Rosemary Nyandua Recounts Lessons On Path To Recovery From Alcoholism

Rosemary Nyandua swears that had she known that her first sip of liquor ever, taken with friends then, just for the fun of it, would later lead into a prolonged battle with alcoholism, she would have reconsidered her action. At the tender age of 22 years, Nyandua opted for the wrong path of alcoholism. Carelessness and extravagance became a lifestyle that cemented her relationship with fellow addicts. The now bubbly and confident 30-year-old, does not shy away from narrating how intoxication, nearly robbed her of her life, future and the much needed support from family and friends. She reminisces doing unimaginable things during those dark days including taking her personal effects and assets to shylocks and eventually losing them, so as sustain her new compulsion. For more than 8 years, Nyandua has been battling addiction, often finding it difficult to separate reality from fantasy. 'For all those years, nothing mattered to me, but alcohol. I lived and dreamed of alcohol. It did not matter how much it c ost, or where it came from, I had to have it,' she recalls. Nyandua explains that gradually her alcohol tolerance was so high that she would not get drunk on popular beer brands alone. Now she had to mix beer with 'harder' drinks. The mother of two reveals that by then, most of her friends and relatives were avoiding her. 'Even relationship with my children was poor because I was inebriated all the time. Same with my parents. Sometimes people would take advantage of me by assigning me menial jobs and thereafter refusing to pay,' recounts Nyandua. At the same time, she lost interest in her former hobbies, got intoxicated at inappropriate times and needed nothing more than increased amounts of alcohol to get drunk. Nyandua narrates: 'I became irritable and depressed and was more forgetful than before. My unkempt appearance no longer bothered me. I started feeling guilty about my wayward behaviour and tried to hide it from my parents and siblings.' But her salvation came in the form of a residential treatm ent facility at Njoro Sub-County, confined at the Beyond Love Rehabilitation Centre, where the embers of love first sparked on Nyandua and interestingly, greatly helped restyle her life. After checking into the rehabilitation centre in November 2023, she went through a 12-step recovery programme. For the past 90 days, Nyandua has been the only woman in an alcoholic recovery program alongside seven men. The eight recovered alcoholics are now ready to be reintegrated back into society after being rehabilitated and equipped with vocational skills such as interior design, fashion and design, electrical installation and joinery among others at the Beyond Love Rehabilitation Centre. 'I have recovered fully and have now had about 100 days of sobriety. Being sober is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Waking up without a hangover is simply beautiful,' affirms Nyandua. She adds: 'I have opened a new chapter in my life. I plan to re-live my life. I will now shower my children with the motherly love and a ttention they lack. I want to listen to their problems, ideas, and experiences.' Nyandua vows that she will make sure that her parents and siblings are the happiest people in the world, adding, 'We fell out so many times because of my alcoholism.' The recovering alcoholic states that many female victims suffer in silence, noting that in African culture, women are not supposed to drink in public, let alone become alcoholics, adding that this is what brings about the stigma, barring them from seeking professional help. 'I accepted that I had a problem and needed help. I overcame denial. I made it. Someone else can make it too,' Nyandua assures. She now expresses optimism that she will pick up the pieces and aspires to set up a salon and boutique business. On her part, Beyond Love Rehabilitation Centre's resident psychiatrist Dr. Agnes Mwihaki says while it's important to be open and honest about one's concerns over a family member who is an alcoholic, it is vital to remember that one cannot force someone t o stop abusing alcohol. She advises: 'Try to remain neutral and be compassionate with the affected family member rather than judge them or try to shame them. Encourage your loved one to open up about the reasons they are abusing alcohol. Are they bored, lonely, anxious, or stressed?' Dr. Mwihaki who is also a counsellor and psychologist, calls on parents to avoid emotional appeals that may only add to the troubled alcoholic's feelings of guilt and increase their compulsion to drink. 