The following story has been fictionalised from real-life experience. To ensure anonymity and maintain confidentiality, I tell the story in my voice. Some of the dialogue has been modified. The aim of the story is to raise awareness about alcoholism, a disease currently ravaging many people in our communities. It is a story of despair turned into hope.
Addiction is giving up everything for one thing: Recovery is giving up one thing for everything!Anonymous
After dad’s screaming and threats of cutting me off, I decided to do something about it. I found myself a waitressing job – that way I could do whatever I wanted with my money and not be accountable to anyone. This only worked for a while because it became glaringly obvious to everyone but me, that I had a drinking problem. It all came crashing down one evening during a function. I was carrying a tray of drinks and my shaky hands couldn’t balance the tray. I tipped the entire contents on unsuspecting customers. While the manager screamed blue murder and the customers gasped in horror, I was busy thinking I needed a drink to calm my nerves: in hindsight, this was a symptom of alcoholism – I couldn’t function without alcohol in my veins. My manager sent me home, “I’ll be taking your wages to dry clean the customers’ suits!” I heard him say. All I wanted was to get home and drink.
It was then I made the conscious and deadly decision to only drink at home. That way, no one saw my alcoholism up close. I also didn’t believe I was an alcoholic – I saw myself as someone who enjoyed drinking while everyone around me saw me as an alcoholic. Now I realise, that choosing alcohol over people is the final descent into the alcoholic black hole. But having a job kept my dad off my back, drinking alone at home kept my friends and colleagues off my back – what could go wrong? My inebriated brain reasoned. But then, another thing happened.
I stopped eating. It wasn’t that I wasn’t hungry, but eating and drinking vodka made me sick, so one thing had to go. The food. Not eating made me weak, so I called in sick. When I was off ‘sick’ for two weeks, my manager phoned my dad. My dad was already climbing walls because I had stopped answering his calls. I just wanted everyone to leave me the hell alone. Everyone and everything.
I wanted to live in darkness, so the next logical step was to stop opening the curtains in my one-bedroom flat. I stopped opening letters too, or even picking them off the door mat. My life had dwindled into a fog of vodka and half-eaten Chinese takeaways. I stopped taking showers or washing my hair. Sometimes I took baths but never washed, I just sat in until the water was too cold. I stopped changing bedsheets or cleaning the flat. Takeaway boxes were rotting in corners around the flat. At that point, I’d decided working wasn’t for me, so I resigned over the phone. What I didn’t know at the time I called to resign, was that my manager had spoken with my dad, and he was on his way over.
I also developed an uncanny behaviour – I covered mirrors with dirty towels. I didn’t like the gawky woman I saw. I was a 25-year-old woman who looked like an extra from Shaun of the dead! But drinking made me feel ok and happy, but only temporarily, sometimes I burst into tears and cut my skin. I hated my body and to some extent the vodka, but I couldn’t stop. Ordering crates of vodka from Amazon didn’t fool anyone, they started dropping leaflets about alcoholism and how to get help. At this point, I was in serious debt too. After my father cancelled the credit card, I took out several credit cards and masked them all. The red letters started pouring in. Luckily, my father continued to pay rent and utilities, and although my flat looked like a dump site, it was warm and had running water.
One day I woke up with an overwhelming urge to run out into the streets and jump in front of a bus. Something wasn’t right with my psyche. Although this thought persisted, I couldn’t do it, instead, I cut my arms and felt the pressure leave my emaciated body. Self-harming was far better than suicide. Most nights, though, I climbed into my bare bed hoping to not wake up in the morning. I was too cowardly to commit suicide, so I hoped God in his infinite wisdom would end the suffering for me.
Unfortunately, every morning I woke up, and instead of gratitude, I cursed the day and the cycle continued. Drink to oblivion, cut my body, and go to bed. However, one day I woke up and a wave of nauseating depressiveness enveloped me. I felt excruciating pains all over my body and decided to end it all. I took every pill I could find in the flat – paracetamols, neurofin, some expired malaria tablets, contraceptives, and some antibiotics I had been prescribed but never completed the course. I swallowed them all with a bottle of vodka. I then climbed into my dirty bed and waited to die.
I woke up in hospital two days later covered in wires and drips. It turned out that my father arrived at my flat a few minutes after I swallowed the deadly cocktail. But after knocking and ringing the buzzer for several hours, he called the police who broke in. They found me unconscious and covered in vomit. At first, when they burst in through the door, they thought I was dead – the pungent smell that hit their nostrils can only be of the dead. There were flies buzzing about. My emaciated body looked dead. The officers felt for my pulse and realised I was barely clinging to life. I was rushed to the hospital. My dad was beside himself. He couldn’t understand what the officers were saying. The officers couldn’t understand what he was saying. At the hospital, they pumped my stomach. The first person I saw was my dad, looking older than I remembered. He was crying and praying. I was so happy to see him, happier than I thought I would be. I started apologising before he could say anything, but I was amazed and a little confused when he told me to not worry and rest.
My rise and fall into alcoholism had been stealth. I didn’t for one minute think of myself as an alcoholic but waking up on that hospital bed, I knew my love affair with vodka had come to an end. Several days later, I left the hospital: “you are one lucky girl,” the doctors told me. They discharged me to a rehab centre where I stayed for several weeks. When I left, I was sober and much healthier. Everything was in colour again. As they discharged me, they advised me to attend AA meetings.
For now, I’m living one day at a time. I’m back in Kenya now and the temptations to rekindle my love affair with vodka is all around me. Dad stopped filling his cabinets with alcohol in solidarity to aid my recovery. I attend AA meetings. I avoid parties. I’ve gained weight. I have few friends because all my old friends drink so I can’t associate with them because the temptation is too intense. My mother started a prayer warriors group and forced me to join. I reluctantly did because I feel a sense of belonging and they are supportive. I have no career because I didn’t complete my course or graduate. Maybe one day I will, but for now, I celebrate ending a day without taking alcohol.
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