Just One

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First thing that happens is that mom dies. Technically, it isn’t the first thing because there is all that banality of childhood; riding bicycles, scrapes with other boys, the chugging humdrum of school. But this is the very first important thing that happens to him even though he’s not completely aware of its impact; mom dying. He’s 14-years old, barely a minute into his teenage years. Barely able to process a broken voice and pubic hair and these constant thoughts of a girl’s dark areola. Mom picks a rotten time to die; or death picks a rotten time to take mom – three days before he’s to sit for his KCPE exams.

The news.

They came back from school and there was dad asking them to sit down. Dad with deep ridges of worry that had dug deep gullies of worry across his forehead. He looked distraught, confused and old already because wives can make you young but they can also age you. They – with his twin brother- put down their bags on the floor and sat in the living room in their soiled socks and he told them their mother had died the previous night. A road accident. While coming from Machakos. It was like hearing something through a closed door; muffled, distant – the voice of a dying soothsayer. Mom was studying for her PhD in Anthropology. This was the early 90s when moms were mostly secretaries or teachers. So, an outlier even before Gladwell had written his book.

He doesn’t remember grieving. He remembers his twin brother grieving more. While he locked in his grief, his twin brother’s grief seemed to come out in thudding anger. The memory of that period is erased. But he remembers scoring 581/700 and ending up in Mangu High School.

He excelled in Form One, a stellar student, crossing all t’s and shit. In Form Two, he skipped a French lesson and joined some cool kids behind the classrooms for his first cigarette. There was Kanja, Nick and Karis. You can tell by their names that they were cool. There was no John. Or Elijah. Or Joshua. No prophets from the Bible. Those stayed in the French class. Nick had the packet of SM which they called Small Millionaire. In Form Two, he picked up pool. Over the holidays he would go to the neighbourhood pubs in Donholm and shoot pool. Now there are video game arcades, then it was pool. He realized that he was good at it. Very good at it. He knew how to get to the black ball. He knew how to hide the white ball. He played musical chairs with them. He was great at angles and speed. He didn’t stick out his tongue while aiming like other melodramatic amateurs. He never bent over the table unless he was sure he was potting the ball. He was smooth with the stick. He was legendary. He played for ego and money. And he kicked ass. Constantly.

“I started rebelling in Mang’u,” he says. “In primary school I was a good boy. I loved the Bible and I was religious but after I lost my mom, I started losing my religion as well. I started dissociating with God. Unlike my twin brother, I was never the guy to speak up; I didn’t speak in class. I never spoke up if I felt wronged. The only time I would come alive was when I played football and I think I played football to be a part of a group. To be like them. I was looking to belong.”

It’s around this time that his father sat them down for a second time. In the living room was a lady with a child. “He said, this is your mother now and that is your younger brother.” They both turned to look at her and this boy who was now their brother, just like that, by decree. “My father is very totalitarian, a man who likes structure but also the most honest person I know,” he says. “The announcement was very cut and dry. An instruction.”

I laugh. I tell him how my own dad introduced my step-mom two years ago. He didn’t sit us down because we were already seated after dinner and he said very casually, almost in passing, “This here is Nyar Kano,” waving hand towards the said Nyar Kano, “She helps me around here when you guys are away.”

We chortle at that. “I found it funny, how uncomfortable he was,” I continue. “How he just couldn’t say, this is my wife now, your stepmom, anyone with a complaint or a comment should keep it in their socks.” I can imagine the conversation that ensued at bedtime that night. She obviously just changed into her nightdress silently, ignoring him. The radio was probably on at low volume because my dad – like most people his age in shags – prefer to listen to death announcements at bedtime. Very romantic. I can imagine him realizing that his new wife wasn’t talking and him asking her, “What’s wrong Nyar Kano?” and her saying emphatically, “Nothing. I’m just tired.” And then she gets in bed and turns to face away from him, most likely facing Kano. And my dad saying, “You sound upset,” and her saying, “No, of course not. It was a lovely evening; your children are nice, goodnight.” My dad reducing the volume of the death announcements and saying to her back, “Yaye Nyar Kano, en ango’ kendo yawa?” And her – from under the depths of the duvet, mumbling, “Nothing is wrong. I’m just tired, cooking chapatis isn’t easy. I need to sleep now so that I can wake up early and help you around the house again tomorrow.”

Anyway.

“My siblings thought it was betrayal,” he says. “My brother reacted to it aggressively. I didn’t really care.”

He soon discovered alcohol because there was alcohol in their house. His father kept gin in their Wall Unit in the house. A Wall Unit, dear Millennials, was this coffin-like contraption that was very common in the 80s and 90s. It was mostly displayed in the living rooms. It had cabinets, drawers and windows and precious cutlery was usually stored there. Cutlery for visitors, never to be used by the peasants who lived there; read, you. It was like a museum of cutlery, to be seen never touched. What was missing was a sign: Please don’t lean on glass. A Wall Unit was a status symbol, the bigger and fancier you had the more uppity you seemed. The TV went on the Wall Unit. As well as the music system. Don’t even get me started on the music system. So don’t be too cruel to us Generation X, we are already gravely damaged by our pasts because we lived with coffins in the same house.

In the third term of Form Two the wheels slowly started coming off: Jumping over the school fence to go smoking and drinking in little village dens where men drank and hollered like medieval savages. Mostly muratina and chang’aa. At the end of Form Three – with KCSE looming – he performed dismally and got an index number towards the bottom of the class.

