our other friends because I didn’t think that Tommy had a drug problem.
The Fateful Day
Even though I didn’t like it the first time, Tommy convinced me that the second time was much better and much more fun. So one night, with Tommy and his friend, I stupidly did it again.
However, I don’t actually remember doing it. All I remember was waking up the next morning at Tommy’s house. Tommy’s friend was there and was making fun of me for sleeping in and missing my cheerleading practice. I think I fell back asleep, but before I knew it, I was in the bathroom puking my guts out. I was so nauseous and I didn’t know why.
I called my mom and told her I couldn’t go to cheer practice because I was too sick, and I would call her after Tommy woke up to get a ride home. My mom was surprised and somewhat confused — she couldn’t really understand what I was saying on the phone. I was so out of it that I couldn’t even concentrate on speaking to her – I just felt like I had to throw up again.
Soon after that I made my way upstairs and went into Tommy’s room. He was lying on the floor. At first I thought he was joking around – like he rolled off the bed on purpose or something. Then, I noticed the oxygen mask beside him which was connected to the Freon tank. I started yelling his name, and shook him a few times, but he wouldn’t wake up. I screamed for help and his sister ran into the room. She burst into tears and yelled for their mother, who ran upstairs and began to panic.
Everything from then on is a blur. The cops and the paramedics showed up. Everyone seemed to be panicked — talking, screaming and crying — and asking tons of questions. No one understood what was going on. Tommy was taken to the hospital and so was I, since I was in such a state of shock, and had been sick earlier that morning. There were traces of Freon in my system, which I didn’t even remember inhaling. The detectives told me that my memory loss might be a side effect of the chemical.
Tommy wasn’t as lucky as I was, and he died in the hospital.
I do not wish for this pain or suffering on anyone else. This has been the hardest time of my life. I cannot even begin to imagine what his parents are feeling after losing their only son – and the big brother to their daughters.
How I Cope
After the accident, some people in school actually blamed me for being the cause to Tommy’s death. There were a lot of threats and accusations made against me. It was so difficult for me to go to school everyday, and feel people’s eyes on me.
I gave up my position on the cheerleading team and I decided to switch schools, thinking it might help me adjust back into a normal life. My grades have suffered because of all this. Even at my new school I still can’t seem to concentrate.
Now I am completely and totally against any kind of drug use. I will never again try another drug for as long as I live and I don’t want to be around anyone who tries them. I have learned my lesson — a very harsh one — and I don’t want to be hurt again. I want everyone to know how dangerous inhalants can be, and I want to warn kids against trying them. I try to tell my story to as many people as possible in an effort to spread the word.
My family has been very supportive of me throughout this time, and I try to keep in touch with Tommy’s parents as well. I loved Tommy and I still do. I will never forget him or his family. I miss him very much and I know that no one could ever take his place in my heart.