We imagine the devil to be a furtive figure cloaked in black, a hoodie thrown over his head, lurking in the shadows, his skeletal hands holding a long pitchfork, seducing men and women to steal, rob, lie, retweet idiots, have illicit sex with people with lower values than they, and do all these things that make God shake His head with deep disappointment. But that’s not really the devil – at least not the real devil. “The real devil,” Brian Oduor says, “is cocaine.”
“The first time I did cocaine was at this posh high school I attended in Athi River,” He says over the phone. “I had already been suspended from Brookshine School in Ruai and then soon after from a small rural school my parents had banished me to, as – I believe – a form of punishment, called Kabaa high school in Kathiani in Kamba-land.”
It was full of rich kids. (The Athi River one, not Kathiani). Drugs were sneaked into the school by chaps who masqueraded as visiting uncles, bearing snacks and drugs. “I was in year 13 when I tried it out one night. A boy I knew offered it. I should have said no, but I was young and already rebellious. I had already taken to smoking weed so I wanted to see what the next level felt like. So I did a line.” He says. The high was unimaginable, euphoric.
He then joined Baraton University to study Psychology and African linguistics. Why? Why not, I say, conservation biology? “Well, psychology had the most chicks,” he laughs, “but I chose linguistics because I was keen on learning languages.” He then started playing rugby because he used to admire his cousin called Rajula who played rugby and who was the life of the party. He wasn’t bad at rugby. Two years later he moved back to Nairobi to continue his studies while playing for Harlequins, as a fullback 15, and that rugby lifestyle led him to the very urethra of the devil. “When you play rugby you are in a greatly deluded phase because you are at the center of a world that has been created for you and a world that you have created for yourself.” He says. He was now using creatinine and other body enhancements like Power Mass on top of cocaine every so often.
Rugby brought girls and girls came with drinks and fame and a deep sense of brotherhood. They hunted together, they drank together, they jumped on the very back of vices together and they were determined to ride it into the sunset.
“My cocaine usage increased. I was living alone in a rental in Langata that my dad was paying for, right opposite Uhuru Gardens.” He says. “You can’t use a drug like cocaine unless you are very rich, because that shit is expensive. A gram was 3k and that would only give me two lines. So yeah, it’s hard to sustain it which means if you don’t have a well paying job, at some point you will steal, borrow, or both. I slowly started conning money off of my dad, making up stories along the way. Then, whenever I saw my father’s coat hanging from a chair, I’d rummage through it and get whatever money I found there. Then I started selling household utensils, and anything that I could easily lift out of the house. When you are doing these drugs your life’s purpose is centered towards getting the next fix. It’s in your head. It’s in your blood. It’s in your mind.”
His dealer was stationed in an abandoned house in Kilimani. He was an Indian guy whose name nobody knew. His phone number was equally mysterious. He wasn’t the kind of guy you called. People simply called him Rajun. He spoke little. A businessman. He was always in that house no matter what time of day or night you showed up. And he had drugs. The house looked abandoned and decrepit, like a place you could wake up at, to find yourself tied and gagged after a night out. It had signage outside: “This plot is not for sale”. This shell of an abode had no door, had broken window panes and no furniture. It was the last place you would expect drugs to be sold. You paid cash and you got your grammage. And you didn’t bargain or try to make small talk about the weather. You bought and you scattered. Brian got a job at Nation FM – the 7pm to midnight show called the Homerun with Obina and a guy called Cupid. Around this time he also acquired a car, or rather was gifted a car by someone he was seeing – a Subaru Legacy (surprise) which he would later sell for drug money. “ When I was on radio, living it up, I impregnated a woman who would later become my wife.” He says. “The day she went into labour I was too busy getting high to go to the hospital. I never went to see her or my baby. She called me after delivery and said it was a girl and I said, ‘name her Malaika.’ The very first time I laid eyes on her was a couple of years later.”
He would then go on to lose the job at Nation and get another at One-FM, which he also lost not too long after. A bout of depression followed, plunging him further into drugs and desperation.
“I conned lots of friends, ruining relationships.” He says. “I’d call you and lie to you that there was a job that I could link you up with. You’d send money and you’d never hear from me again.”