Fourth form came with more drinking. “I was rowdy. I would go for roll calls smelling booze. I didn’t care for rules or order,” he says. “Alcohol suddenly gave me guts. I could speak up. I could say things I was unable to say. I wasn’t afraid of my father or anyone else. Alcohol made me become what I wanted to become all along.”

Then he was caught drunk in school and he was asked to apologize before the whole school during assembly. “I took the microphone and said, ‘…now that I have quenched my thirst, I can study…” The whole school cackled in mirth as the teachers stood there with bemused looks. Of course the authorities didn’t take kindly to being mocked so he was told, “It seems you want to be a comedian who drinks so we are sending you home to go and work on your comedy material and your drinking.”

He was suspended.

When he eventually came back to school, he continued to sneak out and go drinking in Wetaidhe village, the mabati slum. “I preferred muratina,” he says.

Over the holidays, he’d be shooting pool and drinking alcohol. He’d be drinking 15 sachets of cheap rum mixed with milk stout. Back in school, he was fighting prefects and sneaking out and smoking and being blacklisted and punished but he kept going. During his KCSE, they sneaked out of school and ended up in K2 along Baricho Road. They were already out of their head. They started a fight in the club with the bouncers who threw them out. The skirmish attracted the police who grabbed him and he pleaded and told them he was a student of Mang’u and he was currently sitting for his KCSE.

He scored A-Minus in KCSE.

He wanted to do electrical engineering but didn’t score enough points so he joined the parallel program in Moi Uni. As he waited, he was drinking hard. He was 19. “I really thought I had a gift of drinking because I could drink one and a half bottles of vodka and never stagger,” he says. “I would walk into a bar and the whole bar would chant my name. I was sort of a legend. You know Karl Marx of UoN? We drank with him all the time.”

First year wasn’t so bad, he did well. Second year the drinking got worse. They’d drink chang’aa full-time from Mabatini, a raggedy joint popular with cheap liquor. He drank daily in Uni, missing lectures, missing exams, failing, being called to sit before the senate and not going because he was too drunk to remember. Whenever he stopped drinking during exams he’d have serious nightmares. “When you go cold turkey, you suffer from hallucinations and nightmares.” In fourth year he was in Uni but never stepped in class. He drank all the fees. He dropped out of Uni and went back home. His father said, “You dropped out of university because of alcohol? Alcohol?!” Then just shook his head.

His father got him into KU’s parallel program, a different course. He was grateful. He gave himself some pep talk; promised himself that he’d be good, he’d stop this madness of alcohol, that he’d get an education. And so his first year wasn’t so bad but in the second year the demons woke up. “I was a nuisance, drinking so much and coming home in the wee hours of the morning. I’d get constant blackouts. I’d be so desperate for a drink that sometimes I’d want to beat up the House Help for Sh20 to buy alcohol. I was now a vagabond,” he says. “My dad then rented us a different house along Denis Pritt, because one; my brother was not getting along with his wife and two I was drinking out of my mind. He figured these boys were going to ruin his marriage. He’d send money for food and transport for the whole week and I’d drink it all in a day and then ask for more. He devised a way where he would give me money just for the following day the night before.”

University wasn’t happening because drinking was. It was hard-drinking mostly in downtown Nairobi, dingy smoky bars that didn’t have windows and never saw the sun. Men peered back from them like alley cats. These bars never closed down, you would walk in anytime and you’d find people drinking. Everybody was a friend if they had a drink in front of them. These men were no riffraff; they were doctors, engineers, philosophers, men from rich families, languishing away at the bottom of the barrel, imprisoned by the bottle, a bond of booze.

“Alcohol had completely taken over my life by now. Here is how bad it was,” he says. “I’d promise myself that I’d not drink, stay in the house. I’d manage to stay the whole day, on my computer or watching TV. Night would fall and I’d eat something and get into bed. I was the kind of drunk who always ate. Then I’d start thinking of alcohol, it’s almost like it’d start thinking of me and I’d brush that thought away and stay in bed. Then I’d not be able to sleep. I’d be so restless I’d pace around the house like a caged animal wanting to flee. Literally. I’d want a cigarette, just one cigarette, but a voice in my head would say, no, don’t do it, if you leave the house for a cigarette you will go to a bar. I’d listen to that voice and then stay still. Then I’d get up and walk about and leave the house and sit outside the gate. Then go back in. Then leave the house and sit outside the gate, then go back in. Then at midnight, I’d be like oh screw it and I’d succumb to the voice. Then I’d go drink. And when I started drinking there was no stopping.”

He’d lock himself in the house and keep away the key to avoid going drinking. But the urge would break down the door and come for him like a rabid animal. He’d walk for two kilometers in the middle of the night for a drink. He’d fall into ditches and wake up in trenches. He once fell into a pit latrine. He fell down a staircase. Months and years fell off the calendar. His twin brother finished Uni got a job and got married as he drank. He was still drinking as his small bro, five years younger than him, completed university. Now, he’d moved back to his father’s house. “One day I got back home in the wee hours, jumped over the gate, removed my clothes at the front door and slept there.”

I blamed chang’aa for my problems. I told myself, “I don’t have a problem with alcohol, I just have a problem with chang’aa. If I drank any other drink I’d be okay,” he says. “You have to realize that some people become drunks gradually, by starting with beers, then spirits then the harsh ones. I started from the end, man. Then I went hard.

