BY JACOB OKETCH
ometimes it takes a very long journey for an alcoholic to get to sobriety. There are people out there who have been to hell and back. One thing is clear though; no matter how much one is entangled with alcoholism, there is always an opening for an escape. In some cases, an alcoholic’s experience is what sets them up with a moment of breakthrough.
The story of Fanuel is so trying that one would not have expected him to get relief from alcoholism. And he was not just using alcohol. He was also smoking bhang, chewing miraa and smoking cigarettes. This is addiction to four things rolled into one. Never in his wildest imagination did he think that one day he would stand before people and say that he is absolutely clean from any substance use.
Fanuel’s break came from the most unlikely source. Since his parents were so worried about his situation, they plotted on how to get him to a treatment centre. They knew they would not succeed if they just approached him directly and broached the idea. So his dad came up with this idea of taking him to a computer college far away from home. Blinded by intoxication, Fanuel did not see the ruse coming. He was told to pack up his bag and get ready.
Excitement engulfed him and he was raring to go. It only hit him that his destination was an entirely different place when they walked into the treatment centre. Any form of resistance could not help him much. It had come to this. His parents looked him in the eye and told him that he was going to spend the next ninety days in this facility, and for the first month, he would not even be permitted to make a phone call or receive visitors.
The shock of being bundled into a treatment centre without his permission did not last with Fanuel for long. He quickly accepted his situation and moved fast to blend with the other patients. He took to social activities with ease. He also vied for a leadership role and became very busy with the affairs of other members. This enabled him to be close to the administration of the centre thereby earning him the trust of the leadership.
But Fanuel’s drinking career had been littered with all sorts of drama. He would sell valuables from their home to get money for alcohol. He was having sexual affairs with all manner of women who used to sell alcohol. He had debts in several drinking dens. He even used to do menial jobs in pubs to get a drink. He was one person who had reached a steep rock bottom where only a miracle could save him from the jaws of alcoholism. His situation was so bad that at some point, he contemplated committing suicide.
Fanuel would actualize his weird thoughts when he attempted to commit suicide. He jumped into a well and was only rescued because his younger brother was nearby and raised alarm. He was pulled out of the well. He attempted suicide again when he took poison. Again, the same brother happened to be nearby and rushed him to hospital. That was not the end of his suicidal escapades. He tried the rat poison one more time and yet again, the Godsend brother found him foaming in the mouth. He again rushed him to hospital. His behavior was a tremendous source of worry for his folks and that explains why they just had to do something.
When he eventually finished his treatment program, Fanuel was a totally changed man. He was ready to get on with his life as a sober person. He was aware that there would be so many triggers out there but he was ready to take the plunge. Besides just getting a sense of structure in his life, he had developed a very keen interest in counseling. He immediately enrolled for a diploma course in counseling. He finished the course and enrolled for yet another diploma. When he completed the course, he got a job in a treatment centre as an intern.
While getting used to the working environment of counseling as a profession, Fanuel now enrolled for a Bachelors degree in counseling psychology. When he completed his degree course, he was fully confirmed as a counselor and was employed in the centre where he started as an intern. He worked there for a period of four years before enrolling yet again for a Masters degree in counseling psychology. He completed his postgraduate degree and has been working there to date. He was recently promoted to the post of assistant manager and is slowly climbing up the ladder.
Fanuel is ten years and eight months sober now. He says that he still religiously attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. He is still very careful about which events to attend and avoids where alcohol is served. When he is attending seminars and workshops, he always has his big bottle of water that he keeps sipping whenever there are functions where delegates or participants are served alcoholic beverages. He is alert to the fact that relapse is real and does not take anything for granted. However, his determination to stay sober is so strong that he confidently carries unopened bottles of liquor and packets of cigarettes to his relapse classes.
That is how powerfully transformative an alcoholic’s treatment process can be. That Fanuel, a former addict is busy transforming lives, as a practicing counselor should sound as a wakeup call to those resisting treatment. You never know where your potential is hidden until an adversity of a kind besets you. Just like any other challenge, alcoholism provides an opportunity for the afflicted to regenerate. One should not squander such a chance because true living is tackling challenges head on.