As increasing awareness about the disease of alcoholism and other drug addiction slowly floats to the surface of the Kenyan populace’s collective consciousness from the dark depths of ignorance, all manner of quacks and charlatans have not been slow off the mark in cashing in on pervasive myths and prejudice which still persist in holding most Kenyans floundering and gasping for breath in its dank, choking depths.
Desperate spouse’s, parent’s or relative’s with an alcoholic significant other, everyday fall prey to the rapidly spawning and voracious sharks cruising in the inky black depths of ignorance feeding voraciously off their bewildered, hapless prey.
What do you know about alcoholism or any other drug addiction? What are your sources of information? Do you know the difference between myth and fact, ignorance and prejudice, posing as absolute truth?
Are you one of those who believe that an alcoholic, is merely a weak-willed, morally depraved person who drinks too much, a sinner? Someone who is useless, and likes to hurt others and is totally beyond salvage?
If you believe any of the above statements then you are a prime morsel for the circling sharks who capitalise on this ignorance to make short work of your finances with all kinds of ‘cures’ and ‘treatments’ all of which they ‘guarantee’.
I have counseled hundreds of families who have fallen victim to these merciless predators and my files are filed with horror stories of impoverished families who have sold their shambas (farms), deposited their vehicle log-books or sold other property to pay for these ‘guaranteed treatments’ all to no avail.
‘What do we do?’ is the most common refrain. ‘We have tried everything but they are still drinking!’ Kenyan families desperate to save their beloved do not seem to be making much headway losing them instead to a seemingly mounting tidal wave of alcoholism and other drug addiction. What can one do to stem this tide?
Well the first thing to do is learn the facts about alcoholism and other drug addictions. Of great import here is that in order to do this effectively one first needs to erase completely all they think they know about alcoholism and addiction and only then begin to learn free from all the excess baggage of prejudice and fear.
Only then comes the first task on your rise to the surface of light and truth, which is to recognise and acknowledge that alcoholism is a disease and that alcoholics suffer from this sickness which not only affects them, but those close to them - you too being no exception.
I cannot stress the importance of this point enough, for if you try to rise to the surface too fast without completely accepting this fact, but merely paying lip service to it, you will like a careless diver end up suffering from the bends or ‘decompression sickness’.
These occur when a diver rises too fast changing from an environment of high pressure to one of normal pressure, causing formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood and tissues leading to, painful joints, tightness of the chest, vomiting, giddiness, abdominal pain, convulsions and in severe cases death.
In your case the ‘nitrogen bubbles of ignorance’ will cause you to unconsciously adopt a ‘holier than thou’ attitude and thinly veiled hostility and contempt all of which are quickly sensed by the alcoholic leading to continued drinking with dire and often fatal consequences.
After accepting that alcoholism is a disease and that though not curable (there is no such person as an ex-alcoholic) is treatable simply by abstinence you will no longer have any reason to fear alcoholism or be ashamed of it or your afflicted significant other.
Usually even at this point people still hesitate to take the next step and actively seek help for their sick person. Whereas with any other sickness one would logically seek treatment for the patient at the earliest opportunity alcoholism and other addictions with the concomitant stigma and shame which surround them usually have the opposite effect with families standing by wringing their hands helplessly in despair, while the alcoholic continues drinking to oblivion.
As this happens, the families suffer extreme and constant emotional and financial strain a situation, which is totally needless, and locking alcoholics and all those close to them in the fathomless, impenetrable depths of helplessness.
You will learn to detach from the alcoholic so as to be able to see him or her as they really are - an addict. Failure to detach clouds one’s view with emotions of over-protectiveness in the guise of love which is however untruthful love for it is shrouded in denial and the refusal to accept that one’s loved one is an addict while enabling them to continue using.
Armed with your new found knowledge you mercifully burst to the surface basking in the brilliant warmth of truth and finally safe from the predatory sharks and their patent and useless treatments.
Only then will you be able to, seek the correct form of treatment for your loved one, what not to do that would enable them to continue drinking and even how to go about organising an intervention, to confront the alcoholic or other addict with their addiction.
One will know how to handle the relapses which often occur on the road of recovery as well as how to support and ease the social reintegration of the addict into society. But most important as you learn about alcoholism you will realise with immense relief that you are not alone and that there are millions of ‘us’ out there in recovery leading useful and productive lives.
Yes, ‘us’, for I too am a recovering alcoholic and after 27 years of drinking and cigarette smoking, I am embarking on my 15th year of sobriety, and happily piecing my life back together, one day at a time.
Twenty-seven years which took me to the very depths of hell and back and yet with a start that was so simple (I couldn’t talk to girls) as to be almost foolish. Yet as a teenager, these are ‘life and death’ issues and this is what adults constantly fail to understand. Adults seem to forget an extremely important factor in trying to understand teenagers – that they too were once adolescents.
As my appetite for alcohol increased, all other aspects of my life begun to suffer, and slowly I was slipping into addiction. Yet nobody could read the signs. I blamed all and sundry and everything under the sun –external reasons, which is typical of alcoholics. I had a reason for everything I did, it was never my fault. From the teachers, to my parents to my health, everything fell under the sword of blame.
By form three I was stealing from parents to feed my thirst and school now was not a priority. The result was a disastrous high school career, ending with a poor A Levels. You can follow the full story in the next article. For now we need to avoid the sharks.
That is why I have set up a simple programme that literally translates into ‘set a thief, to catch a thief’.
There is nothing special about me, I am just another alcoholic. Only difference was I was talked to by people who had taken the time to learn about the disease. That simple!
So forget the witch doctors, and all the other quacks. Do not sell your precious shamba or other property to pay these deadly sharks, who feed on Kenyans’ misery, ignorance and desperation. Go out and learn your way to freedom from addiction for not only your loved one, but your whole family as well.