“When you drink a lot, you become an embarrassment to your family. A black sheep in the family,” he says.

“Do you realize it?” I ask. “Are you aware that you are a nuisance?”

“Of course. You do. People treat you differently. They talk about you. At my bro’s wedding, my father gave me some money to go away so that I wouldn’t completely ruin that occasion. He was embarrassed by me. I embarrassed myself. You are also paranoid, always imagining that people are talking about you, judging you, even if they are not. I would hear people laughing and think they were laughing at me. Your self-esteem is ruined completely. You don’t have any. You feel your failure. It’s with you, man.”

“How do you feel when you are sober?”

“Shame,” he says, and I recall a recent interview of Ben Affleck in the New York Times about his alcoholism. He talked of shame having no positive byproduct, that it’s a feeling of stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing. “Yes, deep shame. Very deep shame. And guilt. In the morning when you wake up, or whatever time it is that you wake up, you find this bad feeling of shame and guilt waiting and it gets worse with time. You are guilty for things you put your family through. You are ashamed of what you have become. You are so remorseful, very sorry for everything you are doing and the shit you are putting people through. You feel worthless. You don’t want to see anyone, because you will see judgement in their eyes. So you stay away, you make promises, that no more alcohol but then later, the urge, it’s the urge of Satan, man, it comes for you and you are back in the den with all these people who are like you and who don’t judge you and you are drinking again and you forget who you were; this shameful and worthless person. When you drink you are yourself again, you can face the world. You are no longer anxious and sorry. I could face my brother now if I was angry with him. When you drink you are human again.”

Then you see people dying. Drinking friends. “One of my friends killed himself. Another was beaten by thugs when he was drinking, I think he tried to resist. Another died in a hotel room.”

“Does that dissuade one to stop?”

“It should,” he says softly. “But it doesn’t. You can’t die. How can you die? You are a legend. Don’t you know guys would chant my name in bars?”

“How does it feel like to sleep and wake up in a trench?” I ask.

“I told you that I’ve woken up in many bad places, yeah? It’s surreal. I woke up in a trench along State House Road. When I wake up, I wonder why it’s so bright, why the sun is in my face. I turn and look up and I can see the sky. The sky! And I can smell grass. Why do I smell grass? Where is my bed? Where am I? I get up and I realize I’m beside the road. There are cars and people. People stare from their cars. It’s, I don’t know, dehumanizing. You feel small and worthless. You are so ashamed of yourself. So so ashamed. I have blacked out several times and woken up in places you’d never imagine. Strange hotel rooms, strange houses, on a bench in a bar I don’t remember going to. In a police cell where the inmates said when I was brought in I was doing press-ups. I once woke up in a bus headed to Busia!”

I laugh. I can’t help it. I can’t imagine him looking out the window and seeing a weird landscape running outside; green hills, men in big chagets, old beat up Proboxes carrying 30 people, a stage, a man with an afro selling tea leaves and yogurt. Him turning to his neighbour and asking, “Boss, hapa ni wapi?” and him telling him, “Kericho.” And him thinking, what the fuck? “Kwani tunaenda wapi?” and the man saying, “Busia!” and he thinking it’s a dream and he’ll wake up along State House Road.

He soon started getting violent. Towards his family members. Beating his small bro to get to his dad’s bedroom key where he thought there was money or booze. Breaking stuff in the house. His twin wrote him off from his life. His father had talked to him several times; his family members had sent people to try to talk to him. He told them to eat his shoes. He had no problem. But he had, now he was an animal, an ugly animal. One day he couldn’t take it anymore. He woke up with a bad headache in his heart, an absolutely terrible hangover of the heart and he sat down and wrote to his father.

“Were you sober when you wrote the letter?”

“I was high,” he says.

“Where did you write it?”

“In the house.”

“Where was everybody, what time was it?”

“I don’t know…morning hours, guys had left for work or whatever,” he says. “In the letter I told him that this thing was killing me. That if I didn’t get help I was going to kill myself. That I was sorry for being this person and that I was tired of being this person and I needed him to help me.”

“Were you serious about killing yourself?”

“Yes. I was. I had thought about suicide for the past two years. Literally, thinking of how I could kill myself. These were mostly mornings after I’d wake up in shame. I had nothing. Guys who I knew, had wives and jobs, I had nothing. My bro had a wife and a job. I had nothing. I was just drinking. My life, I felt was in limbo. I couldn’t move. I was stuck in this rut.”

It was a Thursday when his father read the letter and said, “You will be fine. I will get you help. I will take you to rehab over the weekend.” But then he told his father, “No, can we go on Tuesday?” His father said sure and that weekend he drank all the alcohol he could. He drank so much, he couldn’t recognize his arms. He’d look at them and think, “Whose arms are these? Where are my arms?!”

On Tuesday morning, his father knocked on his bedroom door. He opened it without a shirt, drunk as a skunk.

“Ready?” He asked him gently, looking at him with a cocktail of sorrow and love.

“Is it Tuesday?” He mumbled scratching his head.

“Yeah,” his father said.

“Okay. Let’s go.”

“Wear a shirt,” his father said.

He packed some clothes. He was checked into Redhill rehab centre in Limuru at midday. Massive place.

“What do you remember about the day you were checked in?”

He pauses for a bit.

