Health Areas

My story; How alcohol and heroine bound me for years

It could have been water in the glass.

But the bubbles springing from the drink gave it away.


For the last 23 years Abraham ‘Kim’ has been a slave to alcohol and heroine.

His friends fondly refer to him as ‘Kim’ but his outgoing character and accommodating nature led him into trouble at a young age when he could no longer control his alcohol consumption.

It had started in his early teen years as a secondary school student in Kiambu County. Then the habit stuck and changed his life completely, for the worse. A classmate and close friend lured him to take a sip of the effervescent drink just to give him a tick. It ended up as a kick that messed his life entirely. The promise of a random drink by a friend or having a few sips made his brain go into a fuzz of intoxication.

Alcohol poisoned every single relationship that was very dear to him. Beer took everything, burying it all in a pit.  This was the beginning of his journey as an alcoholic.

On most days, his alcoholic stupor messed his personal relationships with his wife, children, siblings and parents. He needed a second chance. He could at least get it right just like the broken clock that is right twice a day. A fortnight ago, Kim turned over a new leaf after spending 90 days at the Nueva Esperanza   Wellness Treatment and Wellness Centre.

Wangui Mucara, the executive director of the Nueva Esperanza Treatment and rehabilitation Centre in Membley acknowledges that alcoholism is a disease. The centre offers treatment and rehabilitation for persons with substance use disorders – drugs and alcohol addiction.

Kim is a recovering addict, keen to turn over a new leaf

According to the World Health Organisation,WHO, alcohol consumption contributes to three million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people and is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.

The WHO further notes that the African Region is faced with a growing burden of harmful alcohol consumption and its disastrous effects.“There is no other consumer product as widely available as alcohol that accounts for as much premature death and disability,” read the excerpts by the WHO on alcohol.

But, when can a person be described as an alcoholic?

According to Wangui, a  person is considered to suffer from chronic alcoholism if his use of alcohol interferes with successful physical and social functioning.

What are some of the drivers of alcoholism?

Alcoholism is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors.

According to a 2005 study by Neumann, alcoholism runs in families and children of alcoholics consume about four times more than the children of non alcoholic.

Other abetting factors include psychological ones like poor stress management skills, loneliness and a desire to escape from reality, a sense of adventure and pleasure seeking.  Persons who are constantly in a desperate need for praise and appreciation have also been found to have a higher likelihood of being addicted to alcohol.

In children who have faced psychological trauma like strained parent-child relationships, low self-esteem and mental health illnesses like depression, anxiety and extreme fears are other factors that can make a person to become prone to alcohol addiction.

Wangui Mucara, Executive Director at Nueva Esperanza Treatment and Wellness Centre

“These persons consume alcohol as a way to escape to their present realities. Sadly, they sink deeper into alcohol dependency and it ends up becoming an addiction,” Wangui noted.

Social pressures like the influence of peer pressure, marital problems,  unemployment and a heavy burden of personal problems can also drive a person into alcohol addiction, she added.

The nature of work can also be a push to over-depend on alcohol. For example, heavy vehicle drivers, labourers, manual workers or workers who engage in hard physical labour will usually seek relaxation after a hard days work by engaging in alcohol.

Wangui notes that sudden stoppage of drugs and alcohol may lead to withdrawal symptoms. “You may notice that the person experiences confusion, headaches , restlessness, sweating and chills , visual and auditory hallucinations among others,” Wangui said.  A hospital admission is necessary to manage the addiction to enhance recovery, Wangui added.

Next week: We discuss Kim’s treatment journey and the importance of family support.

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