“I would leave the club at 3 a.m. Go to my hostel, smoke marijuana, do classwork and read, sleep a bit then head out to lectures. After lectures I would eat, sleep till the sun comes down, head out to club again. It was around and round circle, hamster on the wheel. That was my schedule for the seven years I was in Rongai. On my final campus project, I did it while high. I fabricated everything. Only God knows how I pulled through and managed to graduate.”

Say, you’re a parent. And a man of God. On Sundays, you pack a small bag, your religious toolbox. In there is a bible, a songbook and a pen. These are the tools you use to minister to hundreds of folks in your church. It’s not a big church, you would have preferred a larger congregation. But that’s what you have and you manage.

Once in a while, you preside over a group of youths. They are your religious children. You talk about their lives. You comfort them, tell them to stay away from drugs and fornication. Such discussions have a touch of insanity to them but what has to be said has to be said. You’re a new age man of God, and you never shy away from speaking the truth. ‘Drugs and fornication will destroy your lives, guys.’ You hammer into their naughty heads.

As you do all this, you have a son. He’s your last born. You love the boy. He’s studying to be an engineer. He’s smart. He makes you proud. You want him to make a good engineer, and also to walk in the light of the lord. ‘He should be a prayerful engineer.’ You pray for him every morning. You dedicate him to the lord. All seems to be well. The ship is steady.

At least you think.

Enter stage left, Philo*, your son. Philo is an addict; he tells me. He’s been caught in up in the web of drugs for seven years. All of his stay in university, drugs were never far away. Marijuana, booze, and fiery smoking. He and drugs were what Swahili buffs call ‘Chanda na Pete.’

After graduation, he landed a gig as a network developer. Freelance gigs popped up here and there. Money was good, he was one of those guys who paint the town red. Even when the town did not need painting, they would grub it by the scruff and bloody paint it. All of his money went down the drain of a fast-paced life. Alcohol, women, the whole ensemble.

He did not have a vision or a dream. A bearded old man did not appear and tell him to stop drugs. It wasn’t the fear of death. He did not sit by the window, watch the sunset, the magical glow at the magical hour and think to himself, ‘I need to stop this life.’ None of that happened. No premonition. He just made the decision that he needed rehab. A conscious decision. He had plans for his life and addiction wasn’t one of them.

So, he resigned from his job. Packed his bag and travelled to U-turn for Christ in Kisii.

Did the freedom of campus set you on the path to drugs? I ask.

"My high school was a closed setup. A boarding. Freedom wasn’t one of its virtues. I literally had zero ideas of what to expect from the world.  I can’t say the freedom of campus spoiled me. I just made a lot of bad decisions. In the first month of the first semester, I had sampled all the drugs I could lay my hands on.

I made more bad decisions and bad decisions accumulate. You wake up in the morning and you know you did bad things at night but you don’t remember any of it. It’s a cold echo of an absent memory. Everything is in the wind. I thank God that I am not positive.”

Why say that? God doesn’t decide who gets to be positive or not. God doesn’t go around with a stick, pointing at people and shouting in Trump's voice ‘you will be positive, you’re too much of a sinner.’ Though wouldn’t that be cool? More so the Trump voice?

We have a cackle about it. His laughter is smooth and cool.  It sounds refrigerated as if it originates from some iciness. Mine is loud and abrasive. And somehow gut-wrenching. Do you know a person who laughs long after the joke is overdue? I am one of those people.

“I have woken up in some chicks’ house. I don’t know how she knows my name; I don’t know her name. I don’t know how I got there. You’re in a bed you don’t recall getting unto. You’re naked and you can tell you had sex, but you don’t remember having sex. You lie there wondering who is paying rent in that house? What if a politician with a gun pop’s in?”

You don’t remember anything? I say, shocked. Because I am a regular in the Nairobi clubbing scene, but I always know what I do and where. I have woken up in places I remember going to. I can retrace my footsteps. But here is a guy who remembers zilch.

“No, It’s total amnesia, total amnesia. Solid darkness.”

I breathe in. What a life! I will later google the word ‘Amnesia.’ We’re seated outside the women’s section of the rehab facility. Some women are helping to make lunch. A volunteer washes utensils. Other guys on the program josh about and crack jokes. Some sit silently in their corners, forlorn. In their faces is long-lost wisdom, as if they know something we don’t. A dog runs past us. It’s a sunny afternoon. I am in Kenyenya. A forgotten Kisii frontier. I am listening to a guy talk about his life. I will later write about it. I love it, this listening and asking questions. I could do it forever.

All this time you were drinking. There must have been a point in time when it all made sense. When it was all golden and fun. When you were at your optimum inebriation and you would think to yourself, ‘yes! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life?’