“In the brochure, they had put a picture of a swimming pool. I was looking forward to that pool but when I got there, the pool was empty. It didn’t have water. I remember being very pissed.” He laughs. “I also remember a guy who would laugh at nothing every five or so minutes, completely unprompted. As in he would just start laughing.”

“Like the Joker.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“Yeah. I felt like it was an asylum.” Ha-ha.

Rehab meant withdrawals and restlessness. “I had crazy dreams,” he says. “Crazy. I would dream of demons chasing me. Minions chasing me. Insomnia. Restlessness, just tossing and turning and thinking. You don’t sleep the first, second night or third, but then it gets better. You pray and talk to a therapist. Spirituality is a big part of healing. I was interested in finding out why I was like that. Why I couldn’t just function like other people. Why was I prone to addiction and my brother wasn’t? I was tired of the person I was, tired of being sick with this disease. I realized that I hadn’t accepted that I was an alcoholic, I was just a guy who could handle his drink. I always thought I still had some control left and that things that were happening to me were just bad luck.” There were doctors and priests, rich kids and poor kids, there were engineers and clerks, drop outs. There were women. Professional women and women who were in university. Mothers and sisters and cousins. Lovers.

Three months. He was there for three months.

Then on August 28th 2006 he left rehab.

And he was scared.

“Of what?”

“Of being sick again,” he says. “I had seen many people who had gone back to rehab while I was there. Going to rehab wasn’t the true test, staying away from it, being sober, was.” He moved back home with his father. That night he lay in bed and felt exposed again. This wasn’t rehab. This was home. It had a gate and he could simply walk out and have a drink again and none of those three months in rehab would matter anymore. “When you are recovering you don’t think of being sober a month or a year from now. You think of being sober today. Just ending the day sober. Then the next day and the next and days turn into months and months into years and before you know it, it’s been 14-years.”

He went back to university, got a degree in computer science and got a job. He has attended alcoholic anonymous meetings every week for those years. “You don’t stop,” he says, “Because you are still an addict. You have to fellowship. You don’t forget the harm you did yourself but also the harm you did your relatives. Alcoholism is as tough on the families as it is on the alcoholic. The families bear the brunt.”

His twin bro came to see him in rehab and they made up. His father has been supportive. “He never turned his back on me.”

“Do you sometimes get tempted to go back to drinking?”

“When you are an addict your mind never forgets. You still have that memory of how it is to be high. There are triggers that we are taught in therapy, mine is anger and resentment. When I have any of those I feel like drinking, so I try to avoid them or deal with them better. Also, pool is a trigger for me. I can’t be anywhere near a pool table. It’s dangerous because just one drink will undo all the 14-years.”

“Isn’t that scary,” I ask him, “That you have this…this, animal, this beast, inside you, just lying in wait. Do you feel imprisoned?”

“I accepted that beast. It’s a part of me now. I can’t deny it,” he says. “It reminds you it still exists sometimes, like when you see a beer advert and you experience this warm familiar feeling.”

Sometimes he still has dreams, fourteen years later. Dreams of him seated with his friend drinking, or of little pygmies chasing him with bottles of alcohol. Those days he wakes up with his heart racing and he prays.

He got married some years back and now has two children. They met soon after he left rehab. She was working as a domestic manager in his father’s house. This was before he joined university. When he was in the house most days, watching TV, reading books, basically staying out of trouble. Love blossomed. “She’s beautiful and she listened to my shit,” he says. “I’m crazy about her because she was the only woman who ever responded to who I really was. Many girls would meet me and think, there is something wrong with this guy. Not her.” She saw beyond the struggle, tossed away the debris of addiction and found him underneath, the person he really was.

“Did people judge you for marrying a domestic manager?” I ask him.

“They have,” he says. “They don’t approve, but not openly.”

“How does that make you feel?”

“Not a damn thing. I’m used to it. I mean, once you realize that some things don’t transcend the physical and that actions and character count more, you will find peace.”

“Does she drink?”

“Yeah.”

“How does that sit with you?”

“I used to be uncomfortable with it at the beginning but after some time I realized that I can’t impose my will on her because many people tried to impose their will on me at some point.”

I ask him if he ever worries that his alcoholism is genetic (his two uncles died from alcoholism). “I sometimes worry about it but I have come to understand it.”

“What do you miss about your drinking days?”

“I can’t say I miss something about those days.” He pauses. “No, I don’t. I’ve had the best days sober.”

***
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194 Comments
  1. This one looks like its gonna be a scary one, I’ll wait for comments first . I just fear people’s parents or kids dying …

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    1. Far from it, this is so inspiring. Such fathers are rare, hardly do fathers give second chances. This one is a Gem.

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  2. In these Corona days, I look forward to reading something that will put my mind off it all for a few minutes. thank you Biko

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  3. I celebrate him for the 14 years.
    Sobriety is something you do one day at a time.
    I hope we can learn to help other than judge.
    Biko, your humor as always is top notch!

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  4. I’m glad he overcame that demon and is still on the journey to Wellness. It all starts at acceptance and a desire to do better by you.
    The part he speaks of those top career people living by the bottle breaks my heart because of the truth in it, i have seen them and its mostly great minds
    Thank you Chocolate Man.
    Cheers to Wellness and Grace to him who overcame

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  5. Glad he stopped drinking and got things going for himself (career, family).
    It’s encouraging.
    Keep going sir, don’t mind peoples judgement.