One day he overdosed. “The first sign that you are going to OD is you start twitching. I knew this. Anyone who did cocaine knew this.” After drinking his beer, his mind and body simply went blank. When he came to, he was in a hospital room, on his back. They “flushed,” his system of the drugs. “After I recovered enough to leave the hospital, my mom suggested that I go back home and recover properly from there. But then the next day mom turned up with two cops who slapped handcuffs on me. Her instinct was to take me to rehab. But first I was taken for psychological evaluation at Nairobi West hospital.” He says.
He sat in the room with the doctor and the two cops who stood guard in case he made a run for it. Mom waited outside. The doctor asked him questions to ascertain his mental state. Simple questions which he got wrong.
“What day is it today?”
“Thursday.” [It was Wednesday. So, close.]
“When is your birthday?”
“Christmas day?” [Wrong again. That will be Jesus].
“What’s ten times five?”
“Tentifive.” [Wrong, there is nothing like that]
He was shipped off to a famous rehab in Karen. It was a hellhole. All the admitted men slept in a dormitory-like room, with many bunk beds, like high school. It was noisy. More so at night. “There were all sorts of people there, who seemed crazy.” He says. “I was f*cked up but the guys in there seemed plain insane, like a looney bin. I honestly think addiction shouldn’t be stopped immediately like they tried with me. I suffered serious withdrawal symptoms; I’d either be shaking, sweating or feeling cold. At night I couldn’t sleep. At night people shouted and cried – people in the dorm but also the voices in my head. There was a man who preached constantly, he thought he was sent by God to save us all. There was another chap who kept saying, ‘the president will call me anytime now. Then I will be out of here. You guys wait. I will release all of you guys and you can go and have all the drinks you want on me.’ He was convinced that the president would call him. I met a doctor who had been forced into rehab by his wife. He constantly bitched about her, saying she had committed him because she was trying to steal his money. There was a guy who spent the whole day talking to a stone…it was crazy in there. I didn’t think I belonged there. I was bitter. I thought I wasn’t loved, which is why I had been sent to rehab. I thought I was being ‘hidden away’ because I had become a family embarrassment.”
When you sit in there for days, staring at the wall and going for group therapy on autopilot, you have time to devise a plan. He identified and started seducing a nurse. She had the hard look of one who had seen the true suffering and self -imprisonment of man. After a few weeks she cracked and they had “relation” – as he puts it. “There was a thing they called a stopper where they’d inject you with this medicine and in three minutes flat your body would go numb immediately and you’d sleep for many hours. A complete shutdown. I hated it so I’d ask her not to inject me with it, and since we were now sort of dating she wouldn’t.” One day – 22 days in – he convinced her to give him two hundred bob to get out of the gate to buy cigarettes. “Come on, I just need to see normal things again. I will just go to the kiosk and come back.” He told her. He never went back.
He ended up at the crack house in Kilimani where he convinced the Indian fellow to score him a line. “You know me,” he told him. “I’ve never asked for credit.” So he brought out his mirror and a card and they chopped it and he snorted it. “The cocaine high…how do I say this without being crass” he says, “…it’s like the best sex you have ever had…times thirty thousand. It’s an out of body experience. You can’t describe that feeling.”
After snorting, he called a girl he used to see. An older woman who had money and who liked him. “I moved in with her, doing weed and drinking alcohol daily for two weeks until my parents discovered that I had escaped from rehab.” I can hear him sigh. “ I still had a phone at this time, I still hadn’t sold it. My dad called me and talked to me, pleaded with me to go home and try to get better. Be a gentleman, he told me.” Because he had been busted, Brian was afraid that they might sic cops on him, so he left South B and went to live with one of his druggie friends in Highrise.
“Highrise was mad. My friend worked at a bank and so he had a constant supply of drugs and alcohol. I did nothing but drink and do cocaine all day. I did so much of it that I started losing it.” He pauses. “Well, I had already technically lost it, but now it was on another level. When you are on drugs there is nothing you won’t do, nothing is beneath you, you have no pride or self worth and you keep sliding down this horrible slope, getting worse and worse. I would remove my clothes and walk naked.”
“Yeah, I’d be standing at Highrise, block H, on the side facing the dam and I’d feel hot and instinctively I’d just remove all my clothes and stand there until I cooled off, then I’d wear them again. Of course people would stare but then you are out of your mind. You don’t care. The drug has reduced you to nothing. It has stripped you of every ounce of self respect and dignity. You don’t see yourself as a human being. A used tissue paper is more valuable than you are. But you can’t stop. You don’t stop. It’s a call to do more drugs, the urge to destroy yourself comes from deep inside you and it keeps pushing you to be the very worst version of yourself you can muster.”