“Of course.” He smiles. “One thing you should know about addicts is that they are selfish. This will make me feel good, I want it now and now. I want it all. The more you get drunk and high, the more you want to be feeling so every single time. And no happiness can match when one is drunk, staggering home. For me, being high and drunk was a mountain top nothing else could make me reach. But now after spending time in rehab, I realise they are so many ways to be happy other than drugs. It was a messy life.

What makes you happy now?

“Learning the word of God and teaching it to others. With my background in telecommunications, sometimes I teach chemistry and physics in a nearby school. That makes me happy. There’s no happiness in the club. It’s a place of fake friends and fake happiness. It’s a dead world. A fake world. The emotions are fake. To the addict it’s all well, but once the drugs wear out, feelings of sadness kick in. Or why do you think that people TOA LOCK? They are back in the real world and can’t stand being in the real world. They need something to send them back to their Shangri La.”

Philo looked me straight in the eye and said, “I had five serious girlfriends and four side chicks all through my campus life.” I nearly bust out in a laugh but I was strong. It was the way that he said which turned me upside down. He talked of it like it was a normal thing to do. Like you would pick a girlfriend from a departmental store. Maybe it was odd for me because I’ve never had a girlfriend. Never been in a relationship. I have no desire to be in one. There is something about relationships which makes me hesitant. So, I walk the knife’s edge. Away from all the madness. But our hero was a sort of Casanova.

“All of the girls were like me. Lost in drugs and drinking. We would get drunk, have mini fights which would end with our clothes off, in bed. It was easy to relate to them. We belonged to the same world. I couldn’t manage with those saved chicks. They are not my cup of tea.”

Before I continue, the men reading, there is nothing like a ‘saved chick’. There are women who abuse drugs and women who don’t. The idea of a ‘saved chick’ is a scam. Who is a saved chick? What does she do? Where do they hang out? Certainly not in SDA bible study.

Did you for once stop to think of where the relationships were headed? Nine relationships?
“There were moments of introspection. But cation was always in the wind. We would break up mutually but be back at it again. Over and over.”

Whoa, what happened to your numerous chicks?

“They are gone. I don’t think about them. I forgot. The old is gone. The new is here.”
So, if you at one time suspected that you were in a nine-chick rotational dating program, I tell you that Philo* forgot about you. He doesn’t even want to remember you. Do you think of him? Stop thinking of him. Guy found the lord.

For Campus folk in Nairobi, there are two-party capitals. Juja (sin city) and Rongai (little coast). Why do I say that? I am campus folk.

“Rongai has seven universities. 60% of the population are young people. 80% of the 60% are involved in drug abuse. You get? Addictions thrive. It was our little coast. I have friends from home who disappeared in the clubs of Rongai. Their parents would call me and I never knew what to say.”

Even though you were an addict yourself, a little sanity lingered in the background.

“I like to term myself as a smart addict. But addiction is an addiction. Sugarcoating it doesn’t change anything. You’re always trying to hide what you do. Your life becomes an endless maze. A game of chess. It’s not a life I wish on anyone.”

In his time in Multimedia University. He stayed in block D hostels. Anyone from block D? but block C is where everything went down. Block C is where the bad boys hang out. Where folk with ten girlfriends (not a bad thing) stayed.  He played rugby for a while, he’s beautifully muscled by the way. Not because he loves the game, the allowance was money for booze and weed and cigarettes.

What made you run away from drugs?

“It was an individual decision. A conscious choice. I wasn’t pushed into it. After my graduation, I started thinking of my life. I realised I was alone. Did I want to spend the rest of my days drinking? No. I want a wife. I want a job. I want to have a family. I can’t do that if all I do is get drunk and high. I had to get away from that life.”

And where are your friends? You in touch with them?

“To be honest, I don’t care. I am here alone and they are out there getting on with their lives. They never reach out. They don’t care. They laugh at me. They were bad for me. I was bad for them. If you feel something is bad for you, run my friend, run, don’t stick around. A friendship based on drugs is no friendship. You’re slowly killing each other.

I left my phone in Nakuru, I won’t use it again. I deleted all of my social media accounts. I’ll be starting out on a new slate. My new friends are the people I met here. Birds of a feather flock. Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.”

Philo is deep. He talks like a philosopher. There’s a calmness in his voice. He has two months remaining in the program but he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to remain in the ministry (work of the lord) and help others.

“When you’re refreshed, refresh others.”


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  2. I have a phobia for many drinks.Hate fresh milk,i drink little soda,hate local drink mnazi-it's smell makes me puke,hate the taste of beer tusker-i hear it's bitter.I never want to drink any alcohol all my life.I always want my head SANE.Alcohol brings impaired judgement.Kudos for highlighting a worrisome trend amongst Kenya's young generation.

    1. absolutely true. alcohol is overrated.

    2. This kind of vulnerability is what helps people become whole again. Amazing article

  3. Amazing piece - These stories from Kenyenya bwana ! I might as well head there for some dosage of pills; against my addiction to such inspiring words as these.


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