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  6. ”…..You pray and talk to a therapist. Spirituality is a big part of healing….” he said, – i love this read – i am so proud of him though i don’t know him, he stands out and his journey was indeed all worth it, i know of so many people who didn’t make it, alcoholism is a serious thing and am glad he fought it and he has been sober all this years, huge accomplishment , kudos to him…

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  7. Wow!
    I felt like I was reading Drunk (Biko’s book) all over again. Only that the ending to this is a happy one.
    I’m so proud of this person. Such a badass, getting his life back together after all that he had been through. I’m sorry for your mom’s loss, I feel like it started everything.

    He got an A minus after all that drinking. My gosh! A moment of silence for all of us who trans-nighted and got nowhere close to an A minus. It is well

    PS: Biko your sense of humour will kill me. Reading this post has me laughing like a mad woman.
    From referring to wall units as coffins to the beastiality thing

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  8. I have laughed so hard at the thought of him being checked into a police cell and doing press-ups on arrival. Funny because he also never recalled doing them or being brought into the cell. And even funnier is the possibility of waking up on a bus headed to Busia when all you did was go down the road for a quick pint.

    This is a bitter-sweet story though. Alcohol has ugly children. Regardless of its partner. And all the funny stories are of people laughing at the victim, never with the victim.

    I would have loved to get his opinion of what would have made him stop before it got out of hand. Or maybe people who have been down this road can tell us?

    Also, cheers to 14 years of sobriety. I can’t imagine the willpower it has taken to get this far.

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  9. …….like most people his age in shags – prefer to listen to death announcements at bedtime. Very romantic…… This must an item to be discussed in #BBI

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  10. If you have ever wondered what it means by ‘a loaded answer’, read below statement.

    “Nothing is wrong. I’m just tired, cooking chapatis isn’t easy. I need to sleep now so that I can wake up early and help you around the house again tomorrow.”

    I know only what I hear addiction, but I understand the struggle.

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  11. Kudos to him for the 14 years!! It can’t be easy. May this resolve grow stronger and stronger. Cheers to dad for not giving up on his boy.

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  12. Alcoholism is taking so many youths to the grave. Am glad he got the help he needed. May this be an eye opener to others to get help

  13. his trigger is anger and resentment. Probably from not dealing with his mothers death. he isnt good at expressing his emotions when he is upset.i am glad he got his shit together.

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  14. Thanks Biko for sharing this, I see my brother’s struggles through the lenses of this guy. I see my older brother struggle with alcohol addiction especially this chang’aa and shutting out everyone else. We are younger but have finished school and work hard to build ourselves but he just drinks and drinks My dad has never given up on him. I pray that he will be able to fight this beast

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  15. Aaaam so many emotions raised by this piece… This should be a read for everyone currently coz the number of people I know who are going through this, immense…

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  16. 14 years strong! Thumbs up to him. The story is indeed bitter-sweet. I’m glad that his dad held him by his hands because nothing in this twisted world is harder than facing your demons by yourself.

    I have cracked so hard about that Wall Unit part. i resonate.

    Mabatini aka mabs. Most houses were made using mabati hence the name. Any electronic that was stolen in the hostels mostly ended up at Mabs and they were sold at a very cheap price.

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  17. “..once you realize that some things don’t transcend the physical and that actions and character count more, you will find peace…”
    There it is, the formula for finding peace.

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  18. I was wondering where “Wetaidhe” is.. Biko, that place is called Witeithie.. Literally means “help yourself” in case you get robbed or something goes wrong, you are on your own. That part where he was taken to a police cell doing press ups reminds me of a similar thing I did outside a club on Moi Avenue to prove to my friends that am still sober.. LOL
    Cheers to this guy for taking on his demons! 14years sober is no mean feat

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  19. Waking up on a bus going to busia and doing press ups at the cell took me out,
    My take from it Is eventually he asked for help ,most people don’t know how to, and that’s the bravest thing he did.
    Cheers to the paps, he stood by him when it mattered most

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  20. This is a beautiful piece very scary but something I have learnt its that be careful one who you surround yourself with when growing up from high school to campus, two accept you have a problem and three and everyone can change.

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  21. I feel like I am walking this journey with this guy.nevertheless I am so proud of him and the choice he made fourteen years ago.I can only hope it inspires someone out there,including my brother.There is life beyond the bottle.
    Amazing read!!!

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  22. great piece biko!! i’m happy for him, coming through and being able to beat the addiction. Everyone deserves a second chance in life and its comforting that his family gave him that.

    P.s: (i know its unnecessary) something struck me from this piece. The day he left rehab, August 28th 2006. It was a cold chilly Monday morning, how do I know this? As someone was leaving rehab to start his life transformation, somewhere in Central Kenya I was burying my mom, another life transformation.
    Biko once said people who have lost their mothers speak a special language of bereavement that other people can’t understand

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  23. Dark Areola….
    Then crazy drunkenness…A score of A- .
    Well! i have had a mixture of tears and laughter in this life journey of a young brilliant mind trapped in booze.

    I give much respect to the dad for understanding and unconditional love. Love truly conquers all. I have witnessed the same kind of love from a parent change my cousin for the better.

    Great ending. Thanks Biko for your sense of humour.