One day his father showed up. He had looked for him and found him. He was in a state. “He looked at me and started crying,” He says with a breaking voice. He pauses, a long pause. “Biko, my father, man. You haven’t met best friends like me and my dad. You haven’t.” A long pause follows and it’s only after a few seconds that I realise he’s weeping. “I haven’t told anyone these things. Why are you letting me open these wounds?”
I tell him we can stop if he wants to. “No, let’s go on.” He says. “My dad hugged me and he cried and I felt horrible. Just horrible. Because this man, after everyone had written me off as a bum, a mad man, after I had stolen from him, lied to him, this man refused to give up on me. He continued to love me. He told me I was his son and it didn’t matter whether I was a chokora or what, but he would not give up on me. Not even if I had given up on myself. If it wasn’t for my dad, Biko, oh, I wouldn’t be here speaking with you. He rescued me.” He sniffles. “So anyway, we stood there and cried. After we were done crying he looked around the filthy house and said, ‘ leave everything here, don’t bother packing,’ not that I had anything to pack to begin with, and we went to Yaya center and he bought me clothes.’
At home, he showered in his old bedroom and wore his new clothes. His father came and sat on the bed and looked at him with a cocktail of pity, love and pain. He just sat there and he looked at him. “Then he wept. He really wept.” He says. “And that really crushed me.” He went to therapy on Marcus Garvey road but that didn’t hold. The pull of drugs was too overwhelming. “When you are an addict your mind is off kilter, it’s like living your life unconsciously. You are not responsible for your actions or emotions.” he says. When he was at his lowest, living at home, he was going mad, shouting in the house, screaming himself hoarse. “My lowest point was stripping naked and running out of our house along Elgeyo Marakwet road, and running up past Argwings Kodhek road, and towards that Cavina School…the watchie running after me…” he sighs and pauses, “man, that was crazy. That was the lowest.”
“You know how I stopped taking drugs? 2017, November. ” He says. “This one time my daughter who was living with us – my wife and I – in my parents house asked me, ‘daddy what’s wrong, what are you doing?’ She couldn’t tell I was high. She couldn’t tell that all my wheels had fallen off and I was crawling on my belly. Her innocence and that question really shook me. I wondered what the hell I was doing to this child and my wife. So I told my dad that I was ready to get help and for the next couple of months, he took me to this day rehab center that was at Studio House. He’d drop me off, wait for me to finish my sessions, and then take me home. I haven’t touched cocaine since – but I drink alcohol occasionally. But it wasn’t as easy as I make it sound; it was traumatizing. The withdrawal symptoms felt like death. I’d scream in the middle of the night, hallucinating, seeing strange things. I had these weird déjà vus. You know how déjà vus last for a few seconds? Mine would last for hours. I got weird habits; I’d wake up at 3am and eat a whole chicken. I had weird memory lapses, like I’d leave the shower and then forget that I had just showered and go back and shower again. My heart beat was erratic. I’d sweat profusely. I developed insomnia. Even now, I can’t sleep for more than two straight hours. I keep waking up. But somehow I managed to get over that horrific phase.”
He says he doesn’t recall most things he did between 2010 and 2017. Dates blend into each other, details lost in cocaine induced amnesia. He doesn’t remember the things he did and with whom, the people he conned and hurt. “I’m trying to make peace with people, trying to mend fences that I had burned to the ground. I don’t know half the people I hurt or how I hurt them. But I’m sorry, deeply and if any of them is reading this I ask for their forgiveness.” He says. “I’m lucky that I stopped. Most people don’t. I’m lucky that my wife didn’t forsake me, she always brought my daughter to see me even at my lowest. My father – of that man. He never gave up on me. He loved me unconditionally and that love saved me. He’s the Midas…he…” He breaks down. “Look, can we take time off?” Then he hangs up.
Most of his 20s were spent in nihilism and drugs, but today at 32, his next chapter, he starts his first job, drug free, as a presenter at Urban Radio 907-FM. And just like Urban radio is relaunching today, so he is, relaunching his life. He will be presenting the Urban Ride show from 3- 7pm (‘and giving lots of money’).
“I have a second shot at life. It’s a great privilege to be here. So for me, 2020 will always be the year of redemption.” He said.
Do you have a compelling 2020 story? Drop me a line a synopsis of the story on [email protected] (Kindly, a synopsis isn’t 2,000 words).