'Offer advice not ultimatums. Do not cover up for your loved one or make excuses for their behaviour. Trying to shield them from their responsibilities will only prevent them from seeing the negative consequences of their drinking and could delay them deciding to get help for the problem,' she adds. The psychiatrist says one of the best ways to stop a possible addiction before it begins is to be keen on one's mental state and health. You have to be proactive. If you go through a traumatic experience, seek therapy. Don't look for excuses; they turn into that addiction that you can't stop. For most people struggling with addiction, it started as a joke. And now they can't come out of it so easily. You feel so ashamed that you don't know how to address this issue, she added. According to Dr. Mwihaki, the most abused drug in Kenya is alcohol followed by tobacco, khat, cannabis sativa, prescription drugs, heroin and cocaine. Citing a report compiled by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) in November last, the psychiatrist expresses concern that children from six years old have been introduced to drugs and substance abuse in the last five years. The report showed that the rate at which people aged 15-65 years consume drugs and substances has consequently increased. 'One in every 6 Kenyans aged 15 - 65 years (4,733,152) are currently using at least one drug or substance of abuse,' the report reads in part. Dr. Mwihaki indicates that the surge in drug and substance abuse by youth is largel y attributed to online sales and the penetration of mobile transfer services. 'Alcohol is the most abused substance as one in every 8 Kenyans aged 15 - 65 use it. The surge in alcohol abuse can be attributed to increased demand for cheaper and readily available alcoholic products, especially chang'aa, traditional brews and potable spirits,' she points out. To Nyandua's 64-year-old aunt, Victoria Wainaina, family members are more often than not, in denial that their son, daughter, sister, wife, mother, niece, aunt or even grandmother is an alcoholic and in need of help. She holds that the humiliating rejection experienced by people who are stigmatized for their alcohol and drug abuse acts as a powerful social punishment, driving them to continue and perhaps intensify their drug-taking. Wainaina observes that young alcoholics have dropped out of college, sold their household items, and indulged in crime, while others have gone berserk or been reduced to zombies, unable to perform simple tasks such as washin g clothes and bathing. Kenyans' drinking problem, she says, starts taking root in colleges and universities, where it is fueled by peer pressure, easy accessibility of alcohol, opportunity, and the freedom to do whatever one wishes with one's free time. 'Drinking is a big issue in our universities, which, unfortunately, graduates with many of us to our places of work, marriages, and other relationships we form,' she points out. According to Samuel Wanjiru, a peer counsellor, the younger generation contributes to this carefree public attitude towards alcohol abuse by glorifying being drunk to the point of a blackout. 'Sadly, alcoholism does not respect career, creed, age, or any other classification in society. You will find doctors, judges, politicians, and even priests who are alcoholics,' observes Wanjiru. He suggests that the National Government, county governments, and local NGOs should prioritize dealing with alcoholism, drug and substance abuse by enhancing access to treatment and after-care servic es. 'The counties should also come up with empowerment programs for addicts so that they can comfortably afford basic needs and avoid returning to alcohol and drugs after rehabilitation,' Wanjiru appeals. He petitions the county government of Nakuru to set up a treatment facility for addicts at the county referral hospital, where the affected youths can access free services. 'The cost of treatment is high and the majority of families with addicts cannot afford it,' Wanjiru says. He affirms that those who have become alcohol dependents should not be written off from society, when sobriety can be achieved with a helping hand. 'Within our justice system, prosecutors, courts, and prisons must seize the opportunity to reclaim hundreds of addicts by using the criminal justice system to offer effective treatment for all who need it and incentives for them to achieve and maintain sobriety,' suggests the peer counsellor. Regrettably, harmful use of alcohol accounts for 3.3 million deaths globally, 320,000 of the se being among 15 to 29-year-olds. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol abuse is also the third leading risk factor for poor health globally. 'Alcohol abuse is leading to premature deaths. Urgent action is needed from all of us, especially our leaders, to tackle this issue of public interest, before any more lives are lost,' notes the peer counsellor. Source: Kenya News Agency