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  24. One week ago I lost my aunt to alcohol-related maladies; Hepatitis B and severe liver scarring. Four days before she succumbed to her illness, her liver failed and she went into coma.
    A fortnight before her death, I sat with her in a doctor’s consultation room as she was told about the death that was looming over her head if she didn’t stop drinking. She had just been diagnosed with pellagra, a disease whose symptoms of diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia she had all exhibited and the final one was death.
    I could tell that she wanted to stop, wished to stop drinking but it wasn’t entirely up to her because she had become enslaved by her alcoholism. She couldn’t stop herself and that’s why she still drunk herself silly even after the candid conversation we had about death. May her soul rest in peace.
    Fortunately, the story is not the same for every chronic alcoholic because some recovery and refuse to relapse such as Biko’s subject of the story today. We celebrate you Sir, for your strength of will and resilience. Keep on keeping on!

    14
  25. May the Lord bless that Father who never turned his back, who kept believing…
    Congratulations for the 14 years, praying for you now and always for Grace to stay true…

    Lakini that part of bus to Busia, I’m still laughing with tears in my eyes
    Thank you for the happy ending!

    5
  26. He scored 581/700 with the loss of his mother and an A- despite his struggles. What a sharp mind!! I am glad he found himself … and kudos to his family for never giving up on him!!

    4
  27. This whole time reading I kept thinkning of my brother and now I appreciate and understand more what he goes and has been going through and how am the twin in our story. we need to be there when they comes calling for help. moving story Biko.

    2
    1. and who ends this story with Beastiality comment though ‍♀️ but here’s to quenching our thirst so that we can study nne!!!

  28. One of the saddest reality I’ve ever read…this should be shared to those that think they’re immune to alcoholism…
    Bravo to him…I just love the dad who didn’t give up on his son
    I’ve literally cried on this
    Thanks @bikozulu..

  29. Questions: 1) Does the guy think he would have done better if the death of the mum had been handled more delicately? 2) What in his opinion should the guys around him have done to help ease his pain that led to the addiction? 3) Now that he felt dehumanised and little, would it have done any good if somebody had told him how great he was – or would he have perceived that as mockery too?

    7
  30. The start of the story was sad…losing a mother…its unfortunate how things unfolded but am glad he did a 360 degrees turn. After all the drama the guy scored A- ?Now i can trully confirm that this demon called Alcohol attacks the best minds out here….its also true that the alcohol affects not only the addicts but the family members too…Glad that it turned out well for him and his family.Saying a little prayer for the ones going through this shit.

    1
  31. Am so glad for him. The ending is beautiful. Am so sad that life dealt him such bitter lemons….. At times am baffled by it, how does a twin be so different from the other? Like they literally are like the same person, but can turn out to be so different.
    But this is life, and this happenings are around us. It reminds us to be kinder to everyone we come across. Truly we don’t know their story. A good reminder, take each day and fight for it. Before you know it, 14 years will turn to 40….. Isn’t that something?

  32. Thank you Biko, for telling his story only like you could. Thank him for sharing willingly. We appreciate his truth completely. To another 14. Cheers (with a non alcoholic drink in hand)

  33. 14 Years are significant for him. I read this story with my heart in my mouth. Glad that he finally got the courage to haul himself out and that he sticks it out.

  34. Im glad you decided to face this demon kudos for the 14 years. Im just worried cause this demon is destroying our community our brothers, husbands, colleagues this demon ALCOHOL

  35. Wow what a read and congratulations to him for accepting his alcoholism and was ready to make a change.

    Kudos to the dad who never gave up on him. Unconditional love for sure.

    Now Biko; that wall unit is something else and the visitors dishes, gives me memories. It’s more like an archive of the best China.

  36. Isa slippery slope. Diagnosis doesn’t really help. And without a support system most perish. I want to be that pillar for someone. This one got to me.
    Next time I’m having my drink, I’ll look at that bottle and say something like: You son of a b***ch! I know what you’re capable of- please don’t screw me! Then I’ll appease the ancestors for their intervention.

    2
  37. Finish the day without drinking…
    as someone who spend his college days drinking and chewing khat, I know the weight that the statement holds.

  38. He scored an A-minus … after all that truancy …. damn! I’m happy he found rehab, and recovered, and found love and stability. His dad though…hero if this story !!

    3
  39. His Father is a hero,he never gave up on him.
    Alcohol has destroyed people and families. It’s a shitty demon

    2
  40. It is a tough life living it by day never sure how it will end until when it ends .i know.i have been there.

  41. I love the imagery in your narration and how captivating it is. Then again, you probably hear it a lot. I’m just adding to what has already been said over and over in appreciation of the art of writing. There’s a lot in the world people don’t see from face value and you seem to have in depth vision. Thank you Sir!!!!

  42. Our family resonates deeply with below story, mum passed on, our brother who dropped out of campus (where he was on parallel programme) and now he is battling with alcoholism. May God come through.

    4
  43. This paragraph nailed it for me. You should write for New York Times.
    ‘It was a Thursday when his father read the letter and said, “You will be fine. I will get you help. I will take you to rehab over the weekend.” But then he told his father, “No, can we go on Tuesday?” His father said sure and that weekend he drank all the alcohol he could. He drank so much, he couldn’t recognize his arms. He’d look at them and think, “Whose arms are these? Where are my arms?!”’

    2
  44. “Alcoholism is as tough on the families as it is on the alcoholic. The families bear the brunt”. This one right here. Ask me me about it. 15 years later we as family still waiting for change. Still praying. Still hoping.

  45. Wow…my younger brother was like this and my mom was there was for him all through…he’s now reformed and out of country.

  46. That man’s father is special! The story perfectly
    epitomizes the love of a father. It would be lovely and quite refreshing to hear the Dad’s story too.

