MONDAY MAN: Escape from life of drugs
CHESTER YARDE DOES NOT just talk the talk.
When he warns people against the evils of drug use and criminality it is because he knows quite well the toll they and ultimately prison life can have on an individual, their family and friends.
A former drug addict with 42 convictions spanning nearly 30 years, Yarde walked the walk. Now, he is a born-again Christian on a mission to dissuade people from getting trapped in a life of drugs.
The former Fairy Valley, Christ Church resident smoked his first spliff at the age of 14 and from there things began to go downhill. Just four years later he was doing his first prison sentence. Then the vicious cycle of broken promises to change, more drugs and further prison time followed, until some members his family deserted him, friends rejected him and employers wanted nothing to do with him.
“This is why I encourage people don’t start,” he told the DAILY NATION during a recent interview. “And if you started already, don’t go deeper; climb out. Ask God to help you out of that hole. It ain’t easy being an ex-criminal in Barbados, in an unforgiving society; going for work and hearing ‘no’ because they see your police certificate of character. And even when you go for your police certificate of character you getting turn around and turned around because there are so many charges.”
For many years, Yarde lived and breathed drugs, but it was only until his last prison stint in 2008 that he truly examined his life and realised the trajectory was leading him to six feet under. The 51-year-old recalled that he knew he was powerless attempting to change on his own, since he had tried on numerous occasions but fell flat on his face. He knew if he were to be successful, he would need help.
“I realised the only body that could help me was Jesus Christ,” he said. “I always had a love for God and the Bible but couldn’t get it because of the pleasures of life so I decided then to spend time in prayer reading the Word of the Lord more intensely.
“My family gave up. Only my nephew, Imran Richards, never stopped praying and visiting me but I realised I can’t do this for Imran, I can’t do this for my mother, for my sisters, my family, I got to do this for Chester.
“So I spent a lot of time in prayer asking (God) to take away the desire for cocaine, because I know if the desire didn’t get taken away, I know I would fall back in. God took away that and the void created was for Him. I realised change is not talking it, it is living change and if you want results you can’t look for excuses.”
In spite of doubts that Yarde might not remain clean upon his release from prison on October 29, 2011, he did, and was even able to not only attend Richards’ wedding, but also spoke at it.
Change was hard, Yarde said, but it was made easier when he modified his environment and his group of friends. And two years later, he too was walking down the aisle as a man baptised in Christ.
“It seemed like God saw my weakness and in January 2012, He sent a lady that I knew from my previous life. She was now a Christian and she had come back to visit Barbados. She brought Christ to me a more profound way. I started going to church, I started reading the Bible more and praying more. We continued speaking on Skype and then our relationship started to flourish. On April 2013 we were married.”
Upon reflection of his life, Yarde was disappointed that he wasted so many of his years. Now despite change and efforts to do better through his current endeavours, sadly his past forever follows him.
“I know how hard it is, how dread it is living the consequences of your past actions. Your living change but nobody ain’t believe you, nobody ain’t there to help you. I went through problems with my family because they didn’t see the change. It is hard to get a job but I sticking with it by the grace of God.
“Convictions prohibiting me from joining my wife in England but I can’t blame nobody but myself. All I am saying is when we are young and doing things we [are] not looking that 20 years down the road we gine live a life of change and these same choices we make, we got to live with them. They are going to live with us until we die. This is something I would like to share with young people,” Yarde said. (SDB Media)