    2
  47. The only thing I could think of after this reading are Elisabeth Kubler Ross words. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found a way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen”.

    2
  48. This one rings a familiar bell. The difference is in acceptance, that one needs help. Accepting that one needs help is key. Some of us have suffered trying to help. Takes a kin to a the rehab 3 times including that Limuru one but the fellow just resumes the old ways as soon as he leaves those rehab gates behind. No interest in anything else at all but alcohol.. Mum passes on in agony, worrying and praying for the son. Nothing doing. Wife takes off with kids. No change and no interest in any other lady. Vituko after vituko after vituko. Gosh ! what pain for over 20 years and counting. Talk of mission impossible.

    2
  49. .. “I realized that I can’t impose my will on her because many people tried to impose their will on me at some point.”
    We all need to bank this statement.

    1
  50. “Cutlery for visitors, never to be used by the peasants who lived there; read, you. ” Biko in another life you should be comedian why lie

    1
  51. Woa, this is inspiring. It takes some serious will power to agree that you have an addiction and seek help. That dad is the best

    Biko’s humour though, smh! We still have one of those “coffins” in shags, and yes, it still carries the precious cutlery and the TV.

  52. Biko you never disappoint. I always look forward to your articles. Scratch that, they are more that articles they are story telling sessions. Thank you

    2
  53. “isn’t that scary… That you have this…this, animal, this beast, inside of you just lying in wait. Do you feel imprisoned?”
    “I accepted that beast. It’s a part of me now. I can’t deny it…”

    I’m proud of you. Not most of us have reached that point.

  54. You learn to concentrate on being sober today, taking each day as it comes…. And before you know it, it’s been 14 years! I love such stories with good happy endings. You are not a failure if you fall, but when you fall and fail to rise up again.

    2
  55. His father never gave up on him. Truly admirable. Alcoholism is a disease that many miss the signs until it is too late.

    1
  56. Oh wow…oh wow….hits very close home. My brother battles alcoholism. It is good to read that things can turn around. Just sober for a day right?

  57. once you realize that some things don’t transcend the physical and that actions and character count more, you will find peace.” Kudos to him

  58. That beast! Glad you won the battle, may you jealously guard your freedom from its claws.
    Very inspiring story, picking up broken pieces and living again.

  59. “It’s been 14 years. ” This statement made me clap. What a story! I wish him well. At some point… I found myself praying.

    2
  60. A very strong story of a courageous man who fought his demons and won. My father was an alcoholic who went through the same process but unfortunately, the demons won.

  61. “I realized that I hadn’t accepted that I was an alcoholic, I was just a guy who could handle his drink. I always thought I still had some control left and that things that were happening to me were just bad luck.”

    Until one accepts their problems, healing cannot begin. I am glad he came round and changed his life. Kudos to him for sharing his story.
    Thanks to you too Biko for providing a platform for others to share their lives and inspire. (The humour always on point)

    1
  62. “Nothing is wrong. I’m just tired, cooking chapatis isn’t easy. I need to sleep now so that I can wake up early and help you around the house again tomorrow.” was I supposed to read sacasym here? I see humour, sacastically!
    A great dad right there though…

    1
  63. I thank God for you my brother, your being sober is the most important thing in your life now. Take care of yourself and your family a day at a time.
    I have two workers that I love who are so deep into alcohol, have been to rehab twice and are still struggling. I pray that God will give you strength and courage to soldier on. You are my hero and I love you for the steps you have taken.

  64. This guy went through a lot. Like phoenix, he rised and shine more than anyone could ever be.
    Interesting story.

  65. I admire his courage to tell his story, I personally relate with his story coming from a past of alcoholism and still affected by it, twin brother and uncle feel like kings when they have had their cold beer. I keep them in my prayers and may the Good Lord bless them and all individuals suffering from alcoholism, may he provide hope and strength to all the families faced with the responsibility of learning to love and support their beloved alcoholics.

    From my heart to yours bound with love and respect…
    Sipho

    2
  66. Wetaidhe village. Correction; it is Witeithie (Jisaidie) village. Haha.
    But boarding a Busia matatu is crazy.

  67. The fact that the dad never gave up on him melts my heart.I celebrate his Dad. Cheers(with a glass of water of course) to many more years of sobriety.

    2
  68. That dad is a LEGEND!! for being so patient..
    Such a great piece Biko
    The wall unit and kericho bit though…haha and the JOKER

  69. Thanks so much for this article. Helped me see life through the eyes of an alcoholic. I cried and laughed alternately as I read it coz it reminds me of a very special person that I lost to alcohol. His story is very similar for at the end of it all, he sought help and lives one day at a time. Kudos to all that are recovering and fighting this demon. Kudos.

    1
  70. The father tlthis guy is the real MVP. He never dismissed his son or wrote him off! He stayed and held his hand, he never forgot about his sons
    I is heartwarming for the guy to actually detest of imposing his will on other people. I loved this. Totally!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  71. Your Father is such a Blessing to you he is amazing never gave up on his son reminds me of the story of the prodigal son who was given another chance by his Father despite all he had done above all this reminds me of our heavenly Father who is Kind, Merciful and Abounding in Love we fall severally yet He still embraces us.

    2
  72. “Alcoholism is as tough to the families as it is to an alcoholic.” I can totally attest to this.
    This story is a complete replica of my brother’s life save for the part that he is yet to be redeemed. But the story gives me hope.

  73. My father drunk. He wasn’t around but it’s not something I have forgiven. Godspeed to you man, may you live long to raise and be part of your kids lives. Btw Biko, it’s Wetiethie…

  74. What a great dad. Happy for these guy. I’ve a relative who’s been to rehab 4 times!! 4!! And is now back to booze. I can relate with this guy talking of the destruction alcoholism causes to victim and all around. All the best to this guy.

  75. This story reminds me of the guy in your book ‘Drunk’ only difference is his story has a better ending….cheers to 14yrs of sobriety

  76. It’s like this story is being pulled from my head. Same struggles, trying to be sober! Im a week clean now. Praying to get to the 14years streak. Alcohol is a killer comforter

    2
  77. Sad to recall the day her mother died. It hit us soo hard, Such a graceful,supportive and understanding lady. The whole class went into mourning, we could not comprehend what had hit us. How could we lose our best lecturer just like that ??
    I remember vividly I was a fresher and she taught me…. fare thee well mwalimu

    1
  78. The burden of raising two twin boys, then the burden of loosing one to alchoholism. The burden of living with a grown ass man who doesn’t have his shit together. Man you father should win an award of father of the year awards.

    4
  79. When you said he lived a long Denis Pritt road, State House, I thought the story was of someone we all know that loves a drink. That famous person also happens to be the black sheep of that famous family, if you know, you know

    1
  80. Alcohol can make one a robot in real nature, it makes you forget your self, dreams, family and everything else as it’s places your selfish self in the center of everything.

    It can bring you from someone to a nobody. When you feel you lost your control over it, avoid it, run away from it.

    1
  81. i have a brother like him. addicted to alcohol and pool.. my parents are doing all they can to get him back on track.. i hope they never give up on him

    1
  82. My father was a drunk, he never raised me i grew up knowing alcohol is the greatest barrier to being happy, i wanted to smile till i die, so never touched alcohol, went out with friends one night and i drunk for the first time, i kept frowning my face, and i was like hell noooo it burnt my throat…….7years later biko is still giving me a reason not to ever even taste wine.

    2
  83. My friend, after reading this and shedding tears, I can’t stop commenting.

    You have experienced an epics of one side of your life. Remain sober to experience the epics of the other side of life. The operating system of God has never and will never be understood by His creators. You were formed to have an experience of your life in the reverse way.

    Am impressed by your determination to desist from temptations. Your masculinity has been rejuvenated and now you lead family.

    Congratulations!

    1
  84. This talks of my late big bro.’A’ material,An architect with so much art inside him…then just one more drink.
    He stopped for a long time out of will,Then it was my sisters wedding and unbeknown to us all needed was one more drink.
    He never recovered.

    2
  85. Nice reading…a piece well written. Prayers to all struggling with addiction…

    The part when he wakes up and he’s on his way to Busia is just mad lol

    1
  86. So many times we see alcoholics and we are very quick to judge. Today, Biko has put me in the shoes of one and I must say I now understand better how the struggle is also real for the victims. May God heal the families of all those going through addiction and heal the victims wholesomely. Thank you Biko for being a true eye opener!

    1
  87. what a compelling story I actually felt like I was living at the moment,Biko an advice never loose the ‘grip’ thumbs UP.

  88. Story of my dad’s life. Unfortunately, the alcohol took a toll on him and died 15 years ago. Great read which has left me an emotional wreck.

  89. This article came at a good time. Reminded me of last year for me. 2019 will forever remain ingrained in my mind. One brother in rehab, another as a riffraff after eating and drinking his fees too, and me engaged with a psychopathic lover. And I thought I was strong but then somewhere along the line I started losing it too. I am still at the point where I am in control. So I hope I won’t be reaching where he reached after reading this he-he..

    1
  90. I can relate to Every bit of the his story, sad thing I don’t have a father like his, so I have accepted my fate …I don’t thing I can ever be able to lead a sober life.

    Most times I pray that God should just have mercy on me and take away my life peacefully… Maybe one day he will!

    1. Hey Brian…you may not have a supportive father but that should not make you give up on yourself…how about you live your life for you..take care of you…love yourself more…I know it’s easier said than done but please try…you can do it…please don’t give up on yourself…you can be so much more,you can do so much more if you just give yourself a chance…I’m sorry for your situation though…please don’t despair…find a support system…maybe you can look for the said guy up here…

  91. I read this article with alot of empathy and hope in my heart. Hope because I have a very close cousin who’s a slave to the bottle. Hoping that one day he too would turn his life around. But that was not to be. Unfortunately he died -drunk – yesterday. Left behind broken hopes and dreams, shattered hearts and pain. Lots of pain

  92. I’m catching up on stories I haven’t read.

    This was quite the long read and I’m glad I’ve completed the whole story. I’ve gotten a better understanding of alcoholism… So sad how bad things can get (brought me to tears) I’ve lost relatives to this.

  93. Thanks for sharing his story. I know people who have gone through the same path and I must say addiction to alcoholism is not an easy road. It’s hard to quit. I am glad he found help,

  94. At first I read “Have a compelling story you want to tell that involves beastiality or anything that mad?” hahahahahaa

    A story of hope.. indeed the first stage of recovery/healing from an addiction is recognising/admitting you have a problem…

    Beautiful.. The father’s love.

    Thanks Biko.. Addent reader from Kampala, Ug

    1